Archive for June, 2009

A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India

June 26, 2009 4 comments

In 1895 an Indian pioneer flew what is said to be the first Indian plane in the air. The centenary year of the first successful flight, by the Wright brothers, was celebrated from December 17, 2003. But our own pioneer from Mumbai, Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, made an aircraft and had flown it eight years earlier. One of Talpade’s students, P Satwelkar, has chronicled that his craft called ‘Marutsakha'(Friend of the Winds) flew unmanned for a few minutes and came down. (via A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India).

Claims … and reality

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Western claims to superiority over the Rest usually include their record in ‘innovation and invention’. This record is brandished as proof of Western superiority – of Western attitudes, institutions, society, polity, media and academia, values, et al.

Technology – a function of funding

What is usually never mentioned or understood is the funding of technology. Technology is a quantitative function of funding. Western funding of its technology quest was underwritten first by conquest (of the Native American by the Spaniards), followed by slavery (of the Native Americans and Africans) followed by colonialism.

It were these forms of exploitation which created a continuous flow of resources (funds, patrons, technology, raw materials) which enabled this technology output.

If …

As this news item points out: –

  1. The Indian pioneer could not obtain funds. Another newspaper report (reproduced elsewhere) points out how the British Raj influenced the Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad of Baroda from support to Talpade’s research.
  2. On the other hand, the Wright Brothers were supported by the US Army to the extent of US$25,000.

These reports are linked to an intriguing Sanskrit technical manual, the ‘Vymanika Shastra‘. Some level of critical examination has happened in the last few years. What makes this claim worth investigating is the fact that this manual in Sanskrit came out in India – from a man who had little exposure to technology being developed on the opposite side of the world. A copy of this manuscript landed at the Sayaji Rao Gaekwad’s Rajakiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda.

While original dating of this document is not yet done, its authenticity as a technical document in Sanskrit, within a few years of Kitty Hawk makes the ‘ripoff-theory’ baseless.

Some sources for this post

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

After the death of his wife, Talpade lost interest in the project. One book claims that “later his relatives sold the models and other things connected with his experiment to the firm of Rally Bros …”

Global economy’s dialogue of the deaf- Opinion-The Economic Times

June 24, 2009 1 comment

First, the frequency of meetings should be increased, especially in times of crisis, and the level of a few of these meetings enhanced. So, for example, two meetings a year at the head-of-government level and quarterly meetings at the finance-minister level would provide ample time for dialogue…

Second, the IMF’s permanent Executive Board should be abolished. Important decisions should be vetted by the IMFC and others delegated to IMF management …

Third, the obvious secretariat is the IMF. Unfortunately, the Fund is not regarded as being impartial, especially by countries that have been seared by its past conditionality. (via Global economy’s dialogue of the deaf- Opinion-The Economic Times).

The Raghuram Rajan Report was another tinkering list

On 5th November 2008, Raghuram Raman was appointed as by the GOI as advisor to the Indian PM – to advise the Indian PM about the forth coming G-20 meetings. As ex-IMF man, if he is the ‘expert’ that he is touted as, by this time Raghuram Rajan should know that the IMF and World Bank are international only in name. They are Western Clubs – meant for the benefit of the West.

Trying to clean these Augean sales is a waste. India should engage with the BRICS countries – and focus on creating another institution without the West to start with.

At it again …

In a media outing, (extracted above), Raghuram Rajan suggests that the Developing World (and India) continue to beat our collective heads at Western altars. Why would the West dilute or allow the Rest to take advantage of structures that the West has created for its own benefit?

Just why?

My feeling …

The BRIC leaders know well enough that the West will not let go of the IMF and the UN. The charade of UN /IMF /World Bank Reform is possibly required – and they are going through it. As for Rahuram Rajan, I dont know if Raghuram Rajan is going for a verbal charade – and at the last minute, spring the BRIC currency. What RRR is suggesting is not going to happen – is clear.

What worries me …

Or does he still believe that his ex-employers can be cured – and endured!

