25 May 2006

Random Thoughts

After reading a lot of posts about reservation and stuff here are some random thoughts that i had.
1. To quell the ongoing protests the government simply has to declare that the remaining 50% seats in all colleges will be reserved only for the upper castes. Then the OBC and others might try to get fake caste certificates. Well, there is no guarentee that fake certificates is not happening now.
2. No government will do anything that even seemingly looks like forward caste appeasing (point 1 above). They will naturally loose power. And as they say, "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".
3. Most importantly we are now suffering the ill effects of our previous generation's reluctance to vote. If the entire forward castes had voted regularly, then they would have also been considered as a vote bank. They did not put faith in the democractic system of the country and thus are now being screwed. Moral of the story : Whether you are highly educated or whatever, VOTE. In a democracy that is the only way to make your voice heard. And please do not ask silly questions like "what will happen ? Anyway everyone is bad" and stuff.
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 1:05 PM 1 comments

23 May 2006

Nayabagam Varudhe - 1

The thunderbird, folks is a kick-ass bike (except that on a long journey the pilion rider may get his ass really kicked :-) ask Sathish in case you have doubts!). Having it is equivalent to having complete freedom :-)
thunderbird

So this weekend i decided that a trip down the memory lane was the best way to spend a worthwhile weekend. What better place that Tanjore ? The place where i spent almost two or three months of summer vacation every year for ten years. The place where i have seen the entire town by just cycling. All the roads that i had cycled were now ready to be motor-cycled :-)
So off we went, sathish and myself to see the big temple and have a look at the place and our grandparents house. We decided that we would also have a look into REC (or NIT trichy ) and so we booked into hotel vignesh in trichy and decided to commute to tanjore from there. When you have the bird, why fret about travelling ? :-)
The hotel was pretty decent with a single room costing about 160rs. But what took the cake was the parota and kurma we had near dindugal. But more in terms of food was yet to come ! The egg dosa and onion chutney I had in a roadside shop in trichy bus-stand definitely put to shame any kind of chutney's i have had in bangalore. I tell you, if you need good food in bangalore better catch a bus and go to hosur. The roadside shops will give you better food than most star hotels in bangalore.
The next day morning we started pretty early to reach tanjore. Coz once the day gets hot, walking in temple bare-foot can be a real pain.
Tanjore is a place where from 1988 to 1998 i have visited every year without fail for my summer vacation. However the best part was the the entrance gopuram of the temple has stairs which i have not noticed even during those years.

This is a shot of the nandhi and gopuram taken from the "first floor" of the main gopuram.
temple-art

And this is the main gopuram itself !
temple-gopuram

There is a lot of renovation happening in the temple. I was indeed surprised to see some stones bearing inscriptions in sanskrit !
temple-hindi
They definitely are not hindi coz i am pretty sure hindi did not even exist in the times when this temple was built!. The museum inside the temple also had some intresting details of how they extracted the early 7th century paintings from under the temple columns. The question is, why were the paintings put there ? :-)

This is my ambitious attempt to conver the entire wall of the temple in a single shot. I think i almost suceeded :-)
temple-front-1

Again for the first time, i saw something intresting. A stone lizard carved into the temple roof !
temple-lizard
The best part was that the temple priest after seeing the jeans and water bottle (FYI these bottles did not have mineral water, just plain sweet tasting water from trichy hotel! ) asking us "Do you want to do archana?". Well yes i could have, as my friend was saying replied back with "who is archana ? and where is she ? :-) ;-)", but being the decent (?) fellow that i am, refrained from doing so.
Once the temple visit was done with, we then proceeded to the house. We did not visit the sivagangai poonga and few other places like palace etc, but they are for a future trip say in another year or so :-)

This is the grand anaicut canal where we have taken bath many a days (yes there used to be water even in the month of may in those days, but now it is bone dry!)
athangarai-jpg

The saddest part was that the river bank was so wide that even lorries used to pass through, but now it has space for just a bike :-(. Most of the people have sold off their cows and hence people dont use the river bank any more for taking their cows to bath them. Hence probably the bank has shrunk ! Whatever it was, it was pretty sad to see the size being reduced so drastically!
riverbank

The portion of the river bank where we used to get down and take bath. Many a times i have seen the temple elephant get down in that small opening !
elephant-feed

The actual place where we used to take bath. Pretty sad to see it bone dry. Funnily enough, i still have not yet learnt swimming. Must do it someday.
athangarai-2

It was in 1989 i think when i learnt how to cycle ! This is the place where i learnt. It was just a walkway with lots of mud and an ocassional person walking across. Now it is a tarred road and there are lots of cars. Well that is development i guess !
cycle-learn

Once we had our fill of nostalgic moments we headed to the bus stand via tanjore market. The market is where many a days i had spent along with my grandmother learning how to bargain for stuff and how to identify good vegetables from the bad. The best part was that some of the grocerers were still there ! The shop where me and my grandmother used to have nice and spicy buttermilk after a day of purchase was still there !! I however did not hazard to talk to them coz they may not even remember me :-(
Lunch was at Vasantha Bhavan opposite to old busstand. Special meals for 35rs with proper solid ghee :-) not the liquid dalda mixed ghee that you get in many places. The rasam rocked big time ! Next time you are anywhere there, do not miss it :-) And oh dont even think about buying mineral water. The plain water tastes so very sweet.

