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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Piracy, capture, arrest - the tale of Mega Rama aka Alondra Rainbow

Dear (s)              Much has been talked about Piracy – a war-like act, robbery and criminal violence at sea. Much of the recent attacks are reported at the Gulf of Aden located in Arabian sea between Yemen and Somalia – as most of the perpetrators are somalians, this is now termed as Somalian piracy. This place is strategically located in the shipping route to Suez canal and thousands of ships pass through.

                                                           French yacht caught by Pirates

When more incidents got reported, some Insurers restricted their coverage to exclude acts of piracy or restricted their terms of coverage as occurring closer to puntland. It was by and large perceived as unconnected or not proximate to Indian shores. The dreaded criminals who were not averse to killing their captives, have not properly been convicted.

Recently in Norfolk, a US Judge threw out piracy charges against 6 somali men accused of attacking US Navy ship. The Law dates backs to 1819 and Judge Raymond Jackson felt that their conduct did not include robbing, boarding, or taking control of the USS Ashland warship. The Govt. could not establish unauthroised acts of violence or aggression committed on high seas as defined by law. Later an accused pirate from Somalia pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to criminal charges over an April attack on a USS Ashland, a warship that supports amphibious operations, in the Gulf of Aden. In addition, Ibrahim was charged on Friday with conspiracy to commit piracy and to use a firearm during a crime of violence during an alleged act of piracy in the Gulf of Aden against a merchant vessel, the M/V CEC Future, the Justice Department said.

                                                          Pirates apprehended by French
Here is something which happened in our own backyard – a much stern measure – which perhaps never got the recognition it deserved. Do you know the case of vessel MV Alondra Rainbow and the punishment meted out by Indian Court ???

The act of piracy includes acts committed in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons travelling on the same vessel as the perpetrator (e.g. one passenger stealing from others on the same vessel). An act of piracy is of tremendous concern to the Ship owner and the cargo owner. The following definition of piracy is contained in article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):
“Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed: on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft; against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
c) any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b).”
Of course there have been very many reported incidents of piracy off Somali coast constantly. It has contributed to increase in shipping costs and impeded shipments, delayed and threatened their delivery. Some precious life has also been lost in the water.

Powerful Nations have come together for preventing this grave crime and some were captured also. But the suspects arrested have had to be set free for lack of evidence. The nearby countries in Africa have exhibited reluctance to take on the burden of trials. In May 2010, a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death and jailed six others for 10 years each for hijacking a Yemeni oil tanker and killing two cabin crew in April last year. Also in May 2010, another Somali, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to seizing a US ship Maersk Alabama and kidnapping its captain last year. He is expected to be sentenced in October 2010. The first European trial of alleged Somali pirates opened in the Netherlands in May 2010. They were arrested in the Gulf of Aden in January 2009 when their high-speed boat was intercepted by a Danish frigate while allegedly preparing to board cargo ship Samanyolu registered in the Netherlands Antilles. The pirates were sentenced to five years in prison, which was less that the maximum possible sentence.
The case that occurred in Indian heartland is totally different. It was a coordinated action by the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy which was a path-breaking and great effort of the Security forces in apprehending the vessel and capturing the pirates. This act in Oct 1999 was hailed all over the World by the maritime community.

The Director of the Maritime Piracy Center Captain Mukundan had this to say on the successful completion:- "The Alondra Rainbow case is a remarkable one because it is a perfect example of the unique role that the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre can play in this particular crime by issuing timely alerts to ships at sea. We were able to get masters of ships to look out for the vessel and to report back to us. And once we received information of a number of sightings we were able to go to the Sri Lankan authorities and to the Indian coastguards to tell them where to look for the ship," . The men were convicted for hijacking the Japanese-owned vessel, Alondra Rainbow off the coast of Indonesia in October 1999. The pirates were charged with setting the Alondra Rainbow's 17 crew members adrift on a raft, trying to scuttle the ship, attempting to set it on fire and committing armed robbery.

In Oct 1999, the vessel MV Alandra Rainbow flying a Panama flat carrying aluminum ingots worth 14 M USD went missing and crew were located off Phuket island. The Master of the vessel, a Japanese Master mariner filed a complaint with Thai Authorities stating that pirates had taken over the vessel by overpowering the crew. After few days of detention, the crew reportedly had been lowered to sea boats and allowed to drift.

A reward money of US$ 200,000 was announced and description with photos of the pirated vessels were flashed world over. MV Al Shuhaada reported sighting of a ship looking alike. The vessel had freshly been painted over as Mega Rama. The Coast Guard Ship CGS Tarabai gave it a chase, cross checked with many agencies including Owners and Lloyds and forced the pirates to shape towards Pakistan waters. The vessel was fired at by the Coast Guard Dornier aircraft as well by Tarabai. Indian Naval Ship INS Prahar joined the hunt, providing additional fire power.
By the time the pirates were captured, they had destroyed their passports and legal documents. The ship could be prevented from sinking and towed to Mumbai and case lodged with Yellow Gate PS at Mumbai.

The culmination of the legal phase had its own wrangles. It was a new occasion of capture of vessel and offenders in Indian waters. The owner was Japanese, part of crew were Indonesian and Philipinos. Offence had occurred in Indonesian waters and even the consignment of ingots were not destined to India. The Piracy Centre asked the Indian Coastguard to investigate and once the ship's identity was confirmed she was challenged. A high seas chase ensued before the ship was eventually boarded and taken to Mumbai where the pirate crew was arrested.

In 2003 after due process of law, the Mumbai Sessions Court accepted all the charges against the fifteen Pirates and awarded an imprisonment of seven years and a varying fine for all culprits. It appeared that perhaps the Director or other Mariners did not expect a turn around in the Mumbai High Court where an appeal was filed and the case progressed.   The court's decision marked a rare move by a National court to assume jurisdiction over a crime committed in international waters. According to IMB's director, Captain Pottengal Mukundan, the decision made a precedent which will help deter copycat crimes of piracy. On the day of the decision, there was bad news as Chief Engineer of a chemical tanker was shot in the head by pirates off the coast near Kuala Langsa in Indonesia. The Sessions court action was undertaken under Article 105 of the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS.