Foreign education takes a hit

Out of the around 93,000 students in Australia, over 40 chose to fly back in the wake of the racially motivated attacks. International education is the third largest source of overseas earnings for Australia, generating around US$12 billion in 2008 and supporting more than 125,000 jobs in the country. (via Foreign education takes a hit).

This one hurts …

After all, which self-respecting, WASP (‘White, Anglo Saxon, Protestant’) Nation would like to be dependent on us dirty and crass Indians!

Bad feeling, huh!

Some people do think that that Indians are of no ‘use to Australia in industry or as a market’. Education happens to be the third largest revenue stream for Australia – after raw materials and tourism. And Indians, by the way, are significant consumers for Australian raw minerals and tourism also.

Anyway, such concerned people should let their Government know about these ‘new found facts’. Because the Australian Government is trying its best to attract Indian tourists to Australia – just like they tried to attract Indian students.

Will Indian industry engage Bharat?

Stop giving gyaan

Stop giving gyaan

Indian entrepreneurs are capable and talented — the best in the world — and have emerged from the pains of competition and globalisation with confidence and competence. They are the envy of most countries and are the pride of India. They can also be respected, trusted, and cared for — but, they are not, as of now by government, NGOs and the public.

And, this is sad because Indian corporates have, and are, contributing to social development through affirmative action; skills development; micro-finance programmes; women empowerment; primary education initiatives in rural areas; supporting healthcare; building infrastructure in villages; setting up low-cost housing; reconstructing villages ravaged by natural calamities; planting trees and helping the environment agenda, etc. India is the only country where industry has set up care and treatment centres for HIV/AIDS affected persons (ART Centres) — this is an outstanding example of social action. (via Will Indian industry engage Bharat?- Opinion-The Economic Times).

Stop this swill

Stop this swill

Mr.Das you surely know this …

A favorite scam in the Indian mobile phone industry is to activate services that the customer has NOT asked for – and start charging him for it. It then becomes the customer responsibility to discontinue these services. If the customer does not pay the bill, his name gets reported to CIBIL, a credit bureau – which will make it difficult for the customer to access other credit services in future.

If he pays the bill , the telecom has succeeded in the scam. The effort required to discontinue these services, in many cases, is seemingly higher than the charge for these services – about Rs.20-30. (40-50 cents per month). The scam becomes outrageous when you multiply this amount with the number of subscribers – at last count nearly 40 crores (400 million).

The Mobile Recharge Scam

We dont need need no gyaan ...

We dont need need no gyaan ...

The same scam makes an appearance in mobile recharges. Customers have no way of knowing how and where their money has gone. Hiding behind walls of call centres and IVR machines, telecom companies in India are looting customers.

In the mobile recharge system, an additional victim is the retailer. 2%-4% of pre-paid recharges never reach the consumer. The retailer refunds the money to the customer – and the telecom company in most cases never reimburses the retailer. What is the retailer commission for these recharge services. 2.5%-4%. What are the number of recharges which dont reach the customer – 2%-4%.

Basically the retailer subsidizes the mobile phone companies by providing these services to the telecom customer. A similar story is playing out in credit card businesses, banking and unsecured loans.

Big Business and Big Government

They are both on the same side. Fighting the two Goliath is equally impossible for Desi Ram or Indy Joe. The outrage against these scams is building up – and will damage the faith that the Indian has in Indian business.

A word of advice

Mr.Das, a bit of advice.

Stop giving gyaan to the Government. Look at members in your own association. They are working hard to lose the trust that the average Indian has for Indian corporates. Stop all these wasteful CSR swill and propaganda – and just get your members to work their businesses cleanly. That itself will be a big enough CSR for Indian industry.

I doubt if India and Indians need or expect more from businesses – BIG or small.

Dealing with bow and arrow – The Lalgarh imagery

June 21, 2009 4 comments

This must mean something ...

