Archive for May, 2010

The Smelly 2G Spectrum Scam

It will be a pity if Telecom Minister A Raja gets off the hook on technicalities. That’s what he is trying to do. When questioned about the resounding success of the public auction of the 3G spectrum compared the pathetic revenue generation during the 2G spectrum sale, the minister went to great length explaining the technicalities of the auctions by using the analogy of ‘Basamati rice’ and ‘PDS rice’.

 So let us make an attempt to understand the difference between basmati and public distribution system rice. The auction for ‘Basmati’ 3G mobile license, through a transparent auction, ended with RCom, Bharti and Aircel bagging 13 circles each, and left the Government of India with a Rs. 67,710 crore revenue windfall. The revenue amount exceeded the wildly optimistic expectations of Raja at Rs. 40,000 crore and even Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee’s estimate of Rs. 35,000 crore. And if you compare the all India average price of the ‘PDS’ 2G and ‘Basmati’ 3G, the difference was a staggering 900 per cent or 9 times.

Exactly an year back, when the ‘PDS’ 2G spectrum was auctioned under the guidance of Raja, using a contentious ‘first-come-first-served’ system, in the way movie tickets are sold. Raja selectively interpreted recommendations of the TRAI to favour a privileged few for whom the rules of the game were changed. Under the influence of the corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, some non serious players like Unitech, S Tel, Swan Telecom, Loop Telecom (BPL having exited business once),  Sistema Shyam TeleServices (MTS), Allianz Infratech, Datacom (Videocon) and Spice, won an ‘all-India’ mobile telephone licence with bundled spectrum for just Rs 1,651 crore.

But soon after the ‘PDS’ 2G licence sale, the public distribution rice suddenly turned to gold.  Within days of getting the licences, the new entrants who had no telecom assets but for a ‘paper licence’, gifted by Raja, sold part of their stake at huge premium. To get a clearer perspective, in Sep 2008 Swan Telecom sold 45% stake to UAE’s Etisalat for around Rs. 4,200 crore. A month later Unitech offloaded 60% to Norway’s Telenor for Rs. 6,200 crore. Then in Jan 2008, Tata Teleservices sold 26% stake to Japan’s DoCoMo for 13,230 crores. The ownership and ownership transfer deals of Shyam and Russia’s Sistema and Siva Ventures and Bahrain’s Batelco are shuddered in secrecy. Some of the companies like Allianz Infratech and Datacom are yet to launch or struggling to launch services and the licence of Spice has been cancelled.

India is a lucrative 300 million mobile user market which adds about a 100 million mobile users every year. The smelly PDS license distribution was Raja’s strategy to bring in foreign telecom players like Sistema, Batelco, Telenor, Etisalat, DoCoMo,  etc to come into  India’s lucrative market, through the backdoor, unmindful of the loss to the Indian exchequer, using the faulty methodology and government iron hand. Much of this corruption which allegedly borders Rs. 1 lakh crores, took place under the nose of our most honorable PM Manmohan Singh.

On Nov 2 2007, PM wrote to Raja and asked him to ensure the 2G spectrum was allocated in a fair, efficient and transparent manner and to ensure that the licence fees are appropriately revised. A brazen and defiant Raja, did absolutely nothing to adhere to the PM’s directions and granted 2G license for just Rs 1,651 crore. And technically, since there was no auction we can only estimate the government losses in 2G spectrum licence to Rs 40-60,000 crores.

Our country has a long history of dubious characters getting off the hook on one technicality or another. Raja claims that all his decisions had been taken ‘in consultation’ with the PM. The DMK and Karunanidhi claims that Raja is being targeted because he is a ‘Dalit’. Not too long ago, during the formation of UPA II, the Dravidian Patriarch Karunandidhi had to forgo the claims of his own daughter Kanimozhi and nephew Dayanidhi Maran to promote Raja as the Telecom Minister for a second term. Why did Karunanidhi have to promote Raja more than his dear family? Is Raja is conduit for the dirty money for Karunanidhi?

Thanks to the political compulsions of the UPA, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Central Vigilance Commission and Central Bureau of Investigation probe might not nail this new found Dalit messiah of DMK. The STel case in the Delhi High Court, sure gives a glimmer of hope, because we Indians still have some ‘trust’ in our judiciary.

No technicality can hide facts that stare everyone in the face – that spectrum sale was a money game before the last General Election while the exchequer lost at least the same amount of money that we gained from the 3G sale because we positioned 2G as the ‘smelly PDS rice’. That obscenely huge amounts changed hands which makes me wonder if the  DMK today stands for ‘Delhi Money for Karunanidhi’.  And thanks to the lobbying and murky deals that flourished in the culture he singlehandedly promoted in the Telecom Ministry, this 47 year old MP from Nilgiris, Andimuthu Raja, has shown that the great Indian telecom revolution has a rather murky underbelly.

