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Analysis

Jayalalitha: Iconic film actress-turned-politician without parallel

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1982. Jayalalithaa, the co-star of many a film with Dr M G Ramachandran, had just been appointed the propaganda secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). It was one of the most intelligent moves of her mentor, MGR, the then Chief Minister of the state. It was also a turning point in the young actress-turned-politician's life.
 
I distinctly remember walking into the AIADMK office that day with my close friend GC Sekhar of Indian Express and now The Telegraph, who dragged me to interview her.
 
For someone like me, who had just reported economics and not politics, it was an electrifying moment in my life as I had just moved to Chennai from Mumbai.  I had not seen many Tamil films.
 
We were with her on the first floor of the building for about half an hour before a huge crowd gathered to greet her.  As soon as we entered, Jayalalitha said, “Enna Sekhar, eppadi irukke? (How are you, Sekhar? ) in a very warm affectionate manner. I could sense the rapport , intimacy and respect she had for my friend. Sekar was very close to her as a journalist from Indian Express. He introduced me to her. She greeted me, “Hello Ashok, how are you? Please have a seat."
 
First, I was struck by her stunning beauty. Next, I was highly impressed by the manner in which she greeted me.  Impressed because never before had I heard a personality from the Tamil film world speak in impeccable English and with a lovely accent. I was floored. I became an instant fan of hers though I had not seen many of her films. Thereafter, I did to catch up on her progress in her film career.
 
The conversation veered around her film career  and how she had entered the political world at a crucial time when her mentor needed her the most. She talked about her entry into films at a young age and how she would have done equally well if she had not strayed into films at her mother’s instances, Sandhya, herself a film actress who had acted in films with MGR.
 
When I left the AIADMK office , the first thought that crossed my mind , was: My , boy o boy, she’s star material in the political world, too. She will go far as an MP … the thought never occurred that she would slip into the shoes of her mentor MGR one day and also become the chief minister like him and carry on his legacy of pro-poor and welfare schemes for the masses.
 
She was a picture of grace and charm I had not encountered before in any film personality-turned-politician in her peer group.
 
After a long hiatus , by when I had moved to Delhi as an economic correspondent, I had the occasion to meet her a couple of times when she came to the capital  as Chief Minister to meet the Prime Minister. I was also covering the Tamil Nadu beat those days. In a brief encounter, I asked her if she remembered my meeting her for the first time with Sekhar. She smilled and said, “I do”. Whether she actually remembered is not the question, the fact is that she had great public relations with the media, albeit only selectively. She could not stand criticism. But she loved adoration instantly. It was a challenge for any journalist to get into an argument with her, because of her perfect home work and fluent English, both of which made her win the day.
 
I still remember the day when she had convened a press conference in her office. My friend Murari of the Deccan Herald of Bengaluru had casually referred to her political style as being hysterical at times in one of his edits the previous day . Jayalalithaa had remarkable memory and remembered almost every journalist by name and the paper he or she was affiliated to.
 
Holding an Oxford dictionary in her hand, she asked, "Where is Murari?" Some 25 of us journalists gathered in her room that day were a bit stunned. When Murari showed up, she asked him: “How can you write such a thing about me? Do you know  the meaning of Hysteria or someone being hysterical? Am I hysterical, certainly not?" She virtually took a class for about 15 minutes on English language and grammar. After all, she was a brilliant student who had studied at the Presentation Convent Church Park, one of the top schools of Chennai, and before that at another elite school, Bishop Cotton at Bengaluru. While it may be debatable whether it was proper to use the word hysteria, she had certainly won her argument that day.
 
Jayalalitha had said in interviews with publications that, had she not chosen a film career, she probably would have been practising lawyer. Any lawyer would have dreaded facing her in court because her home work was good, her oratorical skills were brilliant, and she was a multilinguist who could speak her own lines in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam or Hindi cinema.
 
She was probably a reluctant film actress as her mother wanted her to continue the fillm legacy. Like probably Rajiv Gandhi, one of the most charismatic Prime Ministers of india, she was probably  a reluctant politician, too, she had so many good years left to give to cinema. But the need of the hour was that MGR’s AIADMK needed a double-barrelled gun to counter the orotorial skills and penmanship of writer-author-turned politician M. Karunanidhi, Chief Minister before MGR. Jayalalithaa gave the strength that MGR needed to consolidate the hold of the AIADMK, a splinter group from the parent DMK, in Tamil politics.
 
The seeds of a great social welfare Chief Minister had been sown firmly by MGR. There was no looking back. Jayalalithaa quickly rose in fame and came into the Rajya Sabha as an MP. She did well in the House, participating in debates and discussions on Bills. The return from Rajya Sabha quickly saw her rise and after her mentor MGRs death, when the party tottered with MGR's wife Janaki as interim CM , she took the historic decision to split and scrambled supporters to resurrect the party to dizzy heights.
 
Jayalalithaa, a five-time Chief Minister and several times MLA, wrote her name in golden letters in history with her service for the poor. She launched several welfare schemes at affordable prices for the weaker sections under the brand name “Amma”  (Mother.)
 
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The most popular of these were the Amma Canteen, Amma Water, Amma Pharmacy and Amma Veggy stores. All of them gave her a distinctive competitive edge over her arch rival Karunanidhi and a stranglehold in Tamil Nadu politics. Even as her sickness had set in and she was unable to react quickly to the floods following unprecedented rains, it did not dent her image with her masses. They came out in large numbers and returned her to power in the 2014 assembly elections, her last term. She handled the Cauvery river waters issue with the deftness of a seasoned politician to the advantage of the people of Tamil Nadu.
 
One fondly hopes that O. Panneerselvam, her successor as Chief Minister, continues her legacy and her welfare schemes for the poor.
 
Think of it , after her death, unprecedented tributes have been showered on a Chief Minister of a state.  The President , the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and almost half of the Union Cabinet is going to Chennai to attend her funeral. The Centre has declared one-day national mourning. Flags are flying at half mast in most government institutions. In a rare gesture, the flag at Rashtrapathy Bhavan is to be flown at half-mast. Rare honours indeed. Neighbouring states such as Kerala and Karnataka have declared mourning and closed down educational institutions. Even the Canadian government has paid glowing tributes to her welfare schemes.  Sri Lanka has cancelled its annual St Antony Church festival.
 
Even as millions of fans in India and globally mourn her irreparable loss , I will never forget the first meeting I had with her in 1982. The day her political career had started. And what a career.  
 
T. N. Ashok is a freelance journalist based in Delhi, writing on finance, economics, and commerce. 
 
A former Economics Editor with wire service Press Trust of India (PTI) and contributor to leading economic journals and newspapers, he has travelled widely. He has also done a brief stint as a corporate communications professional with leading multi-nationals.
 
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RIL retains position as most profitable company among Nifty 50

A view of RIL's petroleum refinery at Jamnagar in Gujarat
A view of RIL's petroleum refinery at Jamnagar in Gujarat
At the close of the extended results season for the April-June 2016 quarter, energy and petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has retained its position as the most profitable company among the Nifty 50 – a widely followed benchmark in the Indian stock market. 
 
The Mukesh Ambani-led company, which now also has a major presence in the retail and telecom sectors, continues to remain the single largest contributor to the aggregate net profit of the Nifty 50.
 
RIL’s consolidated net profit of Rs. 7113 crore for the April-June 2016 quarter was 12.6% higher than the Rs. 6318 crore reported by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the second best performer in the Nifty.
 
And, compared to the net profit of Rs. 4232.5 crore posted by the public sector Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), RIL’s largest energy sector peer among the Nifty 50, it is 68.1% higher.
 
The aggregate net profit of the Nifty 50 for the quarter stood at Rs. 69,793 crore, which means RIL has alone contributed 10.2% of it – rising from the 8.1% for the corresponding period a year ago. 
 
This high level of contribution is expected to continue as several of RIL’s large scale projects are set to become operational in near future.
 
At Wednesday’s close of 8762.6, the Nifty is trading at a price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 23.9, with an EPS of 364.8.
 
Every additional rupee in the aggregate net profit of the Nifty improves the index’s EPS, and thereby justifies its level. The Nifty’s current valuation is considered excessive by many experts, and they anticipate a correction. Unless the earnings growth of the Nifty 50 companies picks up fast, the current level of the Nifty index might become unsustainable.
 
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RIL’s scrip has gone up over 21% in the past one year, outperforming the benchmark index that climbed 10.8%. This helped the company improve its weightage in the Nifty from 5% in September 2015 to the current 5.4%. (An individual stock’s weightage in the Nifty is decided not just by its market capitalisation, but also by free float.)
 
The Nifty index, which was trading at a price-earnings ratio (P/E) of 21.8 a year ago, now stands at 23.9. In comparison, RIL’s valuation has barely increased from a P/E of 11.7 to 11.9 over the same period. Due to this, most of the brokerage houses are bullish on the RIL scrip. A leading foreign brokerage CLSA, in its July 2016 report, has iterated its conviction on RIL, stating, “Start of projects worth $35 billion in the next six months could be a key catalyst; conviction BUY stays.”
 
The April-June 2016 results season had been extended by a month by market regulator Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI), allowing India Inc. extra time to adopt the new Ind AS accounting standards.
 
Coal India’s results on September 13 was the last from the Nifty 50 companies. 
 
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Brexit, Trump and who knows what more is to come?

 
The 2016 U.S. elections seems to be shaping up to be a referendum on whether the U.S. feels like a rich country or a poor one. The Brexit vote may well be Britain confessing to feeling more poor than rich! 
 
How did we get here? The vast and growing inequities among the rich and poor are obvious to all. Despite unemployment numbers appearing to be normal, millions feel unemployed and underemployed. Also the employment statistics do not seem to reflect the true plight and deep insecurities of many.
 
People are angry. They want the system to change in fundamental ways. They are nostalgic of the past and yearn for the good old days when things appeared easier and simpler.
 
And who are the primary culprits responsible for ruining their old pristine lives? Immigration and Free Trade, along with the elites who offer abstract theories on why they should make their lives better.
 
It is ironic however that in those “good old pristine days”, free trade was a popular mantra for the Western world. Institutions such as the World Bank legitimized it as a trusted approach to alleviate poverty and inject capital. Developing countries were 
cajoled and at times even threatened when they complained about the risks to their own domestic industries and labor force. How the tables have turned!! The shoe seems to be on the other foot. 
 
Developed countries are now behaving like the developing countries of yesteryears. The rich are beginning to feel poor.
 
How should we understand this shift? Because so much of trade and trade policy is driven from the vantage point of corporations who actually conduct trade, a good place to begin is to ask, how do corporations view trade as part of their global strategy?
 
Corporations see their businesses as global when they identify systematic advantages from their presence in multiple countries.
 
Take for instance, the commercial aircraft industry. It requires millions of dollars in investments and years of development to take a concept of an aircraft on to design, production and sales. Such massive scale necessitates that the returns to recover and indeed profit from the investments come from worldwide markets rather than any one single country. The source of global advantage here lies in economies of scale.
 
 
Trump says he sees 'parallel' between Brexit and his campaign
Commercial aircraft manufactures need sales all around the world to be competitive. Put differently, in such scale intensive industries corporations limiting themselves to just domestic markets can face huge cost disadvantages. If a corporation in Taiwan for example wanted to build commercial aircraft, yet decided to sell only within Taiwan, it would be easily overwhelmed by global players like Boeing or Airbus who are able to distribute their huge fixed costs over a much larger volume of sales across all countries around the world. 
 
This explains why Japanese trade policy in the 70s targeted scale intensive industries such as autos, consumer electronics and semiconductor industries, and made products for the world rather than just for Japan.
 
In the “good old” days most corporations that could leverage strong economies of scale in technology, branding, manufacturing and distribution were in the developed world. And at that time, companies such as Ford and GM focused their R&D, manufacturing and assembly at home but leveraged scale by selling cars worldwide. The freer the trade, the more cars they sold around the world and the more the auto companies reinforced their intrinsic scale advantages. And, as these corporations became richer, so did their U.S. workers who made all those cars in Detroit. 
 
