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Showing posts from December 30, 2013

Iran-India gas pipeline laid low by geopolitics

Mani Shankar Aiyar is known for the many controversies sparked by his provocative comments and controversial ideas. As Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas in the first UPA government of Manmohan Singh, he rattled the global energy markets by vigorously promoting a compact of Asian countries to ensure their energy security. Aiyar’s most quoted statement that “the 21st century will indeed be the Asian century only if Asian countries join hands in a continent-wide bid at bringing Asia together and keeping Asia together” was made in Beijing in January 2006. In the second part of his interview with Latha Jishnu, the former minister, now a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, reveals the politics of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline and why India finally pulled out of the project. Excerpts:

Middle-income countries key to future development

As 2013 draws to a close, the outlook on globalisation and sustainability suggests a tentative balance between two alternative futures: one of intensifying zero-sum competition — a scenario that would be disastrous for the world’s poor — and one of increasing co-operation in a revitalised, rules-based order.
Globalisation, the engine of emerging economies’ growth over the past 15 years, appears to be entering a period of increased stress. Having previously outstripped GDP growth for 30 years, trade has expanded more slowly since 2011. About 1,500 “stealth protectionist measures” have been introduced by G20 members since 2008, when they promised to eschew such practices. And amid stagnant wages, high unemployment, and anaemic growth, support for globalisation is waning in advanced economies. Meanwhile, the world remains way off track for sustainability. Global

When inaccuracies hurt media pluralism

It is a self-defeating exercise for an ombudsman to plan his year-end column in advance. Last month, I had an opportunity to read excerpts from singer T.M. Krishna’s A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story and felt that it opened up space for interrogating not only our classical musical tradition but raised a few questions about how our media reports and reflects on culture and performing arts. Indian media in general, and The Hindu in particular, is good at covering events and providing reviews. But, this body of work does not translate into rigorous critical evaluation. The original idea for the year-end column was to identify the factors that prevent our reviews from becoming an erudite tour de force.

Get serious on safety

Athree-tier air-conditioned coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express was engulfed in flames near Anantapur, claiming 26 lives in the early hours of December 28. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. However, preliminary reports from the site of the tragedy, confirmed by the Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police, point to an electrical short circuit in the coach. Fires in running trains are not new to the Indian Railways, but the unfortunate fact is that when it happens in the dead of night and that too in an enclosed air-conditioned coach, the chances of survival are bleak. Out of the 64 passengers in the ill-fated coach, 26 died, and some of them were reported to be passengers who came back to pick up their luggage. The TTE had the presence of mind to pull the chain, stop the train, and call for the fire service, which is said to have reached the spot in 15 minutes. Strange as it may seem, in July 2012, 47 passengers were killed when a coach of the Tamil…

A predictable pattern

The Congress, which has in the recent period been in denial on the issue of corruption and has been loathe to act on it unless forced by the courts, is demonstrating an election-eve resolve to do the right thing, on being prodded by the leader. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has forced the Maharashtra government to reconsider its decision to reject a judicial enquiry report into the Adarsh housing society scam. From the time he held an impromptu press conference to advise the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government against going ahead with a controversial ordinance to nullify the Supreme Court verdict on automatic disqualification of convicted legislators, Mr. Gandhi has sought to create for himself what seems to be the only available space for public morality within the party, even on matters concerning governments run by it. Before the Lokpal Bill was passed in

When fair is foul and foul is fair

Let us begin to view the law as not an ‘end’ in itself, but as a mere spoke in the wider societal wheel, a spoke requiring constant re-evaluation and recalibration
Our notions of fairness appear to be predicated solely on the law.— PHOTO: AP Edging closer to the New Year, India seems to be flitting from one scandal to another. Indeed, the last two months have been particularly boisterous in terms of the controversies courted. First, there was Justice Ganguly and a devastating blog post by a law intern. Then came the “lacerating” Tarun Tejpal. Followed soon by the Supreme Court’s abominable criminalisation of homosexuality. The Devyani Khobragade scandal had most of the nation up in arms against an

