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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Kamal bears the brunt of Cultural Terrorism


“Cultural terrorism” is trending phrase in social media after its usage by Padma Shri, Ulaga Nayagan Kamal Hassan. Vishwaroopam, billed as his magnus opus, is turning out to be his nemesis much to the chagrin of his beloved admirers and fans. The ping ponging of the courts is not surprising for many, as it is quite typical in the Indian legal system. The ban of the movie has left a rather bitter taste for Kamal and he has claimed that he would be homeless if the ban was not lifted and has gone so far as to suggest that he would leave the state of Tamil Nadu to find a true secular place. Good luck to him finding such a place in India inspite of Secularism being enshrined in the constitution.

I have not seen the movie but I have spoken to people on both sides of the fence who have seen the movie. (I confess that I am a massive fan of Kamal Hassan). That, he is Hindu born Brahmin and is an atheist by choice, is something that has been in the open for a long time and it is out of question to think that he is a Hindu Zealot clamouring to hurt the feelings of Muslims. He has also been extremely consistent on his political leanings or the lack of it, so one cannot suggest that he is playing into the hands of political groups. Though it might be possible it would be rather ridiculous to think he would pawn his possessions to rake up a controversy just to ensure box office hit. The DTH controversy already did that.

So, what is the hue and cry about? A group of leading Muslim organisations have termed that the movie will hurt the feelings of Muslims as it has depicted the community in poor light and has the potential to cause unrest in the country. (Media readings suggest that when the issue was raised none of these organisations had actually seen the movie.) Let us assume that for fire to be there, there must have been smoke. The main objection stems from the fact that in a few scenes the Afghani based terrorists have been shown to perform rituals, like reciting verses from the Holy Quran during the course of the day and also indulging in dastardly acts. I, as a practising Hindu would definitely be offended if someone took an oath on the Bhagavad Gita and went about planting a bomb and killing innocent women and children. But context is everything, when you see through a pigeon hole the pan of your vision is exactly the size of the pigeon hole. When you open the door the vision has significant periphery, which has the ability to radically change the meaning. Keeping in mind that what has been portrayed in Vishwaroopam is not something new and that which has been regularly used by Hollywood movies (and in some Tamil movies – remember Roja – a Kashmiri militant praying), this ban seems to be over the top. Mind you, Hollywood movies have to be censored as well by the same board and I do not recall the Muslim community protesting movies ‘The Body of Lies’ or ‘The Siege’. It would be very interesting to see how the community reacts to ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.

For starters the movie is not based in India and to add there is not a single character in the movie who is an Indian Muslim, but for the protagonist, (not prota kada kaaran, as comically questioned by a facebook-er) our very own Kamal Hassan. Kamal is a good guy in the movie and goes after the bad guys and that is the one line story. Rightly or wrongly, popular media have stereotyped the typical terrorist to be a machine gun wielding man of middle eastern appearance, a glowing beard and a turban. Whilst, this profiling is unfortunate, it does have basis. Think of the top 3 terrorist attacks anywhere in the world in recent times and I would say 9 out of 10 times you would see that those attacks have been perpetrated by groups owing allegiance to the Muslim faith. How this portrayal could be different in this movie beggars belief. May be Kamal should have casted Danny DeVito for the role of the terrorist, in an Armani Suit, with Ray ban goggles holding a .22 rifle.

Whilst, I can rationalise the hurt (if any) our Indian Muslim brothers and sisters feel, I do not believe anything out of the ordinary has been said or shown in this film that warrants a ban on the basis that it could cause widespread communal distress. If that is the case then every Hollywood movie that is based on terrorism (and Roja for that matter) has the same potential and hence cannot be shown in Tamil Nadu. What blows me away more is the knee jerk reaction of the Tamil Nadu Government to ban the movie in spite of certification to appease a section of the community and merely playing vote bank politics. Overruling the Central Board of Film Certification, a Statutory body under the  Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India smacks of arrogance, makes a mockery of the Censor board and challenges the intelligence of the individuals representing the board.