Clearly, it would be extremely difficult for the largely urban and Western-educated ruling class—the current UPA government has the largest number of MPs who studied in American and British universities — who are also among the richest in the country (300 crorepatis in the Lok Sabha, mostly businessmen) to relate to axe-wielding women who seek justice and honour in the rough backwoods of the country. And it matters little what the political persuasion of the rulers is. States ruled by parties as different from each other (or perhaps not) as the Congress, the BJP, the CPI(M) or the BJD are all struggling with the problem of alienation and extremism. (via Latha Jishnu: Dealing with bow and arrow).

There are more where they come from ...

For nearly 40 years, India’s Naxalite problem is known, recognized – and unresolved. This extract above by Latha Jishnu in Business Standard, summarizes the problems and history well – and connects to this interesting document from India’s Planning Commission.

These are the Santhal tribesmen, who made the British Raj look weak in the knees. These are frugal people who have little to lose – and they will not let anyone take away what little they have.

The Big Government in India and the Big Business in India are cosying up to loot these poor tribals. Indian media is so besotted with English speaking politicians and ‘phoren educated ministers, that they fail to notice the disconnect between India’s poor and non-Westernized masses, who will not submit.

There are more ... where they come from ...

There are more ... where they come from ...

When so many women come out in the open, with bows and arrows, one thing is clear.

There are more where they come from.

BRIC demands more clout, steers clear of dollar talk – Yahoo! Philippines News

June 18, 2009 2 comments

Change is indeed on its way

Change is indeed on its way

“The summit of the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China ended with a short statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and a communique that demanded more power for developing nations in international financial institutions and the United Nations.

‘We are committed to advance the reform of international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the world economy,’ the BRIC countries said in a joint communique.

‘The emerging and developing economies must have a greater voice and representation in international financial institutions,’ it said. ‘We also believe that there is a strong need for a stable, predictable and more diversified international monetary system.’

“We will not do without additional reserve currencies,” he said, adding that a new supranational reserve currency was also an option as the IMF’s SDRs gained a bigger role.

The initial response from the developed world to Russia’s initiative came from Japan, where Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano reiterated his view that the dollar will remain the world’s key reserve currency. (via BRIC demands more clout, steers clear of dollar talk – Yahoo! Philippines News).

This was predictable

The 2ndlook posts and the Quicktakes on the events in the unfolding global financial crisis have been pre-casting these developments. This meeting was good news. This meeting could not have happened earlier – with elections in India being the delaying proposition.

The meeting has happened. Some old and tired cliches have been shopped out for waiting media. Greater role for BRIC in UN and IMF … is not even old wine (turned vinegar) in a old cracked bottle.

What’s gonna happen

The Chinese and Russian decision to increase holdings of their each others currencies was good development. The greater role for ‘IMF-SDR’ is eye wash. The BRIC leaders know well enough that the West will not let go of the IMF and the UN. But the charade is possibly required – and they are going through it.

The real developments will happen more quietly. After all, the final outcome is something that they, The BRIC nations would like to reveal with fanfare and celebration.

We live in exciting time … or is this a dangerous time?

Roma Gypsies face Northern Ireland ethnic violence

June 18, 2009 24 comments
A frugal Romani Gypsy Camp

A frugal Romani Gypsy Camp

Police said the racist attacks started last week, with gangs smashing house windows and attacking cars. The violence flared again on Monday when youths hurling bottles and Nazi salutes attacked an anti-racism rally called to support the migrants.

Belfast City Council press officer Mark Ashby said the majority of the victims were Roma, or Gypsies, from Romania.

Marian Mandache, from the Romanian Gypsy NGO Romani Crisis, said the Northern Ireland violence was the latest in a disturbing trend of attacks across Europe.

“Starting with Italy in 2007, there have been waves of … racist attacks against Roma,” said Mandache. “Afterwards, there were attacks in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.” (via Gypsies face Northern Ireland ethnic violence).

Hitler was never alone

Hitler’s biggest mistake – he lost the war.

