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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

T20 at Old Trafford today - Do your remember when Kapil Dev was dropped !!

A battered and bruised Team India prepares for the next leg of the tour, starting with One-off Twenty20 at Old Trafford today followed by Five One dayers on 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th and 16th.   Still India can place those unforgettable drubbing behind and perform better in the limited overs format, where many players can mask their inadequacies -  but it is also a format which calls for high fitness levels and good ground fielding.  Indians are the Champions in 50 over format and gained a 3-0 lead in WI before squandering the last two games.  

England has new T20 skipper Stuard Broad who was once mauled for six 6s in a T20  by Yuvi.  But the clock has turned much after.  There are some names  Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes – which I have not heard earlier…  in T20, actually, it is England who are the Champion who triumphed in Caribbean in 2010.  It is a game of youngsters where Rahul Dravid is making debut !  he has already announced his retirement after the ODI series and hence unlike to play another T2o for India !

It has been a hard grind and there are scars of drubbing in the Test and one can perhaps sympathise with Dhoni.  But India’s  Super captain has to learn from the past.  In some ways comparable, Kapil Dev was the successful captain leading India to a victory in WC 1983.  He lost his captaincy sooner after the drubbing WI handed in India.  Kapil throughout his career was one player who always gave his 100%, so committed was he, always remained fit and never withdrew from any of the matches.  When England toured India, the wily Gavaskar was back as the Captain.  India won the First Test at Bombay with Siva making a great debut.  In the Second Test, India made 307 (Kapil top scored with 60), England made 418.  Indians were forced to play for a draw; Gavaskar made 65 – his only worthwhile knock during that entire series.  Kapil’s style of batting was well known – he hit a six of Pat Pocock, tried another in the next was caught in the deep and Indian innings folded.  Gavaskar and Board was furious and he was dropped for that single shot !  Have we not seen batsmen throwing their wickets at crucial times – but Kapil at his prime was punished much to the shock of all Indian cricket lovers.  The real fighter never gave up but produced many a great knocks, wonderful bowling performances, bowling his heart and knee out on dead tracks made to suit the batsmen of his time.

Now all the drubbing is attributed to overplay, indulgence, lack of preparation and IPL.  The one advantage of IPL was perhaps the exposure of many Indian players to the 20 overs format and to brushing shoulders with many super stars of International repute  IPL brand and T20 did change the approach and attitude of many !  but in a T20 International today -  Ajinkya Rahane is about to open with Parthiv Patel – what a pity !  Have never seen Parthiv play like a batsman thought he might have some scores.  The IPL threw some young and not so heard of players who slam banged in the opening overs and made some tall scores including centuries in 20 overs and that would include Murali Vijay, Manish Pandey, Naman Ojha, Shikhar Dhawan, Paul Valthaty, Swapnil Asnodkar, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Saurabh Tiwary, Robin Uthappa to quote some names……….  Well none of them is in the scheme of things for the shorter version !!  and we have Rahul Dravid making his debut after so many years and some years of oblivion even not considered good for the 50 over contests.

The cup of woes is complete with the bowling front where it is all left to the inexperienced Vinaykumar and Varun Aaron alongwith Ashwin and Mishra perhaps.  Or whether Munaf, RP Singh can lead from the front needs to be seen !

There is not much of history in T20 between the countries and in 2009 World T20, England beat India after scoring 153 – in Durban 2007, Yuvi made the fastest half century knocking England and Broad out of contention.  Sachin is not playing and whether Virat or Rohit will make great impression lies the success of India. Coaches over the year have praised Raina for his work ethic, talent and hard work in fielding but have done nothing to hone his skills.  Whether it is only coincidence that the slump is occurring at a time when Duncan Andrew Gwynne Fletcher took over the reins as Coach is a moot Q !

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Happy Feet" on board 'Tangaroa' heading back to Antarctica

The land of MaoriNew Zealand was abuzz with people following Happy Feet – a very unusual visitor, an Emperor penguin.  The Country is situated 900 miles east of Australia across the Tasman sea.  To us it is closer to Antarctic (relativity !) – the shortest distance  from mainland New Zealand to Antarctica is 2550km.

Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The male and female are similar in plumage and size, Like all penguins they are flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.  Their  diet consists primarily of fish, but can also include crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. They are known for the sequence of journeys adults make each year in order to mate and to feed their offspring.  But this journey from the Earth’s south pole does not occur often !

It is the story of a wayward emperor penguin dubbed Happy Feet – yesterday (29th Aug 11) it craned its head, flapped its flippers and seemed a little perturbed as it embarked  journey back  home to cooler southern waters.  It was sighted at the Kapiti coast beach reportedly after 44 years, found huge public support, taken care so well at Wellington Zoo and now is aboard research vessel Tangaroa back to its home at a latitude of 51 degrees south.  By the time it was treated, it had consumed  large quantity of non-food items and health was deteriorating.  It had also taken beak fulls of sand perhaps mistaken for ice.   The veterinary team at Wellington  removed the sand and small bits of driftwood. X rays revealed sand and small stones ! Penguins are known to have pebbles in their tummies !! but where from did they come was intriguing..

Happy Feet is extremely popular; thousands have watched it eat, sleep and waddle through a zoo webcam.  The recovery and cost of maintenance at the zoo has been covered with donations pouring in.  Every detail of his recovery, from the daily reports of weight gain and dietary preferences.  He was fed on a diet of fish milkshakes in an air-conditioned room. Millions had followed it online.  The entire Nation started debating on it – the Dept of Conservation was baffled on how it landed there; it attracted crowds of onlookers.  Experts said that it is a juvenile, about 10 months old and 32in (80cm) tall. It may have been searching for squid and krill when it took a wrong turn and arrived on New Zealand’s North Island was one of the explanations. 

After experiencing the warmth and care for nearly two months, Happy feet is traversing back to its home.  Now it has a satellite tag  glued to his lower back.  It was  placed in a purpose-built crate and loaded on to the NIWA research vessel Tangaroa at its berth in Wellington Harbour, a few kilometres from Wellington Zoo, on 29 August. The Tangaroa will be undertaking an acoustic survey of southern blue whiting fish stocks in the vicinity of Campbell Island during most of September. Campbell Island is the southernmost of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands; it lies at 52.5 degrees south, approximately 1100 km north of the maximum extent of the Antarctic pack ice.   The vessel being  a research vessel has place for Happy Feet but none for the media and hence TV crews bid farewell on the wharf.  The release is to be videoed and perhaps the footage would sent via a satellite link.  It is likely to be released on or about 2nd Sept.   The satellite tag that is glued to Happy Feet  is not a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit. Developed by the Sirtrack team it would be able to locate the area of the penguin.   

The journey back home is explained in the newspapers to be well planned.  Happy Feet has been placed in a custom-made crate for the journey and will be kept cool with 60 buckets of ice. It will be fed fish.  Authorities have decided to release Happy Feet at the northern point of where other juvenile emperor penguins would be at this time of year. Quoting the  boat's skipper reports suggest that  once the Tangaroa  reached the drop-off point,  the engines will be cut off and penguin will be released from the deck into the sea with a makeshift canvas slide.  From there it can follow sea currents and return to Antarctica with the others.  Once released, it has the same survival chances of any other emperor penguin making the seasonal journey home, experts said. 

Even as the whole of Nation and parts of the World went gaga about it unusual appearance, there are some different discordant notes as well.  A post in Wellington's Dominion Post questioned the use of money on an animal whose species is not endangered.  It says that bird rescue and rehabilitation is not pressing conservation priority and that the amount spent could support restoration of a wetland or  could have provided habitat to many species.  

Whatever it be, Happy Feet is benefitted by the fantastic coincidence of the research vessel’s journey to 53 degrees south, which is within the natural range of juvenile emperor penguins.  It was sent off with a farewell party and people reportedly wore black and white in its honour.  Happy Feet is already on a remarkable marine sojourn, back to its native land leaving behind too many questions unanswered.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

IAAF - more bolts fall on the turf - will that make the revision of the rules ?