The childish behaviour of the Indian courts is just another thorn in Kamal’s flesh. To put it in layman’s terms, you go to court because you cannot resolve an issue between two parties. For a judge to suggest that the parties go away and amicably resolve this between themselves, shows cowardice, naivety and sheer irresponsibility. You could argue that arbitration is indeed legal and can provide a quicker end to the controversy, but the courts under the cloak of ‘potential to incite social unrest’, have lost the chance to set a precedent against Cultural terrorism. For reasons best know the social unrest applies only to Tamil Nadu. The movies have been running to full houses in Kerala, Karnataka, AP, the rest of India and rest of the world. Compared to Tamil Nadu, Kerala has more than twice the Muslims and it has not reported any violence caused by this film. But, by the time this article goes to print who knows communal elements in the other states could well have picked this as an opportunity to test tolerance.  

In my view I do see there are fragments in the movie when taken out of context, and only when taken out of context, have the potential to upset a Muslim in general, but those scenes are just a depiction of happenings in that part of the. The way the entire issue has panned out in the last couple of weeks it does look like there is more to the eye than meets. It is widely rumoured that the film rights not being given to a channel close to the ruling party is one of the reasons for this mayhem. It has also been suggested that Kamals’ suggestion that  a “Dhoti clad” politician should become the PM of India and has not gone down well in some quarters.

For his part Kamal has done himself no favours by naming the movie Vishwaroopam, a strong Hindu religious icon and compounding that with an Arabic styled English font for the title. The Holy Quran is written in Arabic. This in itself causes a clash of cultures and probably would have sown questions in the minds of Indian Muslims. On the other hand, one viewer suggested that he was surprised that the Hindu Brahmin community or the Women’s organisation have not gone up in arms to some of the insinuations of the lead character in the movie. Thank you very much – I have had enough for the day. I am half drained figuring out if is this really about showing the Muslim community in bad light or is it a part of a wider political agenda or maybe it is clever ploy by the TN Government to reduce the power consumption in the state, thus redeeming itself from the pathetic power situation in the state.

Whatever it may be, Kamal for the love of his profession in the last 50 years, for his contribution to Tamil and Indian cinema hardly deserves this. It is indeed a sad day where political correctness is curbing creativity. Today it was Vishwaroopam, tomorrow it will be something else. I do have a suggestion, let us all go and watch Tom and Jerry – Oh no we can’t do that because there is a lot of violence in it – Jerry beating up Tom all the time, the bulldog chopping the cats head.

Only in India, that is Bharat.

[Note: This article was written a few days before the two groups came to an agreement and the TN Goverment lifted the ban]

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Mullaperiyar Dam Issue

Since my last blog, there have been a few issues that I wanted to write about namely the controversy around the Australian theatre play Ganesh Vs Third Reich, the MMCRA – the mother of all defence contracts, then Australia’s Uranium export policy. There was only one reason why I did not write on any of those topics – laziness. The Mullaperiyar dam issue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu is decades old and has generated a lot of political heat and sensational press, albeit any analysis in the last couple of months. This is one of those political issues where it is impossible to finalise a win-win situation. In the case of both parties Tamil Nadu and Kerala a loss for either side would be political suicide. To the benefit of the readers, might I inform that I am from Tamil Nadu which is my home state and it will be fair to say that I will be biased. But, I promise to be logical and factual and present an analysis which will be primarily based on artefacts available on the internet and may be slightly based on conjecture. I will be providing no references and I welcome you all to challenge the logic and data presented. The main intent of this post is to try and squash some of the myths generated in the media, which has been driven by dramatisation and sensationalism.

The Mullaperiyar dam is a gravity lime mortar dam that was built in the late 19th century across the Mullaperiyar River. The dam site is 881m above mean sea level and sits firmly on Kerala land and is controlled by Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu pays a nominal fee for the land covered by the water body, the dam site, the personnel on the dam and a few other sundries. The contract between the then parties, the British Government and the Travancore state is obviously over a century old and after independence the executors of the contract are Tamil Nadu (for the British Govt) and Kerala (for the Travancore state)

Undoubtedly Tamil Nadu is the primary beneficiary of the dam, which is used to irrigate the drought prone Sivaganga, Theni, Madurai and Ramanthapuram districts, benefitting millions of farmers. The Mullaperiyar river which once naturally flowed from Tamil Nadu, into Kerala and then finally into the Arabian Sea has been dammed by the Mullaperiyar Dam and redirected back into Tamil Nadu. This water then flows to Vaigiai dam, 100 KMS away via a tunnel. That feature is itself an engineering marvel and is ripe for comment in another article.