Photo: Copyright Hindustan Times.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has sparked off a lengthy post-mortem and debates. Emotions are running high and the line between fact and fiction is being blurred. Who really is to blame for the oil spill and what is the road ahead for British Petroleum.

If you folks have been following the big BP oil spill, then you would realize that this has the potential to become the biggest environmental disasters of all times. According to experts the spill is at the rate of 20,000 barrels a day. That means that the spill rate is 20 times the 1,000-barrels-a-day rate the oil giant, BP had been insisting on. Makes me wonder, if BP is interested only in a cover-up and/or the company have enough resources and technological knowhow, to fix the spill and stop the oil gushing from its exploded well. But hold your breath, there sure is hope, on Monday May 3rd 2010, BP promised to pay all necessary cleanup costs for the oil spill. What was implied was that they will do it, no matter how much they have to raise gas (aka petrol) prices. 

According to Associate Press investigation there is a cosy relationship between, the oil companies and the regulators. Minerals Management Service or MMS, the federal agency responsible for ensuring that the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was operating safely, had at least 16 fewer inspections, since 2005. The MMS was to conduct inspections aboard the Deepwater Horizon at least once per month but fell well short of its own policy.

One thing is sure, with this spill, BP has put more birds in oil than KFC’s Colonel Sanders and if it gets worse, British Petroleum may soon start drilling for more precious ‘water’. And then perhaps change the company name to British Water. Oops already taken but we sure can come up with something 😉

Photo : Copyright with Huffington Post

Long Live Bachelors

Every man should get married some time; after all, happiness is not the only thing in life!!  –Anonymous

Bachelors should be heavily taxed. It is not fair that some men should be happier than others. –Oscar Wilde

Don’t marry for money; you can borrow it cheaper.  –Scottish Proverb

I don’t worry about terrorism. I was married for two years.  –Sam Kinison

Men have a better time than women; for one thing, they marry later; for another thing, they die earlier.  –H. L. Mencken

When a newly married couple smiles, everyone knows why.
When a ten-year married couple smiles, everyone wonders why.

Love is blind but marriage is an eye-opener.

When a man opens the door of his car for his wife, you can be sure of one thing: either the car is new or the wife.

I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back to home always. –Anonymous

I asked my wife, “Where do you want to go for our anniversary? ” She said,”Somewhere I have never been!” I told her,”How about the kitchen?”  –Anonymous

We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.

My wife was in beauty saloon for two hours.That was only for the estimate. –Anonymous

She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.  –Anonymous

She ran after the garbage truck, yelling, “Am I too late for the garbage?”
Following her down the street I yelled, “No, jump in.” –Anonymous

Badd Teddy recently explained to me why he refuses to get to married.
He says “the wedding rings look like miniature handcuffs… ..”  –Anonymous

If your dog is barking at the back door and your wife yelling at the frontdoor, who do you let in first?
The Dog of course… at least he’ll shut up after u let him in!  –Anonymous

A man placed some flowers on the grave of his dearly parted mother and started back toward his car when his attention was diverted to another man kneeling at a grave. The man seemed to be praying with profound intensity and kept repeating, ‘Why did u have to die? Why did you have to die?” The first man approached him and said, “Sir,
I don’t wish to interfere with your private grief, but this demonstration of pain in is more than I’ve ever seen before. For whom do you mourn so? Deeply? A child? A parent?”The mourner took a moment to collect himself, then replied “My wife’s first husband.”

A couple came upon a wishing well. The husband leaned over, made a wish and threw in a coin .
The wife decided to make a wish, too. But she leaned over too much, fell into the well, and drowned. The husband was stunned for a while but then smiled “It really works ! “

Lessons from Times Square Car Bomb Attack

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the May 1st failed car bomb attack in NYC Times Square, the busiest urban spot in the world.

The car bomb was discovered on Saturday evening after a street vendor spotted smoke coming from a Nissan Pathfinder SUV. Fortunately the street vendor, a Vietnam war vetran had good instincts about smoke and bombs, called 911. The bomb squad despatched to the scene discovered a crude bomb made of propane tanks, petrol, consumer grade fireworks and two clocks with batteries. 

In a video released to the media, the Pakistan Taliban or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed that the attack is revenge for the death of its leader Baitullah Mehsud and the recent killings of the top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq like Abu Hamza al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Investigations have revealed that the suspect Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American who carried out the New York attack, was trained by the militant group in the Mohmand region in Pakistan’s tribal belt and received $15,000 to carry out the attack.  He was arrested at the JFK Airport, just in time while making good his escape, having boarded an Emirates flight.

Now I’m no terrorism expert but few things struck me about the whole incident which should be lessons for the CIA and Obama Administration.

Firstly, Pakistan Taliban as an organisation, even to this day, can raise funds in USA and have assets in the country. Its members too can freely enter US. Why are we have to fighting a 65 billion war for Afghanistan (war cost overtaking that of Iraq) while still funding terror organisations. To top it all in ‘partnership’ with Pakistan, the country which according to your own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the hotbed of terrorism.  Pakistan throughout history has nurtured the Taliban and protected it even when it pretended, under American pressure, to be fighting it.

