Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Radia tapes
The transcripts of the conversations between Ms Radia and editors, reporters and politicians, do not per se point to any unethical practice. Flaunting political connections for cultivating and nurturing sources, and fishing for information can be cited as professional prerequisites by the media. But what is worrisome is the involvement of corporate lobbyists in Cabinet formation and portfolio allocation. That a few journalists cross the Lakshman Rekha and allow themselves to be used by politicians and lobbyists for building bridges between political parties is a matter of serious concern. The line between information seeking and influence peddling gets blurred by such acts. The media are already under fire in the paid news controversy. The Radia tapes episode has further eroded their credibility.

G. Gokul Kishore,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mass and inertia

Mass and inertia
The moment of inertia of an object about a given axis describes how difficult it is to change its angular motion about that axis. Therefore, it encompasses not just how much mass the object has overall, but how far each bit of mass is from the axis. The farther out the object's mass is, the more rotational inertia the object has, and the more force is required to change its rotation rate.

Rodeo is a sporting event that consists of events that horses and other livestock designed to test the skill and speed of the human cowboy and cowgirl athletes who participate. Professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing.

Rodeo provoked opposition from animal rights and animal welfare advocates, who argue that various competitions constitute animal cruelty. The American rodeo industry has made progress in improving the welfare of rodeo animals, with specific requirements for veterinary care and other regulations that protect rodeo animals.


Yes, to those of us who believe in a civilised society comprising of intelligent human beings, the rodeo show that is television with constantly changing slides only evokes revulsion. To make it to the news headlines and establish some form of contact with public opinion, you need certain number – either people have to die in sufficient numbers or the scam has to reach a particular quantum. It is a critical mass without which there is blessed inertia all around. We continue to derive all happiness with the thought of our progress - in terms of number of cellphone users, sensex figures, medical advances, etc.

The spread of microfinance institutions did not attract attention till vast sums of money surrounded it. Even then it was hailed as a saviour of the poor. Servicing rural areas was decried as a money drainer for public banks. Tears were shed over the fact that policy decisions forced banks to sweat it out in places where people had to be educated in banking and pulled out of the clutches of money lenders. Microfinance institutions had innovated enough to make this a profitable sector! WOW!

Only the innovation was old than the system of money lending. Exorbitant interest combined with god-fearing, law-abiding, semi-knowledgeable borrowers. Unlike jet-setting CEOs who could order governments to fill individual coffers with taxpayers’ money, the poor borrowers chose death. Now of course there is some hand wringing and talks of doing something.

One of the participants in a reality show which makes a mockery of the judiciary (of course no one thought of it that way - it was after all entertaining and meant to be non-serious) - died. Everyone had volumes to speak on how bad and how many sleazy, silly shows were being aired. We need not however fear that there will be any stifling of the media. The fourth estate in all its ignominy must be preserved. We need not have any illusions about the deceased participant getting justice. The parties to the show will have all papers in order. Necessary consent and waivers would have been obtained before hand. We have seen marriages being sold (swayamvars), and childcare being mocked (a version of baby borrowers). The right of private individuals to wreck their lives or those of others must be protected.

Adarsh society's problems with environmental clearance came to light only after the spotlight turned on the scam. One wonders how a towering building could come up without anybody checking on it. It is not an isolated case. We have illegal constructions everywhere right upto the Lutyen's Zone in Delhi! Now that people have died in East Delhi in building collapse (on 15th Nov. 2010), perhaps we might wake up to the fact that a building is not about stacking bricks and regularisation. But falling back to slumber is just a few days away – for, the critical mass has not been reached yet in scams, illegal constructions, mockery shows, financial frauds and in everything. - SK

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Obama's India visit

Obama's India visit
The media has its hands full describing, detailing and debating Obama's visit. But as it is with every other news 'story' these days, it is elaborate nothingness. We can expect to be a rehash of every such visit - the mandatory sighting of poor and injured, good photos, great speeches and smiles. After all the American President is quite clear that all he wants is some defence contracts and freer markets to take back to his people. The routing by Republicans has shown that America - its preoccupation with defence as a basic building industry, war and proliferation of arms - is stronger than Obama and his election plank of healthcare, public spending or Iraq.

The decision to ban Let and JeM is as ritualistic and hollow as can be expected. It reminds one of a saying in Tamil which translates as “pinching the baby and rocking the cradle too”. What we have is market economy in full swing. A surge in supply of arms in our backyard (Pakistan) will push India into the lap of American arms industry more.

But even so it appears that Americans have got their math wrong. What they should be pushing for is easy gun-ownership laws like the US. We could build a whole new industry to give more arms, then eleborate mechanisms to regulate and control it, tighter security measures, screenings and so on. And India is not averse to new ideas. We have already started a giant project like the UID which will ensure that every Indian had an identity. Roti, kapada, makaan are old fashioned. Everything has a price. All we need to ensure is the money - micro finance or whatever - reaches the consumer. Goods and services will then flow into his hands.- SK