Posts Tagged ‘ Latest News ’

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

IPL – The Ultimate Fixing

As the country wallows in cricket mania my views on the Indian Premier League, or IPL will surely bring brickbats my way. I firmly believe that the IPL extravaganza, is that it is no longer cricket. After betting and match fixing 5-10 years back (remember Hansie Cronje in 2000), this is the ‘ultimate fixing’ by Cricket Administrators and Players.

What prompted me to write this column is the controversy over ownership of Kochi IPL team is not because of my domicile, but my understanding as a footballer, of the ownership structure of the English Premier League, or EPL clubs on whose lines is Indian Premier League was formed.

The EPL is a professional league for football clubs, born out of the success of The National Football League, or NFL the highest level of professional American football. Together the NFL and the EPL are two of the most profitable and popular sports leagues in the world. Their respective league rules however mandate contrasting ownership structures.

The NFL, arguably the most lucrative and successful professional sports league in the world, has a somewhat unique ownership structure, one which allows it to maintain strict control over management and ownership of teams. Unlike other leagues, there is absolutely no corporate ownership allowed, and the ownership groups must contain 24 or fewer individuals. The general partner and his/her family must together own thirty percent or more of the team, and any change in ownership is strictly regulated. The reasoning behind this is also linked to ensuring focused management with a singular vision as well as consistent and long term ownership. The ownership of the 32 teams for the most part is transparent, and for all intents and purposes, above-board.

The 43 club EPL is the exact opposite, where size and influence mattered. The sale or purchase of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are frequently debated, and due diligence and background checks that have been conducted are sometimes questioned with respect to their thoroughness. The ownership guidelines have been questioned, too, along with their implementation. The EPL faces, as well, questions about the nature of foreign investment in its clubs. While foreign investment has propped up the league and made it a global powerhouse, many of the clubs are debt-ridden, and the cleanliness of the funds and ownership has been a subject of mass speculation.

Globally, there isn’t a hard and fast rule that describes the structure of professional sports leagues; nor is there any such rule when it comes to the ownership pattern of the teams within them. Also, it is true that the fact remains that ownership in professional sports leagues — especially where there are large consortiums owning a particular team — are hard to regulate and verify. While foreign ownership in the US leagues hasn’t been much of a factor, the EPL on the other hand has seen a mass influx of foreign investment, and there are concerns as to whether or not the ownership guidelines would need to be tweaked for curbing foreign investment. But what the debt-ridden EPL clubs desperately need is equity financing.

Other professional sports leagues follow different patterns. Some leagues own their teams outright; investors then pay for the rights to manage and host a particular team’s games. There is no clear-cut formula for how leagues are owned globally.

While the ‘tweetter war’ between Sashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi goes on and much is being talked about on the equity ownership of the new Kochi franchise. While it would be premature to speculate on whether or not the ownership of the ten franchises is of questionable antecedents, there seems to an iron curtain when it comes to information on team and ownership. To complicate things further a smoke cream and charade is also created with the Icon Players and the Bollywood Celebrities. The fact remains that IPL is one of the only global sports leagues about which so little is known when it comes to the stakeholders.

Until the Kochi franchise fiasco, equity ownership was a non issue for the IPL Czar, Lalit Modi; but suddenly he is taking of transparency in ownership. So as the first step towards transparency, let Modi come out with a clear-cut guideline of ownership which would stipulate the ownership eligibility criterion. Also let him down the iron curtain and disclose the funding and ownership of the other ten IPL franchises and the two new additions. Let us discuss ownership of Dabur sion and brother of Modi’s step son in law in Kings XI Punjab and Nigeria based businessman and Modi’s brother in law in Rajastan Royals. Let him also disclose his Mauritius to India channels into Kolkata Knight Riders and ‘facilitation fee’ of $80 million paid by Multi-Screen Media to World Sports Group to re-acquire the telecast rights of the league.

IPL after all, is about to enter the next phase of its existence. Investments in the teams are imminent. So are changes of ownership and of control of the franchises. Prior to these contracts taking place, there should be a clear cut methodology in place that governs how the league does its due diligence when it is to induct new ownership. Let us no longer hide behind celebrity actors, celebrity players and of course the cheerleaders. Let us learn from EPL and emulate a good model.

Are you game Mr. Modi. Really wish the Ratan Tata anointed ‘good M’ will not answer this question.

Cartoon Credit: Satish Acharya