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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Venezuela ~ Oil and subsidies plunge Nation to deep crisis

At least 37 people were killed during clashes between armed inmates and security forces at a small prison in southern Venezuela.  Gov. Liborio Guarulla said the bloodshed came after fighting erupted between inmates and their jailers in the prison in Puerto Ayacucho, capital of sparsely populated Amazonas state. He said security forces raided the facility seeking to restore order in the prison, where the inmates had seized control several weeks ago.

A tapir  is a large, herbivorous mammal, similar in shape to a pig, with a short, prehensile nose trunk. Tapirs inhabit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America, and Southeastern Asia.

Venezuela officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a federal republic located on the northern coast of South America. It is bordered by Colombia, Brazil,  Guyana and the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.  The country has extremely high biodiversity with habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rain-forest in the South.  The territory now known as Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 amid resistance from indigenous peoples. In 1811, it became one of the first Spanish-American colonies to declare independence.

It is not in great shape and is in news for wrong reasons ! – the mounting crisis in Venezuela is entering a new chapter as President Nicolás Maduro's plans to rewrite the constitution face a pivotal vote.  Shortly, 545 seats in the new Constituent Assembly will be decided. The winners would essentially replace the current National Assembly, which is controlled by Maduro opponents -- who have called for a boycott of the vote. For months, opponents have taken to the streets to voice their frustration with Maduro's government. More than 100 people have died in connection with bloody protests. Chaos has consumed this country of astonishing natural beauty -- one that also possesses the largest proven oil reserves in the world. How did a potential paradise become so lost ?

While Venezuela has become a humanitarian and economic mess, it is worth looking at the one industry the Chavez and Maduro regimes relied on to bring wealth to their socialist country. With utter neglect of existing private industries like agriculture, and with reallocation of resources and wealth through centralized planning, the Venezuelan government has managed to bring hunger to its people. Venezuela became dependent on oil when it did not need to. Oil revenue fuelled Venezuela's economy under former President Hugo Chavez. When oil was $100 a barrel, billions flowed through the state-owned petroleum company and were siphoned off for social programs and food subsidies. But when oil prices fell dramatically, those massive subsidies became unsustainable. Simple Lessons for us too !! ~ don’t live on subsidies alone !!

Venezuela is split into Chavistas, the name given to the followers of the socialist policies of the late President Hugo Chavez, and those who cannot wait to see an end to the 18 years in power of his United Socialist Party (PSUV).  Chavistas praise the  men for using Venezuela's oil riches to markedly reduce inequality and for lifting many Venezuelans out of poverty. But the opposition says that since the PSUV came to power in 1999, the socialist party has eroded Venezuela's democratic institutions and mismanaged its economy. Chavistas in turn accuse the opposition of being elitist and of exploiting poor Venezuelans to increase their own riches. They also allege that opposition leaders are in the pay of the United States, a country with which Venezuela has had fraught relations in recent years.

~ and can a Nation plunge to this level ??  -  starving thieves steal animals from Venezuelan zoo to EAT as the country struggles with chronic food shortages reports MailOnline which adds that animals  of ten different species stolen from zoological park in Venezuela that  includes thefts of tapirs, buffalos and wild boar-like peccaries – the sad part is that authorities believe they are being taken from the park to be eaten !!

A wave of animal thefts in city of Maracaibo near the Colombian border - including tapirs and a buffalo - have been linked to the chronic food shortages in Venezuela. Most recently, two collared peccaries, similar in appearance to boars, were stolen over the weekend, local police say. The head of the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park in Maricabo said thefts in recent weeks had affected ten species. 'What we presume is that they (were taken) with the intention of eating them,' Luis Morales, an official for the Zulia division of the National Police, told reporters on Tuesday.

