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Showing posts from June, 2009

Now, the land of the demons

The Baspa river a tributary of the Sutlej hurtles down the Sangla valley in Himachal’s Kinnaur district, enveloped between the Great Himalayan and Dhauladhar mountain ranges. For centuries this has been a pristine place of outstanding natural beauty where mountain passes remain closed for six months of the year. It is a land of apricot, peach and apple orchards and lies on the ancient trade routes between India and Tibet. Legend has it that in this lush terrain lived the descendants of the ‘Kinners’, the demi-gods of the Hindu pantheon whose deeds have been immortalised in epics and in the writings of ancient Sanskrit poets. Sadly, over the last ten years this has all changed. Jaiprakash Hydro-Power Limited owns and operates a 300 MW power project which has destroyed completely an entire region. Jaiprakash’s website claims that its hydro power is environmentally friendly and non-polluting. Nothing could be further from the truth. The project has in fact ruined the local ecology. Thous

Defining the border

In June 2003, following India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing, China officially recognised Indian sovereignty over the North Eastern province of Sikkim and the two countries moved a little closer to resolving their border disputes. Sino-Indian relations have, since the decades following Indian independence, at best been contentious. There have been trying moments interspersed with the development of commercial interests, military conflicts and border skirmishes. But more recently, Beijing and New Delhi have made serious endeavours to engage in diplomatic, military and economic ties. This paper will examine historical developments that have led to confrontation and the undermining of relationships between two of the world’s largest countries. Historically, India and China have shared extensive cultural contact. Buddhism which evolved in India was adopted in China and many Indian monks travelled to the Middle Kingdom to establish monasteries and centres of learn

Law & Order - A crisis waiting to happen

It’s 9.00 PM in Delhi, somewhat after the peak traffic rush hour. A motorist pulls up at a traffic light near Pragati Maidan, the exhibition grounds beside the Old Fort. A motorcyclist brushes past and knocks off a side mirror of the motorist’s car. There is a lowering of windows and a heated exchange – commonplace in a busy metro. Then, quite abruptly, the motorcyclist pulls ahead, blocking the motorist’s path, draws a handgun and fires point-blank through the car’s windscreen. The bullet hits the motorist on the left shoulder. No one bothers to help and the motorcyclist pulls away. The incident receives a three inch column in the middle pages of the local papers. More recently, a retired army officer gets shot in the groin similarly by a bunch of hoodlums who manage to escape. Another woman is fatally shot next to her car. These incidents receive better coverage. Delhi would probably rank amongst the world’s most unsafe cities. Shooting incidents are common and the drawing of weapon

All the Prime Minister's Men

The composition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet would suggest a desire to resume the process of reforms, which had practically stalled during his somewhat uninspiring previous term. It is also indicative of a more assertive Congress Party within the larger coalition of the United Progressive Alliance. The Congress has retained key economic ministries and also taken control of other important ones that were previously with their allies. With Pranab Mukherjee at the Treasury, P Chidambaram at Home and AK Antony at Defence, three crucial departments appear to be in the most capable hands. Mr Mukherjee, possibly the senior most member of the Singh administration, has over the years served in various positions in the government. He was India’s Finance Minister between 1982 and 1984 in the Indira Gandhi cabinet and brings to the table considerable technical competence and robust political acumen. Disinvestment of state-owned enterprises; financial sector reform; the implementat