Once lunch was done we went to beerengi medai (canon plateau). There is this huge looking canon there which i guess not many would have seen.I still dont know why this canon was there at this particular place ! This was kind of away from the palace.
canon

So having filled ourselves with some real great memories we went off to REC where to be more precise i have spent the best 2.5 years of my life. Nothing comes even close to it. Not even the IISc hostel life ! More of it in the next post !
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 1:49 PM 1 comments

22 May 2006

Interview

Sometimes it so happens that the guy called Karan Thapar asks some ridiculous questions. Once a while he does redeem himself. This is one of those times, when he has done a decent homework before asking questions !
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:55 AM 2 comments

18 May 2006

Reducing firefox memory usage - 1

So the idea behind the previous post was to see if i can do my mite to reduce the memory consumed by firefox (for linux of course, what else do i know ?? ;-))
So here is what i did. I managed to link up the dmalloc (ya Doug Lea's) library after making a few changes to it (to handle new, new[], delete and delete[] respectively). The browser surprisingly is working fine :-) (as of now!).
I shall post the details of my experiments shortly. Till then, stay tuned !
BTW does anyone know how to limit the memory allocated by Doug's library ? If yes responses in the usual manner.
Update 1 : The java_vm that is being spawned by firefox to handle webpages having java is creating some issues here :-( so getting my hands dirty in trying to solve that issue. And no work will happen over this weekend. So any more updates will be done during the course of the next week.
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 5:18 PM 0 comments

17 May 2006

windows equivalent

In almost all flavours of unix (those which run glibc i think all flavours i know of use glibc.however there might be some which dont!) there is a unique feature (if i can call that as that). There is something called LD_PRELOAD. By using this, you can write your own version of a system library (say for example fopen, fclose etc) and make your programs use it instead of the normal glibc calls, by loading this library using the LD_PRELOAD.
The question is, are there any windows equivalents for this ? Do drop in a line or a comment if you know of one. Conversley, do you have any idea how the bounds checkers in windows work ? That might give me some ideas too.
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 12:05 PM 5 comments

14 May 2006

Analysis Paralysis - Confusion

This analysis appeared in Hindu Today.

This is the analysis.
Now what is confusing to me is that, while the article reports that DMK has lesser percentage of votes that AIADMK, how is it that they got more seats ? If they got more seats because of alliance arithmetic, what did The Hindu use to narrow down the vote percentage of each of the alliance partners ? Something does not quite strike a proper bell.
Does the analysis make sense to you reader ?
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:04 AM 3 comments

13 May 2006

Analysis Paralysis

Now that all he din and dust has settled from the elections, i think it is time to look back and take stock.
I have always believed in one thing. Loyalty to anything is not just saying we are good, but accepting the defects and trying to rectify them. And since i am an "Amma" loyalist, i think we need to take stock of the defects and see if we can do something for that.
Now do not come back saying sacking of government employees was wrong crap. The courts themselves were appreciative of this fact. And do not say authoritative manner of governing. If not for making rain water harvesting compulsory, there is no scope of improving the ground water table. Yes "Amma" does go overboard once a while with her stuff, but that is a part and parcel of the way things work.
Now what are the defects with the way "Amma" fought the elections ?

1. First and foremost the current trend seems to be towards a coalition government. Though Vatsan and myself tend to be having some opinion differences over this, vatsa i would love to be proved wrong here. That being the case, i think "Amma" needs to take cognizance of this fact. She must try to rope in the fringe participants who will help her. A simple analysis of the votes percentage reveals that it was nothing but alliance arithmetic that did "Amma" in. Nothing to do with the way she governed or whatsoever. In fact in many constituencies, if you check you will see that she has managed to wear that too and win. The populistic manifesto proved too much in the end. We must acknowledge MK's shrewdness in knowing how to take the electorate for a ride.

2. One need not be too much worried about the populism factor. As the article in Indian Express said, as long as one does work towards development, the votes will come by itself. The victory in constituencies in chennai are a strong example for this. In fact it is known that MK is yet to satisfy his rice promise made back in 1967. The people who voted for MK based on the new found promises will know that they have been made fools yet another time. If you had voted for MK on the basis of something good that had happened to you fine. That is your wish and right.

3. I think the best way would be to continue doing whatever good that has been initiated. Be a constructive opposition and make sure that you dont fade away from public memory. You can afford to bide your time. It will come. And most importantly it is known that it is impossible to satisfy the promise of 2 acres and land and free power. So be aware of that fact and continue pressing the government for it. Make the people aware that they made a mistake by voting for false promises. That way, no other party henceforth will make promises they cannot keep.

4. Just because the other party does a populisitic campaing, there should not be a similar campaign from "Amma's" side also. It would be seen as a panic button triggering tatic.