Downstream from the Mullaperiyar dam, in Idukki district, is another Dam built by the Kerala government in the 1970’s. This dam was built primarily for hydel power generation. The Idukki dam is about 700m above mean sea level and is one of the highest (167.68m) in Asia. Any overflow from Mullaperiyar flows into the Idukki Dam. The capacity of the Idukki dam is 2,000 Million Cubic Metres and that of Mullaperiyar is 443 Million Cubic Metres. So, in theory Idukki dam can hold 4 times and a bit more than what Mullaperiyar can. The Tamil Nadu Government maintains the water level at only 136m, in spite of a Supreme Court order allowing it to maintain the water level to 142m. Note, that the Full Reservoir Level of Mullaperiyar is 152m. So, effectively the capacity of Mullaperiyar is much less the 443 M cu.m. I don’t know the exact figures by I am assuming the reduced capacity to be 400 cu.m, which would mean that Idukki could hold 5 times the water that Mullaperiyar can.

Based on a Google maps analysis, between Mullaperiyar and Idukki along the flow of the periyar river there are 4 towns Vandiperiyar, (836m, 70,000 people), Devikulam (1800m, 350), Upputhura (915m, 21,000) and Alady (no information available). Notice that Devikulam and Upputhura will not be affected due to their mean sea levels being higher than Mullaperiyar Dam.

The biggest opposition from the Kerala Government is around the dam safety. The century old dam is in a quake prone zone, has far outlived its time, the dam is leaky and will not be able to handle the pressure and stress of large tremors thus endangering the lives of the people downstream.

If there is a tremor (I would think atleast 6 on the Ritcher Scale) and if that causes the Mullaperiyar Dam to completely fail, the water will flow down to Idukki dam. It is quite possible that the people in some of the towns mentioned above will directly be in the path of fury (less than 100,000). So, I completely accept these people will be in harm’s way. Idukki dam is only about 50 Kms away and it is most likely that any tremor affecting Mullaperiyar is likely to affect Idukki as well. I would like to play this analysis to cite a few scenarios and actually see what might be the effect of those scenarios.

The first scenario: There is an earthquake in the region big enough to affect Mullaperiyar Dam and it completely fails. However, Idukki is able to handle the stress and is not affected. Remember Idukki was built only 40 years ago, with technology much better than in 1880’s. Now also consider that in the event of Mullaperiyar carrying the full 400 cu.m, Idukki should be able to easily carry that capacity. An IIT Rourkee report said that if a dam break occurs when the water level in Mullaperiyar is at 136 feet, the water level in Idukki reservoir, which is 36 kilometres away, would rise by 20.85 meters.

What intrigues me is that most of the media commentary quotes that 3.5 million people in the districts of Idukki, Eranakulam, Kottayam, Alapuzha and Thrissur will be endangered. Now, this scenario (Scenario 2) is under the assumption that there is a chain effect, where Mullaperiyar fails, the water flows into Idukki and Idukki also fails unable to take the pressure. This in turn affects the Idukki downstream towns and villages. Now remember, Idukki can take close to 5 times the capacity of Mullaperiyar. Even assuming that Idukki dam is full, it is possible to open the sluice gates of Idukki as it takes just over 2 hours for the water from Mullaperiyar to reach Idukki. By the way in its history of 40 years Idukki dam has never held more than 50% its capcacity. So, I do not see this scenario happening. So, if Idukki Dam is safe then the 3.5 million people are also safe.

One could argue that it is not necessarily the pressure applied by the large mass of passive water extending over hundreds of square kilometeres in Iduki dam, but also the sheer force of the water gushing from Mullaperiyar that will hit the dam. This is unfounded and not based on logic. The Cheruthony Dam, the Kulamavu Dam and the Idukki Dam which form the Idukki reservoir are at extreme ends of the reservoir from the view point of where water enters the Idukki reservoir. Look at the map below and you will understand what I am talking about.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ZfUYp7-DHOE/TtgAjLngC7I/AAAAAAAABJo/e5QE1B5OHMk/s400/Idukki%2BDam.png


There is a third scenario, where a major earthquake causes both Idukki and Mullaperiyar to fail. If such is the case, let us pray that God be with these people. Even then I will question if at all 3.5 million will be affected.