The chaotic collapse of the country's socialist economic model has created chronic food shortages that have fuelled malnutrition and left millions seeking food anywhere they can find it, including in trash cans and dumpsters. President Nicolas Maduro blames food shortages on opposition protests that have blocked streets and highways and a broader 'economic war' led by adversaries with the help of Washington. Leonardo Nunez, head of the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park, blamed 'drug dealers' for the thefts, saying they are selling them on the black market.

Shortages have also left zoos without sufficient food to feed animals, with some 50 animals starving to death last year at a Caracas zoos, according to a union leader. Sad state of affairs indeed ~ political parties would fight, their activists die for them – in the end the common man’s life becomes miserable – poor governance, no ethics – shambolic.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th Aug 2017.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

a pass at 14216 feet Nathu La ~ the great Indian Soldier protecting us ...

India is “behaving like a mature power” in the Doklam standoff in the Sikkim section and making China look like an adolescent throwing a tamper tantrum, a top American defence expert has said. India and China have been locked in a face-off in the Doklam area for the last 50 days after Indian troops stopped the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from building a road in the area. Praising India’s behaviour over the matter, James R. Holmes, professor of strategy at the prestigious US Naval War College, said, “New Delhi has done things right thus far, neither backing away from the dispute nor replying in kind to Beijing’s over-the-top rhetoric.

“It is behaving as the mature power and making China look like the adolescent throwing a temper tantrum,” Holmes said.

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today  said its people are like "unpaid soldiers" defending the motherland and hit out at the West Bengal government for their "suffering" due to the ongoing Gorkhaland agitation.  "Sikkim's location states how strategic it is to the unity and integrity of the nation ... Our people are like unpaid soldiers defending our motherland. Unbounded peace and harmony for people living in the border states are great assets for the nation," he said unfurling the National Flag here on the occasion of Independence Day.

Yes Sikkim is far different and more strategic ~ the only Organic State is a beautiful tourist location and one has to see the cleanliness to believe that a place could be so neat and tidy.  Besides beautiful scenic spots, it also has – ‘Nathula Pass’ once a major corridor of passage between India and Tibet before it was closed in 1962. Located around 56 kms from Gangtok at an altitude of 14450 ft, the road to Nathula passes through the Tsomgo lake. It is one of the highest motorable roads in the world and is richly surrounded by alpine flora. Tourists are allowed to go close to the international border from where you can see Chinese soldiers at a handshaking distance  on the other side of the barbed wire.

On a visit here, nearer the border, Airtel messaged ~ ‘Welcome to China, Opt for International roaming pack and enjoy unlimited free incoming calls …. ’  - brushing it aside,    Nathu La means the pass of the Listening Ear. It served as a link on the old silk route between Gangtok and Kalimpong in India and Yatung in Tibet. This is the route where China suddenly and arbitrarily stopped the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra over its differences with Bhutan over the boundary and miffed with India coming to Bhutan's aid. It is at such altitude in hostile weather, our Soldiers protect us from foreign invasion, and we have to eternally remain indebted to our Jawans for protecting our motherland and making us feel happy and secure and with the freedom, we continue to utter every nonsense. 

Sikkim, the Organic State, borders China in its north and east, Bhutan in its east, Nepal in its west and West Bengal in its south. Sikkim is also located close to the Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh. Sikkim is the least populous and second smallest among the Indian states. A part of the Eastern Himalaya, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in India and third highest on Earth. Sikkim's capital and largest city is Gangtok. The Kingdom of Sikkim was founded on the Silk Road by the Namgyal dynasty in the 17th century. It was ruled by a Buddhist priest-king known as the Chogyal. It became a princely state of British India in 1890. After 1947, Sikkim continued its protectorate status with the republic of India. It enjoyed the highest literacy rate and per capita income among Himalayan states. In 1975, the Indian military deposed the Sikkimese monarchy. A referendum in 1975 led to Sikkim joining India as its 22nd state.

Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital  is located in the eastern Himalayan range, at an elevation of 1,650 m (5,410 ft). The town's population of 100,000 belongs to different ethnicities such as Nepalis, Lepchas and Bhutia. Nestled within higher peaks of the Himalaya and enjoying a year-round mild temperate climate, Gangtok is at the centre of Sikkim's tourism industry.

The Nathula Pass on the Indo-China border in the state of Sikkim is a strategically important location for the Indian Army. Blocked by snow in the winters, it is one of the four Border Personnel Meeting points for the Indian and Chinese armies.  A visit to the pass at 4,310 m (14,216 ft) above mean sea level would make us gasp for breathe and realize the hardship of being there.  The 80 odd steps to the Indo-China checkpost at such altitude makes you feel the wind, velocity, chillness and difficulty that our soldiers brave daily. 

Besides, Nathu La, there  are Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh (or Lipulech) at the trisection point of Uttarakhand–India, Nepal and China. Sealed by India after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Nathu La was re-opened in 2006 following numerous bilateral trade agreements. The opening of the pass shortens the travel distance to important Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region and was expected to bolster the economy of the region by playing a key role in the growing Sino-Indian trade. However, trade is limited to specific types of goods and to specific days of the week and now it sealed again with China not allowing Manasarovar pilgrims too. To me and my family it was a great experience visiting Nathu La and shaking hands with our soldiers protecting us. 

In our Country, people become military experts in opining on strategies – read this interesting report in Economic Times on Doklam [forgetting your own perspectives]

For some strange reason people in India seem to think that India is somehow on the backfoot in its latest showdown with China over the Dokalam trijunction. Some feel that should the situation continue or deteriorate, ‘strategic defiance’ may be the only option. This, however, is not the impression in Beijing. In private, the Chinese feel that they, rather than India, are caught in a bind, unable to resort to the use of force for fear of destroying the myth of nuclear deterrence, but still supremely confident that strategic defiance by India, on the other hand, will be economically and diplomatically disastrous for India.  

As a dear friend in Beijing summed it up rather rudely, “India is a dog. Whatever we do to you, you will first bark and snarl, but then accept and come back wagging your tail. The problem now is what we can do to you is also very limited.” This raises the question as to why India feels it is losing control of the situation. And second, if this idea that India will somehow finally turn on China is based on reality or plain wishful thinking.

Let us be clear about one thing — far from losing control, this has, in fact, been one of the best managed crises by India’s ministry of external affairs. India’s tone has been persistently calm, not threatening action, but sticking to its guns. And for the first time in decades, it is standing up to Chinese bullying and staring it down. The ‘losing control’ and ‘escalating crisis’ narratives seem to be emerging only from a set of strategic commentators whose window seems to be limited to Xinhua and Global Times, and completely devoid of primary research.

Having toured the area over the last seven days, there seems to be no escalation in troop numbers whatsoever. Landing in Lhasa, one could count about 12-14 Sukhoi family aircraft. And driving past the Shigatse airbase, given the difficulties of observing the tarmac, one could count between three and seven J-10 fighters. The entire Lhasa to Shigatse stretch also showed no signs of increased infantry activity, no spurt in military logistics and only some parade/TV optimised artillery lined up in Lhasa's marshalling yards along the Lhasa-Beijing railway. Clearly then, the only real ‘escalation’ that can happen is unarmed Chinese border troops coming into and squatting in Indian territory, as suggested by the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs earlier this week — a major ‘climb-down’, if one can call it that — from previous threats, which were ominous simply because of the lack of specificity.  

We also have a pattern of similar action across the South China Sea to judge China by. It has resorted to similar ‘sea grabs’ there, depending purely on the fear of the other parties to the dispute to avoid escalating the situation to fatalities. That fear simply doesn’t work with India, for the simple reason that both sides are nuclear-armed. This is particularly important as the situation thus far indicates that while India’s doctrine of deterrence may have failed on the western front (in all fairness, it was never directed against Pakistan), it has had a clear success in the east (where it was directed all along) by putting hard limits on how far China can escalate.