And finally there will be lots of people around who derive certain pleasure that "Amma" has lost. All i can say is you know very little about dravidian politics. So all that you are having is a silly ego-gratification. Go on have it !!
K.Shyam
PS: To all those who are e-mailing me saying you are happy that "Amma" lost, the above lines are for you morons. When MK distributes 2 acres of land to everyone you come back and talk to me that day.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 12:48 AM 4 comments

12 May 2006

Thank you Readers

Well on the ocassion of my 400th post i would like to thank all you readers for tolerating this silly ego-gratification stuff of mine ! You have all been real sport.
And oh plese continue reading ok ? I do promise to make it intresting, but being the opinionated (and lousy in spelling) bloke that i am, do try to slip in that ocassional "I shall forgive this guy for this stuff" thingy !
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 7:43 PM 2 comments

The Road Trip - A rewind

If my memory serves me right i think it was after reading Nat Freidman's cycling trip or it must have been after reading about This. It sure was one of them ! I decided that there must be a kick to what i am doing in my everyday activities. So why not cycle from bangalore to madras for starters to gauge how good my stamina levels in cycling are ? (In case you did not know, i am also a marathoner (three times full one completed)). I was then biding my time waiting to see what kind of company i can get for the trip. I did not want to do it all alone as i knew i would go bonkers at then end of the trip. Also doing it as a group means you have someone to pump you up when your energy levels come down.
For quite a few months after that me and Kribs started talking about it without anything concrete happening. It was at then end of the Barcamp Chennai that while kribs was giving me a lift back home we kind of decided on the dates.
For one the dates we decided were on "Agni Natshathiram" (Fire Star, the time when the heat is at its peak) and we ourselves we kind of jittery. Secondly, both kribs and myself had never done such long trips. My best prior to this had been a mad 150km cycling dash in 10 hours sometime mid/post August 2004. We initially wanted to do a Madras-Pondicherry dry run to guage our comfort levels. Then after some thoughts, we junked that idea. As kribs was telling me, people in his office did 80km in a single day without any kind of practise. So finally it was decided that we would do the trip in May and it would be a full trip from bangalore to madras. We also wanted to do a Bangalore to madras instead of a madras to bangalore. This was becuase Bangalore is on a higher altitude. So in case you do a madras-bangalore, you need to climb up the hill on the second day when you are already tired. Secondly we can make use of the altitude to save some energy while cycling.
So the necessary postings were made Here and Here checking how many more madcaps like us are out there !
The response was not all that bad. In fact as i later learnt, some guys got to know of this from some other friend and so on and so forth. It's a small world after all right ?
On May 4th i spent some time getting my cycle ready. You know changing the tubes and tyres, brake shoes and stuff. My cycle is a gear-less Hero Hawk and i changed the standard seat to a "Ranger" seat and also added a cushion seat cover. Even if we have nothing but fat up our butts, cycling for 20+hrs would definitely give you a sore-ass :-). I think at the end of the trip i was thankful i did this change coz i did not feel a thing in my butt. I also spent some time at the gym cycling and tryin to reduce my weight. I knew that at my current weight things would be a bit messy (you know around the love handles:-)). I did manage to loose a few kilos over the week prior to the trip(i think it must be two kgs).
On May 5th KK had couriered his cycle through professional couriers from madras (they charge 250rs per cycle) and i went to pick it up. Thankfully they had not done any damages to it and it was still in pristine condition. KK and Kribs flew down to my house. They were later joined by Abhinav who just drove down from madras on his yamaha and was planning to give us company on his yamaha while we drove back. In hindsight, i think we managed to complete the trip because of him and his towing of cycles whenever someone felt real tired ! Thanks da abhinav. You were simply great !
Finally the D-Day dawned (Or rather we woke up coz we started much before dawn to make use of the conditions and escape the heat) and we all assembled near Sony world Junction in koramanagala on dot at 3.45am. We did have Shreekumar along with us (ya the same guy whose earlier trip from madras to calcutta was an inspiration for me!). We were joined by Ajay, Sandeep, Guru and my brother sathish. At around 4.15am we started off. I was asked to pace the group and i started off at an easy pace warming up my thighs and knees. I kind of pump my cycle(increase speed) by applying pressure from the thighs and hence i knew i need to warm them up (all these warming up stuff courtesy my marathon practise) ! Even when we all started off, i was pretty sure we will finish the trip. It was just a question of finishing it before 8pm the next day, coz the guys from bangalore had their bus tickets booked from madras to bangalore.
