Archive for August, 2010

Cricket Betting : Bain of the subcontinent

When the Television across the globe broadcast the footage from Britain’s News of the World in which Mazhar Majeed, a 35-year-old British property developer and sports agent, give details of when three “no-balls” would be delivered by Amir and Asif during the Test match at Lord’s that ended yesterday, there was anger and outrage in Pakistan.  The bookie claims Pakistan Test Captain Salman Butt to be the ring leader.

This is not the first time that Pakistan cricket has been embroiled in such a controversy.

It was way back in 1979-1980 when Pakistan were accused of throwing matches on their tour of India. Pakistan players were also accused of throwing their semi-final against Australia in the 1987 World Cup. Those allegations remain unsubstantiated.

But charges naming individual players surfaced in 1994 when Australian players Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Tim May alleged that Pakistan skipper Salim Malik had approached them to bowl badly and lose the Karachi Test.

Then in 1998, Wasim Akram resigned as Pakistan skipper after bowler Ata-ur-Rahman had accused him of offering the bowler Rs. 3 lakh to bowl waywardly against New Zealand. The same year Rashid Latif accused Akram, Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed of fixing matches.

Year 2000 became the World cricket’s year of shame, when the Delhi Police charged the late South African Captain Hansie Cronje of fixing his team’s ODI series against India. As if taking a leaf out of Delhi Police’s book, the Pakistan Cricket Board, instituted a one-man judicial commission that found Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman guilty of fixing matches and recommended life bans for the two. The commission also noted that Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed should not be allowed to captain Pakistan in the future. The same year, South Africa Cricket Chief Ali Bacher said he had been told by former Pakistan Cricket Board CEO Majid Khan that two matches involving Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, against India and Bangladesh, were fixed.

Then there was a period of five years when Pakistan cricket seemed to be getting back on track, but again in 2006, Pakistan cricket was hit by a controversy during the tour of England. Angered after being accused of ball-tampering and penalised five runs by umpire Darrell Hair, Pakistan forfeited the fourth Test against England at The Oval after refusing to take the field in the evening session on day four in protest.

But early 2010, again, the clouds of match-fixing began to hover again over the Pakistan team. In January after Pakistan lost every match during their tour of Australia, the PCB and ICC Anti Corruption Unit launched investigations. The PCB enquiry saw Mohammad Yousuf, Younus Khan, Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan banned while Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Kamran Akmal, were fined and placed on probation.

In the scandal which came to light now the television footage showed Amir, who was named the Pakistani Man of the Series, bowl two of the no-balls by stepping comfortably beyond the crease, prompting pundits to comment on the unusually clear nature of the infringements. But other events predicted by Majeed, such as an over in which Butt would deliberately fail to score a run, failed to materialise. The Scotland Yard team is investigating the case took statements from Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal.

The former International Cricket Council President Malcolm Speed said that the game’s governing body could seriously consider suspending Pakistan. All eyes are on the new ICC President and ‘Indian’ Sharad Pawar but the response of the Indian public is one of glee.

It was indeed funny to watch Indian TV commentators spoof at the Pakistani system, questioning them of letting off errant palyers like Akram,  Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal etc in the past, forgetting that our own Ajay Jedeja (who is a star commendator in one of the popular TV channels), Mohammed Azarudin, Vinod Kamble were also accused of the same crime in the past. None in the media spoke about Miandad making Dawood a ‘sambandi‘ then or even now. The rotten state of the gentleman’s game was for everyone to see then, but it looks like whole world, India as a cricketing country, Board of Control for Cricket in India and our star players, are in a state of denial.

The Pakistani players, some of them in their late teens and early twenties looked like amateurs in the betting arena. Indian players probably could give a lesson or two these armatures. Thanks to Lalit Modi, IPL and the likes, our players  have perfected the art and we in India play at a very different scale of match-fixing.