Pride and parampara in Manhattan

In the Devyani Khobragade drama, the media have largely focussed on two themes and stoked wounded national pride around those. One: the outrageous manner of the arrest of the Indian consular official. Two, the perfidy of the United States. Of the latter, there has been plenty in the past few years. But you barely saw a whimper of anti-U.S. sentiment in the mainstream media. It took the Khobragade case to produce that. She has been charged in New York with visa fraud and illegally underpaying her domestic help and housekeeper Sangeeta Richard (who is also an Indian citizen). Both the human story and the U.S.-bully story are easily told, and indeed have been, many times over these past few days. With the crude bungling of her arrest, and the harsh manner of it, the U.S. has raised Indian hackles. And, of course, we’ve had yet another display of U.S. double standards on diplomatic immunity. Incidents and Indian reaction

The Mao legacy and China’s reforms future

China marked Mao Zedong’s 120th birth anniversary on December 26. How do leading Chinese intellectuals look at the reform path ahead for the country? In the first of a series, liberal economist Mao Yushi speaks of threats to political and economic reforms from interest groups The Communist Party of China (CPC) finds itself in an awkward position as it goes forward after commemorating the 120th birth anniversary of the most important of its founding fathers. A year ago, the CPC’s propaganda chiefs decreed that Mao Zedong’s 120th birth anniversary, which fell on December 26, would be celebrated with fanfare, aimed at underlining the Great Helmsman’s lasting contributions in founding a new China and, at the same time, boosting the party’s legitimacy at a time when it is struggling to renew its ideological appeal.

Exhibit reflects evolution of Indian art

Reflecting the evolution of Indian art in the last seventy years, the creative spirit of 62 eminent artists has been brought alive under one roof here in a group exhibition of paintings, sculptures and multimedia installations. ’Seamless Encounters’, going on at Emami Chisel Art, till January 13, features works by veterans like M.F. Hussain, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Ganesh Haloi, Akbar Padamsee, Jamini Roy, Ganesh Pyne, Jogen Chowdhury, Paritosh Sen, Nandalal Bose, Jehangir Sabavala, Jaya Ganguly among others.

Museum to showcase soil diversity in Kerala

Kerala’s first soil museum, to be inaugurated here on January 1, will highlight the diversity of soil and mineral resources in the State and provide critical data inputs for farmers, helping them improve crop yield.
The museum, set up by the Department of Soil Survey and Conservation at Parottukonam, also offers a platform to create awareness of the need for soil conservation and watershed development. It has academic support facilities for students and researchers in soil science. Soil profiles The main attraction of the museum is a collection of soil profiles featuring the different benchmark soils in each district. Named monolith, a profile represents the soil typical of a region, with all the basic characteristics preserved intact. “We have prepared monoliths of all the 82 soil series found in the State. The information provided by these profiles is of special significance to students, researchers, and farmers alike and of general interest to the public,” says P.N.P…

Spread awareness about girl child, States told

Organise seminars, quiz competitions, honour girl children for their achievements, launch new schemes’ Concerned over a sharp decline in the child sex ratio, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has asked States to take immediate steps to discourage sex selective abortions and protect girl children. The Ministry has issued an advisory asking States to propagate awareness regarding protection and survival of girl children, for the week preceding January 24, observed as National Girl Child Day since 2000.

Palatana power plant to restart

Turbines of the ambitious gas-based power plant in south Tripura is set to roll soon ending months of uncertainty. The 726MW combined cycle plant of the ONGC Tripura Power Corporation (OTPC) at Palatana failed to start in June last after gas booster compressors developed serious technical snags. ‘Problems solved’ “We have set the problems in order. Meantime, one 335MW capacitated turbine has been generating electricity unhindered in the trial run,” OTPC Chairman Managing Director S.K. Dubey told newsmen in Agartala.

Gadgil panel report, a road map for Western Ghats conservation: Jairam

Hopes report will be debated once Lok Sabha election is over Jairam Ramesh Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday described the Gadgil panel report on the Western Ghats as the “road map” for conservation of the ecologically-sensitive hills and hoped it would be resurrected for a “dispassionate debate” once the heat and dust of the next Lok Sabha election settled.