Secondly, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has boldly claimed responsibility for the attack. Does it make you scarier as a terror organisation when you claim responsibility for something that failed? Is the Pakistan Taliban still playing on American paranoia and obsession to fight the War on Global Terror that it even claims responsibility for a failed bombing?

A little forsight could have saved lot of trouble for the Obama Administration. The Administration should have let poor Faisal Sahzad slip out of the country, instead of arresting him, to perhaps a ‘hero’s welcome’ in Pakistan. Reports in media suggested that Faisal apparently was not the brightest. On the day of the attack, he left the keys to the getaway car and the key to his apartment in the SUV with the bomb in it. Maybe we should have just let him out to join the Taliban and he could destroy them from within…… Commonsensical Right?

Photo : Copyright with Fox News

True World Champion

Congratulations !!!

Our Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand has won the FIDE World Championship title.  His challenger Veselin Topalov showed nerves in the decisive game of the World Chess Championship duel, but Anand proved more resilient, winning 6.5-5.5, thus sealing his place among the elite; the all time greats.   

For nearly two and half decades, starting from the time when his exploits across the 64 squares as a teenager announced to the world that he was a chess exponent of remarkable ability, he has repeatedly proved his worth.

It is not without reason that, this latest triumph – his fourth World Championship, secured by conquering the local Bulgarian in his home turf Sofia will be the sweetest victory of all. Even though in the post match press conference Anand said the Game 4 was the best game in the tournament but for all, the nail biting Game of Death (Game 12) was the ultimate. The Game 12 looked destined to end in a draw from the start but Topalov, eager to seal his first match victory in his career, took risks with white pieces and lost in 56 moves. 

Anand first won the FIDE World Championship title in 2000 and held it till 2002 when the chess world was still split. He became the undisputed World Champion in 2007 and then retained the title in 2008 when he beat Vladimir Kramnik. With that win he had became the first player in chess history to have won the Championship in three different formats: Knockout, Tournament, and Match.

In a country where only sport that is celebrated is Cricket and all other sports face official apathy, sponsorship, infrastructure and numerous other constraints, this 40 year old, is a champion despite the system. But in spite of great achievements Anand has humility that our cricketer ‘idols’, whom we cricket crazy Indians blindly follow, can even dream of.

Anand brushed aside the effects of his exhausting road journey to Bulgaria and his late arrival at Sophia for the title match, thanks to unexpected air traffic disruption all over Europe and less than warm hospitality from the organizers. He never uttered a word in protest. He  had a mission to accomplish and he did that beautifully.

What has helped this tried and tested performer in his single minded pursuit of World Championship is his commitment and determination to overcome all odds. So fierce is his willpower that he has described the preparation for the World Championship title match as ‘hibernation for 6 months’.  A period when his is only on his ‘opponent’.

Is our cricketers who are partying ‘hard’ even the night before the crucial T20 matchs listening? Or are you still licking the wounds of your humiliating performance in the ongoing World T20 Championship.

Why Chinese shouldn’t have Christian names..

Caller: Hello, can I speak to Annie Wan (anyone)?

Operator: Yes, you can speak to me.

Caller: No, I wan to speak to Annie Wan (anyone)!

Operator: You are talking to someone! who is this?

Caller: I’m Sam Wan (Someone). And I need to talk to Annie Wan (anyone)! It’s urgent.

Operator: I know you are someone and you want to talk to anyone! But what’s this urgent matter about?

Caller:Well… just tell my sister Annie Wan (anyone) that our brother Noel Wan (No one) has involved in an accident. Noel Wan (no one) got injured and now Noel Wan (no one) is being sent to the hospital. Right now, Avery wan (everyone) is on his way to the hospital.

Operator: Look, if no one was injured and no one was sent to the hospital, then the accident isn’t an urgent matter! You may find this hilarious but I don’t have time for this!

Caller: You are so rude! Who are you?

Operator: I’s Saul Lee (Sorry)

Caller: Yes! You should be sorry. Now give me your name!!!

PS: To my Chinese friends and blog visitors this is just on the lighter side and no offence meant 🙂

Perceptions

Received this as an email, thought of sharing it here..

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She reduced altitude and spotted a man below. She descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me Sir, can you help me? I promised a friend, I would meet him an hour ago but I don’t know where I am.” The man below replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.” ‘

‘You must be an engineer,” said the lady balloonist. “I am”, replied the man. ‘How did you know?’ ”Well”, answered the lady in the balloon, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip even more.”

The engineer below responded, “You must be in Top Management.” ”I am”, replied the lady balloonist, “but, how did you know?” “Well,” said the Engineer, “You don’t know where you are, or where you’re going. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you, to solve your problems?.”