The Kerala Government obviously has the safety of its people as the number one priority, and very rightly so. Atleast that is what is what they have been projecting. But, there must be some underlying reasons why they are motivated to bring the Mullaperiyar dam. They are persistent in their quest to bring the Mullaperiyar down. They have even offered to use its own funds to build a dam a few kilometres downstream from Mullaperiyar. They have promised to ensure that Tamil Nadu with get the same entitlement of water as with Mullaperiyar.

On the face of it this looks good, but with this option Tamil Nadu will lose control of the dam and the livelihood of the farmers in the drought prone districts of Tamil Nadu will be at the whims and fancies of the Kerala Government. Even before that getting environment clearance for a project of this scale will be nothing short of impossible. Tamil Nadu has reason to be worried, because in spite of a Supreme Court ruling to provide a quantum of water regularly to Tamil Nadu from the Cauvery, Karnataka has time and again failed to maintain the order. Why will Kerala not follow the same path?

I agree with the argument that the Mullaperiyar Dam might not be structurally sound. But, I cannot find any basis to the propaganda that the dam has outlived its 50 years of envisaged life. Who builds a dam that lasts for 50 years? The Grand Anaicut across the river Cauvery, in Trichy was built in the 2nd Century and has still stood the test of time. While this is not an apple for apple comparison, the point is that with proper maintenance and with the use of modern technology dams can be maintained well.

The Central Water Commission had advised that the dam can be strengthened using various measures in three phases — emergency, medium-term and long-term. Tamil Nadu has completed the short term and medium term phases and is unable to complete the long term measure due to Kerala’s stubbornness. Some of the excuses have been manufactured and will sound quite pleasing to the gullible.

In the last 10 odd years the Tamil Nadu government has completed large scale maintenance work based on advice from technical experts. This includes strengthening the base of the dam and inserting vertical steel columns in the dam and many other things.

So, in my view the Mullaperiyar Dam is structurally safe and with proper governance processes can be put in place to ensure the least amount of people are effected in the event of a catastrophe.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Mullaperiyar Dam Issue

Since my last blog, there have been a few issues that I wanted to write about namely the controversy around the Australian theatre play Ganesh Vs Third Reich, the MMCRA – the mother of all defence contracts, then Australia’s Uranium export policy. There was only one reason why I did not write on any of those topics – laziness. The Mullaperiyar dam issue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu is decades old and has generated a lot of political hear and sensational press in the last couple of months. This is an issue where it is impossible to finalise a win-win situation and a loss for either side would be political suicide. I am from Tamil Nadu which is my home state and it will be fair to say that I will be biased. But, I promise to be logical and factual and present an analysis which will be primarily based on artefacts available on the internet. I will be providing no references and I welcome you all to challenge the logic and data presented. The main intent of this post is to try and squash some of the myths generated in the media. One of the reasons for this post is the mediocrity of analysis presented by the media.

The Mullaperiyar dam is a gravity lime mortar dam that was built in the late 19th century across the Mullaperiyar River. The dam site is 881m above mean sea level and sits firmly on Kerala land and is controlled by Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu pays a nominal fee for the land covered by the water body & the dam site, the personnel on the dam and a few other sundries. The contract between the then parties, the British Government and the Travancore state is obviously over a century old and after independence the executors of the contract are Tamil Nadu (for the British Govt) and Kerala (for the Travancore state)

Undoubtedly Tamil Nadu is the primary beneficiary of the dam is Tamil Nadu, which is used to irrigate the drought prone Sivaganga, Theni, Madurai and Ramanthapuram districts, benefitting millions of farmers on those areas. The Mullaperiyar river which once naturally flowed from Tamil Nadu, into Kerala and then finally into the Arabian Sea has been dammed and redirected back into Tamil Nadu and flows to Vaigiai dam, 100 KMS away via a tunnel. That feature is itself an engineering marvel.