Video : Copyright News of the World & YouTube

World’s Longest Traffic Jam; Great Stall of Superpower China

Recently crowned the world’s second-largest economy, China now has the dubious distinction of spawning the world’s longest traffic jam. Baffled by the bumper-to-bumper gridlock, the Chinese government has mobilised hundreds of policemen to clear the 100-km (60 miles) long stretch of the Beijing-Tibet Expressway, riddled with vehicles for 13 days, with the pile-up almost reaching the outskirts of the capital.

Experts say the mega-jam on National Expressway 110 would take atleast a month to clear. But unlike India there have been no reports of road rage, and the main complaint has been about villagers on bicycles selling food and water at 10 times the normal price.

 The pile-up of trucks brought traffic into China’s capital to a grinding halt and is directly attributable to China’s voracious appetite for energy and automobiles. And it was created by a surge in trucks carrying coal from the province of Inner Mongolia to the suburbs of Beijing, where power plants continue to suck up and incinerate millions of tons of the black rock. China still relies on coal for 70% of its energy demands and most of that coal travel on roads connecting mines in the nation’s hinterland to its eastern ports.

Last year Inner Mongolia surpassed Shanxi province to become China’s biggest coal supplier. A shortage of railway capacity connecting Inner Mongolia to port cities such as Caofeidian, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin, where coal is shipped to power plants in southern China, has forced suppliers to rely on trucks to feed the power plants around Beijing. The roads overloaded by coal trucks damaged the highway roads and pavements which necessitated maintenance work. Since Aug. 14, due to road maintenance and extreme congestion, China’s Expressway 110 has become a big parking lot.

At its current pace of consistent GDP growth for last 30 years, some analysts believe that China’s economy could overtake the US by 2020. But this incident has raised questions about whether China’s infrastructure is adequate for handling the growing number of cars and trucks added to its streets every year.

In 2009, China with its fast-expanding middle-class, overtook the United States to become the world’s biggest car market and now in 2010 China seems to be building another Great Wall. It’s just that this one is made of cars. So much for the Superpower debate going on in Indian television’s after Ragahav Bahl’s book – Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise.

Photo : Copyright with Telegraph

Proud to be an anti national

We live in a dangerous India today. Kalmadi seems to belong to that ideological school – a new, scary trend in this country – which labels anyone and everyone as anti-national if they dare to “question the system”. You protest against killing of innocent people by security forces, you are anti-national. You protest against a dam, you are anti-national. You protest against real estate mafia grabbing agricultural land, you are anti-national. You protest against the displacement of tribals from their land, you are anti-national. You protest against raping of women by army men, you are anti-national. You speak against wastage of public funds, you are anti-national. So even if it means I am going to be branded an anti national I thought I should write for this man in my blog.

He lost his right leg in a bomb attack in 1992. He is hypertensive and acutely diabetic. His upper body is restricted by chronic spondylosis. He was arrested on 8 April 1998 in connection with 1998 Coimbatore seriel blasts in which 60 people were killed. He was imprisoned for nine and half years in Coimbatore prison without any trial or bail. For five of those years, there wasn’t even a chargesheet. When his trial did begin, he was prevented from attending most hearings on the grounds that his presence in court would be a threat to law and order. He was denied parole to attend his mother’s last rites. He was denied bail for treatment that he urgently needed (for high blood pressure, diabetics and spondylosis), while in jail, unlike the dubious fakers who complain about every possible illness, to beat the law.  He was finally released on August 1, 2007 after being acquitted of all charges. He is now arrested for complicity in 2008 Bangalore serial blasts by the Karnataka Police.

What is so special about Abdul Nasar Madani, 45, President of Kerala’s People’s Democratic Party that someone should be so keen to keep him locked up?

For that I would have to tell you about the days in 1993 when I worked in Network Television as a Stringer Journalist which produced a small half an hour current affairs program in Asianet, the Malayalam Channel called “Kannadi”. It was positioned as poor mans “World This Week”.  Having heard of the fiery speeches of Madani, through recorded cassette tapes which were clandestinely distributed, the NTV team decided to interview him and I accompanied the unit. Madani had in the past been charged for inflammatory speeches and had police cases against him for the same, including one at Kozhikode in 1992.