Hence, fifty years back a worker operating a milling machine in GM likely owned a home with a two car garage. But a worker with similar skills operating a milling machine in India lived in a shack and bicycled to the factory. Not surprisingly auto workers in Detroit loved free trade back then. What was good for GM was also good for them.
 
But scale is not the only approach to gain advantages from global presence. Soon corporations realized, leveraging factor cost differences across countries could also provide asymmetric competitive advantage. That is, if Nike manufactured its shoes in 
Indonesia, its competitors could face systemic cost disadvantages by not following suit.
 
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What logically followed was a cascade of corporations making a beeline to “offshore” and later even “outsource” different aspects of their value chain such as manufacturing, assembly and even R&D to countries with lower factor costs. In doing so corporations 
continued to reap the benefits of free trade and globalization. But the workers in their home country who saw their jobs disappearing did not. 
 
Predictably, they began to see free trade very differently. The old adage “what is good for GM is good for the country” no longer made sense to them. 
 
As factories started closing down, the pain and frustration started becoming more palpable. A generation back, workers in the developed world inordinately benefitted from free trade as the benefits of free trade and globalization also benefitted them. Today free trade allows corporations to painlessly substitute a milling machine worker in Detroit with one in Chennai. They see little difference in their skills, but a big difference in their relative costs. It obviously hurts the worker in Detroit; GM still wins.
 
Is it possible for the West to go back to the good old pristine days? Can we put the genie of this new avatar of free trade and globalization back in the bottle?
 
Despite wishful thinking on the part of many, it is going to be very difficult. Time will tell what Brexit’s true pros and cons are. It is going to be a controversial social experiment that may over time tell us a lot about our theories (or ideologies) on trade and integration.
 
Clearly there are costs to being part of a broader European Union. A country can understandably perceive some loss of its sovereignty. And there also are some benefits such as frictionless trade, larger markets, bigger labor pool etc. It follows logically that 
countries within the union experiencing the costs of being inside the union would also prefer to share the benefits only with those within the union. Why would a country agree to bear the costs, but magnanimously share the benefits with a country leaving the union? 
 
Many ramifications will follow. The British may soon begin feeling the pinch when products become more expensive, labor pools start shrinking, small companies begin facing tariffs for their exports, and large corporations begin relocating to countries where they perceive more freedom to enact their global strategy. 
 
Would it have been better to stay in the Union and find ways to compensate those (in retraining efforts etc.) who fell on the wrong side of free trade? Time will tell.
 
The Brexit polls indicate that it was the older white people that overwhelmingly voted to leave the union. Clearly they feel the insecurities with the changing winds of globalization the most, and have no reason to trust the large corporations or the theories of the elites and pundits. They intuitively sense that the new sources of advantage corporations are choosing to leverage from globalization are not in their interest. NAFTA is now hated by many. TPP is politically toxic. 
 
It is thus not surprising that Hillary Clinton lost to Bernie Sanders in the Michigan primaries. In fact, the rust belts of Ohio and Pennsylvania will be tough fights for Hillary to win in the general elections even though many see her current adversary as boorish, narcissistic, and xenophobic.
 
The rich are beginning to feel poor and will do anything to get the good old days back. To make America great again! For Britain to have its “independence”. More turmoil is in the horizon. November will tell us if the U.S. is rich or poor.
 
 
 
Dr. Mohan Subramaniam is an Associate Professor of Strategy at the Carroll School of Management in Boston College. He has a doctorate in Management Policy from Boston University and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore.
 
Professor Subramaniam specializes in the areas of ecosystem strategy, global strategy, and the strategic management of knowledge and innovation. His research appears in several leading management journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of International Business Studies, the Journal of Management, and the Harvard Business Review. 
 
His research has also received several grants including those from Novell Corporation, the National Science Foundation and the Carnegie Bosch Institute, and awards from the Academy of Management, the Strategic Management Society, McKinsey & Company and the Decision Sciences Institute.
 
He teaches courses in strategy, global strategy and innovation management at Boston College. Professor Subramaniam has consulted with and taught senior executives at leading global companies including General Motors, Hamilton Sunstrand, Nextel, New Balance, Voestalpine, Tata Consulting Services and executive development programs at the University of Connecticut and Boston College.
 
Professor Subramaniam is a member of the Academy of Management, Strategic Management Society and the Academy of International Business. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Management.
 
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Budget 2016-17: Will BJP show resolve to rationalize taxes, push through GST?

Even as the nation prepares to hear President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, expectations are high for the consumer and industry on both the Railway and Union Budgets for 2016-17.
 
Travelers expect more rider comfort on trains at competitive prices and consumers expect rationalization of the tax structure with a possible push-up of the entry level of taxation to Rs 3 lakh and industry hopes for a firmer resolve from the BJP-led NDA government for a faster push to the Goods and Service Tax (GST).
 
The President’s address, which is seen as a statement of the government on policy and other issues at the beginning of the Budget session, is likely to focus on a host of issues ranging widely from security concerns, both internal and external, good neighborly relations and strengthening India’s ties firmly with the developed countries in the West, besides addressing issues as industrial and GDP growth, need for greater economic reforms to facilitate greater foreign investments , import export issues and social issues.
 
Expectations from the Railway Budget would be that the government does not raise passenger fares across the table, but restrict it to upper segments and freight rates are not raised as prices of fuel are stable and crude prices keep crashing day by day – the lowest price recorded so far is US$26 per barrel, there are hopes that it could go down as low as US$20 to a barrel and eventually stabilize at US$ 40 per barrel.
 
A general perception is that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will not hype the 2016-17 budget as he did the 2015-16 budget as it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first budget as a leader at the Centre. A flash back to 2015-16 budget shows that issues like removing concerns on taxation and GST are yet to be addressed seriously. 
 
Yet the Modi government has been pro-active on the economic front because as measures such as inviting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in railways and defence, reforming insurance and labor sectors and pushing through defence deals such as purchase of advanced jet fighters from France and creating incentives for infrastructure growth. Also, deregulation of diesel prices show the Prime Minister's intentions to boost the Indian economy and usher in growth that provides greater employment opportunities and goods at affordable costs. 
 
Prime Minister Modi has stated his resolve to stamp out what he calls tax terrorism from India, an apparent reference to retrospective legislations on tax demands on industry. There seems to be some hope on the GST legislation going through in the ensuing budget session, but persistent opposition in the upper house Rajya Sabha, acts like a dampener. The roll out date for GST set by the Modi government is April 1, 2016, so, a tough task lies ahead for the government to iron out the differences with the opposition, especially Congress in the Rajya Sabha to seek approval for the GST legislation. 
 
The government, industry says, has issued guidelines on determining the Place of Effective Management (POEM) for companies, listed in the Memorandum to the Finance Bill, 2015, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has attempted to bring increased transparency into the system. As industry faces deregulation in respect of putting up subsidiaries abroad, Indian businesses are expected to enhance their scalability, assuming the new rule ensures an transparent and equitable compliance.
 
As the BJP led NDA is now into the second year of its five-year tenure, industry hopes the igovernment would put in place a robust tax regime in the country that deals firmly with tax evasion and other tax related concerns. Hopes from Finance Act, 2016 soar high with respect to bringing a healthy and robust tax regime in India. Setting up of an unflinching tax regime should be a major goal for government in this year’s Budget, since a temporary approach to collect fatter revenues does little for the larger cause of the Indian tax system, taxation experts say. 
 
Pre-budget consultations steered by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his team of policymakers, ahead of the announcement of Union Budget 2016-17 on February 29 this year, are already in motion. At a recent pre-budget consultation meet, Jaitley implied the focus of this year’s budget could revolve around the social sector, inclusive growth being the focal point this year for the government. Earnest suggestions and ideas laid before the Finance Minister by representatives from sectors like banking, social, IT, small and medium enterprises (SME), agriculture, education and healthcare, have raised hopes for positive changes in these sectors.
 
Some important demands include the appeal from Health Federation of India for a health budget including tax sops and financial aid for a better infrastructure and medical innovation. The spend on heath is sought to be raised from 0.3 per cent to 5 per cent of the GDP.. Other demands from social spheres include increase in pension amount of widows and senior citizens, greater budgetary allocation for secondary education, ao also for National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture under Krishi Unnati Yojana, provision for a comprehensive crop insurance, enhanced irrigation facilities for alleviating farm woes, construction of shelter homes for single women and destitute and more allocation for Mid day Meal Scheme.
 
In view of problems faced by start-ups, such as the load of compliance and cash outflow for the gingerly set up businesses, IT body Nasscom has asked for removal of direct and indirect taxes for such companies. What this means in effect is that  “angel tax”,  which is the crucial means of funding companies turn to, be removed at a time when banks and venture capital funds pull away from providing financial aid to the start-ups. As investing in start-ups that are still in their nascent stage involves a risk, it becomes necessary to have reasonable tax rates for investors. 
 
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Raising public spending and inviting private investment could be a step towards making people financially more comfortable and at the same time boosting the economy’s growth. For instance raiising public expenditure could be a doorway for inclusive development. Investing in more infrastructure projects like Bharatmala Sagarmala by government could be a measure. The fruition of the project would not only provide employment opportunities to a lot of people playing out in their favor financially, but would also shore up the standard of the country’s infrastructure.
 
As crude price and mineral prices fall, investing in more infrastructure projects could be in the offing. Current indications show that the fiscal deficit target could leap from 3.1 per cent to 3.3 per cent, since government is mulling revision of the same. Fulfillment of fiscal targets is critical for a developing country like India. 
 
Private investment, on the other hand, has an imperative role to play in enhancing economic growth, boosting tax generation and creating more job opportunities, thereby bridging income gap, experts point out. Investors now have the liberty to choose the location for their investment and are no longer required to petition for their investment proposals before the government.. The bankruptcy code is legislation to watch out for.   
 
Manufacturing sector will seek a further hike in anti-dumping duties from the government. Since the devaluation of Chinese yuan and its consequent inclusion in the IMF basket, the chances of China dumping its cheap goods into the Indian market, have risen considerably. The potential scenario of China dumping (cheaper) goods in India and thereby attracting hefty sales could land domestic manufacturers of India in jeopardy impacting sectors including SME’s..
 
On GST, the rate has been proposed at 17-18 per cent by the Arvind Subramanian panel, to result in a lower service tax rate. This brightens prospects of  GST being discussed in the upcoming Budget. 
 
Measures to combat issues like black money, mounting NPAs for banks (March 17, 2016 being the deadline given by RBI to banks for clearance of balance sheets), indebted discoms,  as also problems crippling growth in power industry preventing self sufficiency in energy will all cry for a solution in this budget. 
 
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Dedicated Freight Corridors: Paradigm shift coming in Railways’ freight operations

A view of the under-construction Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor Project
A view of the under-construction Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor Project
Freight operations on the Indian Railways are set to witness a paradigm shift with the stage-wise completion of its two dedicated freight corridors, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) and the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC), over the next four years, beginning 2017-18.
 
Eighty-six per cent of the 10548 hectares land required has been acquired and most environmental clearances obtained for the projects passing through nine States and 61 districts. By the end of the current financial year (2015-16), or mid-2016, most contracts for the Rs 81,459 crore projects are planned to be awarded.
 
The commissioning of the two projects, spanning over 3360 route kms, will not only help the railways regain their market share of freight transport but guarantee, at the same time, an efficient, reliable, safe and cheaper system of goods movement. With the two freight corridors in operation, the railways’ freight operations will see a fundamental change brought about by reduction in unit cost of transportation, smaller organization and management cost, with higher efficiency and lower energy consumption.
 
Being executed by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL), a Special Purpose Vehicle set up under the Ministry of Railways in 2006, the two dedicated freight corridors will provide relief to the railways’ heavily congested Golden Quadrilateral along the western and eastern rail routes, and facilitate fresh industrial activity and multi-modal value-addition services hubs along the corridors.
 
The Indian Railways’ Golden Quadrilateral comprises the railways network linking the four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Howrah, along with its two diagonals (Delhi-Chennai and Mumbai-Howrah), adding up to a total route length of 10,122 kms and carries more than 58 per cent of the railways’ revenue earning freight traffic.
 