The first three hours we did manage about 50 and odd km with a break or so. I did manage to set a decent pace (guys will kill me when i say decent pace coz some of them were like a few kms away including sathish who gave vent to his fury over phone to me "why the hell are you speeding up this much ?"). Luckily my thighs and knees were still able to withstand the pressure i was subjecting them to. As it happens with running, after a few kms your legs are practically dead and you just keep running. Similarly after about 30kms the thighs went dead and i was just cycling ! We stopped at Kamat and had some breakfast. As usual after a heavy breakfast, my bowels gave way and had to be emptied (must have been the previous nights late night snack of scrambled eggs and maggi noodles that i had to empty my bowels two more times on the highway. Luckily there were no snakes or insects trying to, you know get affectionate to my backside).
Post breakfast, was when all the fun started. First KK's cycle had some kind of flat, so we had to go inside a town for a few kms and get the valve tube changed. Once that was done, we all started off. The next hour was good. KK and myself did some power cycling and finished another 15kms. It was now sathish started feeling real tired. The next few hours were a crawl. We just managed some 20 or less that that km i think. I called up KK ahead and asked him to send abhinav back so that he could tow sathish. I think the problems for sathish were just lack of practise and a very bad cycle choice. Ya the cycle choice could have been overcome with better practise.
We all met up near Mulbagal. Lunch was about 10 and odd km away. And with guys becoming more and more tired, we managed that in distance in about an hour. Lunch was pretty good with lots of rice and some decent sambhar and egg curries.
Post lunch session i decided to bring up the rear and hence i was now coming along with whoever was coming last. Sometimes kribs, sometimes KK sometimes Sandeep but yes the pace was pretty ok. By about 5pm we reached palmaner with another 40km to go for chitoor where we planned to halt for the day. Guru and myself stopped for a cool tender coconut and boy it tasted heavenly. Once that was done, we started back and now KK and myself were pedalling away. We had to cross a real steep incline. Once we did that for the next 6 km it was just downhill all the way. Kribs was telling me that at the end of the incline he was ready to kill me but changed his mind after the 6kmm descent :-). In case we had done madras bangalore doing this 6km incline and that too on the second day would have caused some serious casualties :-)
Still at 7pm we were about 15km or so away from chitoor. So we kind of pedalled in the night in a single file. That was some real fun. Shree and KK had lights on their cycles and Abhinav had his bike. So we cycled for about an hour more and reached chitoor really exhausted at around 9pm. In hindsight the exhaustion was more because of lack of sleep. I had just two hours of sleep the previous night and that was the reason. By now sathish had decided that he will take a bus back to madras which was actually the most sensible thing to do. Already his cycle chain was coming off and he was also feeling real tired. Sathish and myself had a masala dosa for dinner and made arrangements with the local tea shop guy for putting the cycle back on a bus bound for madras. At about 10.30pm we crashed only to wakeup by 3.30am. I think the best sleep is when you are dead tired. I had not slept that well in a long long time.
Second day May 7th we started off again this time at around 5am from chitoor. The golden quadilateral (means 6 lane roads and pretty much flat ones) were about 60km away. If we get there before it is too hot, we could then pedal away pretty easily. For this day i decided to stick at the rear just in case someone needs some help. Breakfast was near ranipet. Plates of idlis and puris disappeared into our stomach. Best part was that we got all that for just 70rs ! Another hour of cycling across ranipet and wallajah and we reached the golden quadilateral. By now kribs and sandy started feeling the heat and KK and myself decided that we would fall back and come as a group. Hence Shree, Guru and Ajay went ahead and we four came behind. We took breaks almost once an hour and had some maaza and slice (i think this is when coke and pepsi guys are showing their real worth :-)) every time we stopped. By lunch time around 11.30am we reached kanchipuram outskirts. Madras was just 50km. Atmost 3 hours. But the exhaustion made us take around 5 hours to reach it :-). After having a good lunch of rotis and egg curries and tomato masala, the same gang pairup continued. So Guru, Shree and Ajay went ahead and myself, kribs, KK and sandy and abhinav came behind. I think i lost count of the number of times we had to stop because of the heat ! Anyway by the time we reached ponamalle in chennai outskirts it was close to 7pm. Jacob our co-marathoner in bombay (it is a different matter he was along with us in the start line and finished it in 3.15 hrs while i finished it in 6hrs :-( ) took a bus to sriperumbudur and ran to madras from there !
Now from ponamalle to my house kribs, sandy and myself started off (we still had about 8 km to finish). After reaching porur kribs and sandy decided to eat while i carried on reaching home by about 8.15pm or so.
Best part was that at the end of the trip, except for a numbness in my thighs (which thankfully did not translate into pains over the next few days) i did not feel a thing !
I think someday i should try to attack the same distance in say 20 hours or so. I mean the total distance was 326 km. Most of the time our average speed while cycling was close to 20km. That means 16hrs of cycling. Add another 4 hours for breaks and stuff. Is it not do-able ? I think the last 90km can be done in 3.5hrs. Let me see.
It would of course be a mad dash, but i think it is worth giving it a shot ! Only thing is if i start by 4am in bangalore, i would be reaching madras only by 12.00am.
Head over Here for some pics.
K.Shyam
PS:i think i need to attach a speedo to my cycle so that i can measure my speed and distance etc.