The interview at Madani’s Ernakulam residence was experience of a lifetime. There was a calm around this handsome bearded man in crutches, as he spoke to the Kannadi’s anchor journalist T N Gopakumar in a composed manner. After the interview we accompanied to a public rally and we were shocked to see a huge transformation. It was oratory at its best. 

The moment Madani got on the podium, he was spitting venom against every political party, every news paper and generally against our great Indian hypocrisy. But lot of what he said made a lot of sense to the more knowledgeable people of Kerala. He could strike a cord with every middle class Keralite. It looked as though the draught in Muslim leadership in the country was over. Here was a leader who would stand up for his people.

After we had enough sound bites recorded what our boss Lenn B Jesmas’s said, still rings in my ears “This guy will not go too far. It is a question the Muslim Leadership and the Muslim League will not allow him to grow”. But with all due respect to Lenn’s journalistic assessment, I know now that Madani had more enemies than the Muslim League. The Muslim League sure was frightened by Madani, as they saw its sway in Kerala’s Muslim heartland of Malabar, deteriorate.

Madani had by then built a bit reputation as dissenter. He mocked the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) by floating the Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS). Following the Babri Masjid demolition on 6th Dec 1992, Madani launched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with the stated objective of “Muslim-Dalit-backward caste” alliance. The same year, Madani became the target of an assassination attempt, allegedly by Hindu right wing activists, in which he lost his right leg. The ISS, though banned (in 1993) and the PDP managed to tease and rankle the RSS. The PDP, among other things, strongly and repeatedly condemned the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Congress Government in Kerala under Karunakaran and the opposition CPM was also miffed because in the 1991 elections Madani refused support either of the alliances.

In February 1998, a series of blasts rocked Coimbatore, the city known as Manchester of  South India. The BJP was in saddle at the Centre and Jayalalitha (an ally of the BJP then), in Tamil Nadu, then. The Coimbatore explosions were projected as an attempt to kill the second Iron man of India, Home Minister L.K. Advani. Arrests followed, dozens of them. Suspects are picked up and thrown in jail, the more the merrier. Madani, a long time enemy of the RSS, was also among those interned. Why? Because one of the accused named him as conspirator. No proof, no evidence, just an individual’s confession, whose validity in Indian law was entirely dubious.

Nothing was heard of the accused number 14 for years, save that he is in Coimbatore jail. The Tamil Nadu police dilly-dallies and delays. Year piles on year, yet no chargesheet. Madani is still in jail for a crime that nobody can prove. Procedure after procedure, statute after statute is violated, until it begins to appear that the law stands in violation of Madani rather than the other way round. Finally after 5 years, after court raps a charge sheet was filed. Madani was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code – spreading communal hatred, criminal conspiracy and sedition.

Jayalalithaa’s government, it appeared, was set itself on keeping Madani in Coimbatore in order to please its ally BJP. Under the influence of Muslim League the Karunakaran or Antony Government and the Nayanar Government which came to power in 1996, wouldn’t help Madani’s cause either. For the majority of nine and half year incarceration, the Government of Kerala’s official position was Madani’s entry into his home state would create a communal situation. But the 2006 Elections, through a secret understanding with PDP, V S Achuthanandan’ saw his fortunes turning green in the muslim dominated northern part of Kerala. After the elections the Kerala Assembly passed a resolution for Madani’s release.

Finally after spending 3390 days of lonely life in jail without legal sanction and without any trial, Madani was  indicted of all charges and released from Coimbatore jail on 01 August 2007.

Now the Karnataka Government, the first BJP Government in the South of India, is continuing the witch hunt. This time too there is no proof. Again one of the accused in the Bangalore Serial blast case has named Madani a conspirator. The Karnataka Police claims that Madani was associated with Laskar-e-Toiba’s South Indian commander Thadiyantavide Naseer, the prime accused in 2008 Bangalore serial blasts, 2006 Kozhikode twin blasts and other cases related to recruitment of Muslim youth as terrorists.