The congestion on the Golden Quadrilateral is affecting railways’ efficiency and it is not able to retain or increase its share in the growing goods traffic resulting from the economic boom. A fundamental reason for this, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu  said in his Railway Budget 2015-16 speech, was "chronic underinvestment" in the railways. This had led to congestion and over-utilization, along with sub-optimal freight and passenger traffic and fewer financial resources.
 
To ease the situation on the saturated Golden Quadrilateral, the Government of India has, in the first phase, approved construction of the two corridors, the WDFC with a length of 1504 route kms and the EDFC with a length of 1856 route kms. The EDFC, starting from Dankuni in West Bengal will pass through the States of Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to terminate at Ludhiana in Punjab. The WDFC connecting Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai-Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), will traverse through the National Capital Region and the States of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The WDFC will join the EDFC at Dadri.
The sanctioned cost of WDFC is Rs 46,718 crore and that of the EDFC is Rs 26,674 crore. The entire cost of the capital expenditure is being financed by the Ministry of Railways through debt and equity. Debt will be financed through loans from multilateral leading agencies. The finalization of contracts has picked up. Contracts worth Rs.17,590 crores have been finalized in the last  one year as against Rs 13,000 crore worth contracts in the last six years.
 
The WDFC has awarded civil work contracts worth Rs.11,028 crores for construction of 625 km long railway line from Rewari to Iqbalgarh in Phase I and 322 km from Vadodara to Vaitarna in Phase-II. Besides, Electrical & Signal & Telecommunication contracts worth Rs. 5,486 crores for 950 km in Phase-1 have also been awarded. The EDFC has awarded contract worth Rs 3300 crore for construction of 343 kms double track line between Kanpur and Khurja. Electrical & Signal & Telecommunication Contract for Kanpur to Khurja has also been awarded.  In another contract, the EDFC has awarded contract worth Rs 5080 crore for construction of 402 kms double track line between Mughalsarai-New Bhaupur (Kanpur).
 
The Western Corridor comprising a 1504 km double line track from JNPT to Dadri has its alignment mostly parallel to the existing lines, except for detours, and entirely on a new alignment from Rewari to Dadri and from Sanand to Vadodara. The WDFC will have its links with the Indian Railway system at Dadri, Prithala, Rewari, Ateli, Phulera, Bangurgram, Marwar, Palanpur, Chatodar, Mehsana, Sanand (N), Sanand (S), Makarpura, Udhna, Kharbao and JNPT.
 
The   WDFC  will mainly  benefit  export-import  container   traffic, besides petroleum,  oils and  lubricants,  imported fertilizers and coal, foodgrains, cement, salt, and iron and steel. The expected traffic over WDFC in 2021-22 is expected to be 152.24 million tones.
 
The EDFC with a route length of 1856 km will have an electrified single line segment of 447 km between Ludhiana-Khurja and Khurja-Dadri. The link points with the Indian Railways will include Chawapail, Sirhind, Tundla, Kanpur, Mughalsarai, Sonnagar and Dankuni. Traffic to benefit will include coal for power plants in the northern region from coalfields in Bihar, Jharkhand and Bengal; finished steel, foodgrains and cement.
 
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Referring to the railways’ falling share in the goods traffic, the Twelfth Plan (2012-17) said “the country transports nearly 57 per cent of the total goods by road, as compared to 22 per cent in China and 37 per cent in the US.”  In contrast, the Indian railways transports only 36 per cent of the total goods traffic in the country, compared to the 48 per cent in the US and 47 per cent in China.
 
The Twelfth Plan pointed out how urgent investments in the railways were needed and said, “If consistent growth of 7-10 per cent per annum is to be achieved over the next 20 years, there is a pressing need for unprecedented capacity expansion of the railways for both freight and passenger traffic in a manner that has not taken place since Independence.” The Twelfth Plan said the Indian Railway is the fourth largest railway network in the world, and had on 31 March, 2011 a total route length of 64,460 kms of which 21,034 kms is electrified. The total track length is 1,13,994 kms of which 1,02,680 kms is broad guage, 8,561 kms is meter guage and 2,753 kms is narrow guage. Considering the requirements of the economy and size of the country, the expansion of the railway network has been inadequate, though the Indian Railways have added 11,864 kms of new lines since Independence, the Twelfth Plan document said.
 
Referring to saturation of the capacity in different routes, the Railway Minister said in his Budget speech this year: “On a single track, the Indian Railways have to run fast express trains like Rajdhani and Shatabdi, ordinary slow passenger trains as well as goods trains. Is it surprising that though Rajdhani and Shatabdi are capable of doing 130 km per hour, the average speed does not exceed 70? Is it surprising that the ordinary train or a goods train can not average more than around 25 km per hour.” It is noteworthy that the two dedicated freight corridors can allow train speed up to a maximum of 100 km per hour.
 
The major achievements for the two projects include completion of negotiation for EDFC-3 Project and loan amount of US$ 650 million sanctioned by World Bank on 30 June last year. Engine rolling of Sasaram-Durgawati section was done on 30 June, 2015 after completion of track & OHE work. There has been a tenfold increase in progress of earthwork and concreting in Rewari-Iqbalgarh section of WDFC in the last eight months.
 
Similarly, there is a three-fold increase in progress of earthwork and concreting in Khurja-Kanpur section of EDFC in the last eight months. Track linking with mechanized track laying machine started for the first time in India during June 2015 in EDFC. The first junction arrangement with Indian Railways was commissioned in June, this year. The sleeper plant at Bhagega in WDFC has been commissioned and sleeper production in EDFC expedited from 1000 a day to 1500 a day. Coastal Regulatory Zone clearances in Thane and Raigarh districts have been received.
 
In the acquisition of land, the DFCCIL has implemented one of the best rehabilitation and resettlement packages for the people affected by the projects. More than three lakh people will be affected by the two projects. Land is being acquired under the Railway Amendment Act, 2008.  Eighty-six per cent of the land has been acquired except the Sonnagar-Dankuni Section.
 
Compensation as per the new land acquisition Act has been started with effect from 1st January, 2015. Due to resistance from land losers, land acquisition is held up in 140 patches covering a length of 192 km in EDFC and in 231 patches covering a length of 183 km in WDFC. Regular meetings and interaction are being undertaken at Chief Secretary and other official levels of the State Government for resolution of issues. Out of more than 7000 arbitration cases and 1500 court cases pertaining to land acquisition, 3536 arbitration and 681court cases have been finalized after consistent persuasion by DFCCIL.
 
In the execution of the two dedicated freight corridors, the DFCCIL aims to follow a low carbon path, adopting various technological options which can help them to operate with greater energy efficiency. As per a 30 year greenhouse gas (GHS) emission forecast, if there were no dedicated freight corridors, the GHG emissions would be 582 million ton CO2, while the emissions with the two DFCs in service would be less than one-fourth at 124.5 million ton CO2.
 
Ministry of Railways plans to have four more dedicated freight corridors and has assigned the DFCCIL to undertake preliminary engineering and traffic survey (PETS) for them. These additional corridors are East-West Corridor (Kolkata-Mumbai) approximately 2330 Kms; North-South Corridor (Delhi-Chennai) approximately 2343 Kms; East Coast Corridor (Kharagpur-Vijaywada) 1100 Kms; and the Southern Corridor (Chennai - Goa) approx 899 Kms.
 
(PIB Features)
 
Deepak Razdan is a senior journalist and former Research Associate, NITI Aayog, New Delhi.
 
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Employability: Soft skills are the need of the hour

Employment is a serious concern in India. The last decade, however, has seen an increase in the number of industries like the IT Services, ITeS, Retail, Travel, Transport, Financial Services, Hospitality, Beauty and Health care. This has brought a positive change creating more employment opportunities. 
 
For a competitive edge companies are basing their initiatives on customer or client expectations. Companies look for a blend of innovative solutions and the ‘transactional’ services they provide. People today are better informed of the market and the options available.  Their expectations need to be met and the responsibility lies with each individual at every point of interaction within the company.  
 
There was a time when the BPO sector was thriving in India. Today, we see a saturation of sorts taking place. One important aspect that has led to this is the lack of quality in the service. I remember a BPO employee stating “End of the day the customer wants the problem solved.” Well, it’s not only that but importantly how the problem was solved. One could speak about the quality based on several parameters however, today they speak in terms of only one that comprises all.  ‘Soft skills’- The need of the hour. 
 
The talent acquisition team faces the burden of hiring people who are competent of positively interacting within the corporate culture. With several students passing out of various institutions, the recruitment team has one statement to make, “It’s difficult to find a suitable candidate”.  This merely indicates that we have a shortage of individuals who are employable. The growth in the number of students waiting to be employed versus those who could be employed, requires urgent attention.  
 
Educational institutions are beginning to realize that along with the academic qualification (the hard skills), students need to learn skills that ensure their employability. They need to understand this better and work towards being extremely professional. These are the ‘soft skills’ a term we hear more often now a days. 
 
Soft skills are distinct from the hard skills and is recognized as the key to bridge the talent gap we face in India today. It is an essential to interact with the clients and to work in a collaborative manner within the team. This reflects on the work quality and 
productivity. Soft skills are more to do with who we are than what we know. It depends on the attitude.
 
The hard skills may be the foundation to a successful career. However, they need to be cemented with soft skills.
 
Soft skills include an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, to be time efficient, to have appropriate interpersonal skills, to be able to analyze situations beyond the technical aspect and to problem solve accordingly, to be able to lead and work in a team and so on. 
 
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In this context an apt statement would be ‘To change history one needs to know history’. To be able to improve on one’s soft skills one needs to know what it means. 
 
People often use the terms soft skills and communication skills inappropriately. Communication skills include using the right words, speaking in the right tone, using the right gestures with confidence, understanding the situation, and who the receiver 
is, etc.. To improve on communication skills one needs to improve the language and be a good listener. Remember! Using words that entirely contradict the intention leads to unforeseen situations. These situations should be tactfully dealt with. It is a skill that needs to be learnt and practiced. 
 
This is where training and facilitation play a vital role. The ability of a trainer or a facilitator depends on whether they are driven by passion. They need to ensure effective delivery through role plays, case studies and other interactive methodologies with both groups as well as individuals. 
 
Change is imperative. We need to understand this and be willing to change. This would lead to a better tomorrow resulting in an improvement in the employable quotient. It means bringing about a change in the existing scenario and thus looking at the larger picture, contributing to the society.
 
Anita Peter
Anita Peter
Anita Peter is the Founder & Managing Director of Persona Script, a soft skills and leadership development training company. A motivator and facilitator, she supports, promotes and conducts motivational programs for women who have taken a sabbatical from work. Her strength has been her ability to connect with the audience. She won the Kerala state level competition for artistic and figure roller skating. She is a Mohiniattam performer and teacher. She has acted in two Malayalam films, several Malayalam and Tamil television serials and in plays. She has compered shows and programmes and modelled for several print ads and television commercials for popular brands. She was among the top 10 finalists of the Haier Gladrags Mrs India 2011.
 
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Households' access to sanitation in rural India

 
Providing access to sanitation facilities in rural areas has been on the agenda of the Government of India for around the past three decades. Schemes like the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), 1986, Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), 1999, Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP), 2003, Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), 2004, Bharat Nirman, 2005, and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), 2012, aimed to improve the quality of life in rural areas, by accelerating the pace of sanitation coverage through renewed strategies, so as to achieve the vision of Nirmal Bharat by 2022. 
 
One of the major strategies to achieve the above objective was the provision of Individual Household Latrine (IHHL). IHHL comprises a cash incentive to Below Poverty Line (BPL) households and some categories of Above Poverty Line (APL) households that construct a toilet unit by themselves.
 
Later, the Ministry of Rural Development initiated the convergence of TSC/NBA with Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).
 
Trends in Households’ Latrine Facility
 
According to the Census of India (Houselisting and Housing Census data), access to latrine facility within the premise of the household in rural areas witnessed an improvement from year 2001 to 2011. The proportion of households not having latrine facility within the premise fell from 78.1% to 69.3%. 
 