The diplomatic and strategic costs of escalation for China now are severe, even if Indian warheads can’t reach the Chinese eastern seaboard, taking China down several pegs equating it with rogue revisionist states like Pakistan and destroying the image of it being a more or less ‘responsible’ player on the world stage. All indicators then are that short of an extremely serious miscalculation by the Chinese leadership, the situation has plateaued. The only spikes will be verbal, and that too from the Chinese side.

Which also complicates things for the Chinese leadership when it chooses to de-escalate. It, however, seems to have realised its mistake after its first attempt to do so — claiming that India had reduced the number of troops. The furious denial by India caught it off guard with colleagues in Beijing admitting that they had miscalculated, and not factored in how this would be perceived in India domestically.

All up, we seem stuck in limbo. Escalation is not an option for China. But de-escalation also seems impossible, till public attention is shifted elsewhere. On the other hand, it is high time the Indian media also realise what the MEA and PMO seemed to have long back — that Indian strategic defiance is a non-starter.

China’s massive infusion of finished goods, such as mobile phones, are the core drivers of the Indian economy and impossible to substitute. Equally, if we choose to go against China, we might as well kiss goodbye to any chance of UN Security Council and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) membership. In this situation, Dokalam is a win, an emphatic win, the best possible under the circumstances, marking the first serious Indian (and arguably global) pushback to Chinese salami tactics.

The writer, Abhijit Iyer-Mitra  is senior fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal. Economic Times ~ India winning Doklam

·         PS :  Visitors to Nathu La can buy a Certificate wherein one can post their photos ~ the acclaimed trophy reads :   ''Nations Have no permanent friends and foes. They only have permanent interests. It takes years to build capabilities, intentions can change anytime.''

·         Soon would post one on Harbhajan mandir at Nathu La.

Long live our Nation and long live those Jawans who protect us.  Jai Jawan, Jai Hind.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

15th Aug 2017.

Celebrating 71st Independence Day of Great India

The greatest day for all of us is 15th August ~ Indian Independence Day. Let us celebrate 71st Independence Day of the Nation in a grand manner.  70 years ago, it was on this day [rather night] – the Union Jack faded descended for one last time from the flagstaff of Viceroy’s house at New Delhi marking the symbolic end to imperialism and the awakening of the spirit of free India.

Winston Churchill passionately held the conviction that British rule in India had been just and exercised in India's best interests ! ; that her masses looked on their rulers with gratitude and affection; that the politicians agitating for independence were a petty-minded, half-educated elite, unreflective of the desires or interests of the masses. He contemptuously dismissed those fighting for freedom of India as 'men of straw'.

When the day beckoned,  Louis Mountbatten and his advisers, drawing on those manuals which had ordered all the grandiose manifestations of the Raj, had estimated 3o,ooo people would attend the celebrations. The figure was wrong, not by a few thousand but well over half a million. Never before had anyone ever seen anything remotely like it in India's capital city. 

இந்த உலகில் ‘சத்யம், தர்மம், அழகு, படிப்பு, வீரம், ஒழுக்கம் என்று எல்லா நல்ல குணங்கள் கொண்ட மனிதன் யாரேனும் உண்டா?’ என்று வால்மீகி முனிவர் கேட்க, நாரத பகவான் ‘உண்டு. அவர் தான் இக்ஷ்வாகு வம்சத்தில் வந்த தசரத குமாரர் ஸ்ரீராமர்’ என்று கூறி வால்மீகி முனிவருக்கு ராம சரித்திரத்தை சுருக்கமாக நூறு சுலோகங்களில் உபதேசித்தார். இது வால்மீகி ராமாயணத்தின் முதல் ஸர்கம்.