Downstream from the Mullaperiyar dam in Idukki district, is another Dam built by the Kerala government in the 1970’s primarily for hydel power generation. The Idukki dam is about 700m above mean sea level and is one of the highest in Asia. Any overflow from Mullaperiyar flows into the Idukki Dam. The capacity of the Idukki dam is 2,000 Million Cubic Metres and that of Mullaperiyar is 443 Million Cubic Metres. So, in theory Idukki dam can hold 4 times the water that Mullaperiyar can and more. The Kerala Government, via a Supreme Court order, citing safety reasons have managed to set the maximum water level at 136m though the full reservoir level is 156m. Tamil Nadu has wanted this level to be increased to 142m, without much luck. So, effectively the capacity of Mullaperiyar is much less the 443 M cu.m.

Based on a Google maps analysis, between Mullaperiyar and Idukki along the flow of the periyar river there are 4 towns Vandiperiyar, (836m, 70,000 people), Devikulam (1800m, 350), Upputhura (915m, 21,000) and Alady (no information available). Notice that Devikulam and Upputhura will not be affected due to their mean sea levels being higher than Mullaperiyar Dam.

The biggest opposition from the Kerala Government is around the dam safety. The century old dam is in a quake prone zone, has far outlived its time, the dam is leaky and will not be able to handle the pressure and stress of large tremors thus endangering the lives of the people downstream.

If there is a tremor (I would think atleast 6 of the Ritcher Scale) and if that causes the Mullaperiyar Dam to completely fail, the water will flow down to Idukki dam. It is quite possible that the people in some of the towns mentioned above will directly be in the path of fury (less than 100,000). So, I completely accept these people will be in harm’s way. Idukki dam is only about 50 Kms away and it is most likely that any tremor affecting Mullaperiyar is likely to affect Idukki as well. This is the first scenario where Mullaperiyar fails and Idukki dam is unaffected. This scenario is plausible only if you assume Idukki is able to handle the stress of the tremor. Being built only 40 years ago, with technology much better than in 1880’s, I would like to think Idukki will be able to handle that.

What intrigues me is that most of the media commentary quotes that 3.5 million people in the districts of Idukki, Eranakulam, Kottayam, Alapuzha and Thrissur will be endangered. Now, this scenario is under the assumption that there is a chain effect, where Mullaperiyar fails, the water flows into Idukki and Idukki also fails unable to take the pressure and this in turn affects the Idukki downstream towns and villages. Now remember, Idukki can take more than 4 times the capacity of Mullaperiyar, and due to the reduced maximum reservoir level imposed by the Supreme Court, I would probably estimate 5 to 6 times. So, I do not see this scenario happening. In the event of a tremor, mechanisms can be put in place to release water from Idukki so that it has the capacity to take the overflow from Mullaperiyar. So, Idukki Dam is safe then the 3.5 million people are also safe.

One could argue that it is not necessarily the pressure applied by the large mass of passive water extending over hundreds of square kilometeres in Iduki dam, but also the sheer force of the water gushing from Mullaperiyar that will hit the dam. This is unfounded and not based on logic. The Cheruthony Dam, the Kulamavu Dam and the Idukki Dam which form the Idukki reservoir are at extreme ends of the reservoir from the view point of where water enters the Idukki reservoir. Look at the map below and you will understand what I am talking about.


There is a third scenario where Idukki dam and Mullaperiyar dam fail because of a major earthquake. If such is the case, let us pray God be with these people. Even then I will question if at all 3.5 million will be affected.

The Kerala Government obviously has the safety of its people as the number one priority. Atleast that is what is what they have been projecting. But, there must be some underlying reasons why they are motivated to bring the Mullaperiyar dam. They are persistent in their quest to bring the Mullaperiyar down. They have even offered to use its own funds to build a dam a few kilometres downstream from Mullaperiyar and provide Tamil Nadu with the same amount of water they are entitled to. On the face of it this looks good, but with this option Tamil Nadu will lose control of the dam and the livelihood of the farmers in the drought prone districts of Tamil Nadu will be at the whims and fancies of the Kerala Government, which would control the new dam. Tamil Nadu has reason to be worried, because in spite of a Supreme Court ruling to provide a quantum of water to Tamil Nadu from the Cauvery, Karnataka has time and again failed to maintain the order. Why will Kerala not follow the same path?