By 2011, of the 30.7% of the households having latrine facility within the premise, 19.4% had water closet and 11.3% had pit and other latrine facilities. Of the 69.3% of the households not having latrine facility within the premise in 2011, 1.9% used public latrine and 67.3% used open defecation. 
 
The absolute number of households having latrine facility within the premise rose by 21.2 million (from 30.3 million in 2001 to 51.6 million in 2011, that is, a decadal growth of 70.1%). However, the absolute number of households not having latrine facility within the premise rose by 8.3 million (from 108 million in 2001 to 116.3 million in 2011, that is, a decadal growth of 7.7%).
 
According to the National Sample Survey (NSS), Housing Condition Rounds (years 1993, 2002, 2008-09 and 2012), there has been an improvement in the access to latrine facility by rural households from 1993 to 2012, with an accelerated trend particularly after 2002. 
 
The proportions of households having No Latrine Facility in the house were 87.3%, 78.3%, 66.4% and 59.4% during 1993, 2002, 2008-09 and 2012, respectively. The compounded annual rate of decline of the proportions of households having No Latrine Facility in the house were found to be 1.1%, 2.6% and 3.0% between 1993-2002, 2002-2008-09 and 2008-09-2012, respectively. 
 
Other Official Estimates of Households’ Latrine Facility
 
For the purpose of assessment of the physical achievements of the IHHL as well as for social audit, real time data is periodically reported by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDW&S). 
 
During 2001-02 to 2010-11, it was reported that there has been rapid annual increase in the physical achievement of IHHL, followed by a declining trend during 2011-12 to 2013-14. The total progress of physical achievement of IHHL between 2001-02 and 2010-11 was 78.27 million (achievement of 72.5% of the total target of 108 million households as fixed by TSC based on Census 2001) and between 2001-02 and 2013-14 was 96.61 million (achievement of around 77% of the target of 125.7 million households based on the new target fixed under NBA). 
 
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A Base Line Survey conducted by MoDW&S in 2012-13 based on entries by Gram Panchayats reported that 59.6% of the households are without toilets in their house (total households - 171.2 million and total households without toilet - 102.1 million). 
 
The Programme Evaluation Organization (PEO) was tasked by the Planning Commission in 2012 to conduct an independent Evaluation Study of the TSC. The aim was to assess the impact on individual health and environment with regard to the improvement of the sanitary services on different user groups, especially the rural poor. One of the significant findings of the study was that 72.63% households in rural India in the sample state practice open defecation irrespective of having or not having toilet facilities.
 
Discrepancies in the Sanitation Statistics
 
Information and data provided by the aforementioned official sources reveal marked inconsistencies. For instance, while the physical achievement of IHHL between 2001-02 and 2010-11 reported an addition of 78.27 million households having latrine facility, the Census reported addition of only 21.2 million of such households between 2001 and 2011. 
 
The gap of 57 million households in the addition of households having latrine facility during 2001 and 2011, between the physical performance of IHHL (78.27 million) and Census (21.2 million) is very huge, highly unlikely and also contrary. 
 
Other statistics from the NSS, Base Line Survey and Evaluation Study on TSC by PEO are also at variance with the figures provided by the physical performance of IHHL and suggest divergence and dissimilarity. It raises serious questions on the credibility of the rural sanitation statistics and information provided by the physical performance of IHHL, MoDW&S.
 
Furthermore, the differences between the estimates of households not having latrine facility by Census (69.3%) for 2011 and NSS (59.4%) for 2012 and Base Line Survey (59.6%) for 2012 raises question on the improvement occurred within one single year (2011-12). Census reports that there has been improvement of 9 percentage points in the proportion of households not having latrine facility within the premise falling from 78.1% to 69.3% from year 2001 to 2011. However, data from NSS and Base Line Survey for 2012 suggest improvement of 10 percentage points (over one year) as compared to the Census 2011 data. This suggests that the improvement in one year (2011-12) as reported from various sources may be spurious and requires serious and responsible attention for efficient research and future planning.
 
The Way Forward
 
Governments have invested heavily over the years in providing total sanitation for all, through several programmes like the CRSP, TSC, PURA, NGP, NBA and others. Though there has been an improvement in the proportion of rural households having latrine facility within the premise of the house as suggested by the Census and NSS data, yet the existing levels of deprivation is very high and alarming. 
 
A prominent concern is the increase in the absolute number of such deprived households as suggested by the Census data. It is a matter of great disappointment that the above objective has not been achieved till date, which further becomes worrisome as it remains a distant reality. 
 
While open defecation is a harbinger of innumerable deadly diseases, lack of latrines in the houses have given way to crimes against women and children. 
 
Thus, providing rural sanitation becomes imperative so as to enhance the quality of life of the people, and ensure sustainable development based on equity and justice. 
 
A reinvigorated thrust for providing adequate sanitation facilities in rural India is the need of the hour which must be accompanied by constant scrutiny and monitoring, so as to arrive at apt decisions and policies for further action. This would further consolidate India’s determination to achieve the Millennium Development Goals effectively and efficiently.
 
Arjun Kumar is currently a Research Affiliate and Visiting Faculty with Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi. 
 
His areas of interest are Housing, Basic Amenities and Applied Economic Development, topics on which he has written many articles for reputed journals.
 
Arjun Kumar
Arjun Kumar
He has recently submitted his PhD thesis at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was also a Doctoral Fellow (Economics) at Indian Council of Social Science Research, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India. He is also the Founder and President of Manavdhara – a youth social organisation that works for the holistic upliftment of humanity.
 
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. NetIndian is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NetIndian and NetIndian does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
 
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The Threat of ISIS Demands a Global Coalition: Kerry

John Kerry
John Kerry
In a polarized region and a complicated world, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria presents a unifying threat to a broad array of countries, including the United States. What’s needed to confront its nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force.
 
In addition to its beheadings, crucifixions and other acts of sheer evil, which have killed thousands of innocents in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, including Sunni Muslims whose faith it purports to represent, ISIS (which the United States government calls ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) poses a threat well beyond the region.
 
ISIS has its origins in what was once known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has over a decade of experience in extremist violence. The group has amassed a hardened fighting force of committed jihadists with global ambitions, exploiting the conflict in Syria and sectarian tensions in Iraq. Its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States, and in May an ISIS-associated terrorist shot and killed three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. (A fourth victim died 13 days later.) ISIS’ cadre of foreign fighters are a rising threat not just in the region, but anywhere they could manage to travel undetected — including to America.
 
There is evidence that these extremists, if left unchecked, will not be satisfied at stopping with Syria and Iraq. They are larger and better funded in this new incarnation, using pirated oil, kidnapping and extortion to finance operations in Syria and Iraq. They are equipped with sophisticated heavy weapons looted from the battlefield. They have already demonstrated the ability to seize and hold more territory than any other terrorist organization, in a strategic region that borders Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and is perilously close to Israel.
 
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ISIS fighters have exhibited repulsive savagery and cruelty. Even as they butcher Shiite Muslims and Christians in their effort to touch off a broader ethnic and sectarian conflict, they pursue a calculated strategy of killing fellow Sunni Muslims to gain and hold territory. The beheading of an American journalist, James Foley, has shocked the conscience of the world.
 
With a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries. The world can confront this scourge, and ultimately defeat it. ISIS is odious, but not omnipotent. We have proof already in northern Iraq, where United States airstrikes have shifted the momentum of the fight, providing space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to go on the offensive. With our support, Iraq’s leaders have come together to form a new, inclusive government that is essential to isolating ISIS and securing the support of all of Iraq’s communities.
 
Airstrikes alone won’t defeat this enemy. A much fuller response is demanded from the world. We need to support Iraqi forces and the moderate Syrian opposition, who are facing ISIS on the front lines. We need to disrupt and degrade ISIS’ capabilities and counter its extremist message in the media. And we need to strengthen our own defenses and cooperation in protecting our people.
 
Next week, on the sidelines of the NATO summit meeting in Wales, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and I will meet with our counterparts from our European allies. The goal is to enlist the broadest possible assistance. Following the meeting, Mr. Hagel and I plan to travel to the Middle East to develop more support for the coalition among the countries that are most directly threatened.
 
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The United States will hold the presidency of the United Nations Security Council in September, and we will use that opportunity to continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including those who have joined ISIS. During the General Assembly session, President Obama will lead a summit meeting of the Security Council to put forward a plan to deal with this collective threat.
 
In this battle, there is a role for almost every country. Some will provide military assistance, direct and indirect. Some will provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance for the millions who have been displaced and victimized across the region. Others will help restore not just shattered economies but broken trust among neighbors. This effort is underway in Iraq, where other countries have joined us in providing humanitarian aid, military assistance and support for an inclusive government.
 
Already our efforts have brought dozens of nations to this cause. Certainly there are different interests at play. But no decent country can support the horrors perpetrated by ISIS, and no civilized country should shirk its responsibility to help stamp out this disease.
 
ISIS’ abhorrent tactics are uniting and rallying neighbors with traditionally conflicting interests to support Iraq’s new government. And over time, this coalition can begin to address the underlying factors that fuel ISIS and other terrorist organizations with like-minded agendas.
 
Coalition building is hard work, but it is the best way to tackle a common enemy. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III did not act alone or in haste. They methodically assembled a coalition of countries whose concerted action brought a quick victory.
 
Extremists are defeated only when responsible nations and their peoples unite to oppose them.
 
John Kerry is the Secretary of State of the United States.
 
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. NetIndian is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NetIndian and NetIndian does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
 
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Managing expectations will be Modi's biggest challenge

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections have raised expectations like never before in India, especially among its youth, and managing these would be Narendra Modi's biggest challenge after he assumes office as India's next Prime Minister. Meeting these quickly in a country as complex as India, with a billion-plus population, is difficult at the best of times, and time is a luxury he will not have.
 
The massive mandate that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has received shows that there is a huge yearning for change in the country, especially among the youth, and they are clearly impatient and unwilling to wait much longer for their turn.
 
It is also clear that there was large-scale disenchantment, if not anger, against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government lost its way somewhere along the way in its second term and could not build on the mandate it had won in 2009.
 
The economic downturn, the alleged corruption scams, the perceived drift -- all these took their toll. The opposition took advantage, moved in for the kill, and the rest is now history.
 
While the Congress will now try to pick up the pieces and rebuild itself, the Modi government will have to hit the ground running because many of the issues begging its attention simply brook no delay.
 
First and foremost, the new government will have to set up a well-knit team that pulls together, both in the Council of Ministers and from amongst the bureaucrats.
 
The formation of the Council of Ministers will test Modi early on, given the fact that a good number from amongst the BJP's own 282 MPs will be apsirants.  Finding suitable positions for top BJP leaders, who have been senior to him in the party hierarchy and will expect some deference to be shown to them, will be a difficult task.
 
The consultations have begun and we will soon know the names of those who will form Team Modi, and at least some of those who do not find a place could go on a sulk and will need to be brought around.
 
Modi will also have to accommodate the BJP's pre-poll allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), though their bargaining power has reduced drastically in view of the BJP's stellar performance. But some of them, like the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena, have been long-time partners and others like the Telugu Desam Party helped to shore up the party's confidence at a crucial juncture, and their interests will have to be protected.
 
Apart from the huge pool of 282 Lok Sabha members, Modi will also have to look at ways of giving representation to states which have not returned any BJP candidates, such as Kerala, and noises in this regard are already being made.
 
On other appointments, Modi will have to search hard for the right people to fill key slots like National Security Adviser, Cabinet Secretary, Principal Secretary to the PM, and so on.
 
Once all this is in place, he will have to straightaway start attending to the economy and look at ways of kick-starting the economy, reining in inflation, reviving industrial growth, boosting infrastructure and creating the promised new jobs. The Budget for 2014-15 that the new government will present in July will be its first major chance to unveil steps to repair the economy and revive investor confidence.
 
In other areas, he has to start working on improving education and health, and increasing security for women, and all the other measures that he has promised.
 