It was unfortunate for the maritime community and for the global anti piracy efforts that about two years later on 18th April 2005, the Mumbai High court overruled the Sessions Court ruling and acquitted all the accused. Thus, the most famous case that brought lots of laurels to the Maritime Forces of the Nation and also a case which was made out to be model case worthy of emulation by other Nations to combat Piracy and terrorism at sea came to a whimper.

There are not many experts in Admiralty and Maritime Law – though sections of Indian Penal Code could be applied to the offenders. Thus though the Sessions Court sentenced the offenders, they were subsequently let off after protracted battle in the Court. A good part of the loot could be saved and the culprits had also spent a portion of their sentence in Indian jails.

In one way, this was a major success and in some ways a set back to the anti piracy efforts. It has happened many times in Democracies, that the Laws are not stringent enough to punish the offenders even when caught red handed. This cannot be construed entirely as the failure of the various Agencies in properly making out a case and prove it in the High Court though there were organizational failures which resulted in the acquittal – dramatically the Japanese Master was perhaps unwilling to identify the culprits.

Common sense thinking would prevail that an offender must be penalized and the punishment must be stringent enough to deter others from performing it. But in practice, many a times, the Law Enforcement Agencies find it too difficult to prove the case and culprits walk out for want of identification and necessary evidence. The case highlighted the efficacy of the system or the lack of it ! The Police have their hands full with pretty crimes, providing security to Politicians and host of other jobs and perhaps do not have much time to concentrate on such cases.
Just as one see the piled up vehicles seized for various crimes accumulating dust, rusting and eventually turning into wreck, some captured boats also go down unceremoniously.

It is poetic justice that the delay in the Courts ensured that the pirates served 64 months prior to their deportation. From the Indian perspective, Alondra Rainbow / Mega Rama garnered International attention and held many lessons for the Indian authorities, highlighting the fact that the case is not over immediately upon apprehension.

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

PS : A major part of the news on capture of the vessel & the subsequent Court action  is from the write up of Commodore RS Vasan IN (Retd). This gentleman was the Regional Commander of College of Naval Warfare prior to his retirement. Do read the source article as it appeared in South Asia Analysis Group :

Monday, August 30, 2010

Computer Keyboard with the Official symbol for Indian Rupee

The currency of the Nation the “Indian Rupee” used to be represented by Rs. Or Re. During March 2009, Indian Govt. announced a contest to create a symbol for the rupee. During the 2010 Union Budget, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that the proposed symbol would reflect he ethos and culture of the Nation. The Cabinet selected the definitive symbol created by D Udaya Kumar on 15/7/10. The symbol is derived from a combination the Devanagari letter ‘र’ and English letter ‘R’. The parallel lines at the top (with white space between them) make an allusion to the tricolour and also depict an equality sign which symbolizes the nation's desire to reduce economic disparity.

There is no place without use of computers and all do know the keyboard (which is basically an input device) made similar to the typewriter keyboard (how many of you have used the utopian device !) – the keys are arranged universally in the same manner. This is known as “Qwerty” design – indicating the order of the keys in the second row (the first row being the numbers which would represent symbols with shift). This pattern was designed to minimize type bar clashes !!!!

Characters engraved or printed on keys represent the symbol and when pressed, the same gets represented on the screen and subsequently on paper. In a computer besides the Numbers and letters, there are other keys which represent functions or other tasks. The interpretation of key presses is generally left to the software which produces controls or actions – there are special key stroke combinations which determine the action or the application.

There are many types of keyboards – differentiated by the techonology that goes into manufacturing and their operation. Usually they have the switch technology which affects the key response. Some have flat panel membrane and few have mechanical key boards. There would be a circuit board under a rubber or silicon key pad. Hybrid models which use combination are generally cost saving. Thus you have keyboards from Rs.250/- in the local market.

The choice of switch technology affects key response (the positive feedback that a key has been pressed) and travel (the distance needed to push the key to enter a character reliably). Newer models use hybrids of various technologies to achieve greater cost savings.   Mechanical key boards are costlier – they have real switches, one under each key. Depending upon the construction of the switch, these keyboards have varying responses and travel times. TVS Electronics are market leaders in mechanical key board segment.

It is in some ways a late news – TVS Electronics made claims on Aug 15 to be the first company to have incorporated the recently designed Rupee symbol in their Gold Bharat Keyboard. With this launch, they expect to strengthen their market share further. The market is reported to be close to 35 lakh units per year.

According to the TVS E, this device is attributed with a cherry mechanical switch that can take up to 50 million keystrokes. It is compatible with the Windows and Linux OS. Cited to offer over 2,00,000 hours MTBF, the keys of this gadget are shielded from wear and tear thanks to laser etched keycaps. Additionally, this bilingual keyboard can support a host of Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati, Assamese and more.

The MD of the Company said that “We are proud to depict the Indian Rupee symbol in our keyboard and we are the first and only Indian manufacturer to do so,” The keyboard according to market is available for Rs.1500/- approx.

The representation of symbol of the National currency enthused me to share this article with you.

Regards – Sampathkumar S

Pakistan's foray overstepping the line of control - on Cricket field also

I had written in detail about the intentional over stepping by Suraj Randiv with the soul purpose of denying a ton to Virender Sehwag. Now there are more deliberate overstepping. By the startling revelation (such scandalous revelations  are not totally new to cricket), News of the World has brought the roof falling. They are the  3 deliveries that were recorded in statistics books as extras – but will remain greased for ever. Mazhar Majeed had reportedly assured that these would happen with precision. The first ball of the third over of the innings, Amir is to bowl the first over & then the last ball of the tenth over to be bowled by Asif. (see the last para)

For the uninformed, a no ball occurs when a bowler oversteps the line behind which balls should be delivered. The News of the World said members of its reporting team posed as businessmen and paid a middleman who told them exactly what would happen in the three separate incidents during play. Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed confirmed police officers had taken statements from four players. Pakistan sports minister Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani told the Reuters news agency that any Pakistan player found guilty of match-fixing would be banned from playing for the national side for life.