The genocide with which his regime was charged with was also carried out against the Native Americans in the USA, the Australian aborigines, in Congo by the Belgians. Post colonial Governments in Kenya and India have ignored the cover-up of the millions killed by the colonial rulers – in the Mau Mau operations in Kenya or the 1857 War in India.

The Romani Gypsies Sinti have been a favored European target for the last 500 years – by the Vatican, by the Protestant Church, by monarchies and by Republican Governments. In war and and in peace.

Their crime. They civilized (?) Europe. No less.

A 'campaign' to remove Roma Gypsies from camping sites in Britain

A 'campaign' to remove Roma Gypsies from camping sites in Britain

Why Europe continues to demonize and persecute the Roma

Despite the immense contribution by the Roma Gypsies to European culture and life. Is it because: –

  1. They have a different lifestyle – which is migratory and frugal. They do not wish to have permanent homes, too many possessions or jobs. They prefer living in wagons, with skills and trade that they possess.
  2. They have not ‘integrated’ into the White, Christian, European social system. They wish to remain ‘different’.
  3. They stick out like sore thumbs – in a Europe where the Jews have been annihilated, where  descendants of the African slave populations have been exterminated and the Islamic population (past and present) is not tolerated. In such a situation, the Roma Gypsies have not only survived, but have regrown (after Hitler’s concentration camps killed them by millions).

Since when, are these qualities a crime.

Recent history

A few months ago, the Italian police started a campaign of racial profiling and persecution of the Roma – based on an isolated murder of an Italian.

This disproportionate response against a community, to a crime (I am making an assumption of guilt) by a Roma individual, smacks of persecution, racism and pogroms. After all, this is how Hitler and Mussolini too started their campaigns.

In Northern Ireland, the Roma Gypsy number less than 1000. What threat, what problem could they be to the nearly 2 million people of Northern Ireland?

In Britain,

For over twenty years Erith Borough Council continually tried to remove the gypsies from the Marshes. The Council’s eviction policy even made the National Press. In 1948 the Daily Mirror ‘Ruggles’ cartoon strip featured the plight of the Belvedere Gypsy community.

Finally, in 1956 Erith Borough Council got its way. The Council minutes for that year record that “over 700 persons and 280 ramshackle structures have been removed…The clearance could now be said to be complete” thus ending over 100 years of Gypsy history living on Belvedere Marshes.

By 1965, following a campaign led by Norman Dodds, MP for Erith and Crayford, the Government commissioned a national census survey of the Gypsy community living in Great Britain. Sadly, Norman Dodds died in 1965, but James Wellbeloved who became the MP for the same seat took up Dodds’ campaign and finally, in 1968 Parliament passed the Caravans Sites Act. This Act placed a duty on all local authorities in England and Wales to provide sites on which Gypsies could place their caravans and stay, either temporarily or permanently. However this duty was repealed by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1995. (from Gypsies In Bexley: A Hundred Years On The Belvedere Marshes By Simon McKeon, 13/07/2006, from Untold London).

Unarmed, and a few of them!


To all those who wanted to pin the blame for this wave of violence at the doorsteps of the Roma, better find a new and better story. It was reported that Indians, Muslims and the Poles were also warned. Leave Northern Ireland, or else.

Team Manmohan crammed with A-listers – The Economic Times

June 15, 2009 11 comments
Manmohan Inc’s team would be any multinational corporation’s dream. Resume for resume, its key members are in a league of their own.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) council of ministers, led by the 78-year-old Cambridge-educated economist, has at least 14 ministers who have graduated from Ivy League universities like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and of course, Oxbridge. There are also Cabinet members who have degrees from US universities. (via Team Manmohan crammed with A-listers- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times).

More than 60 years after the departure of the British, Indian media at least seems to adore ‘phoren’ educated politicians. A few days, another journalist was effusive when Azhagiri took oath of office in ‘faultless’ English.

Today, the same media finds merit just because these ministers are ‘phoren’ returned. While Indian Universities have become recruiting grounds and supply centres to the West for trained and qualified manpower, Indian media thinks that only ‘phoren’ educated and returned are good enough.