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On the political front, the new government has to bring about greater cohesion among the different religious, linguistic, social, geographical and other identities, including sexual, that make up the Indian nation. Then there are the problems in Jammu & Kashmir, the North-East, and in the Naxalite-affected areas.  
 
On the foreign policy front, the new government will have to work on ties with Pakistan, against the backdrop of terrorism emanating from its territory, and other neighbours, each of whom present their own challenges.
 
It will also have to move fast on reviving and adding content to the relationship with the United States and strengthening ties with China, Russia, ASEAN, Europe, the Gulf States, and so on.
 
Many people see the people's verdict as a tectonic shift towards the right, and some fear that the country is heading towards majoritarianism. Utterances by varous BJP leaders during the campaign have not helped and the fact that there are very few members from the minorities in the 16th Lok Sabha will add to the sense of discomfiture that such groups will feel. Modi will have to walk the extra mile to make them feel wanted.
 
The new government will also have to act quickly to meet the growing aspirations of an increasingly impatient and aspirational class, especially those in the underdeveloped rural areas and in the sprawling urban slums. Modi raised their expectations during the campaign, promising to transform their lives, and he will have to begin delivering.
 
There is an air of optimism today in many sections, who have bought into Modi's dreams, and the stock markets have rallied on expectations that he will provide a "strong and stable" government, ensure "good and corruption-free governance" and show that he can take the tough decisions needed on the economy and on the political front.
 
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Modi will also have to deal with the doubts raised about his alleged failure to stem the 2002 post-Godhra violence in Gujarat that took place under his watch there. Equally, he will have to be mindful of the fact that his actions on the economic front will be under close scrutiny against the background of the  allegations of crony capitalism levelled against him during his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat.
 
Alongside all these, Modi will also have to manage several contradictions and this-or-that dilemmas: rural vs urban, labour vs industry, subsidies vs investment, industry vs environment, and so on. 
 
There are also the contentious issues like the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, a Uniform Civil Code and so on. 
Hardliners within the BJP and its sister-organisations will, sooner or later, raise these issues and Modi will have to contend with pressures on this front.
 
As Modi gets down to these and other tasks and tries to reconcile multiple pulls and pressures, from within his party, from allies and from hundreds of interest groups, he will soon realise that he has an unenviable job. And he might just begin to appreciate his predecessor Manmohan Singh's style of functioning, especially his studied silences, a little better.
 
Sonny Abraham
Sonny Abraham
Sonny Abraham is the founder and Chief Editor of NetIndian. He worked for nearly three decades in United News of India (UNI) and served as its Editor from 2003 to 2009. Before that, he served as UNI's correspondent in Baroda, Gujarat; Special Correspondent in Delhi; and as Foreign Correspondent in the Gulf & Middle East.
 
 
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What’s Ahead for M2M in 2014?

It is an exciting time for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology as the market has grown significantly in the last 12 months. 
 
We are seeing startups forming at a very rapid pace and a large number of major tech companies announcing big investments in the M2M space. My work with global leaders in the M2M space has given me a unique vantage point from which to reflect.  
 
As I look back on 2013 and consider our initiatives for next year, I want to offer up some of my M2M market predictions for 2014. I provide this forecast not only to share knowledge with customers and market participants, but also to establish an open dialogue on the evolution of such a promising technology area.
 
1. Customers with existing M2M applications will start to consume more data.  
Trends point to more application usage and more applications per deployment.  An example is a heavy equipment operator was only looking at location of asset previously. Now that same organization is starting to log alarm and usage data on the equipment through the same or new application add-ons.
 
2. M2M solution stack will start to mature, both horizontally and vertically. 
There are many vertically integrated platform models currently in use for M2M applications.  We will start to see clear layers in the coming year, as well as players focused in each layer. For example, experts in data, device, and equipment security layers in M2M platforms — as well as providers of device authentication technology — are already starting to lay claims to their expertise in their respective areas.  Also, specialized and vertically oriented solutions will start to emerge, for example in worker safety and water management.
 
3. More high-speed devices will enter the scene.
Large number of 4G and LTE devices will start to show up for use in M2M applications. As customers increase their use of data and more media-rich applications for M2M (see #1 above), demand for these higher speed devices will increase.
 
4. Security will become the #1 need of an M2M application.
To date, companies deploying M2M solutions have looked to ROI as the #1 need. As the need/ROI of these solutions becomes well known, focus is shifting to the security of these solutions.
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5. Deep analytics will become the #1 want. 
Just like Security is the #1 need, deeper Analytics is the #1 want.  Each M2M solution starts its journey with the “lowest hanging fruit” use case.  However, customers soon realize all the data that they can collect, but are not sure of the learnings that this data can provide. Analytics that can tell them things they did not even know they were looking for will become a top want for customers.
 
6. Distributed analytics will emerge.
To date, most M2M applications are designed to collect data and then analyze or react to it.  As the solutions mature, customers will start to learn to make decisions at different points of the solution.  Again think of a heavy equipment machine that can detect local alarms — and can make decisions to directly dispatch for repair or parts, ignore the alarm if it is transient, or choose to update a log locally. The decision on how to react to the data is made at multiple places.
 
7. Cloud is the network, and network is the cloud.
 
Solution developers think of cloud and network as two separate entities, and they are.  But, more and more the communication and storage mechanisms will be controlled in the same place or tightly integrated.  This will be a tremendous relief for application developers and solution administrators.
 
8. Elephants will start to dance in Enterprise M2M.
We have already heard from some major companies like GE and GM making strong commitments to enabling connectivity and providing M2M solutions for machines and assets they manufacture.  This is starting to send a ripple effect in the larger and midsize manufacturers, and the adoption will continue.
 
9. Global growth will begin to catch up to growth in developed countries.
Depending on which analyst you follow, the U.S., Japan and a couple of EU countries have been leading the wave of M2M solutions, both in the enterprise and consumer space.  We will see strong growth in the number of countries deploying M2M solutions, especially in Asia and Latin America, both for local deployments and in global supply chain tracking solutions.
 
10. Mainstream developers will start to pay attention.
M2M solutions have been a domain of niche developers.  As the solution stack is maturing and mainstream development environments and models are starting to include M2M and Internet of Things capabilities, we will see more and more developers start to experiment with M2M applications.
 
Mobeen Khan
Mobeen Khan
Mobeen Khan is Executive Director, Mobility Marketing, AT&T Business. He joined AT&T with more than 15 years of progressive experience in telecommunications and technology marketing, business development, operations and strategy.  
 
In his role, Khan is developing and executing on marketing strategy to support the Advanced Mobility Solutions group.  
 
Previously, Khan worked as a strategy consultant focusing on telecommunication and e-commerce industries and at CRM and mobile start-up software companies leading marketing and business development.  
 
Khan began his career with RAM Mobile Data, which later became part of Cingular Wireless (now AT&T), holding several positions in strategy, technology and product management groups. 
 
He holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.  He also earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering and M.S. in Communications Engineering from Rutgers University. 
 
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Incredibly Gay India

We are an incredible country. India. One man can technically and legally send 80 million people to prison for being criminals. 
 
Here is a nation with the highest rate of slavery, child labour, poverty, despair and acts of hostility towards women. Even little girls are not spared. We are corrupt, venal and a huge swathe of our legislature has criminal records. 
 
We cheat, we lie, we have made graft an art and a science. 
 
And we actually have the energy and the time and the desire to interfere between the relationship of two people, however intimate, in the privacy of their own homes. And make it an issue. It is not even worth discussing. Privacy is the cornerstone of of the Constitution. 
 
Why not just call in the Gestapo and get it over with, bring in the brownshirts and the moral cops and let’s save our libido for cowardly attacks on the weak, let’s prey on the defenseless and congratulate ourselves that at least we are being natural and have delivered ourselves from the real evil which is consensual sex between two adults that hurts nobody.
 
The lord save us from the pious. And those that pour sermons with soda-water and pretend to be the keepers of the gate. 
 
We don’t need keepers of the gate…we need to stop the turning of a democracy into a police state. 
 
Once our civil liberties are gone we can then yearn for what was rather than what is…zombies sans thought. Oh we cannot even yearn, we won’t have the freedom for that emotion.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.

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Statues and Sheer Stupidity

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi speaking after laying the foundation stone of the Statue of Unity at Kevadia in Gujarat. Former Deputy Prime Minister and senior BJP leader L K Advani is also seen.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi speaking after laying the foundation stone of the Statue of Unity at Kevadia in Gujarat. Former Deputy Prime Minister and senior BJP leader L K Advani is also seen.
I have nothing against statues. They look nice and pigeons love them. But the one they are planning for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and making it the largest in the world baffles me. 
 
What is this thing Indian politicians have about statues, they are constantly setting up folks on pedestals. This erudite freedom fighter known as the Bismarck of India, a towering man who fought for independence with unwavering zeal doesn’t need a statue…especially from those whose stature is that of pygmies and who have no idea about what happened 60 years ago and the trials and sacrifices made. 
 
Not that I do but I am not making the statue. They are, and virtue is being found in this foolish exercise and the hypocrisy is breathtaking. 
 
Even the media is drawing little graphics of how India is going to have the biggest statue in the world. Wow, awesome. We also have the highest level of slavery, rape and other such goodies. But we are going to have a statue and isn’t that just splendid. 
 
 Sardar Patel needs to be emulated for what he achieved in his life, and if he is watching from somewhere he must be truly furious. Spartan, austere, correct and meticulous as an academic he created the Indian civil services and had a modern and forward thinking approach to matters. Not all this flim flam. 
 
He would have called this the height of wastefulness. And that would have been just right. You want to remind 6 billion people of whom 99% have no clue who he is then do it the right way. Teach them of his life like the South Africans do Mandela. We just make statues.
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You want to commemorate a legend make a hospital in his name, open an orphanage, start a series of schools…do something worthwhile. 
 
Statues don’t help anyone. Complete and utter nonsense. With no redeeming feature whatsoever. How many of you reading this can even speak of the Sardar for 30 seconds with any authority. Not even a minute, just half of it.
 
And yet, in the current Modi wave (same state, mate,what a coincidence?) it has been decided that they will build a statue. This is fawning flattery taken to a whole new level. Is this the road map for the future? 
 
Sardar Vallabhai Patel was India’s first deputy Prime Minister. He was also the Home Minister. Bet you did not know that. He was from Gujarat and he was succeeded by another Gujarati, Morarji Desai who later became PM. Bet you did not know that.
 
They called him the Iron Man of the nation. No, that’s not a video game. So don’t go looking for it. There is a whole school that believed he should have been Prime Minister, not Nehru. Yes, it is true. 
 
And what exactly is this huge statue going to do for the people? The pigeons will love it but that is about all. Stop it. Now. And show some courtesy to one of India’s historical architects. 
 
 
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.

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India – the winner in the long run

 
A few weeks ago, during a visit to the land of my birth, I ran into Mathilda on the famed beach at Kovalam in Kerala just where the Arabian Sea rolls into the Indian Ocean. She was stooped over the sands with a broom and a nylon sack in tow. Even at that early hour, the sun was bearing down and she had a sweaty towel wrapped around her head to beat the heat.
 
Watching her closely, it occurred to me that, given the stretch of the beach and the amount of debris left by the waters, local fishermen and visiting tourists, her backbreaking labour and broomstick strokes seemed entirely in vain. I discovered that she was one of 20 similar sweepers employed by the local municipality to keep the beaches in the area clean. She was paid Rs. 50 a day for a job from which there was no respite – she was expected to work seven days a week – on a beach where there were no garbage bins, at least none in plain sight. 
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On our arrival at the beach resort the previous day, I’d been disappointed to discover that there were no private coves or beaches in the area, although every hotel was a seafront property. Then came the chat with Mathilda and I wondered what the lack of exclusive beach access and the presence of manual sweepers conveyed about India’s fabled economic story and its sustained global “Incredible India” advertising campaign. 
 