As a true cricket fan, every time Indians lose – you hear from the not so well versed in cricket, that the team have underperformed deliberately - that it is scandalous betting which decides the game et. al. We tend to brusquely brush that side even as we nurse the wounds of the loss. In the recent series (as also in the recent past) Pakistan have displayed some eccentric performances – few good braced with humiliating defeats. This match fixing exposure would ruin the cricketing world. The sickening controversy would debase the performance of the English bowlers and the great stand between Trott & Broad would be viewed with suspicion.

NOTW have publicized that Pak players accepted dirty money even while millions of people back at home are undergoing harrowing times in natural disaster. In one of the most sensational sporting scandals, it is revealted that Paki seamers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivered THREE blatant no-balls to order. Their London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed, who reportedly spilled the beans on the scam for a pricely £150,000 is reported to have crowed "this is no coincidence" before the bent duo made duff deliveries at precisely the moments promised’ to the news reporter of NOTW. The famed Scotland Yard has launched their own probe, questioned the players and reportedly seized the mobiles of Captain Salman Butt, Amir and Asif.

The glory of the resounding victory by an innings and 225 by England is mired in this controversy. Pak cricket and controversy are neighbours. Four years ago, umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove ruled Pakistan had forfeited the fourth Test by failing to return to the field in time following the tea interval. The Pakistan team had been incensed about an earlier decision to penalise them five runs for alleged ball-tampering. In 2007 WC, Pak lost to minnows Ireland and shortly thereafter their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room at Jamaica. The Pak players were questioned and the death was termed suspicious though eventually nothing could be proved. An inquiry was launched after they lost every international fixture on last winter's tour to Australia, resulting in four players being suspended by the PCB and three players fined. Three of the bans were subsequently lifted, including indefinite bans on former captains Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, and the fourth is currently subject to an appeal. Hansie Cronje brought infamy by admitting to receiving money from bookmakers for providing information and forecast but denied his role in match fixing.

The immense popularity of the game and millions of watchers has made it a money spinning rocket and allegations of betting and match fixing are surfacing quite frequently. The massive Asian market particularly Mumbai, Delhi, Lahore alongwith London and some other up town cities are reportedly the biggest illegal gambling dens of cricket. At Lahore it is stated that criminal overlords enjoy vast profits from backroom gaming parlours dealing in games like Kamsae and international horse races besides cricket. It is revealed that there are bets ranging from millions to lowly stakes of rickshaw pullers predicting almost everything from the no. of runs, wides, no balls or wickets that fall in a set span of time.

For Pak cricket fans their humiliating 74 all out folding was not the worst shock – but the revelation that the no balls fell in plan, as revealed by the tabloid. Mazhar Majeed had predicted them and told the tabloid that Salman Butt (the captain) had been the ring leader and there were seven others. He had spilled further beans stating he deals with an Indian party !!
Photo from "News of the World"

Things happened as promised – the first ball of the 3rd – Alastair Cook facing, the inform Amir who was breathing fire, overstepped the white line by a huge margin.  Billy Bowden called it no; the Bowler asked for saw dust to indicate loose footing. The commentator (who had no understanding) had commented it to be a dirty great no ball as the it was fully two feet over. As if to confirm Asif then put a good half a foot or so on the last ball of the tenth over.

It is not cricket………………….

A fan still not willing to believe all this.. Sampathkumar

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Carriage of Temperature sensitive cargo by Air - Lufthansa Cargo

Dear (s)

Much of my articles have centered on movement of cargo, transportation, logistics and of course insurance of goods whilst in transit from place to place. In modern day, most of the cargo is by containers, generally expressed in TEU units – twenty foot equivalent unit – which is not an unit in exactitude, as it describes only the volumetric capacity and not the actual cargo or the weight of the cargo getting transported. However, this being a standard size measurement, is universally accepted for many including the port duty etc., The volume of cargo transportation is usually expressed in TEU, though there could be containers of different sizes.

Then there are cargo sensitive to temperature or that is required to be transported at controlled temperature. Refrigeration is the solution and refrigerated transport requires Unit which has means of refrigeration and needs a cold chain where the temperature can be monitored, controlled and maintained. There are goods which are perishable in nature – food stuffs and others such as flowers, plants, pharma products and chemical products. The equipment which can control the temperature has to operate in a wide range of ambient temperatures and under extremely variable weather conditions as they could lay exposed to sun, rain and shine, transported in different modes and different environments. There are also frozen goods, which require low temperature to be maintained.

In intermodal transportation, there are refrigerated containers known as reefers which contain an integral refrigeration unit – reefers require external power from electrical power points at a land based site, a containership or quay. When they are transported over the road placed on a trailer, reefers can be powered by diesel powered generators. Just as inside a car, air flows through the container from bottom to top – the warm air is drawn off from the inside of the container, cooled in the refrigeration unit and blown back into the container as cold air. So, adequate circulation needs to be ensured. Such containers should not be packed to the brim and in the upper area, adequate space should be left. Besides temperature regulation, integral units also allow controlled fresh air exchange – for the removal of metabolic products when transporting goods like fruits.

There is something known as Partlow recorder which records the return air temperature providing details of state of temperature inside the container in which cargo is placed. Data loggers are used to detect the temperature digitally and indicate them on display on control panel. The doors constitute the weak link in maintaining temperature and if the rubber door gaskets are old and worn out, maintenance could be a problem.