The great sage Valmiki wanted to know about that man – who is the epitome of all virtues ~ of Truth, Honesty, Beauty, Scholarliness, Valour and discipline ~  Omniscient Sage Narada replies that is *Maryadha purush Sri Rama*  Himself.   ~ and epic Ramayana was born…. The greatest Epic “Sri Ramayana” is a smriti [written from memory as seen and heard].. .. ..  The following phrase is a Sanskrit sloka uttered by Sri Rama Himself…

“Janani Janma-bhoomi-scha Swargadapi Gariyasi"जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी)  

~ it translates to mean “Mother and Motherland are superior to Heaven”.. This part of Valmiki Ramayana - Rama uttering this while addressing  Lakshmana  after their victory over (demon) king Ravana.

अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का मे लक्ष्मण रोचते जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी
"Lakshmana, even this golden Lanka does not appeal to me, mother and motherland are greater than heaven." 

Independence was granted by an Act – ‘The Indian Independence Act 1947’ passed by the  Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan. The Act received the royal assent on 18 July 1947, and Pakistan came into being on 15 August at the same time as Indian independence. However, due to Mountbatten's need to be in New Delhi for the transfer of power, Pakistan celebrated its formation a day ahead on 14 August 1947 to enable the viceroy Lord Mountbatten to attend both events !  The legislation was formulated by the government of Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten, after representatives of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and the Sikh community came to an agreement with the Viceroy of India,  on what has come to be known as the 3 June Plan or Mountbatten Plan.

Independence was not achieved in a day ~ nor through a single enactment. The struggle and sacrifices encompass millions of activities right from 1757 spanning 190 years till 1947. Many names have been forgotten, many did not receive the honours their sacrifices deserve – may be due to doctored history. 

Triranga or the National Flag was first recognized in 1906 in Calcutta Meeting; the next occasion was in 1907 by Madame Cama; in 1917 Lokmanya Bala Gangatara Tilak and Annie Besant hoisted it; in 1931, it was the Tri-colour designed by Pingali Venkayya with Spinning wheel at its middle.

The National flag of India was adopted in its present form during a meeting of the Constituent Assembly held on 22 July 1947, when it became the official flag of the Dominion of India. The  term "tricolour" always refers to the Indian national flag. The flag is based on the Swaraj flag, a flag of the Indian National Congress designed by Pingali Venkayya. The flag, by law, is to be made of khadi, a special type of hand-spun cloth of cotton or silk made popular by Mahatma Gandhi. The manufacturing process and specifications for the flag are laid out by the Bureau of Indian Standards – the length should be 1.5 times more than the width.

Usage of the flag is governed by the Flag Code of India and other laws relating to the national emblems. The original code prohibited use of the flag by private citizens except on national days such as the Independence day and the Republic Day. In 2002, on hearing an appeal from  Naveen Jindal, the Supreme Court of India directed the Government of India to amend the code to allow flag usage by private citizens. Subsequently, the Union Cabinet of India amended the code to allow limited usage.  Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samyukta Sangha (KKGSS) is a manufacturing federation located in the Bengeri area of the city of Hubli in the Karnataka, state of India. It is the only unit in India that is authorised to manufacture and supply the Flag of India.  

IN Capital New Delhi,  India Gate is a memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the undivided Indian Army who died in the period 1914–21 in the First World War, in France, Flanders, Mesopotamia, Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere in the Near and the Far East, and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. 13,300 servicemen's names, including some soldiers and officers from the United Kingdom, are inscribed on the gate. In 1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation war, a small simple structure, consisting of a black marble plinth, with reversed rifle, capped by war helmet, bounded by four eternal flames, was built beneath the soaring Memorial Archway. This structure, called Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, since 1971 has served as India's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 Celebrating Indian Independence 
~  it is the time to celebrate the birth of this Great Nation and remember those great men whose martyrdom gave us the fresh air to breathe !!  Jai Hind..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Sunday, August 13, 2017

records galore ~ as Hardik Pandya makes maiden century at Pallekele

Pawuluge Malinda Pushpakumara ~ the spinner has just played a Test before – he may like to forget playing here at Pallekele today ! There was another Pushpakumara, Ravindra who played for Lanka earlier.