Further along the beach, I witnessed groups of fishermen heaving in their nets, leaving dead fish, mounds of still-throbbing jelly fish and vast amounts of litter for somebody else to clean up after them. This at one of India’s most advertised beaches – it didn’t make sense. 
 
Foreign tourists shared the beach with the locals, who far outnumbered the overseas visitors. The beach was for everybody to share – no exclusive sun-n-sand for the well-heeled and those paying in much-needed foreign currency. The government paid workers to keep the beach clean – not the luxury hotels in the vicinity or even the fisherfolk who have lived off the sea for generations. 
 
The melding of locals, foreign tourists and fisher folk on the beachfront reminded me of something I had read in Indian newspapers over the weeks I had been in the country. There was a prolonged roiling debate about whether Wal-Mart should be allowed in and on what terms. Meanwhile, I had seen gleaming new malls in Delhi and Mumbai and even second-tier cities like Kochi, with fashion labels that were high-end even by western standards. 
 
Small shopkeepers also remained in business, though, building loyalty, for example, by offering value-added services like free home delivery for my in-laws in Mumbai. What was going on, I asked myself. 
 
A depressing time
 
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August-September was a depressing period in India: On Aug. 28, the Indian rupee touched a historic low against the U.S. dollar, plumbing Rs. 68.85. While I cashed in, Indians were cursing their politicians for their inability to hold down onion prices – a sure barometer of defeat on the hustings, racking up a high current account deficit, and most devastatingly, being helpless in the face of a “culture of rape” that seemed to sweep across the land. 
 
The government bought billboards heralding a Food Security Bill that guaranteed all citizens a minimum level of nutrition, but that seemed to open another fault line between those who found the legislation vacuous and those who saw it as vital lifeline for the under-privileged in India’s hinterland. 
 
A respected commentator, Vinod Mehta, thundered in The Times of India on Sept. 1: “Despite pretensions of being an economic superpower, we live in a shamefully unfair society.”
 
To compound matters, the Congress that is India’s natural ruling party, appeared headed for defeat in federal elections scheduled next year, led by a “mute PM” who is seen as no match for a reinvigorated Bharatiya Janata Party under a controversial state chief minister, Narendra Modi, widely blamed for his alleged failure to stem the Gujarat violence of 2002, in which more than a thousand people, mainly Muslims, lost their lives.
 
On the all-important economic front, the Indian tiger that was racing ahead at an annual growth rate of nine per cent two years ago had slowed to a modest five per cent. Things were looking bleak indeed. 
 
A healthy tension
 
For the casual visitor, perhaps, the impression was inescapable: This is an unwieldy nation of 1.2 billion people coming apart at the seams, riven by endless debate and ineluctable differences. But, that would be too facile. 
 
What I sensed instead was a healthy tension between what outsiders prescribe as the growth trajectory that India should pursue and the hobbling knee-jerk course that Indians as a whole seem to be reconciled to. 
 
What I witnessed on the beach in Kovalam was a metaphor for co-existence of both “foreign” and “indigenous” (swadeshi) and the balancing of various interests. 
 
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India’s lumbering democracy and coalition politics, that have been a feature of the polity ever since the Congress lost its stranglehold on federal politics and regional parties assumed power in several states, have meant flashing amber lights at every turn.
 
In the 10 years since my last visit to India, for instance, I have seen a dramatic jump in domestic tourism and an unimaginable growth in aviation within the country’s borders – powered by its own travellers. I saw the same trend repeated at the country’s iconic tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal in Agra: domestic tourists outnumbered foreigners 100-fold.
 
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation, is said to have observed that the soul of India will always reside in its villages – not the skyscrapers and apartments that dot its metropolitan cities. As former President Luiz Inácio Lula of Brazil learned not too long ago, belonging to the prestigious BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) club of developing champions holds little meaning unless growth comes to the favelas in and around Rio de Janeiro. 
 
Similarly, heeding the prescriptive advice of foreign economic experts and pandering to international tourists or multinationals is not as important as having your ear close to the ground in the jhuggies (slums) and jhopadpattis (hutments) of India. 
 
That is where Mathilda and most of India lives and breathes. They will be the ones who will determine if India emerges the winner in the long run. 
 
Pamela George
Pamela George
Pamela George is an Ottawa-based correspondent for New Canadian Media (newcanadianmedia.ca) and has a passion for health communications, especially as it relates to Canadian immigrants. She can be reached at pam.george@uottawa.ca
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The Colour of Abs Rotten

MARIA is a pretty girl,
What you call a bit of awright,
In the shadows, you ken see
She's almost pass for wite (sic)
 
It was in Cape Town I read this observation, scrawled on a wall near the Sunday jetty entrance. My friend and poet, Ernst, what was then known as a Cape Coloured, pointed it out to me. It doesn t change, does it, he said, not even in the new South Africa.
 
We have the same problem in India, I said, we hurt ourselves with equal dexterity.
 
He would not believe it, said I was making it up, just to keep the conversation going.
 
I said it was a bit much thinking he had the lien on prejudice, it's a six-way street, even whites can be the target, it works every which way. I said, in India we start young, we tell kids not to go in the sun, especially if they are girls, we tell them no one will marry you if you are dark.
 
I paint him this verbal picture of millions of little girls running scared, rubbing at their tender skins like an army of Lady Macbeths washing, washing, washing to rid themselves of the tan, otherwise it is straight to a life on the marital shelf.
 
He laughs because he thinks I am being funny. I tell him it is more tragic than he thinks because when it isn’t legalised, the texture of prejudice can be far more insidious. 
 
Siblings are compared, the fairer brother or sister is extended privilege, often unspoken but always there, the other one, she's a nice girl. Just a bit on the dark side.
 
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I said a frightful thing happened to a friend of mine who told his parents he had married an American. So at Mumbai airport the family, having resigned themselves to sonny boy having plighted the troth with a ‘furiner’rather than one of their own creed, sought sanctuary in the fact that there was some tangible social significance to being a westerner. 
 
They all dressed up and fetched up at flight time and suddenly this gorgeous, bronzed black American girl flung herself full length on the arrivals floor, having been informed by her husband that Indian brides did this sort of thing when meeting their in-laws.
 
The in-laws were horrified.
 
The in-laws were deep into catatonic shock. How could he do this to them? Mumsie got into bed with palpitations, dad said woe is me and the family slithered with glee. 
 
I tell him the tragedy is the couple stayed five days of their one-month homecoming.
 
I change tack and tell him how cruel it is, how lovely human beings, especially girls, are victimised in little ways and not so little ways and how fairer progeny somehow get a better break on things. Even jobs. Fairer people just seem to be more visually acceptable.
 
Aunts never tell them don't wear green you are too dark.
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Relatives don't tease them and leave them introverted and bewildered and hurting. 
 
Friends don't nickname them with spearing labels. Their self-esteem does not lie there mangled by insensitive and endless commentary.
 
I tell him we spend a lot of time slagging off racism elsewhere.
 
Then we go back home, picking up another tube of complexion lightening soap. 
 
Want to be fair and lovely. Yes.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.

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Oh, to be Indian in England

A group of Indian visitors doing the touristy thing at Trafalgar Square in London.
A group of Indian visitors doing the touristy thing at Trafalgar Square in London.
I love going to the UK.
 
Feel so much at home, unlike my English expat friends who say they feel like strangers when they visit. No such problems for the likes of us. From the moment I land it is a swizz.
 
This is how it will go on these foreign stayovers. Nabu and Anu will be at the airport to meet me and, to the nostalgic sounds of A R Rahman on the car stereo, we’ll traipse off to Edgware for a biryani lunch with Sohail and then sit down to watch the latest Hindi movie DVD .
 
That evening, Rafiq, an old friend, will be taking us to Bombay Brasserie or, if we prefer, Veeraswamys, and we are scheduled to go to a concert of Harbhajan Singh Maan later on after which it is din din at the Chatterjeas in Stratham.
 
Next morning will be duty-by-the-relatives time and we’ll all toodle off to Birmingham to meet sundry members of the clan so I can tell them how everyone is back home and we are sure to have one of rich-burp-shouldn’t-have such spreads all soaked in oil and dripping deliciously bad cholesterol.
 
It’ll be sticky nostalgia time and Uncle Nath will tell us all about his days way back when he was in the Punjab. Aunty Nath will produce lovely carrot halwa and that evening we’ll be joined by the Mehras, the Nairs, the Rais, the Bajpais and the Sonu Singhs, not to mention Bunny and Twinkle who now have a silk boutique in Mayfair and are doing enormously well. And everyone will compete on who is missing the home country more.
 
We’ll round off another evening of deep and abiding togetherness at the nearest disco and dance to the beat of the Bhangra rap, the mix provided by Dahler Mehndi’s latest clone. 
 
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On the third day before I leave we'll return to London and call on the current High Commissioner who will invite us over for a quick lunch which means thirty three traditional Indian dishes so that we are made to feel all at home. 
 
We'll then take a walk down Kensington way and pick up a paper from Mr Patel's newspaper kiosk, say hello to the couple from Gujarat who run the corner tea shoppe, get introduced to their son Ravi who is soon joining LSE and finally take a bus back to Slough and chat with Rana Ray, the conductor on the delights of Calcutta. 
 
At Slough, we'll visit Gandharv's electronic outlet in Queensmere and hand over a jar of lemon pickle sent to him from his sister in Abu Dhabi. We'll talk of this and that and watch Goodness Gracious Me reruns. 
 
That evening Nabu will call his friends over for a 'goodbye' bash and we'll natter on about the good old days in Bombay and share the latest risque Hindi jokes and discuss the way Narendra Modi has taken the country by storm and it is time Air India bought new planes and it will be a great evening.
 
Next day I shall take British Airways out of Heathrow and on route to the airport strike up an interesting conversation with Arjun the minicab driver about British customs like seeing a man about a dog and dropping pennies around corners and this quaint set up they have called welfare. 
 
After which time for Club World in BA and the air hostess asking me if I want chicken curry and rice with pappadums for my lunch and me saying, no, let's have a change, how about some bangers and mash…with mushy peas, please.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.

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A Week Soaked in Blood and Gore

A scene at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya where gunmen killed at least 68 people after storming into the premises on September 21, 2013.
A scene at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya where gunmen killed at least 68 people after storming into the premises on September 21, 2013.
This week the sun went down and the night came riding in. The world went  crazy. 
 
Mad men attacked a US naval base in the capital. Terrorists from Somalia mowed down nearly 70 people in a Nairobi Mall even as crack troops prepared to launch an attack, thankfully keeping the damn TV cameras away from the scene unlike in Mumbai where the utter stupidity of the authorities allowed a television invasion and real time information to the 26/11 killers inside the hotels. 
 
Every move of the rescue op was transmitted in colour because the system allowed for the trivialisation of bloodbaths into entertainment. 
 
The Kenyans and the world learnt the lesson of keeping cameras away and have said so…
 
God forbid, if India ever has a crisis again, it will keeping talking baboons, both political and media, off the lenses.
 
How much less mayhem there might have been if that horrible terrifying madness had not been a TV channel competition? 
 
Ironically, it never even became an issue and no investigation was ever carried out or warnings issued against aiding and abetting the enemy. 
 
India  did not even conduct an inquiry into that aspect and now we have the Kenyan president rightly using the absurdity as a caution to the world. No, we will not have you covering the response. 
 
There was not even a public interest litigation on why military commanders were sharing intel with hostage takers. If India faces the truth about Mumbai one day she will learn that these channels contributed directly to the deaths in the hotels.
 
Then, in Pakistan, violence take a new heave with 77 persons blown up by suicide bombers and a car blast while they were praying in a famous landmark church and it has never happened before. 
 
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Just because it is a regular feature and our synapses are short circuited does not mean the pain is any less for the 90 others killed at a funeral in Baghdad, victims of a series of blasts as they gathered to say goodbye to a tribal chief. 
 
And Syria is up for grabs as the world seeks the harbour of rhetoric.
 
As if all this manmade massacre was not enough, nature in her obvious disgust for the human race, decided to create two major storms in the US and the Philippines and render thousands homeless and huge tracts of land destroyed.
 