Whilst environmentalists would cry hoarse on global warming and drilling holes in to the ozone layer by utilizing more of these, the reefer containers have certainly allowed access to fresh produce irrespective of seasons. For extra information, these partlow recorders can log data for over 31 day period and if the voyage is above this period, charts would need to be replaced.

The simple question that comes to mind, why undergo so much of difficulty ? Try transporting goods by air, which are multiple times faster and air crafts being air conditioned ones, control of temperature would be much easier. The first impediment would be the costs of transportation and then the logistic of bigger volumes.
In air cargo, the terminology is not TEU or containers but ULD – unit load device. This ULD is a pallet or container used to load luggage, freight and mail on wide body aircraft. It allows a large quantity of cargo to be bundled into a single unit. As one can easily perceive the halting time of the aircraft needs to be kept to the minimum and fewer the units, the faster would be the loading with lesser effort. Each ULD would have its own packing – the cargo manifest – so that the contents can be easily tracked. Though it would be lot cooler inside an aircraft, it is subject to vagaries of very hot weather or unusually cold as it flies at very high altitudes.
Perishable and some types of cargo would require transportation in controlled temperatures – many cargo lines offer temperature controlled service for premium cargo at special rates and ensure seamless air transportation chain suitable for cargoes such as life saving drugs and high value perishable cargo.

Lufthansa Cargo is in news for its new Opticooler container which offers greater reliability – this opticooler keeps temperatures low using compressor technology requiring just electricity rather than dry ice. LC’s spokesperson stated that the market for carriage of temperature-sensitive cargo has been growing strongly even during the global economic melt down, which made LC expand to suit individual customer erequirements. They claim that the information records of temperature throughout the transport operation will be available. This opticooler has been developed jointly with the cargo equipment manufacturer Dokash. Their previous Ice cooler was dry ice operated; Uni coller was dry ice and heating. Opticooler has condensing and heating system without dry ice.

The outer atmosphere at various air ports could range from -30 to +40 degrees Celsius, the temperature in container need to be kept constant and fluctuations reduced to a marginal level in order to prevent any possible damages to the sensitive cargo.    The report states that Lufthansa Cargo completed the test phase with the opticooler in August, and the new containers are now ready for use on all routes in the cargo carrier's global network. Lufthansa Cargo ranks among the world’s leading cargo carriers. Lufthansa is the flag carrier of Germany – the name is a derivative from Luft (the German word for "air"), and Hansa (after Hanseatic League the powerful medieval trading group).

To conclude from Insurance perspective, the carriage is evidenced by contract of carriage called Airway Bill (AWB) generally in glossy paper (tough to read the conditions printed on its reverse). It is not a negotiable document. Now there is growing tendency to have e-AWB which is an electronic document. Once it is an E document, contract of carriage shall mean oral or written agreement between consignor and the carrier relating to the carriage.

From 2004, Montreal Convention came into being for Germany which has amended some of the terms of Warsaw Convention as amended by the Hague Protocol of 1955. The condition regarding the liability of the Carrier reads that the carrier shall compensate for damage caused by destruction, delay, loss or damage of cargo, but only if the event causing the damage occurred during the carriage by air. The carrier is not liable if it proves that the destruction, loss or damage of the cargo was caused by one or several of the following circumstances:
_ the special nature of the cargo or any inherent defect of that cargo,
_ defective packaging of the cargo performed by any person other than the
carrier or its servants or agents,
_ an act of war (including terrorist acts) or an armed conflict,
_ an act of public authority carried out in connection with the entry, exit or
transit of the cargo,_ force majeure, in particular acts of God.
Even where admitted, the liability is restricted to an amount of 19 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) per kilogramme. However, the limitations of liability in respect of total amounts do not apply if the consignor has made, at the time when the cargo was handed over, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid the requested surcharge. In that case the carrier shall pay a compensation for destruction, loss, damage or delay up to the amount of the declared value, unless it proves that the sum is higher than the
consignor's actual interest in delivery at destination. All compensation claims are subject to proof of value.

Next comes the time limit : If a rightful claimant intends to assert claims for compensation due to damage, partial loss equalling damage or delay, the consignee must without undue delay inform the carrier by notification with sufficient description of the cargo concerned, the approximate time of damage and the details of the claim, in any event within 14 days (7 days within the scope of application of the Warsaw Convention of 1929) after acceptance of the cargo, and in the event of delay within 21 days (14 days within the scope of application of the Warsaw Convention of 1929) after the cargo was made available to the consignee.

If the consignee fails to comply with the notification period, any action against the carrier shall be excluded unless the latter fraudulently hindered the claimant to establish the facts to be notified or to issue the notification in due time.

Hope this article of mine was some interest and use to you. Do record your valuable feedback.

S Sampathkumar

Friday, August 27, 2010

the latest Electronic Gadget and Indian response (Blackberry addict !!)

Dear (s)

The new Secretariat of Chennai is quite a landmark on the Mount road (renamed Anna Salai long back) – the arterial road in Chennai. This is nothing about the landmark or the former CM – but something prompted by what Shekhar Kapur, the film director wrote in his blog about this fruit of the Rosaceae family. An edible fruit…… !!!

Somewhat opposite to the Secretariat is a tiny street called Ritchie street, which in 1970s had not more than five shops. The bustling business was in the next street known as Narasingapuram where films were distributed. 100s of films still remain on rolls, undistributed is grapevine. Buried alongwith could be hopes of hundreds who would have ventured from their villages dreaming of fame in world through tinseldom. Soap bubbles for many – sure way to growth for some – Dream Industry (kanavuth thozhirchalai) as my favourite Sujata wrote.