English language media in India is still in its colonial haze – and to see such decadent, colonial ideas, 60 years after the British were thrown out, boggles my imagination. To approve of a politician, because he has English-language skills, or their ‘phoren’ education seems so important to these journalists, who seem to be wagging their ‘colonial’ tail with such approval – and vigor.

These journalists instead should have been worried that 60 years on, Indian Universities dont seem to be meeting standards. And looking at the (seeming) failure of these Universities.

This (mixed record) of Indian Universities can largely be laid at the doorsteps of the faulty educational policies that Indian Governments have been following. For one, why is the State increasing its role in education. For another, why is the State supporting English language education with thousands of crores of subsidies – while Indian language education languishes.

The Arctic’s oil reserves mapped – BBC NEWS

June 1, 2009 6 comments

The map is the culmination of an assessment carried out by the US Geological Survey (USGS). Writing in the journal Science, its authors say the findings are “important to the interests of Arctic countries”. But, they add, they are unlikely to substantially shift the geographic pattern of world oil production. (via BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | The Arctic’s oil reserves mapped).

What may save US yet? Not the usual suspects.


US auto is down – but not yet out. It will limp along for few more decades.

Chinas ARJ21 - Advanced Regional Jet for the 21st Century
China’s ARJ21

Boeing will face fresh competition from BRICS – Brazil’s Embraer, Russia’s (Ilyushin)  and the Chinese (passenger jet programme). US electronics is stagnant – and fading power.

Computing Equipment

The US is still the prime force in the computing industry – though not on the manufacturing side. Chinese manufacturing is the dominant force in computer manufacturing.


US oil industry no longer dominates international markets the way they did in mid-20th century. The US Nuclear industry faces increasing competition from a public sector French and Russian industry – and India is planning to add its ‘frugal engineering’ muscle to this segment.

Higher education may save the day

What will sustain the competitiveness of the US industry – with out the dollar hegemony? The US education system is still significantly productive (measured in terms of patents, Nobel prizes, innovation, output, research papers, etc.). The US higher education system is notoriously hobbled by a weak school education system. How long will that advantage last – without an infusion of foreign talent?

The US entertainment industry remains the biggest in the West – and by many measures in the world also. Partially controlled by the Japanese, it however remains significantly competitive and dominating.

Agriculture is more fragile than estimated …

The seemingly strong position of the US in agriculture is based on two aspects. Massive direct subsidies – of more than 8 billion dollars. And indirect subsidies of possibly another US$ 8 billion. Most of which goes to the 46000 farmers who account for 50% of the US agricultural production.

Communication technology

The communication sector has seen an erosion in US competitiveness. The domination of GSM technology is seemingly solid for another 10-15 years – a technology, in which the US is weak player. The long-term direction for that industry anyways seems like IP-protocol systems. This may well result in commoditization of network equipment and terminal – and the increased importance of content. Low and medium switching technology may see greater commoditization with the eclipse of Cisco by the Chinese switch companies.

Green is still in the red …

Environment engineering provides no major advantage to the US. Solar panels, wind energy equipment, hydrogen technology have all seen greater diffusion of leadership and market share. It may not give greater opportunity to the USA.

Finance and banking

Global financial markets were dominated by the US organizations in the past – but with the global financial crisis and the end to dollar dominance may see reduced clout for US firms. Their position will become broadly similar to current position of Swiss banks – mildly competitive, solid history, fading reputation.


With such an outlook over the next 10-25 years, what the US leadership may focus on is Arctic oil. Oil will remain a strategic asset only with high prices (slower production increase and faster demand growth) and if no other energy source appears. Oil finds in the Atlantic and Pacific republics may spoil the party – for instance, Cuban oil.

Much like the respite of the North Sea oil to Britain, Arctic oil may provide a temporary halt to the slide in US economic dominance.

If the US can lay its hands on a significant part of it!

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