The tears we have cried could have filled an ocean, now we read these headlines with chilling and dry-eyed detachment, after all, shooting little kids in a mall is part of life, right? 
 
Destroying the living as they say farewell to the dead is part of life, right? 
 
Wiping out scores as they bow in prayer is a part of life, right?
 
This the legacy we are giving our children…right we are.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.

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Why this mollycoddling of creeps?

Policemen escorting one of the suspects arrested in the recent gang-rape case in Mumbai.
Policemen escorting one of the suspects arrested in the recent gang-rape case in Mumbai.
 
Okay, you are smarter than I am, so you tell me.
 
Why do the Indian police always hold hands with the suspects after arresting them? You often get this picture of five cops holding a palm each and a shoulder or an arm and an elbow and then this clumsy little entourage trots off past all the cameras and you wonder, why don’t they just cuff the guys and get on with it. It looks unprofessional and silly.
 
But that is nothing compared to the main mystery. You put out flyers with sketches of suspects like in the Mumbai rape case. Then when you catch them you cover their faces with a hood and give them the comfort of obscurity.
 
You don’t do that to all these other folks who drive BMWs into people or are high profile and caught with their paws in the jam jar, then you parade them right, left and centre.
 
But the moment it is the scum of the earth then we get all coy and cute and you have these guys hidden from view when actually there is no law that says it is mandated. 
 
Why this sudden need to keep their identities hidden when,if there is  the letter of the law it is not adhered to in all cases. We know of so many well known faces who are literally photographed from expression to expression. 
 
That time there is no concern about maintaining their privacy. So how come the privacy of these creeps becomes so vital and why should they not be shown in public and what’s with all this secrecy business? 
 
Our media is so trigger happy it condemns individuals for just being asked to come in for questioning (guilty by inference?) but it is quite happy showing shots of five guys with no faces so how do we, as in Joe Public, even know if you have the right guys and where they are and whether the whole thing is a charade just to appease the country and calm things down. 
 
Stop holding their hands, mister, and show the nation the ugly side of its face. 
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.

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No Puppy Love, Mr Modi or How Could You Be So Daft?

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Anyway you look at it, that was not a smart remark, Mr Modi, and your comparison sucked. 
 
They say smart people say and do the stupidest things. I don’t know you and have always held that I’d like to actually find out what you stand for and why people who love you do so unconditionally and are ready to defend you despite anything to the contrary.
 
But I have searched for quotes that could typify you and your values and I have come up empty-handed. Now, this. 
 
However hard your supporters might bat for you, on this one you are caught at silly mid-off and I mean off. 
 
Don’t you have a PR team, don’t you have advisors, don’t you have experts at your level who do damage containment? 
 
How in the hell can anyone do this puppy dog metaphor and expect it to sell? 
 
Even animal lovers like myself would not link a vicious blood-soaked riot with a car running over a puppy. You could easily have said something about distant relatives dying or people we know of passing away in tragic circumstances and how sad we feel, you did not have to go careening off at such a tangent. 
 
Even if you are rubbernecking a traffic accident you feel saddened. Right, so why did you canter off homo sapiens and go all canine on us? What, Sir, were you thinking when you came up with this brilliant stupidity?
 
And then all these spokespersons who surge forward to explain your "well-meaning comment" make matters worse by being clumsy and absurd. Which idiot in India or elsewhere will find your statement soaked in generosity of spirit and a great and sensitive heart? That is what is insulting.
 
I read it several times over and, while I would have ignored it for its sheer nonsensical content, what got up my nose was your side making it look like Shakespearean high thought or poetry. 
 
Tagore you are not, Mr Modi, so let’s not go there. I think you should just put a pinkie on your lips and let this one pass because it has the power to make a stink.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.

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If suicide is a crime, how can anyone else be found guilty?


 
Jiah suicide case: Sooraj Pancholi sent to police custody
 
With due respect for those who lost a loved one in Jiah Khan, the actress who tragically committed suicide, and with empathy for their agony and in no way trivialising the trauma, arresting the boyfriend is difficult to warrant. 
 
Our lives are littered with the shards of broken promises, broken hearts, even broken vows with newlyweds practically rushing from the dais to divorce in five easy steps.
 
If we were to hold all those who have bruised us and battered us and cheated us and hurt us accountable for the rain in our lives, there would be no free men or women on the streets. 
 
Love is not mutually exclusive. It may get more dramatic headlines but the rage its mockery inspires is no less than that brought about by deception, by financial skulduggery, by the crack of trust and faith in a deal, by a lack of honour in our work ethics and you cannot hold a love gone sour to another standard from other acts of deceit, acts that occur all the time to all of us. 
 
Most of us hurt most of the time and so many despicable things have been done to so many but they have gotten up and walked again, stumbled and risen. If that was not the case we would be lemmings off the cliff of life in our thousands. 
 
Also, despite salivating pronouncements of ugly and puerile excitement from TV anchorheads delighted with the fact that the cops are hounding boyfriend Sooraj, things cannot be placed outside their logical perspective when it comes to the law and words reworked out of context. 
 
We say, go shoot yourself, get lost, I’ll kill you, the last spoken in love, frustration,humour, any emotion and we do it a hundred times a day. Get out of my life. If you don’t call again it will be too soon. What part of it don’t you understand, we are done. 
 
Yes, we mislead, we play the game and we injure feelings but unless we hold the rope in literal fashion we cannot be culpable of abetting a killing. Human beings are not perfect people.it is in our nature to deceive. 
 
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I am not an expert on suicide or the state of mind that leads to it but I imagine that unrequited love is exacerbated by low self esteem, anger, financial difficulty, a sense of failure and several other factors.
 
I don’t know Sooraj Pancholi nor do I particularly want to. But even if he is a cad and a womaniser or whatever the current word is, it still does not call for his arrest in an act where he was not present.
 
You can hold him in contempt but you cannot really lock him up…but…and there is a but…
 
Can the law extend itself to visit deliberate and ongoing torture where the stronger individual cowers and intimidates and terrorises the weaker, bullies that person into a mode of submission and distress that becomes unbearable…gratuitous violence and signposting death as the only exit, now that opens a new can of worms.
 
Has to be proven, not by hunch or by doubt or by possibility…but by evidence.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.
 
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Hypocrites, Hype and Hoopla Besides a Good Deal of HaHaHa


 
So now everyone is coming out of the woodwork and slamming the Indian Premier League (IPL) for being a scam and a blot on cricket. 
 
A week ago, for an interminable two months, they were telling us how the IPL is the most exciting innovation ever and just look at the crowds. Every single commentator on TV was having orgasms about the game being at its best. 
 
I think along with greed the most abundant element on display is hypocrisy.
 
Maybe I am wrong but a lot of these resignations are less noble than designed to get off the firing line. Who knows who you have been seen talking to in the stands. Look at the mean way that picture of Mrs. Dhoni with Vindoo the Villain keeps popping up everywhere. So much for media ethics. Guilty by visual association. 
 
Which brings me to the main point. Technically, if you are a purist, the BCCI selected team is not the Indian team, it is and always has been the BCCI XI. 
 
The BCCI is a private body paying taxes. It is a corporation and it is private. Equally technically, you and I should, under the law, also be permitted to have our own cricket teams and they should have equal right to represent India as does the BCCI. Legally, ask any lawyer and he’ll tell you uhmmmmm, you have a point. 
 
Over the years the distinction has blurred and the cash-rich BCCI has been allowed to monopolise the right to create a team that represents the nation. No one ever asked why.Time the Indian team was selected by the Indian authorities and not a private company. 
 
Think about it. 
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Meanwhile, two funny points. One, it is comical the way the BCCI is trying to distance itself from the IPL after enjoying VIP treatment for six years…they had the best seats, all the power and now they are all behaving like it wasn’t their party, they were just passing by and forbid the thought they loved it. 
 
These same piety splashing folks wrecked the bi-partisan Sharjah experiment run by A.R. Bukhatir, the only one in the world that gave over $4 million to indigent subcontinental cricketers for their services to the game.
 
And won’t Lalit Modi be falling over himself with mirth wherever he is. He created the IPL, oh just give it back to him and let the showbiz continue. At least he wasn’t pious about it like this lot. How are they any better than him?
 
Now, let me ask you a question. Sreesanth, the little crybaby he is, is supposedly accused of promising to give 14 runs. Right? And we have all nodded wisely and are going scrub, scrub to eliminate the blot from the game.
 
Okay answer me this.How do you give away 14 runs unless the batsmen, the fielders and the umpires are party to the arrangement? You cannot do it alone, that is plain sense.
 
There is much more than you and I are being told. That’s why they are all getting out of the kitchen before the kitchen gets too hot.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.
 
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Cricket is a Cabaret, Old Chum, And We are the Suckers

S Sreesanth
S Sreesanth

Hahahahahahaha….no revelation. Cricketers cheat. Big deal, not as if we didn’t know that the circus has been in town for years. 

So why the howl of anguish and surprise that there is a new and sordid chapter being written in this saga?
 
Do you really watch the IPL for skill and truth and the holy grail? Please. Get a life. The IPL is a set of performing seals doing just that…performing…and it is great fun but you cannot become a purist about choreographed dazzle.
 
I can go to Paris and watch a cabaret, a mela in India and see stuntmen do their thing, visit Rio for the Carnival, attend the Mardi Gras, any of these entertaining fixtures and if I watch IPL with the same mindset then I won’t have my sensibilities bruised. just have cotton candy fun. 
 
My friend Bicky Carla is upset about being conned by cricketers. Bicky is one smart guy. But if you con yourself into believing a spectacle that is directed and produced entirely for gross profit is a 'give it all you have' contest like some gladiatorial fight to the finish, that is your fault. 
 
They never promise you the truth.The ads are designed to create a thrill. The promoters package the nonsense by date and city and the game meanders along happily seeking now highly suspicious cover under the guise of the historical ‘glorious uncertainty’ of cricket, ensuring that the suspense is nail biting.
 

 
IPL spot-fixing: Delhi Police to conduct more raids
Some of the twists and turns are just too twisty to accept as probable unless the puppet master pulls the strings. 
 
You could be watching a movie, the plot thickens like soup.
 
And then, there is the money. Loads of it. It has to corrupt, there is no choice, things have gone so out of hand that overnight millionaires and greedy endorsements make every one of these players arrogant and the lure of filthy lucre irresistible. 
 
Against this massive magnet we want people with limited IQ and only the ability to hit a ball to resist it? They are not Einstein, they are common guys with common backgrounds, mostly a bunch of kids being shown a Ferrari, what would you do? 
 
Come on where do you live? Of course, they will cheat. The current formats are hyped for cheating, the IPL is the cherry on the cake.
 
When ace bowlers can give 29 runs by bowling the worst overs of their lives at the most crucial times what price coincidence…no such thing. 
 
The IPL is only interested in one thing. Bums on seats. The cricketers are interested in only one thing. Money.
 
Same difference.
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.
 

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Cricket and Colombo, Confused and Confounded

IPL logo
 

I don’t get it. Maybe you are smarter, you do. But didn’t India send its army with its tanks into Sri Lanka to quell the Tamil rebels and get a bloody nose in the bargain?

At one stage,weren’t we on the side of the Colombo government?  And knocking Prabhakaran and his legions. 
 
Didn’t Rajiv Gandhi pay for it with his life after a Tamil suicide bomber blew herself up next to him? 
 
So, by that argument, seeing as how the Indian government fought the Tamils at a certain stage, shouldn’t all Indian IPL players be banned from playing in Chennai?
 
After all, we are banning all the Lankan cricket players including Lankan Tamilians who were probably schoolkids at the time of the civil war on the same pretext?
 
Right, sauce for the goose…how does putting these bought and paid for sportsmen under the cosh show solidarity with the Tamil issue, that also being something beyond my grasp.
 
By all means, hold your vote of support in the UN and do what you have to do by way of condemnation of human rights abuse on the political platform of your choice but leave the game out of it. Any game.
 