The modern world is about exploring new opportunities in making life easier. Technology has brought in more and more innovations – some bringing comfort and many changing the way of life. Slowly electronic gadgets have emerged as best friends of human beings. When we grew up telephones were luxury – only rich boasted of them. Offices had – but usage was limited – not many personal calls would be made – of course little or no privacy at all. The no. was fixed to a place and hence not individualistic. Life went on - how many of us could profess that they could live a week (or a day) without a cell phone ? How many friend / relative’s address or telephone no. do you remember now ? The no. of phone is house now a days is more than the no. of persons at home including children. Besides there are no. of hand held devices and other electronic gadgets – just recount how many remote controllers you have at home ? - for television (s), air conditioners, cooking equipment, digital audio players, mp3 players, music systems, ……. At big malls, people crowd shops selling electronic gadgets. Gizmos and gadgets ranging from lightweight mp3 players and mobile phone to the extravagant camcorders and portable DVD players, have become part of everyday life. With small passage of time, they tend to become lighter, have more capacity and fall in price constantly also.

Gone are the days of bulky computing machine and the big unwieldy floppy which will not fit in any pocket - now there is ultra small USB drive – the smallest one with thickness of less than 4 mm but having 8GB memory. There portable storage devices which can hold multiple times the info. Once big servers contained. Once upon a time, the whole World depended on ‘letters’ sent by post – the mushroomed couriers did only increase the correspondence by letters. Then came e mail revolutionizing the communication – faster, bulkier and more to people instantaneously at a time. 

The only disadvantage was connectivity – the computer and internet through dial up connections.   Now many own a Blackberry (also a fruit as described at the start) – one need not fetch new e mails. They would just show up. The messages are delivered real time and one can surf web anywhere any time staying connected, and can get entertained during meetings with a nice game also. Some have got addicted to it and surrendered to it.Once you are surrounded by the e gadgets, suddenly you are bound to find things malfunctioning – it can be simple to more complex – depending upon your need and understanding of the gadget, the originality, the supply chain, the availability of authorized repairer et al. There is no guarantee that the Authorised outlet would fix the bug; the parts may not be available or when available would cost you a fortune – much closer to what you would spend on replacement of the equipment.

This small congested lane located in the heart of Chennai – Ritchie Street is a haven of electronic gadgets – now it is a big market place of close to thousand shops – big and small from a CD in retail for Rs.5 to costlier latest ultra modern electronic equipment introduced a few hours earlier in one part of the world. It is also one of the largest market for computer spares and peripherals. It is indeed to find spirited entrepreneurs smartly selling products, when the same product is available in many other shops in the vicinity. Is it confidence, business sense, judging people or anything else ? Each shop would have their own share in the market and loyal customers besides catering to single time purchasers. Apart from the CD games, songs and cinemas literally strewn on the streets, this is a place housing very good service facilities.

What amazes anybody is the knowledge and skill sets displayed by the small youngsters who would be found in abundance. You take any brand of mobile (bought in any part of the world) the small guy (looking extremely uneducated and raw) would simply know how to open, what facilities it contain, more importantly what gadgets / memory that would support. Apart from Sony for Sony and Motorola for Motorola, he can instantaneously suggest what your phone would support and what could fit your pocket.

The owner of the gadget having bought it in a upstream market during a visit to a foreign country, might struggle to use or open it after reading reams of its manual – this guy who for sure cannot read his own mother tongue would profess expertise in your product though it might not have even found its way into Indian market. Pure logic and common sense at work. Similarly, when your equipment stops functioning and when your authorized repairer quotes the very price of the equipment, there could be simpler solutions from this rustic whom you thought was uncouth but eventually find to be extremely pleasing and enterprising intelligent person.

On platform there were pieces of mangled pieces alongwith CDs that once came with computer magazines. A group of college students (future Engineers in Computer Science) were analyzing them for a pick. The seller another middle aged man in his dhoties, asked them what they were looking for. One of the boys hesitantly spoke of a programme,; pat came the response from the uneducated seller – see that july issue – it had a demo version of the software - when you speak to the older generation, even Professors who taught once in colleges struggle to distinguish between hardware and software and are afraid of using the modern gadgets – then there are guys who perhaps would never have opportunity to hands on in a computer but seemingly knowing what a programme is and what component is what and how it would fit to a gadget !! Strange is the World…….

Regards - Sampathkumar

With this background now read the article of Shekar Kapur titled “A Blackberry addict discovers grassroots enterprise in India” - posted in his blog.

A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine. A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure (foolishness) made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet. Grimy and uncleaned.  ‘Can you fix a blackberry ?”
-- ‘ Of course , show me”
# How old are you”
-- ‘Sixteen’
#Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjama’s ! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been meaning to do for a year now.
--‘What’s wrong with it ?”
#Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”. He grabs it from my hand and looks at it
-- “You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working’
#Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back.
-- you come back in one hour and I fix it’
#I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid’s hands for an hour. No way. who will fix it ?”
-- Big brother’
#‘ How big is ‘big brother?’
-- big …. umm ..thirty’
#Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ??? He is no more than 19.
‘What problem ?’ He says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into his greasier hand.
#Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket retail store manager.
-- Normal blackberry problem. I replace with original part now. You must wash your hand before you use this’
#What is this about me washing my hands suddenly ?? 19 year old big brother rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper.
Original part ? I doubt it.
#But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as he fishes out a couple of screwdrivers and sets about opening my Blackberry.
#“How long will this take ?”
-- Six minutes ”
#This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space. People crowd around to see what’s happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious blackberry back and making a quick escape.
But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my blackberry back. He had changed the part and cleaned and serviced the the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together. As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.
-- you have more than thousand phone numbers ?”
-- backed up ?’
-- Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up’
#‘You tell me that now ?
But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone watching laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute show. I asked him how much.
-- 500 rupees’ He ventured uncertainly . People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation.
# Thats $ 10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000 ($ 600) I was a about to spend on a new blackberry or a couple of weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘high price ‘ but calmly paid him. Much to the disapointment of the expectant crowd.
-- do you have an Iphone ? Even the new ‘4A one ?
# no, why”
-- I break the code for you and load any ‘app’ or film you want. I give you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee’.