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 6:09 PM 7 comments

11 May 2006

Fortune Reversal

Now that the trends seem to point to a victory for the DMK led combine (and a coilation government), one does hope that they continue the good work started by "Amma". The TN electorate's idea of power rotation does seem to be coming true !
Update 1 : I think more than the power rotation thing, it is the idea of a coilation government and the ability to accept that has become a curcial factor. MK being a shrewd politician might have understood that and hence was not averse to a coilation !
Update 2 : A seat wise look up at the results show that there is not much to choose between the dravidian parties.(DMK 75 AIADMK 60+ ). It is the allies who have made the difference.
Update 3 : There was no landslide as predicted by the exit polls. MK's contention that he will form the government on his own as well as "Amma's" contention that she will form government on her own have just been rubbished.
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 8:47 AM 0 comments

09 May 2006

Exit Polls

Now that the elections are over and exit polls have predicted some clean sweeps for DMK here are some of my thoughts on them

Why these exit polls might be right :
1. Except for M.G.Ramanchandran, no one has managed to get consecutive terms.

Why these exit polls might be horribly wrong :
1. No exit poll till now has managed to predict Tamilnadu results convincingly. Even if you take Hindu's methodology of exit polls, it says they took 77 seats and 11,000+ respondents. You now do the math.

So as a ardent supporter of "Amma" i would naturally like her to win. So a wait and watch policy till May 11th ! (Off the record i would give 150 for "Amma" and the rest to DMK combine)
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:36 AM 6 comments

08 May 2006

Rocking Times

326 and odd kilometers of cycling. 20+ hours of pedalling. Few aching bones, a tan below the knees, tired body but an energetic mind, a sense of having done something and a truckload of wonderful memories. That in a nutshell sums up the Trip. Detailed post follows shortly !
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 12:27 PM 6 comments

06 May 2006

And We are off

It is 3.00am in the morning now and in another hour from now a group of (crazy to some, whacky to others and just "oh my god" to many more others) people are off on our Road Trip. Of course we are not carrying our laptops or have GPRS connections in our mobiles to provide live updates (Ya doing that would have kicked some serious butt), but some other trip we shall try to provide online updates. As my co-goon Manikantan at my Lab said, we can tie up with some TV channel to provide live updates. That is for some other trip !
We still do not have much clarity on the charity front. Looks like we did mess up a bit on the timing of our efforts. But still there is always a next trip when we can do it.(I dont belive in saying that we failed in something, just say that we learnt something from this attempt! ;-) as it always sounds cool that way)
Se ya all folks in madras !
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 2:57 AM 0 comments

04 May 2006

One Wicket Down

Ladies, Gentlemen and Others;
If you read this blog carefully, you would see that below the "I love Chennai" logo there are two things mentioned (in the "I want to break free mould"). Well this is to announce that one of them is definitely on course to frutition in the next few days. Watch this space for more.(probably finishing the second thing too:-))
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:43 AM 0 comments

02 May 2006

Intresting Column

Gurumurthy writes articles for Indian Express.This is today's article. In case you are not able to read it, here is the full article.

A Telecom Ministry that is run by Maran for Sun TV
Tuesday May 2 2006 10:37 IST

S Gurumurthy

The telecom world sees Dayanidhi Maran wear two hats: one, as the Telecom Minister; the other, as the Promoter of Sun TV. The Sun document offering shares to the public, issued few weeks back, introduces one 'Dayanidhi Maran' as part of the Promoter Group of Sun, and stops at that. But that he is also the Telecom Minister who as government handles Sun as a licensee is concealed.

The reason why the Sun offer document hesitates to say that the Promoter group member Dayanidhi is the Minister Dayanidhi also is obvious. In his dual role inheres an irreconcilable conflict between his constitutional position as the Minister of Telecom and his business interest in Sun. But this mix-up is no accident, and not because an ignorant Prime Minister gave him a wrong portfolio.

It was the case of tail wagging the dog in coalition politics. It was a pre-planned demand by the DMK --read the two families, Marans' and Karunanidhi's-- that Dayanidhi be made the Telecom Minister.

It does not need a seer to unravel why such a demand. For, all that the Sun TV would need from the government to promote itself and all that it needs to contain and even crush its competitors and others is vested in the Telecom Ministry, that is, Maran himself if he became the Minister.

This power to promote itself and to contain others did not remain idle. It was actively, actually put to use. This is the core of this investigation.

A flashback to how Dayanidhi Maran became the Telecom Minister is crucially instructive. The 2004 Lok Sabha elections lifted Dayanidhi Maran from an air-conditioned board room and landed him into dusty street politics. After the elections DMK supremo Karunanidhi forthwith entered into a secret deal with Sonia through her emissary Janardhan Reddy about who should be appointed ministers from the DMK and what portfolio be given to them. Dayanidhi's name figured prominently in the secret pact as the Telecom Minister.

This was long before the ministry was constituted. The DMK support to Congress was based on this secret pact. Karunanidhi embarrassed the Congress by disclosing the secret pact when he suspected that the Congress was rethinking on giving the Telecom portfolio to the DMK, that is, to Maran.