Yet another disqualification – events happening at  IAAF World Championships at Daegu. In Cricket, there is an interesting legend that when WG Grace was batting,  he told the Umpire that the crowds had come all the way to see him play and not him getting out !  Performance of the top notch is what crowds gather to see….

Usain Bolt’s shock dethroning in 100M sprint before the race was won is raging over.    There is some twist with news that it was the gold-medallist Yohan Blake who had made the first movement ahead of the gun.  Bolt was disqualified as he emerged too early from his blocks  to be disqualified. Distraught, he tore off his shirt and held his head in disbelief.  It was the interpretation of a new rule in effect since January 1, 2010 meaning an immediate ejection for a false start.

The Jamaican Blake, Bolt's training partner, was crowned the youngest ever world champion at 21.  Whoever it was it is the zero tolerance rule that is being debated now.   There is debate on whether this needs to be diluted for the London 2012 Olympics so that fans get to see the real fight in 100m final on 5th Aug 2012. Sure Bolt is a superstar who has dominated the event but in fairness whether the sudden death rule should be revisited for a solitary performance of an individual is debatable !!  The original rule stated that each runner was allowed one false start but would be disqualified for a second break.   Reverting back to the two-start rule brings advantages to others, but it also heightens the tension for fans and feels fairer, even if the great starters deliberately break and then have the field under exactly the same pressure as the no false start rule. 

No man should ever be bigger than the Sport itself !  I fail to see logic in the argument that those who pay …. pounds a ticket to watch the definitive track race will feel justifiably robbed by a rule.  There are comparisons that an identical rule has been in place in swimming for 13 years and has attracted little controversy in that period, even when  highest-profile victim of swimming's sudden-death rule was Ian Thorpe in 2004 Olympic trials, when he fell in before the start of the 400m freestyle. 

Calling it Daegu disappointment sounds ok but to review the rules would make it Daegu disaster.  In any Sports, there would be rules and there could be disqualifications which could be unfortunate and could rob the competition of its flair, still rules are rules, without which much needed discipline could not be bartered.  But as I was about to post this, there is more news !

Dayron Robles from Cuba,  is another star in tracks,  who specialises in the 110 metre hurdles. Dayron Robles became another high-profile disqualification at the World Championships as he was stripped of his 110m hurdles gold medal.  The 110 metres hurdles is a hurdling track and field event for men and strangely its female counterpart is the 100 metre hurdles. As part of a racing event, ten hurdles of 1.067 metres (3.5 ft or 42 inches) in height are evenly spaced along a straight course of 110 metres. They are positioned so that they will fall over if bumped into by the runner. Fallen hurdles do not carry a fixed time penalty for the runners, but they have a significant pull-over weight which slows down the run.

Dayron Robles set a World record of 12.87 seconds in 2008 and won the 2008 Beijing Olympics in 12.93 seconds. Injury ruled him out for much of 2009, but he returned strongly with a championship record win at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships.   Robles made contact with China's Liu Xiang and was disqualified after the Chinese appealed, handing Jason Richardson the gold and Liu the silver. An appeal from the Cuban team was rejected and Britain's Andy Turner was awarded the bronze medal.

Bolt is not alone; he has D Robles, C Ohyruogu (women's 400m), D Chambers (100m), J Cuddihy (women's 400m) and some more athletes in the list of those who were eliminated technically.  

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bolt from the Blue for Usain - it is Yohan Blake at Daegu, South Korea

The whole World is watching intensely the keenly contested events of the  13th World Championships in Athletics -  an international athletics competition currently being held in Daegu, South Korea. It started on 27 August and is scheduled to finish on 4 September 2011.