I went home having discovered the true entreprenuership that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about a two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’ shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them.

I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to harness this potential. ‘Please wash your hands before use’ were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Win in a low scoring match - India beats Newzealand to enter Finals

A win in a low scoring match – How many of you remember the match that India played on 22nd March 1985 at Sharjah (ODI 321).  and can you identify this person

Even for the die hard cricket lovers, there is overdose of cricket and a league match in a 3 Nation Micromax ODI tournament should not have provided this much of anxiety. However the lacklustre performance of the young brigade so far in the tournament made it appear that India would not qualify for the finals of the 3 Nation event, especially after they were bundled out for 223. At a time when there were talks of devil in the pitch at Dambulla Ranagiri stadium, Sehwag was on a different track – it was a brilliant blitz of 110 in 93 balls. Viru continues to amaze everyone with the casual manner of shot delivery – when others struggle.

It was to be a regular tale of late – Indians losing wickets at regular intervals. Dinesh Karthik did not trouble the scorers and at 66 indians had lost 4 (Kohli, Yuvi and Raina) – Dhoni played a scratchy innings but was involved in a saving 107 stand with Sehwag. Viru departed at 173 having made 110 – there were not much of contribution from others as Indian innings folded in 46.3 overs. How long to continue with Dinesh, Virat, Rohit and Ravindra Jadeja is the question everybody is asking ? Solid Pujara and awesome S Tiwary have been waiting on the wings for long.

Low scoring games can be dangerous. Remember our successfully defending 183 in 60 overs in WC 1983. The woes of Kiwis were to continue. Praveeen kumar bowls with jest if not pace and Martin Guptill played for swing to one which straightened. Watling was castled by Nehra and Ross Taylor edged one – Dhoni taking a good catch. Styris pulled one back to his stumps and Kiwis were tottering at 22-4. It was a comic sight to see Kane Williamson struggle – he had made two ducks in his previous forays and some records were beckoning him. On the third ball he faced, he steered it to thirdman and heaved a big sigh of relief having scored his first run in International cricket. At one point, Newzealand had lost 8 for 53 and would have shrunk to their lowest but comfortably surpassed their 64 Vs Pak in 1986 due to some lusty hitting by Mills who made 52 off 35 and delayed the end.

In the end it was a good bowling display and more than anything – belligerent hitting by Viru. For long, he has been one criticized for lack of foot movement, but his class is far above the rest. His caliber and class tells when others struggle and he is unfazed by wickets falling at one end.

ODI 321 was played on 22/3/1985 at neutral venue of Sharjah Cricket association stadium – it was Rothmans 4 Nations Cup. Pak won the toss and put India in – Imran was steaming in with Wasim akram at the other end. Imran literally sliced through the top order. Shastri out for a duck, Srikka followed making 6, Vengsarkar, Gavaskar and Amarnath were all consumed by fiery Imran (34/5); Kapil & Azhar took them to 80 when Kapil (30) was consued by Tauseef. Azhar was out at 121 and India folded at 125 in 42.4 overs. Imran had a magic spell of 6 for 14 in 10 overs.

The famed Pak line up was to wallop this small total easily. The start was ordinary and the sleepy Mohinder hit the stumps direct to send Mohsin packing. Mudassar was consumed by Binny & Pak were 35/2 . Miandad was out for a duck to Shastri. Ashraf Ali was promoted above Saleem Malik & Manzoor Ilahi but could not pick up L Siva and Sadanand Vishwanath had a smart stumping done off Siva to send back Imran. Pak crumbling at 41/5. A small partnership – Saleem Malik gone at 74 and eventually Pak folded at 87 – short by 38 runs chasing a paltry 125.

That match will be remembered by 3/17 by Kapil and 2/16 of Siva – the 3 catches taken by Gavaskar, smart fielding by Mohinder – good work behind by Vishwanath; all these if you’re an Indian – but the effort which went in vain was the one that fetched MOM – Imran whose figures read 10-2-14-6.

                   This is L Siva and the man at the start is Sadanand Vishwanath - who sparkled briefly.

Regards – Sampathkumar.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Police complaint lodged on missing tree on road - Chennai report

The Indian Emperor Ashoka of Maurya Dynasty is credited to have encouraged the development of herbal medicine and planting of trees alongside roads. The history book would read, Ashoka planted trees and dug wells along roads for the benefit of travelling public.

Day and day out, we read about property losses arising out of thefts and burglaries. The affected parties visit the nearest Police Station to lodge their complaint in pursuit of having them traced by the Law Enforcing authorities. The Police Force complains that they are outnumbered very badly almost 1:609 going by the 2001 consensus. Last year Chennai Police received close to 23000 property crimes of which theft were close to 16000.

Topping the list would be gold ornaments, jewels, followed by vehicles, electronic items and more. Besides there are complaints for items lost in public transport buses and trains which are in the nature of loss of personal belonging, cell phones, laptops etc., In European countries, they generally are Coats, books, bags, clothing, mobile phones, tennis racquets, paintings, bicycles, crutches and even rocking chairs. Sometimes there are strange and funny items that are claimed lost which have included - stuffed puffer fish, pet animals, exotic animals, false teeth, human skulls, breast implants, lawnmower. In England & Wales there are also complaints of ‘neglect of duty’, being slow or ineffective, Police officers being rude to public etc.,
In a rib tickling comedy vaigai puyal Vadivelu would go to a Police station seeking to lodge a complaint of theft of a well. Yes the agricultural well. He would state that he took a bank loan for digging a well and planned to provide drinking water to the residents of nearby villages and provide water for irrigation. In his defence, he would state that for loan, the bank officials had visited, made a report and then approved loan. On the Govt. side, he would claim that Govt officials had issued receipt approving the well – all this done by taking bribes and without physically inspecting the site / property at all - thus he would say he has the receipt and would go to the Collector or to Court for filing a suit, if the FIR for missing well was not registered. The stunned Police Inspector would resign his job and run away in the comedy.