Surprisingly the ministry of Commerce held by the senior Maran who made India proud at the WTO meet in Doha was abandoned by his family. Sentimentally, Dayanidhi should have insisted on his portfolio. But these practical men knew that there was no room for sentiment in politics and business. With business considerations as the sole driver the Kanunanidhi and Maran families swapped Telecom for Commerce. Dayanidhi became the Minister of Telecom in May 2004. He was the CEO of Sun TV just days earlier.

To understand how critical the Telecom Ministry is to control the new economy it is crucial to decipher how important it is for Sun TV to control it through Dayanidhi. This Ministry rations among the users the new economy asset the radio frequency waves, called 'spectrum' in technical language, through which sounds which we hear in cell phones or radio and images which we see on TV screen are transmitted. All wireless users - whether radio stations or cellphone operators, TV telecasters or fast Internet Service providers --have to get the frequency allocated by Dayanidhi's ministry. In short, without licence from Maran's ministry use of wireless is not allowed in law.

The ministry's website claims: "The Wireless Planning and Coordination [WPC]wing of the DoT is the authority for spectrum management, including Licensing, and caters to the needs of all wireless users in the country". The Ministry further claims that WPC performs 'the statutory functions of the government' and 'issues licences' for 'wireless stations'.

The Standing Advisory Committee on Radio Frequency Allocation [SACFA] makes recommendations for spectrum allocation and use by all wireless-based businesses in the country. Spectrum rationing is the most potent power in the wireless-driven modern economy.

Cable TVs cannot operate without wireless license as TV programmes have to be first up-linked to Satellite and then down-linked, both through wireless, and distributed through cable to households.

The Maran apologists would say 'but TV business does not come under Telecom ministry; it is under Information and Broadcasting Ministry'. This is a red herring. The question is who actually dictates terms to the TV business in rationing Spectrum?

Information and Broadcasting Ministry is just a post office on Spectrum-related issues. It is Dayanidhi's Telecom ministry that solely controls and rations the issue of wireless licences for all uses, including TV transmission.

See how Dayanidhi exercises this power not as Minister but as just the Promoter of Sun TV. An instance in point is the Jaya TV case. It had asked for permission from WPC for operating a 24-hour news channel like Sun News. Jaya TV did not seek additional spectrum. It merely asked for more intense use of the spectrum already given to it. The approval should have been granted as a formality.

Jaya TV had applied for approval in May 2004 and it has not got permission till today, that is, for two years. Jaya TV filed a writ and the court told the government to decide the issue within a stipulated time. The Writ Petition cited how another channel 'Kairali' was given identical permission within days of application. [It is no one's case that if it had had the like chance the AIADMK would have treated Sun TV differently].

Jaya TV is a known enemy for DMK. But what about the Tata Group? When the DTH license application of their joint venture with Sky landed on Dayanidhi's desk, against all norms of propriety and Ministerial conduct, he kept it pending while his brother conducted a parallel discussion for Sun TV's entry into the joint venture; only after adverse media comment and pressure from the Prime Minister's Office was the Tata-Sky license cleared by his Ministry.

How about spectrum allocations for telecom service providers? The Standing Committee of Parliament attached to the Telecom Ministry has made serious adverse comments on Dayanidhi's handling of spectrum allocation to service providers, and the differential treatment of operators using different technologies, in its report of December 2005.

It is a matter of national concern whether a scarce resource like spectrum should continue to be given away free, but there has been no response from Dayanidhi to the proposal for pricing of spectrum, including one national player's offer of paying a substantial sum of Rs 1500 crores for the allocation of spectrum for 3G services.

Dayanidhi's proximity to certain players may explain his reluctance to take decisions that are in the national interest, and explain why the Prime Minister has finally been forced to constitute a group of ministers to decide on spectrum policy as the Telecom Minister's policy on spectrum had become a tool of favour and disfavour.

See how he bends policies for Sun TV related matters. Dayanidhi's conflict of interest as businessman and as Minister became more demonstrable as Sun TV began aspiring for all wireless businesses. This is because of technological convergence of different wireless activities. For example, TV programmes can be transmitted by cell phones and telephones can operate on TV connections. Likewise Internet can carry voice and also TV display. A bill for convergence of wireless licences is pending before government. So, in future, all wireless services will be complementary and therefore competitive. Therefore, Sun TV began to look for all wireless based businesses.

The changes in Sun TV business plans and the changes in the government policies went hand in hand. Sun TV floated two companies Kal Radio [on October 7,2005] and South Asia FM [on November 9, 2005] for entry into wire and wireless telephony and other services. Forthwith, drastic liberalisation of telecom policy was announced on November 10, 2005 by Dayanidhi's Ministry as if to welcome the Sun companies into telecom business.

Despite critical comment from the Finance Ministry, the licence fee for the National Long Distance telephone was reduced from Rs.100 crores to just Rs 2.5, yes Rs 2.5 crores (and this at a time when several telecom players were on the verge of taking National Long Distance licenses, which could have earned the public exchequer several hundred crores of revenue)! And the International Long Distance licence fee was reduced from Rs 25 crores to Rs 2.5 crores.