I agree with the argument that the Mullaperiyar Dam might not be structurally sound. But, I cannot find any basis to the propaganda that the dam has outlived its 50 years of envisaged life. Who builds a dam that lasts for 50 years? The Grand Anaicut across the river Cauvery, in Trichy was built in the 2nd Century and has still stood the test of time. While this is not an apple for apple comparison, the point is that with proper maintenance and with the use of modern technology dams can be maintained well. In the last 10 odd years the Tamil Nadu government has completed large scale maintenance work based on advice from technical experts. This includes strengthening the base of the dam and inserting vertical steel columns in the dam and many other things.

I have run out of time and will update when I get a chance. As suggested before I am no expert. Any discrepancy in data or logic please comment and I will consider your suggestions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cloud computing

In recent times a lot of my tech savvy friends have asked me what is “Cloud computing”. They ask me not because I am an expert, because I tend to have an opinion on everything. Cloud computing conceptually is quite old, at least a quarter century old.

Let us wind back in time to get some perspective on this. In the 90’s yahoo introduced the e-mail to the internet and allowed users with valid email identity’s messages. The only software required to use this service was the browser. Obviously the computer should be connected to the internet. This is the most rudimentary type of “Cloud computing”. The actual email software, the storage of your received and sent messages are all hosted in servers that are probably on the other side of the globe. Contrast the Yahoo email service to the one you use at your workplace either with Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes. The email software is installed in your computer; your messages are also stored in your computer or your company’s server.

Now, if cloud computing is such an old concept why is it getting a lot of attention and mention in the tech websites? The early Cloud computing services had a few limitations. They were not secure, they were not fast, they were not able to carry large amounts of data, and they were not very efficient. For these reasons the cloud computing market was restricted to the private individual internet user. However, in the last decade we have seen Telecommunication technology, particularly the internet has developed in leaps and bounds. Just to illustrate the change compare my anecdotal evidence below.

There was a time, when I started as a programmer; our office had one computer (Pentium 486, 12” monochrome monitor, windows 3.1, Netscape Communicator, 4MB RAM) that had internet access. The company boasted that it had a 64 Kbps ISDN service for which it was paying a premium. Those were the days of dial-up internet connections. We were given an hour’s time on the computer per week and we were allowed to browse anything we wanted. The first website I went to was www.whitehouse.com, to my utter surprise it was a porn site, the official Whitehouse website was www.whitehouse.org. It was painfully slow, I consumed by 60 minute quota just reading 5 pages on the Whitehouse website (.org one that is), but it did not bother me at that time, because you had no idea how fast internet could be.

Today, I can download a feature length movie in 20 minutes flat. Infact, the speed is so good, that I can watch the movies online (video streaming) without having to download it. Another good example of cloud computing, no need for a media player. All you need is a browser with a compatible video plug-in. The only major difference between a video streaming service (e.g. www.youtube.com) and the yahoo email service is the type of content i.e. Video vs. Text. Video obviously requires a lot of storage pace and needs a fast internet to view the movie without buffer interruption. Again, the target market is private individual user.

Google, created documents that can be created, edited and shared on the internet. I have been a recent user of this service (Software as a Service – SaaS). The only reason I use it is because of the sharing ability of the documents. I would not put any sensitive data on it. Google is enhancing the features of the service and I hear they are taking it to the enterprise level. I can guarantee that it will be an utter failure unless they sort out the usability and the security of the service. I have recently moved on to MS Office 2007 and am highly impressed with the usability and features available. Though not a very big fan of MS Technology, I rate MS Excel and MS PowerPoint as two of their best office products. If Google wants me to extensively use Google Docs, they have to come close to the office suite and that will be a huge challenge.
With ubiquitous high speed broadband, there has been a rush to offer more services over the internet. Google docs, mentioned above is one such example. On a serious note Amazon has embraced Cloud Computing and is offering a range of services including Virtual Private Clouds, Virtual Storage and many others. Organisations are seriously looking at using Cloud Computing or Software as a Service for their IT needs. The advantages of this would include Reduced software costs, as you pay for the service you use thus reducing Capital Expenditure
  • Reduced IT infrastructure costs, as you don’t have to maintain energy consuming hardware
  • Reduce IT Workforce, as you do not own the software or the hardware and maintenance is part of the service
  • Increased desktop efficiency, with fewer programs vying for the computer resources, the desktop is more efficient
  • OS Compatibility, no longer do organisations have to think about a MS or Mac PC strategy.
At the moment Cloud Computing is not mature enough for large enterprises and it will be highly unlikely, that corporations adopt it in the near term. The main reasons would be the number of transactions that will have to pass to and from the cloud, which in turn will pose serious performance related questions and also the security of the data in the cloud.