By no stretch of imagination is this sort of dog in the manger attitude a solution to anything. Not only are you ruining six weeks of good cricket but you are grandstanding through the prism of prejudice and allowing one woman to hold a whole nation at ransom for a transparent poltiical act of gamesmanship.  
 
And if this is the road India wants to take, let’s go the whole nine yards. Freeze out Pakistan because, hey, we actually have a rocky history. Remember Mumbai and the AK 47s? The Aussies can go 'cos they occasionally beat up Indians, the English still play dot bashing outside pubs and petrol stations, so let’s knock them off. 
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The Windies call us ‘coolies’ so that is insulting and reason enough to ban them, besides which half of them are Indians anyway so it is pretty much like India playing India. 
 
No one cares about the Kiwis anyway and no one likes Indians in South Africa, not the blacks not the whites, so scratch them off. The Bangladeshis have never forgiven us for the 1971 ‘good deed’ so let’s reject them,too.
 
If I sound facetious it is because you cannot get angry with rank stupidity. That is giving it too much importance. It is sad, just downright sad that such things happen and there is not enough backbone in the nation or in the BCCI to say, stop this nonsense. 
 
Frankly, move all the matches to another venue and see how quickly the deprived fans from Chennai say, hold it right there, we love you guys across the pond but hey, can we put all that brethren stuff on hold and sort of get the ten matches back after which, whatever…but not now.
 
Either that or every single player in every single IPL team should say, you take us all or you take none of us, call it off. Do they have the gravel in the gut or does greed win the day?
 
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today.
 
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of NetIndian.
 
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Keek: Unleashing the power of social video

Image courtesy: Keek.com
Image courtesy: Keek.com

What is it with social networking? A couple of new such sites are hatched every day. In an earlier column, I had written about this social networking application called Pheed, which apparently was making waves even before launch.

Now there’s another one called Keek. This one has positioned itself as a mobile-based social video network, and apparently, if reports by some online portals and even the company behind this new app are to be believed, Keek is going great guns.
 
Keek is a privately held social networking platform that allows users to create 36-second videos called Keeks, using either a webcam or the camera of your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry 10 device, and then share them with others around the world.
 
It seems to have hit the top of the charts in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, and its popularity seems to be growing in markets like the Middle East and Africa. The folks at Keek have claimed that 200,000 users are joining this network on a daily basis, while the platform is serving 83 million pages a day. 
 
The Keek app recently ranked first overall in five countries, top 10 overall in 15 countries and top 100 overall in more than 70 countries around the world. A significant number of the top users include Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Adam Lambert, Kylie Jenner, 2 Chainz, Khloe Kardashian and Victoria Justice.
 
In a recent press statement, Isaac Raichyk, Founder and CEO, said, "Keek is ranking number one for a reason. Users like that our app is extremely fast, fun and easy to use. We are obsessed with speed and our goal is to keep Keek fast, fun and free as we continue to grow."
 
If all this were true, then Keek may turn out to be a serious player on the social networking front. What is helping Keek is the fact that recent infrastructure growth and investments in cyber space has led to vast improvements on video upload speeds and playback. That’s why Keek users watch about 500 million videos a month. And as many as 4 million videos are being added to this every month. This new app, which is free to use, currently averages 200,000 videos shared to Twitter per day.
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Keek also has been steadily raising funds. Just a few days ago, it closed a $18 million round in new funding bringing the total investment to date to US $30 million. AGF Investments Inc., Pinetree Capital Ltd and Plazacorp Ventures led this current round with Cranson Capital also participating.
 
In the past few months there has been a spurt of apps such as Keek. Largely video-based.
There’s another similar app started by Twitter called Vine. When it was launched, Vine had become the talk of Internet town for it allowed users to shoot, upload and share videos of 6 seconds duration or less.
 
The other point not to be missed in all this is the fact that most of the newbie social networks are all smartphone based, unlike Facebook or others of its ilk that were born in the desktop computing era and by and large still exist there (though FB has realised the importance of mobile devices and has fast adapted).
 
Google comes to the aid of hacked websites
 
If you are the owner of a website or a webmaster, you must read this. Hacking is a real possibility in the world you live in. The injection of malicious code into a site is something that all of us wish never happens to us but when it does, leaves you numb, let alone the fact that you need to re-work on your website sometimes from scratch. It’s one of the most heinous online crimes.
 
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But now there’s hope. Google Inc. has decided to reach out to webmasters of such “hacked” sites. What is has done is to float a new web page for webmasters where all the tips and tricks to tackle hackers and hacking episodes are listed. There’s even an educational video on how to prevent your website from getting hacked, including precautions that need to be taken.
 
Essentially, the site tells webmasters how to recover hacked sites. Among the various steps listed, it tells you how a hacked site needs to be quarantined, set up an action team, initiate remedial measures, and then bring the site back online. 
 
Against each step, it has listed the level of technical expertise required – from beginner to expert.
 
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Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV. He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
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Two startups that complement your use of Twitter, Facebook

Image courtesy: Timerabbit
Image courtesy: Timerabbit

Two startups caught my eye this week, one of them from India, and both revolving around well-known social media sites. 

From experience I can tell you that India lags behind where the startups eco-system is concerned compared to the rest of the world. So I make it a point to talk of an India-located startup as and when a new one pops up.
 
This one’s called Tweriod and it’s just come online. Tweriod (pronounced as Twe – roid…..a service that improves the performance and effectiveness of your twitter posts) is a social networking tool that is a Twitter enhancer. Enhancers are tools or services that help boost your online performance.
 
This one promises of pumping up your act where micro-blog Twitter is concerned. It takes charge of your Twitter account completely, scrutinises the past, looks at the tweets posted by your followers, and then comes up with a detailed plan that tells you when’s the right time for you to tweet for maximum leverage.
 
That’s the basic nut and bolts stuff. The way you use Tweriod is also very simple. But before I go any further, let me just tell you that this startup is in no way connected to Twitter.
 
There are two versions of Tweriod, of course, the free and the premium. You simply go on the Tweriod website and sign in with your Twitter account, and then give Tweriod permission to analyse your account. The tool then tracks down all the followers from your Twitter account. Depending on which version you have subscribed to, it will go down to 1000 followers (free) and 5000 followers (paid), track their last 200 tweets, your very own past 200 tweets, as well as gather information on all the people that you are following on Twitter.
 
Image courtesy: Tweriod
Image courtesy: Tweriod
Based on all this information, it then analyses the best time slots for you to tweet. The data gathered from your account is put up in analytical charts indicating the best times when your followers are most active. This means whatever you tweet in these hours is bound to get you maximum response from your Twitter fans.
 
The information is very systematic and it even has facts such as those followers who are active on which weekdays and the ones who are more responsive on the weekends.
 
The report that Tweriod draw up for you is sent to you either as a direct message in your Twitter account or to your email, complete with graph and all. The duration of receiving the reports ideally depends on the number of followers you have on Twitter.
 
Now, you will ask me, how does all this help? Well, because of all the content explosion around us, it is highly probable that whatever you post or tweet sinks without a trace, or without provoking a murmur. For the average Joe, a tool like Tweriod helps in getting whatever it is he or she has to say, to the largest number of followers or fans, and thus evoke a response or initiate a debate.
 
For the online marketer, this kind of tool can be of immense help because he can them time his marketing related tweets to the time when his target audience is on Twitter. Tweriod can be a highly effective communication tool, I feel. Plus, the basic version is free, so no sweat off your back to try it out, right?
 
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The other startup that I am going to talk of now, too, revolves around a well-known social media site –Facebook. Called TimeRabbit, the app has been developed by software company Breakpoint Software Development Inc.
 
TimeRabbit is not a tool. It is a standalone browser-based application, meaning it can be used in any browser from Firefox to Windows Internet Explorer. Now, the thing you can do with TimeRabbit is to monitor how much time you spend daily on your Facebook account. That’s right. Like I told someone in jest once, this is an ideal app for Facebook junkies, those of you out there who cannot do without their daily ‘fix’ of this social site.
 
As soon as you log into your FB account, TimeRabbit starts your Time counter. Since it is located in your browser, you do not have to do anything special. It tallies seconds, minutes & hours as long as you are on FB. It pauses the counter once it notices that you are idle. How? Whenever you stop moving your computer mouse or stop using your keyboard for over 30 seconds, the counter stops running. And after you have logged out from your account, the timer stops five seconds later. TimeRabbit gives you a breakdown of your statistics (weekly, monthly as well as lifetime) of your time spent on FB. Howzzat?
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV. He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
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Meet Pheed, one of the seven social networks to watch out for in 2013

Image courtesy: Pheed
Image courtesy: Pheed

Two very exciting things happened in the Internet world in the week gone by. While one has the potential of changing the way we live online, the other, a gadget, will surely change the way we control the electronic stuff around us. 

And when that happens to you, remember, you read it here first.
 
Some of you may have come across the world "Pheed". Nah, it’s not some new word added to the English language. Instead, Pheed is a new smartphone app that has become a rage. It is a social networking app….but before you groan and say, “Oh no, not another one”, listen up.
 
What if I were to tell you that the Pheed iOS app bumped off Facebook and micro-blog Twitter  from the No:1 spot in the Apple Store? What if I tell you that Pheed is being hailed as the new Twitter? What if I tell you that you, the user, can make money even while using this app? What if I were to tell you that well-known business magazine Fortune has listed it as 1 of the 7 social networks to watch out for in 2013. Got your attention now?
 
The Pheed website was launched in October 2012 in Los Angeles, USA by a group of Internet entrepreneurs, while the App was launched the following month. Between then and now, Pheed has been on and off the No:1 slot in the Apple Store, such is its popularity.
 
Pheed was set up by a group of entrepreneurs. One of its co-founders is O.D. Kobo, a well-known Hong Kong based Internet entrepreneur, who among other things, also runs the Koolanoo Group based in China.
 
Pheed’s tagline is -Express Yourself. Here’s what this app offers, which will make you realise why it is so popular:
 
• Users can share text, photos, videos, audio and voice messages
• They can even use the app to broadcast anything they want, ‘Live’
• Pheed even allows members to share updates to other networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler
• User can monetize their posts or their ‘Live’ events by installing a Paywall. Members can set a price for others to view their posts or the ‘Live’ event. Charges can be on a ‘per view’ or ‘per month’ basis, and can range between US$1.99 & US $ 34.99 USD for one post or one month.
• Users can add a watermark to their posts
• Users can also subscribe to the channels of other users
• Using the ‘Remix’ feature, they can share and view other user’s post and
threads.
 
So go check out Pheed, it probably will be worth your while.
 
And now on to something even more exciting.
 
Image courtesy: MYO
Image courtesy: MYO
There’s now an arm band that allows you to control any electronic gadget around you provided it has a Bluetooth facility in it. No need to touch any buttons or use a remote control. Just wear the arm band and start controlling all your devices like your computer or television set with hand gestures.
 
Called the MYO arm band, this one was developed by Thalmic Labs, and shall be available late 2013 but you can pre-book yours now for just US $149, and wherever you are located in the world, it shall be delivered to you.
 
Thalmic Labs was founded by three University of Waterloo Mechatronics Engineering graduates, Aaron Grant, Matthew Bailey, and Stephen Lake. They began collaborating on building the technology behind the MYO armband, and today run a full-fledged company.
 
MYO works by using a combination of electrical activity in your muscles and motion control. MYO has an ARM processor and is powered by rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. It connects to a device by Bluetooth. As of now, the MYO can be paired with Windows PC and the Mac, but soon, it will work on iOS, and Android, too. You can use this arm band to make presentations in office, play online games using nothing but your hand, or flip channels on TV without ever touching the remote.
 
MYO represents a fast-growing breed of gadgets called Wearable Devices. These are essentially computing devices that you can wear on your body. Smartwatches, for example, belong to this class of gadgets. Almost every hardware company worth its salt and then some, are today researching and building prototypes of wearable devices. Some like Thalmic Labs have even launched some of their products commercially, while others such as Google Glass, are still being honed.
 
So I end this column with a question – where is the world headed? To twist the old Chinese proverb/curse – Are we truly living in interesting times?
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV. He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
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