Restrictions like the minimum net worth needed for grant of licence or the rollout of network in rural areas were all removed. Voice over Internet was allowed. Cable operators were allowed to carry voice traffic. Obviously the Maran family had advance knowledge of the policy changes and formed companies in anticipation of the policy changes.

Again, Sun TV claims that it has got the letter of intent for DTH licence from I&B Ministry. But with that almost ends I&B Ministry's role. Thereafter it is Dayanidhi Maran's Ministry which has to grant the Spectrum under the wireless policy procedures.

The DTH policy says that after letter of intent is issued by the I&B ministry, the applicant will 'apply to the WPC wing of the Ministry of Telecommunications for seeking wireless operational licences' for DTH. So the one who grants the wireless licence to Sun TV whose promoter is Dayanidhi Maran is Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran!

Identical is the case of the 67 out of 338 FM radio licences in 91 cities of India obtained by Sun TV group. It bid for 84, got 67 and would retain under the law some 46, and sell the balance. The wireless licences for the huge FM radio business of Sun TV whose promoter is Dayanidhi Maran would also be granted only by Dayanidhi Maran, the Telecom Minister.

Obviously the Sun TV group would not be treated like Tata group. It need not have to wait for two years or apply to the court like Jaya TV. It would probably get the spectrum like Kairali TV. This is the Ministry's rule for the Maran family.

Yes, it is Maran, the Minister, who grants licenses to Marans the Promoters of Sun TV and it is he who delays and denies them to those who compete with his business and who he is not inclined to. The functions of Maran the Minister and the interests of Marans the Sun TV promoters seem harmonious. The conflict is only between his function as the Minister and the interests of the public. In short the Telecom Ministry is run by Dayanidhi Maran for Sun TV and against those who are not for Sun TV.
K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 1:02 PM 1 comments

01 May 2006

on why it makes sense to vote for amma - 2

In My Previous Post i had requested readers who had travelled down south of TamilNadu or who do not live in madras to send across what they perceived as the positives and negatives of amma's rule over the past five years. I received quite a few mails regarding that and with the permission of one of the sender i am here reproducing the exact e-mail.
K.Shyam

Dear Mr.Shyam
My name is Sentamizhan. I come from a village near cudalore. I am working in a government of TamilNadu organization. I do not know good english so please forgive me if i make any mistakes. I cannot tell the exact name of my village or my job or any other details as i may loose my job. So i will just say that i come from a village near cudalore and i am working in chennai.
I have been working here for almost ten years. I got job under MK rule in 1997. I have seen lot of difference in my work place itself. I was dismissed from service and then allowed to join back when amma dismissed many of us. I think that she handled the strike well. We were all angry that she goes in helicopter to many places but does not give us more DA. Now we are all happy. We got our jobs back and got DA also.
I think amma takes very quick decisions. I have seen that files will not move quickly under MK rule. Probably he is afraid that people may say he is corrupt. In present days i think taking money is very very normal. But taking money and not doing the work is bad which MK was doing during his rule. In my department i saw lot of people in previous rule who paid money but did not get the job done. In current rule when you pay money your work will happen in 5 days but you dont pay money it will take one month. But i dont want to take money. It is bad. If i buy food with that money i cant eat it and live.
I will now tell about my village. My village always gets lots of rains during september october period. But every year no body comes and does anything. This time when tsunami came every thing happened so fast and so nicely. I lost a relative in tsunami. His family got money from collector within one month. All his children got free education and they are now getting cycles to go to school and also school boooks. I will try to make them computer engineer. MK has promised us colour tv if we vote for him. I think education is better than colour tv.
Also we lost our crop. Amma said we need not pay back to bank whatever loans we took. But we will still try to pay back. Tomorrow if we need money then the bank may not give us.
When the big rain came this year there was no big problem. We lost crop once again but We got lot of help from government.
I think amma is giving rice this time. That is very good. In my village there are lot of people who are very very poor. This will help them. But i think amma must do something so that the ration shop fellows do not cheat us when they give rice. I have already given 5 petitions to amma but nothing happened. I think i will give petition once again after election. I am lucky i got government job. In my village many people are not lucky. They dont have any job. I tell them it is better to be a farmer but they are not hearing to me.
Another thing is self help group. Lots of ladies in my village are now earning money by doing small small activities among themselves. This makes them feel that even they can earn money. They become confident. amma only started this self help group. I think all ladies in my village will vote for amma for this alone.
I live in MK area in chennai. We have a water tank in front of the house but i have never seen water in it. amma got water from veeranam and now i see water in that tank.
Also in my area there is always fight between dalit and others. Now after amma came we dont see any fighting. there is no law and order problem. my village and many other village also got tar roads.
i think amma needs to improve on some more areas. but overall she is ok. i will try to tell my other friends also to vote for her only

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 10:25 PM 0 comments

Brutality

While the killing of the Indian Engineer by Taliban is indeed highly condemnable, i think it is wrong to fault the Indian Government for being unable to secure the release of the engineer. Check out This article. In case you are unable to read it, here it is.

