Thursday, 31 May 2012

India's plastic president?

Yet another sad example of Indian politics.  After the majestic term of Dr APJ Kalam, we have had a dismal and lack lustre performance from a what I term India's plastic president.  There was great expectations for our nation's first woman president, but sadly she has only managed to deliver on self served interest.  This article points out the many aspects of her presidency that are best forgotten.

Interestingly, this article, published in the new Indian Express, was quickly followed by half page interview of President Patil in the Hindu paper a couple days later.  The Hindu, often pro-congress and too ready to defend the irrational, attempts to highlight the highs of the presidency, but reading the details comes out as a joke and is  for an office that has a very public role to play in the world's largest democratic, the interview could easily be misinterpreted as a sarcastic joke... so much for the Hindu's efforts.

President Patil will be remembered for her foreign travel excesses, her botched attempt at securing herself a palatial retirement home at the expense of the tax payer, of course some reports of her exorbitant expenses smell of scam from a mile away, such as this naval banquet where the drinking water budget was equivalent to 83 litres of bottled water for every guest!

A luxurious, and rather funny means of attending the Indian Army's desert games...

Did they order a special VIP tank for this exercise?

Why this post in the context sustainable development?  The Indian President is a post with little executive scope, reduced primarily to a public role, it is a nonetheless a very eminent office that commands a lot of respect from the Indian nation and one that can be used to set an example.  Today's needs are for a sustainable world and this is where our president's office can make a difference, by leading the way and setting an example.  President Patil's self-serving term has done exactly the opposite. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Micro-finance coming of age.

The last year saw many reports of abuses by micro-finance companies, depts striken families ruined as praying lenders forced them into the dept cycles.  Here is some good news from new regulations imposedon credit institutions.  In 3 points, the new rules require that all borrowers be registered in a central database so as that all lending agencies can access the credit history of the lender; a borrower can have only take loans from two seperate credit agency at a single time; and all lending rates have been capped so that usurious rates (a prime cause of past problems) can not be applied.  A whistle blowing mechanism has also been introduced to safeguard these rules.  Let's hope that confidence can be maintained and this wonderful tool for poverty alleviance can be allowed to do its work.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sustainability, yet another opportunity for corruption?

As this article points out, renewable energy is a growing business today, and who says economic growth says scams in India.  This is a pet project of our central government and a lot of tax payer's money is being channelled into renewable energy projects.  Already there is something fishy about some of the institutions appointed to oversee this development.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Has the world already forgotten Fukushima?

The media has moved on and along with it we have conveniently forgotten the Japanese nuclear disaster of Fukushima.  Japan fights its ghosts, India moves ahead with its nuclear project and an international disaster still awaits us.  Can we truly do away with fission energy?  The world is in a precarious balance.  Our energy requirements are real, our old world resources dwindling, the promise of new technology still a mirage.  How do we reconcile these two points?

Nuclear energy is a bridge between yesterday and tomorrow and in the process we play russian roulette with the world as we know it.  The world needs a diversity in energy resources so that never again we are dependent on a single source.  It is evermore pressing that we disconnect our centralised energy networks and we move towards decentralised, localised and diversified sources of energy so that we become more sustainable.  As cheap solar panels become available, wind farms multiply and bio-fuels come online, sustainable energy production is the only way forward. Can it meet our growing demands?  In the mean time, spare a few seconds everyday and keep in mind those brave souls fighting the demons of Fukushima.

Monday, 21 May 2012

An India of fragmented politics?

Here is an interesting article that questions the whole mascarade of last week when didi (helder sister) Hilary met up with UPA2's bete noir, West Bengal chief minister didi Mamata.  The article points out that the official explanation for this mediatic show made no sense, on the other hand, the question of Iran's oil came up towards the end of the visit back in Delhi with our meek foreign minister.  No suprises there!  However, what is more worrying is that this could be a sign of things to come.  India is the world's largest democracy, and as my mother often says, it is a demon-cracy, and rightly so as the political landscape of the largest states are turning to local parties, the result is leading us to an ever increasing fragmented national policy and legistlative stagnancy...

So why did didi Hilary visit a wayward UPA ally?  The article explores the possibility that we may be entering an era where central government will be toothless as the keys will be held with the state goverments and therefore getting India on-board  for international agendas such as sanctions against Iran will require pressure and support from state chief miniters to allow the central government to function at the parliamentry level.

We are in for some interesting horse trading... but could this lead to a brighter future for India?  It is a fact that no single party can govern India today, but is also a fact that there isn't a national party that has the technical ability to do so, even if they obtained a ruling majority.  All parties are made up primarily of corrupt self-serving politicians.  There are actually very few technocrats with the capacity to govern this nation.  the upshot of a fragented political landscape is that a central goverment will have to be composed of a union of parties.  If only a strong leader emerges that can pick the best elements of each party to get India on the right track to reforms.  Time will tell.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Beating Corruption, one step at a time.

The Private Inc. has been and is the harbinger of change in India in the last two decades.  Public effort has remained in the doldrums and looks to be ineffective for a time to come still.  Hence it is of no surprise that the best efforts to beat corruption are coming from well thought out and executed private enterprises.  This article highlights the work of a group of people from India's sillicon valley, Bangalore.  A combination of public shaming as well as highlighting the work of upright officials has seen a certain success.  Leveraging the internet and the social media to spread its message, the site "IPaidABribe" has registered over 18000 reports of bribes, of which 600 tell of administrative services obtained without having to pay a bribe.

One could image a day where a "Big Brother" style archive names every adminstrative officials and their service records whereby allowing citizens to shun corrupt babus and thereby deprive them of their source of illegal income.  Furthermore, highlithing upright individuals in the eye of the public is a much needed reward for what is often a very lonesome crusade.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Subtle subtitling

A nice piece on the art of subtitling South Indian movies.  Rekha Haricharan from Chennai has done the english subtitles of over 48 movies which such passion for keeping to the spoken word that it has won her much praise and following.  It is ever so important in world where the english language dominates and Hollywood blockbusters rule to have a alternative movies from non-english cultures to have good subtitles for this is the thin line that separates its success from its relegation into oblivion on the world stage.