The Karnataka Police claims that Naseer confessed to police that he met Madani before the serial blasts in Bangalore and discussed plans. Madani’s wife Sufiya Madani was arrested on terror charges in the Kalamassery bus arson case, which was choreographed by Naseer and for complicity in the serial blasts.

However this time around Madani has been charge-sheeted in the case in June 2009 itself.  But then, is there something called the law too which is meant to be above all of this politics? Am sure only Justice Krishna Iyer is listening.

Photo : Copyright with Rediff.com

Opposition ‘Nu’ Cleared : Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill

On 6th July 2010 in the wake of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy verdict many a articles were written across newspapers on how the compensation was inadequate and how it was calculated at 5,000 deaths and 20,000 injured as against 25,000 deaths and maiming another 5,00,000 in the study commissioned by ICMR in 1994 (10 years after the accident).

The same day I had written in this blog an article Bhopal Tragedy & Civil Liability.

I quote few lines from the article. “For the UPA Government trying to push the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill on capping civil nuclear liability in order to pave the way for the American transnational companies to export their nuclear reactors to India without having to bear the full liability on account of an accident, is a non issue. The Bill, which was introduced twice and hastily  withdrawn, states that the total liability for a nuclear incident shall not exceed 300 million Special Drawing Rights (Approximately Rs 2100 crore at current exchange rates). Within this amount, the liability of the supplier shall be Rs 500 crore. The liability of Rs. 500 crore is the same liability UCIL negotiated in 1989. The price for the worst Industrial disaster in the World. The price for 25,000 dead Indians. 

Now here is the icing, if the liability in case of a Nuclear accident exceeds Rs 500 crore, the Union Government of India shall be liable for the amount exceeding Rs 500 crore. If damage is caused in a nuclear installation owned by the central government, the government will be solely liable.

We have seen how the political leadership, the Indian Judiciary and Bureaucracy has dealt with the worst industrial disaster in the World, which killed and maimed thousands of people. In the intervening 25 years, the Congress Party ruled Madhya Pradesh for 15 years and the BJP 10 years, so no one is above board. As tragic as the tragedy itself, these tyrants of the modern day India, through political manipulation have ensured that on an average each victims of Bhopal gas tragedy got, just Rs. 12,412 as compensation. Let us not play ball to the powers-to-be, to manipulate us any more at the insistence of the American Corporations and the US Government.” Un quote.

Today the Government announced that the Standing Committee report on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is likely to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow. With the intension to pass the Bill before US President Barack Obama‘s visit in November 2010, the Government has got the BJP support on the Bill. The passage of the Bill will open up India’s $150 billion nuclear power sector.

Chairman for the Standing Committee on the Bill, Subbirami Reddy said that all the contentious issues have been addressed in the Bill. Compensation cap will be increased from Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 crore and the zero liability clause has been amended, which was a key demand by the BJP and Left Front. The Bill will now sure be passed by the Parliament even though the CPI-M has given a dissent note demanding that the compensation cap be increased to Rs 10,000 crore.

The proposed compensation cap of Rs. 1500 crore in current exchange rate would mean US$32 millions. A look at Wikipedia on Nuclear accidents gives a list of 14 nuclear power plant accidents with more than US$100 million in property damage, upto 2007. Reporducing the same for you:

Date Location Description Cost
(in millions
2006 $)
February 22, 1977 Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia Severe corrosion of reactor and release of radioactivity into the plant area, necessitating total decommission US$1,700
March 28, 1979 Middletown, Pennsylvania, US Loss of coolant and partial core meltdown, see Three Mile Island accident and Three Mile Island accident health effects US$2,400
September 15, 1984 Athens, Alabama, US Safety violations, operator error, and design problems force six year outage at Browns Ferry Unit 2 US$110
March 9, 1985 Athens, Alabama, US Instrumentation systems malfunction during startup, which led to suspension of operations at all three Browns Ferry Units US$1,830
April 11, 1986 Plymouth, Massachusetts, US Recurring equipment problems force emergency shutdown of Boston Edison’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant US$1,001
April 26, 1986 Kiev, Ukraine Steam explosion and meltdown with 4,056 deaths (see Chernobyl disaster) necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people from Kiev and dispersing radioactive material across Europe (see Chernobyl disaster effects) US$6,700
November 24, 1989 Greifswald, East Germany Electrical error causes fire in the main trough that destroys control lines and five main coolant pumps UD$443
May 4, 1986 Hamm-Uentrop, Germany Experimental reactor releases excessive radiation to four square kilometers surrounding the facility US$267
March 31, 1987 Delta, Pennsylvania, US Peach Bottom units 2 and 3 shutdown due to cooling malfunctions and unexplained equipment problems US$400
December 19, 1987 Lycoming, New York, US Malfunctions force Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation to shut down Nine Mile Point Unit 1 US$150
March 17, 1989 Lusby, Maryland, US Inspections at Calvert Cliff Units 1 and 2 reveal cracks at pressurized heater sleeves, forcing extended shutdowns US$120
February 20, 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US Leaking valve forces shutdown Millstone Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, multiple equipment failures found US$254
September 2, 1996 Crystal River, Florida, US Balance-of-plant equipment malfunction forces shutdown and extensive repairs at Crystal River Unit 3 US$384
February 16, 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US Severe corrosion of control rod forces 24-month outage of Davis-Besse reactor US$143

In 2008 President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed and sealed a civil nuclear agreement which ended New Delhi’s isolation in global atomic commerce and opened up its state-controlled nuclear power market to American transnational companies. And when this agreement got the endorsement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (46 member group of countries) other countries could also have nuclear trade with New Delhi. But it is common knowledge that nuclear trade is primarily driven by seven member countries – US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Russia.

The Indo-US Nuclear deal could not be implemented until India put in place a compensation regime that limited the liability of private companies, especially those from the United States, in the event of an industrial accident. So, India framed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010 which stipulates the compensation burden on the state-run reactor operator, the liability of the Union Government and the responsibility of private suppliers and contractors.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is important for the private American companies whose liabilities are not underwritten by the US governments as is done by the governments of Russia and France. Compensation claims from one nuclear accident could be enough to bankrupt a private company. These companies are reluctant to enter the Indian market despite its size ($150 billion), until there is some clarity on compensation in case of an accident. The US Administration and Obama has been pushing this with the Indian Government.

 The Prime Minister sure is in a hurry to remove all the hurdles for Nuclear trade with the US before the proposed visit by President Obama to India in November, but little thought is put in by the Indian Government and Bureaucracy inspite of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.  With the passage of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in both the houses of Parliament, we will create more Bhopal’s in our backyard and still be able to sell India cheap. And dead Indian’s cheaper.

Suggested Reading : http://wp.me/pV9Cw-5z

Statistics Copyright : Nuclear Accidents – Wikipedia

India turns 64 today : Indian Independence Day

Today India turned 64. In the morning heard the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation on the 63rd Independence Day Celebration from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, which was under a heavy presence of gun-totting security men and felt that the Prime Minister still doesn’t feel that he is Head of the Government. He spoke more like a ‘Consultant to the Government of India’. 

Not inspired by the ‘first servant of India’ speech of the Prime Minister, I really wished we could borrow President Barack Obama for a day or at the very least his speech writer.

Looking for more inspiration and tired of watching the same line up of movies on TV channels, I accompanied a friend for the movie ‘Peepli Live’. Not being a Hindi movie buff, I had my apprehensions when I went for the movie, but it turned out to be the ‘icing in the cake’. I am no sure how many of the people in the audience loved the movie, but for me it was on of the best watch on Independence Day. The movie was not the 5 Star elitist show which Hindi Cinema is famous for. The movie had no major star cast other than Raghbir Yadav of the hit television comedy show Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne fame.

The movie threw up the contradictions in this great country called India. It was a scathing satire on the country’s apathy towards its farmers and the hypocrisy of the urban elitist media. The movie is a simplistic yet engaging potrayal of a sad reality in the country ‘farmers suicide’.