Remember watching Majidkhan in that Pongal Test at Chepuak in 1980 when India won, Kapil was the man of the Match and Sandip Patil made his debut – we were wondering what he would go on to become having watched him make couple of clean hits in the nets.  Sandip did not make much in that Test, Majid was run out for 56 in the 1st innings.  Khan who came at no. 3 had that record behind him ~ a century before lunch – only Victor Trumper, CG Macartney, Donald Bradman, Majid and David Warner have till this date [other than Majid rest are all Aussies]

Have read that Farokh Engineer came agonizingly close at another Madras Test against the West Indies in 1967, nobody expected much from him as a batsman. He had made his Test debut way back in 1961 and in the intervening years he played just 11 Tests — mainly as a tailender. He had scored 3 fifties — including his then highest of 90, all at the No. 9 position. Kunderan who had made runs earlier was dropped for Engineer.  WI had  Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, arguably West Indies’s greatest fast bowling combine before the advent of Andy Roberts & co. Engineer was on 57 in India’s score of 72 for no loss in 12 overs after the first hour.  He was  94 from India’s total of 125 for no loss at lunch. 

Years later, in 2006 – Virender Sehwag came much closer on a tour that  Sachin Tendulkar had opted out.  The new ball was shared by S Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, with the experience of two Tests apiece. The first Test at St John’s also saw a debutant tearaway called VRV Singh.  The over rate was abysmally slow and Sehwag was stranded at 99 by lunch. Sehwag got his hundred three balls after lunch, and smashed his way to a 190-ball 180.

At Pallekele, Indians are on a roll.  Shikhar Dhawan is scoring centuries at will.    If his 190 in the first Test at Galle was not enough, Dhawan backed it up with another whirlwind innings scoring 119 on day one of the third Test in Kandy. Then there is another, who is blamed for making runs !   KL Rahul, batting on 85, was going great guns before he stepped out to left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara,  ended up giving a catch to mid-on. In terms of momentum, it was the cut-off point for India, as they meandered to 329 for six after that. It was the seventh consecutive half-century for Rahul, and even though he joined the likes of Everton Weekes, Andy Flower, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kumar Sangakkara and Chris Rogers for the most consecutive fifties, the 25-year-old would be a bit sad to find that he and Rogers are the only players to have not converted any of their seven fifties in that sequence into a hundred. Rahul's scores in this streak are 64, 90, 51, 67, 51* versus Australia at home, and 57 against Lanka after his return from illness at the SSC in Colombo.

It was clear that India are not going anywhere near 600 that they had posted in first two tests and when Shami got out, it appeared that 450 was not on radar. It was a different story as Hardik Pandya registered his maiden hundred in first-class cricket taking the total to  487.  Hardik put on 62 with Kuldeep Yadav for the eighth wicket and 66 with Umesh Yadav for the last wicket.

During that epic innings, he hoisted Malinda Pushpakumara for 26 runs  2 fours and 3 sixers eclipsed 24 runs scored by Sandeep Patil off Bob Willis in Manchester in 1982, and by Kapil Dev off Eddie Hemmings at Lord's in 1990. Recall that Sandeep scored 6 fours in a 7 ball over and Kapil struck consecutive 4 sixers taking India out of the danger of follow-on.

Today’s performance of 7 Sixes hit by Hardik is the joint-second most in an innings for India. The record is held by Navjot Sidhu who hit eight against the same opposition in Lucknow in 1994. Sehwag also hit seven against Sri Lanka at Brabourne in 2009 as did Harbhajan Singh against New Zealand in Hyderabad in 2010. These are tempting to compare him with legendary Kapil Dev – style is there and he has to score consistently to make that comparison real.

Today he scored 107 - in the first session of the second day. He became the first India player to score over 100 runs before lunch on any day of a Test. The session, however, was extended by 30 minutes as India were nine-down.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

13th Aug 2017.