Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obama is Here

For the convenience of all my friends in the U.S.A., your President Barack Obama is here in India. He arrived on Saturday morning Indian time, in the financial capital of India, Mumbai and then moved on to Delhi for meetings with the President and Prime Minister of India. Statistically speaking:
  • The President's entourage included over 240 businessmen from the U.S. The U.S. government
  • This is the longest that the U.S. President has stayed outside the United States in a single country!
  • He signed business deals worth over 10 billion USD, which is expected to create 54,000 jobs in the U.S.
  • In Mumbai he stayed at the Taj Hotel which was attacked during the Mumbai terrorist attack.
  • The U.S. has removed controls on India for transfer and use of dual-use nuclear technology (which means, nuclear technology and products that can be used for both energy and nuclear weaponry)
  • Several Indian defense related organisations have been removed from the export controls of the U.S. so that these organisations can trade with U.S. companies
  • The President announces that, India has emerged as a key player in the globe, against hitherto remarks, "India is emerging as a global player".
  • An U.S. navy ship, several navy boats, armed men, 8 dogs, and of course the Air Force One, the presidential cadillac were all brought from the U.S. besides the unprecedented air, navy and ground security given by the Indian government.
  • Cost of the entire travel: according to media reports, it is 900 crores per day x 3 days. In other words, the U.S. government spent 240 million dollars each day, and so over 750 million dollar is said to have been spent on the President's visit to India.
  • He also announced that the U.S. would support India's bid to have permanent membership in the UN Security Council.
  • He mentioned that "safe havens in Pakistan for terrorists" must be dismantled, and refused to internationalize the Kashmir dispute bringing cheers to the Indian media.
No one knows, exactly how much did India spend on the President's visit.

Let us end this post on a lighter note. Lot of people in Mumbai and Delhi visited the airports to see the Air Force One. When they were asked why they were so interested in the hi-tech plane, one of them said, "because his Presidential carrier has been better than his career" as President. Another joke says: President Obama will never visit Bangalore. Because, it says, "those buggers in Bangalore will force him to outsource even his presidency, that too at $ 10 per hour!"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tragedies of the Future

A new trend in tragic accidents seem to be taking the form of disasters. The State of Orissa has reported more deaths due to lightning than any other natural disaster for the year 2009. In West Bengal, the cyclone Aila that hit 18 districts, affected over 6.5 million people left only139 dead in May 2009; but the single capsize of the boat in Muriganga river (in the Sunderbans, West Bengal, India) on Saturday, 30 October seem to have over taken that, although only 67 bodies have been found so far. It is feared that since the accident site is on the mouth of the river meeting the Bay of Bengal, the bodies might have been carried into the sea.

Allegedly there were about 240 persons, mostly women and children on a boat that can carry a maximum of 80 persons, with actual capacity for 50 or so. Similar tragedies, with smaller number of deaths seem to happen almost every month in some part of West Bengal, mostly in the Sunderbans where transport by water is the common mode of travel. The people seem to have not learned the lessons from previous disasters: everyone wants to go by the first boat available, even if that meant risking lives. The boat owners and boatmen have never learned a lesson, as there has been no criminal action initiated on any of them in any of the past tragedies. And then, there are what is called as the Ghat Management Committees. They maintain the arrival and departure of boats. I have traveled hundreds of times in the Sunderbans. I have invariably noticed that these committees seem to have only two tasks: a) Collect the toll from the passengers and the boats; b) Arrange for a big Durga Puja pandal during the Pujas! These bodies must be legalized through the local government bodies (They are currently mostly let out on lease!), and must be charged with criminal negligence in future tragedies if such tragedies take place due to over-crowding. Then you have the policemen. In the case of the Saturday tragedy, the people from the south western islands of South 24 Parganas district had gone to attend a religious festival in Hijli Sheriff in the eastern coast of Purba (East) Medinipur district, and they were returning from the festival. There were at least couple of policemen in Hijli Sheriff who were near the site of embarking into the boat. What were they doing? Cases on criminal negligence must be started on all policemen on duty at Hijli Sheriff. Only such enforcement of law will send out strong warning to callous people around.

Well, after all, we are in a country where the railway minister makes huge noise against the ruling party, but her ministry has not prosecuted even one single person in the tragic rail accident that took place at Sainthia three months ago. Be on the opposition or in the ruling party, rule of law and enforcement of it are essential for good governance. God save West Bengal!