In what appears to be a scene straight away from the comedy track, a strange complaint of loss of a tree from VM Balakrishnan Salai has been lodged at MGR Nagar PS in Chennai. The odhyan tree (Indian ash tree) about 25 ft tall under the care of City Corporation is the object claimed to be missing. For removal of a tree, if considered to be hindrance to public / traffic, permission has to be obtained from Corporation officials. No one is allowed to chop down trees on the road side on their own and such act is punishable under law. The Police authorities reportedly have recorded the complaint and have promised severe action against those who erred.
                                                                [photo : Times of India]
Whether any action is initiated or not, whether the culprits are apprehended or not, this complaint certainly has made waves and has made people read the news with interest. The crime against green cover is certainly not a laughing matter though….

- Sampathkumar S

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wishing the Trapped Miners in Chile - early and sure recovery- Welcome back.

This land has some connectivity to the Inca civilization and was in news in Feb 2010 for the devastating earthquake that occurred off the coast of Maule region rating 8.8 on Richter scale and lasting upto 90 seconds. It is also the land when thousands of years ago, migrating native americans settled in fertile valleys and coastal areas.

This South American coastal country lying between Andes Mountains and Pacific ocean is in news, as the lives of 33 miners is at stake – they are alive and how they will be saved is the Nation’s concern. Mining sector is one of the pillars of its economy and copper experts alone stands for more than one thirds of its income. Mining is extraction of valuable minerals from the earth which has been happening from time immemorial. It is often perceived as bad for the environment. The digging of underground often is of grave concern from safety angle as well.

You might also know Odyssey, a Greek epic – the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) long journey of ten years in reaching back home after fall of Troy.

Quite unfortunately, on Aug 5, 2010, the roof of San Jose copper gold mine in Chile collapsed leaving 33 miners trapped at approx 700 metres / 2300 ft below the ground. The San Jose mine is about 45 km north of Copiapo and the miners are struck 5 kms away from the mine entrance. The collapse of a tunnel at the 300 level, trapped the workers and there was no communication or information about their condition. The access to mine is hard and the rescue efforts could not be undertaken immediately. Generally when such accidents occur, it is but certain death and even the whereabouts or the facts would also get buried along.

These workers but were destined to live long and in a miracle of sorts they are alive and could establish communication with the outside world after 17 days. It is sensational and a remarkable tale of survival – not even dreamt of by many. The initial rescue efforts kept failing and slowly hopes were vanishing. Now after two weeks of failed efforts, a video camera threaded deep underground has captured first images of 33 miners alive and apparently in good health. The Nation is rejoicing but the ordeal of miners is far from over.
                                                       Chilean President showing the message
In a startling revelation, the Government officials have announced that it could take as long as four months to dig a new tunnel wide enough to lift the miners one by one to the surface – 4 months would mean that they would be close to seeing the New Year 2011.

Optimists never lose hope – till such time they are rescued thin shaft will be used as an umbilical cord to keep them alive, supplying food, water and medicine, providing them information about the rescue operations and carrying back their communications to the concerned family members.

Life down under must be pretty different – certainly not pretty – miners fortunately have been able to use heavy equipment to provide light and charge the batteries of their head lamps, have some water from storage tanks to drink. Still there would be stifling heat and presence of toxic gases. Rescue team reinforced a bore hole and lubricated it to pass supplies through in capsules nicknamed ‘palomas’. The packages would contain rehydration tablets and hi energy glucose gel to help the miners recover their digestive systems. Oxygen was also pumped in. inside the caved in portion, lies a shelter, a living room-sized chamber big enough for all men, strong enough to remain intact.

Rescuers are finding out the condition and have sent small microphones to enable the trapped workers communicate to outside world, to their families.

A huge machine capable of drilling 26 inch wide tunnel through solid rock and boring at about 65 ft a day is being transported to the accident site. Even during this madness, there appears to be more than a system in the rescue efforts. On Aug 19, one of the probes could reach the area where miners where believed to be trapped but to no avail. On 22/8 another probe reached a ramp underground – the miners wrote notes and attached them to the drill bit with insulation tape. Perhaps one of the greatest communication letters that the modern world has seen in recent times. The whole Nation erupted with joy when the President Pinera displayed the note sent from the shelter reading ‘we are fine – the 33 of us’. Hours later, cameras could make contact with the miners beaming the first images of trapped workers. The food is very limited and miners were fast losing weight. Between them they had rationed whatever was available and had survived consuming two mouthful of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours. Think of their condition, when we waste food that is in plenty for us !!!!

On Aug 23, voice contact could be established with the miners. Obviously some of them were having medical problems but the Doctors stated that the discomfort was much less than what was expected !! some psychiatric help is also being arranged.

It is admirable of these men caught in a rock collapse to remain in good spirits and remain confident. Every soul would pray and hope with optimism for the success of long, technically complex operation described as ‘human odyssey’.
What has reached them is perhaps only the umbilical cord – the design, the plan and execution of drilling is a long way in rescuing them alive.
It takes a lot of mental toughness and confidence to survive in such circumstances and the rescue team is trying to identify a natural leader – somebody who can make sure that those trapped inside are mentally focussed and do not lose hope in the long days to come. A 63 year old man has been identified – his letter to his wife is stated to be full of expressions of faith and determination, portraying that they were brave and strong.
Even in this world of technological advancement, faith in God and some supernatural help is required. Sure that these strong men would get that hand of God, survive and be rescued.
Last year 3 miners survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in China; few others have seen more than 2 weeks. It is fortunate that the health hazards in a copper and gold mine are much less unlike a coal dust field.
This shelter itself could not be reached easily by them as it took them 7 failed attempts – they had the courage and foresight not to cave in and succeeded in their next – probably the map was not error – free.
As the next borehole is drilled and fully functional, the rescuers would be able to send down solid food such as bread, yoghurt and milk.
Those trapped inside require all that and much more – hope, prayers, blessings, wishes, greetings – in any form – hopefully, we should read see them on ground earth coming out of the mine live and kicking, watched by the entire world. That should happen much sooner that what is being said now
Regards – Sampathkumar S

Monday, August 23, 2010

International Trade Restrictions - How much of control Indian Government has ???