Price of life
Monday May 1 2006 09:03 IST

Saubhik Chakrabarti

Tragedies inevitably if unfortunately engender recycling of conventional wisdom. So, when news broke on Sunday late morning that Surayanarayan, the Indian telecom engineer, has been murdered by that group of murderous thugs, the Taliban, two questions were in the forefront. Why isn’t the government protecting Indians – 2,500 of them by MEA estimates – working in Afghanistan? Shouldn’t India’s involvement in these dangerous countries be reviewed?

Both are statist responses, from the Right and the Left. The Right wants the Indian state to flex its security muscles, to add a strong and obvious military dimension to its foreign policy. Put a division of the Indian army in Afghanistan – a strategic analyst had commented in these pages after the earlier incident of an Indian professional dying in the badlands outside Kabul. The Left wants the Indian state to rediscover its “moral code”.

Activist foreign policy in areas “sullied” by American “expansionism” is particularly amoral and, goes the argument, always carries the risk of making Indians as disliked as Americans. Left-leaning analysts presented a variation of this argument during the debate over India’s vote against a nuclear law-breaking Iran: Indians can come in the crosshairs of radical, violent Islam following the government’s “total agreement” with the US “agenda”.

These policy advocacies, like most that assume the primacy of government action, make no one better off. Sending out army divisions to protect Indian workers in hotspots raises so many political and pragmatic imponderables that, at this stage of India’s evolution as a nation-state, it is little more than a fantasy. Leftwing visions of a return to a non-aligned arcadia can be called, I suppose, a fond dream.

To get real, we must first get over our obsession with the state. Some principles and facts need to be understood. First, while it is the duty of a state to protect its citizens, there are and must be obvious limits. The Indian state is not wholly and solely responsible for Indians who have voluntarily taken private sector jobs in dangerous countries; a Bahrain telecom company employed Suryanaryan. There is a risk-reward ratio that applies in situations like these. The state must make the risks clear to its citizens, by issuing advisories, for example. But if a citizen decides the rewards outweigh the risk (white collar jobs in dangerous places always pay very well), at some level the principle of caveat emptor – buyer beware – must apply. As in private financial investments that end up badly, the state should not be expected to bear the full burden of the consequences of a free individual decision. This may sound heartless to some. But to argue the opposite is mindless.

Second, as India’s foreign policy gets more worldly-wise and as its supply of educated professionals rise – Rightwing and Leftwing fantasies/dreams not intervening, both should happen – the number of Indians working in private sector jobs in hostile environments will increase, probably sharply.

Therefore, the currently popular and politically correct notion of white collar Indians abroad as permanent protectees of the Indian state must be revised soon. Otherwise foreign policy and Indian economic activity abroad will become hostage to 24x7 televised “emotions”.

Third, the first and second points do not mean that if an Indian professional in a foreign hotspot is in serious danger there’s nothing for the Indian state to do but get the joint secretary, external publicity, MEA, read out two para statements expressing concern or grief or bromides about “we are in touch with relevant authorities”.

The state can and must help create a market for risk management for Indian professionals working in dangerous countries. The first step in this, as we have already argued, is dissemination of information. When postwar Iraq opened up the market for skilled and semi-skilled labour in that country, and some Indians who joined the rush landed in trouble, the media had discovered that the labour ministry, so ready to overregulate domestically, had practically no policy on advising citizens of the risks. There are two kinds of risk. Systemic risks are about the general state of the country where employment is offered. Specific risks are about employers, particular locations and particular jobs. Developing a credible database on these parameters will represent a managerial marvel for the Indian bureaucracy. But since it champions and in part instrumentalises larger Indian footprints in the world, this is something it is practically and morally required to do.

The state must also encourage supply of risk insurance for hotspot jobs. Such insurance is commonly available in the West, where its preponderance owes much to government-sponsored discussions of citizens’ vulnerabilities in inhospitable foreign locations. India’s insurance sector now has enough players and enough innovation to warrant the optimism that the government can nudge the industry this way. There’s no need for state subsidy. But the government can explore the idea of making such insurance cover mandatory for every employer recruiting in India and offering jobs in a designated and publicly circulated list of dangerous countries. This is in fact a market solution to finding out responsible employers – such insurance cover, as has been discovered in Iraq, can push up cost of business by 10 per cent to 30 per cent; shady employers would be unwilling to bear the burden.

The third thing the state can do is likely to attract the most controversy, but it is the most logical: it should have policy of encouraging and regulating private, domestic or foreign, supply of security. Companies like PA&E, Brown and Root, Wackenhut, Executive Outcomes are Western private security companies with strong track records. Collaboration between them and Indian outfits growing in the job are eminently possible.

The demand will be there – responsible employers will want this extra layer of security. But the government has to make clear it harbours no misplaced notions about “mercenaries”. There needs to be regulation, not moral blather.

Private security companies, mostly staffed by ex-servicemen, are there to do a job and earn money. Just as Suryanaryan wanted to do in Afghanistan.

Remembering and respecting these private profit motives is the most sensible response to his death.

K.Shyam

Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 6:21 PM 0 comments