However, for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) this is an excellent strategy to drive efficiencies and reduce costs. Looks at the options available for SMEs; payroll software, email, document management and data storage.
Welcome the Cloud.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The rape of Mother Nature Continues

It is heartening to note that a moratorium has been issued in the case of introducing ‘BT Brinjal’. A wise move indeed. Though I am all for science and the benefits it bring to individuals, I am concerned about the effects of Genetically Modified Organisms being introduced in the Food Chain and the environment.

This is a scenario where it is impossible to get a consensus from all stakeholders. The Minister Jairam Ramesh has rightly said, no matter what the decision is, 50% of the people will be happy and 50% will be unhappy. To me this is an ethical issue where the decision should provide happiness to most stakeholders.

The key stakeholders in this debate is the Government, who are answerable to the electorate, the Company (Monsanto and Mahyco), who are answerable to their Shareholders, the Scientists, who apply their scientific knowledge to the debate, the farmers, who tend to gain or lose from the decision and of all the most important stakeholders, we the public who are the consumers. Unfortunately, the most important stakeholder has been conveniently left out of the debate. One can argue that humans are a subset of all the other stakeholders, but the other stakeholders have different objectives when compared to the humans.

I am writing this note purely as a prospective consumer of BT Brinjal. To me the biggest concern is the safety of my family and my environment. I have two questions,

1. Can the producer of the seeds guarantee that there will be no ill effects from the consumption of BT Brinjal for the life of me and my children?
2. Can the producer of the seeds guarantee that there will be no ill effects to the bio diversity of the environment due to the introduction of BT Brinjal?

No amount of testing can assure one that GMO food is safe for human consumption. May be it is safe in the short-term, but what about the safety in the long term (generations).

I have read that there over a 1000 varieties of Brinjal grown in India alone, what will become of these varieties if BT Brinjal were introduced? How can one control cross pollination of BT Brinjal? May be BT Brinjal is inherently safe, but if cross pollination with other plant species might cause disastrous effects.

Many critical unanswered questions. My humble opinion is to use science in other ways to increase productivity for farmers and nutrition for the consumers. Do not mess with the Gene map of organisms. We have raped Mother Nature enough. Enough is enough.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NBN will increase competition...really?

The Australian Government is pursuing one of the biggest and most ambitious infrastructure projects ever in the history of Modern Australia. The $43 Billion National Broadband Network, popularly known as NBN. After, a rather unsuccessful private bidding process (in which Telstra was excluded due to debatable reasons), Don Vito Corleone (Oops! read that as Stephen Conroy), the Communications minister decided that the Government will execute the project itself. Of course, with participation from the industry.

It is well known fact that Telstra is the only Telco which has the wherewithal and the financial backing to complete this project. In fact I am told that Telstra has such advanced plans for the NBN, that it can start work at the hint of a word. Telstra, is asking for something in return. Now discussing that is not in my scope, and I myself have some reservations about that.

Unable to move any forward in the project, except establishing a Board and realising that it is impossible to realise the NBN dream without Telstra, the minister in teh way of legislation has asked Telstra to do a couple of things. Mind you these couple of things are in the interest of consumers. That is increasing competitiveness.

1. Sell Foxtel, and hence the cable tv network
2. Sell Fixed network infrastructure
3. Banning Telstra from any more 3G spectrum

Interesting, one would think, that all these are potential competitors to NBN. Broadband, for the less tech savvy, is a concept that is able to provide huge bandwidth and speed over long distances. There are mutliple technologies that enable the realisation of the broadband concept. The most popular ones are ISDN, Cable (Fibre Optic), ADSL (via Fixed line network), Satellite, Cellphone (like 3G via HSDPA), Wireless and many more.