The protagonist Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri), a poor farmer and a father of 3 who lives in an obscure village called Peepli. Burdened by enormous debts and land mortgage to pay off his loans, Natha is manipulated by his elder brother Budhia (Raghbir Yadav) to commit suicide in the hope that the Government will give compensation. Once the press gets whiff of the story, media frenzy unfolds in front of Natha’s house. Every journalist obcessed with ‘live coverage’ wants to cash in on this ‘live suicide’. With election round the corner, politicians jump into the fray to play one-up-man-ship, from the Corporator to the Union Agriculture Minister. Overall the movie employed a comic tone to tell a very serious story. 

It also gave a sneek peek into the Indian system of governance – ignorance of the vast majority of the rural population, the rich poor divide, the implementation of the government schemes, the co-ordination between Union and State Governments on the subject of agriculture, hypocrisy and insensitivity of the Indian media and manipulation by the politicians and bureaucracy.

Really feel enriched by writer director Anusha Rizvi and producer Amir Khan’s simplistic yet engaging movie of a sad reality ‘Peepli Live’

Photo : Copyright with DNA for Peepli Live and Reuters for the PM Manmohan Singh addressing nation.

Chop Shop @ Infosys

Our politicians fight over every trivial issue, but we saw an unusual ideological unity across the political spectrum when it came to the ‘chop shop’ remark by US Senator Charles E Schumer.

During the discussion in US Senate of Border Security Bill, which aims to provide a $600 million emergency package for strengthening the porous US-Mexico border Republican Senator Schumer had described Indian IT Major Infosys and its peers as a ‘chop shop’ – the American slang for places where stolen cars are dismantled for their parts.

The industry bodies and politicians are outraged by the Senator’s snide remark. Congress’s Manish Tiwari says “The use of the phraseology for one of India’s premier IT company, and possibly one of the best in the world, is regrettable. To compare the company to a chop shop reflects complete non understanding of the contribution that Infosys has made to the global economy”.

BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said “It is a flight of arrogance which also concedes that inability to compete fairly. It is because Americans have realised that other parts of the world, notably India, have the capability in entrepreneurship and quality services which are globally competitive as embodied by Infosys.”  

While politicians across all hues come on prime time television to ‘sensationalise the insult’ and declare a ‘war with adjectives’, Indians in the US and more knowledgeable people in India, have been more dismissive. They and other US citizens used to another Republican President George Bush gaffes know Senator Schumer famously called ‘Chuck’ Schumer was indeed ‘chucking the whole word’ by mistake.

It is commonsensical that the Senator meant ‘body shop’ and not ‘chop shop’. My take on the whole discussion is that it is a rhetorical positioning by a man who faces re-election at a time of stubbornly high US unemployment (now standing at 9%). But even the use of word ‘body shop’ is not a very positive statement about outsourcers, like India, but certainly is not same as ‘chop shop’, which has more to do with stolen cars.  The Senator, however, might not apologise or clear up the confusion, because this posturing would work to his advantage in the impending elections.

But what Indian industry and politicians should be more worried is that the Border Security Bill, when approved by the Senate, would see significant hike in application fees for H1B and L1 visas, which are most sought after by Indian IT professionals. The Bill would hike the visa fees to $2000 per application on those entities that have less than 50% of their employees as US citizens. And the Bill is expected to increase the annual visa cost for India’s $50 billion outsourcing industry by $200-250 million annually. For example if the next year Infosys applies for 3000-4000 visas the impact could be $4-6 million (14 to 17% of Infosys revenue).

We might still have a cost arbitrage, but slowly it is decreasing. What are we doing about the shrinking cost arbitrage for outsourcing? Slowly the most ‘capitalist’ nations on earth is switching gear and behaving like the most ‘socialist’ to protect their economy. What are we doing about protecting our economy and protecting our jobs?

Photo : Courtesy Senator Charles Schumer’s official website.