There are some news items which regularly appear but common man may not get attracted. Here is something which has international ramifications and can potentially harm the national interests. Trade is exchange of capital goods and services and becomes international in nature when the parties involved are across the border or territories. From an era of licensing Raj, where the import can happen only when the Govt license was available and when the Govt regulations were so high, the liberalisation of economy has brought in free movement of goods into and out of the country.

ivory seized

A free flowing trade is good for the economy but unscrupulous elements utilising this do harm the national interest – smuggling and moving goods fraudulently not only results in loss of revenue for the exchequer but also is a threat to the security of the country.

cannabis drug

Most of the movement of goods is by containers – the introduction of containers has resulted in vast improvements in the movement of goods, its handling, lowered the costs and in many helped in protected movement. To those conversant with trade and with marine insurance – FCL does not need any explanation – the Full Container Load (FCL) does not necessarily mean that the container is fully loaded or has cargo to the brim. The trade goes by volumetric and not by the weight or the no. of items put inside the container. In practice, it means that the whole of the goods inside the container is intended for one. It would be economical to have the container packed to its full capacity but it depends on the type of goods. Once I had seen a containerised cargo of costly leather jackets – it had ropes running across the length and breadth of the container in which those jackets were hung without being packed in cartons or the like.

It is common knowledge that all goods imported or exported out of India pass through the procedure of Customs for the purposes proper examination, appraisal, assessment and evaluation. This is done to check the legality of the trade as also for charging taxes as applicable. There are documents known as Bill of entry and Shipping Bill which would provide the necessary declaration to the Customs about the goods that are contained inside the box.

For long clearance by the Customs and assessment of customs duty used to take long time and was cumbersome – the introduction of tariff and categorisation of goods as also the modernisation including e filing of B/E have all eliminated the delay to a large extent. Some major importers are granted the facility of green channel clearance. This is just like walking out of the airport unchecked based on a mere declaration of what you possess. Thus there would be no physical examination of goods for assessment or check up.

pangolin seized in China

The entire hub of activities once took place only in & inside the Ports leading to delay and concentration of too many goods but now we have ICDs and CFS which facilitate easier movement of cargo and containers. Some ICD are located in remote inland places also. These are common user facility with public authority status equipped with fixed installations, where services of handling, storage, clearance, assessment are all available. Receipt and dispatch / delivery of cargo, stuffing / unstuffing, transit operations by rail/road, customs clearance, consolidation / destuffing, reworking of containers, maintenance and repair of container units – are some of the activities which takes places here.

Instances of spurious Chinese products making their way into India with fake "Made in India" labels are clearly on the rise. It is natural that the trader is facilitated by all these and the trade increases bringing in more revenue for the Nation. BUT unscrupulous elements mar the facilities by misuse. Here are some recent instances of what happened:

1) 36 boxes of copper waste (dore anode) containing precious metals including platinum and palladium allegedly meant for export were seized in Tuticorin by the Central Excise. The seizure was made as only gold and silver contents of the copper waste reportedly were declared by a famous Industrial house as declared in the documents whilst it contained other precious metals like platinum and palladium.
2) Spurious goods landing into India have not been uncommon. Recently Chennai Customs seized 2 lakh pieces of counterfeit spark plugs that bore a famous brand and the made in India tag
3) Some time ago, Chinese made spurious anti malarial drugs Maloxine and amalar with ‘Made in India labels’ were seized by Nigerian govt Drug regulatory authority.
4) Consignment of fake mobile phone batteries, cellphone covers of famous brand, range of cosmetics and toiletries including skin naturals, face wash were reportedly seized by Chennai Customs.
5) At Chennai Airport, regularly star fishes, ornamental fishes, star tortoises and other animals including lizards are seized from individual passengers trying to smuggle them in.
6) At Tuticorin, a container on ship sailing to Dubai via Colombo was recalled and 5.2 tonnes of red sanders wood was seized. It was being shipped as polished Kashmir white granite tiles. In a startling revelation, it was found that the stamp and signature of customs officials had also been forged.
7) A consignment of second quality palm date packages from Saudi was intercepted and to the surprise of everyone, it had concealed inside electronic items such as LED TV, LCD TV and home theatre systems. The palm dates were also of superior quality intentionally declared as second quality to evade customs duty.
8) Not long ago, another misdeclared cargo was intercepted and found to contain honey, date syryp etc.,
9) A scrap consignment which landed at Tuticorin ended up to be highly valuable and readily usable ‘Electrolytic tin plate sheet’.
10) In a reversal of roles, two export consignment of garments intended for Malaysia from Kerala turned out to be substandard garments to exploit the export benefits.
11) It is reported that dumping of e waste has been going on for some time now. Very recently, DRI at Chennai intercepted a container full of old computer parts imported from Brunei. At the CCI godown at Tondiarpet, it was found to contain e waste – the recent hauls put the dump at more than 127 tonnes which could pose serious health hazards to public and damage the environment.

e-waste dumped

The developing countries often become a dumping ground for e wate – small industries try to extract metals from it and again would dump them. The import of e waste is covered under Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 and can be imported only with the permission of the ministry of environment and health in addition to a licence from the Director-General of Foreign Trade.

Alarming revelations disruptive to economy and potentially harming National Security and interests, could only be an understatement. Whilst the tricksters try to con the Government and become rich, poor continue to work in all these places seeking - a quality meal a day.

Regards – Sampathkumar S