Now if Telstra is excluded from the participation of the NBN, it is most likely that Telstra will ramp up its existing infrastructure including Cable (Fibre), replacing Copper and extra growth in the 3G spectrum. All this would directly put Telstra in competition with NBN and its partners. Isn't this good for the consumers. This is what is competition.

The government is exactly doing the opposite by clipping Telstra's wings and building the NBN as a monopoly.

I just don't get this.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dissecting the so called Racist attack on Indian Students (Mid 2009)



A little background about myself to convince people that I have some credibility to talk about this issue. I worked in Sydney in 2002 on a Business Visa for about 8 months. I studied in Melbourne for two years between 2004 and 2006, following which I worked in Brisbane for about 8 months. Then on I have worked and continued to live in Melbourne till now.


I like Australia and would never want to leave this lucky country. Infact I have not visited India since I came here to study in 2004. The recent spate (early 2009) of incidents aimed at Indian students has led me to take a step back and analyse why all of this could possibly be happening.


On a general note, I have seen a marked increase in violence in Melbourne since my first arrival in 2004. The stabbings, fights in pubs, beating up taxi drivers and bag snatches in shopping malls have made news in recent times. Not all of this has involved Indian students. However, there definitely seems to be a pattern on Indian student attacks. I will not go into the list of attacks, I am sure you can google it yourself.


I do not think racism is the only reason for the attacks, I believe it is a combination of a few factors. I personally have experienced racism in Australia. All of that are from uneducated bogans with nothing better to do in life. Be it my workplace or at university I have not experienced one shred of racism. All that matters is your professionalism. Everything else is unimportant at the University or the workplace. The recognition of professionalism and the work culture is one of the things that attracted me to Asutralia.


Now let me discuss the possible reasons for the incidents.


Reason 1: The uneducated Australian youth in general are getting intolerant because of a variety of reasons including binge drinking, drugs and what have you. It is this segment, I believe, that is responsible for most of the attacks. I attribute this to be one of the major factors for the increase in general violence over the years.


Reason 2: Australia is a multi ethnic multicultural society and that is the fabric of Melbourne and this is what makes Melbourne great. Over the decades the English, Italians, Chinese and a host of other communities have migrated to Australia. In comparison to all of them I believe the Indians have taken the least amount of time to get established in the society. It is not surprising to see a large percentage of First generation Indians in Australia to be earning a high 5 figure salary from the 3 rd or 4th year since they have set shore in Kangaroo land. It has taken the other communities a few generations to what the Indians have achieved in one. This fact could be a possible irritant to some.


Reason 3: The “R” word. Recession is taking its toll on everyone and if we were to learn anything from history the level of crime always increases during times of economic distress. The old saying “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” comes to mind.


Reason 4: The Indian students themselves have to take some of the blame. Loud Bhangra music on their iPods in the morning peak hour train could put anyone off. Talking loud in your mother tongue in the train which is already filled to the brim is not something people look forward to at the end of a days work. I have advised some of these students, but they tend to have an attitude, “who the hell are you to tell me what I am supposed to do”. I am sure they would react differently if a white skinned Australian told them to keep quiet.


Reason 5: The Australian justice system and the ineffective Victorian Police have brought a sense of fearlessness among culprits, to the extent they believe they can get away with anything. The police are tied in a way they just can’t arrest a guy and beat the shit out of one to testify against oneself, like they do in India. Ethics, morality and human rights do have their place in Australia. Unless, the police are handed with all the evidence in a platter they will assume the accused is innocent, which is what they are legally expected to do.


I was quite amused by the comment of the Assistant Commissioner that the Indian students are soft targets and they carry valuable items like mobile phones, iPods and laptops. Since, when did these items become valuable? I see school kids having all three these days.


So, whilst there is a pattern here, I beleive these attacks not to be merely racial in nature. For a westerner it is hard to distinguish Indians, from Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis or even Nepalis. So, are Indians really being picked on, or is it just bad luck for being at the wrong spot at the wrong time?


I welcome comments from all. I am sure you have something to share.