In any athletic event, 100 M spring is the blue riband event and by all parameters and form,  the Olympic champion Usain Bolt certainly was  once again the odds-on favourite to win gold in the men's 100m final.  No game is won before the final moments, there are many keen to challenge him – yet Usain Bolt is a champion in his own right.
 Bolt winning in style in Beijing Olympics

In the same Korea, way back in 1988 in Olympics, we all watched and were startled by an astonishing 9.79 by the dimunitive pocket powerhouse Ben Johnson turning head to see the rest behind, raise his finger even before he crossed the final line to declare himself the winner – a great gesture but before he could celebrate the win was disallowed as he tested positive for stanozolol after the race.   To me it was remarkable race – in the 100M sprint, little separates the runners,  Ben could turn back around 75 – 80M and was home by a comfortable margin – a great race looking it again and again.

My favourite writer Sujatha wrote a story based on the life of a girl aspiring to win  the 100M in under 10 seconds titled ‘pathu second muthuam (10 second kiss).  Though records keep tumbling down, for women 10.49 seconds remains.  It was achieved by Florence Griffith-Joyner popularly Flo-Jo in 1988.  she passed away at a young age of 38 in 1998. 

In men, the barrier was first broken way back in 1968 by Jim Hines, then Calvin Smith, Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrel, Donovan Bailey, Maurice Greene, Tim Montgomery, Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin – all have done that.  The Jamaican Usain Bolt showed to the World that he is made of a different stuff.  In the Beijing Olympics on 16th Aug 1988, he ran an improbable 9.69 to win the Gold.  In the 2009 World Championship, he further clipped 0.11 seconds to run an incredible 9.58 seconds, which is presently the World record.  He was touted to repeat his performance of winning, if not the timing !!!

Blake, the winner

But the winner of yesterday’s event is Yohan Blake, a fellow Jamaican.  He holds the national junior record for the 100 metres, and tied Seun Ogunkoya as the youngest sprinter to have broken the 10-second barrier (at 19 years, 197 days).  Blake's personal best of 9.89 seconds makes him the fourth fastest Jamaican runner He is coached by Glen Mills, and is training partners with Bolt and Daniel Bailey.  At the 2011 World Championships, Blake comfortably made the final.  Following the shock disqualification of compatriot Usain Bolt, Blake won the Gold medal in a time of 9.92s.

 the false start

It was a technical loss for the  triple Olympic champion, and an unbackable favourite to retain his world title.  As he  burst from his blocks in lane five realized in anguish the enormity of his error   within just a couple of strides and  was tearing off his Jamaican vest in fury.  It should not happen but is not entirely a rarity !!  - a falst start….   His mistake was visible to the naked eye from all parts of the stadium, prompting exclamations of disbelief among shocked spectators.

Generally Bolt has a great aura of  style, pomp and arrogance that goes with most Caribbeans.  This time he beat himself with an unforgiveable lapse of starting before to leave all his fans nodding their heads in disapproval.  His running mate Blake won the world championship last night and immediately dedicated the victory to his countryman whose stunning false start disqualification had opened the path for him to claim the crown.

That is what nervy trouble can do to even the most confident persons.  A person who would have won the face half a second ahead of anyone else, nervously jumped possibly worried of hundredths of a second an advantage that the early starter  might get !!  There is more left and the immediate challenge for him is 200M where also he is expected to win hands down.  As with most sports, there has been a recent change in 2010 – introduction of a one strike and you are out rule for false starts after the sport had been blighted by a routine number of false starts.  Bolt was not the only man to false start and rule himself out of any hope of a medal, British sprinter Dwain Chambers false started in the semi final. Several English commentators have ventured that the rule needs to be changed again before the London Olympics so as to avoid the possibility of the world missing out on seeing the best racing the best because of a tedious rule.  As usual for the British supporters, rules should always be flexed if they might come in the way of their winning !!

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anna Hazare ends his fast - Happy moments are here again !

August 28th 2011 is a red lettered day in the History of Independent India – a golden moment for the democracy in the Country.  Gandhian Anna Hazare stands tall, he has shown to the World once again that non-violence will still triumph.  At 10.00 am today, after 12 days, he finally called off his fast much to the cheer of the whole Nation. 

Anna, his Gandhian method, his attire, his methods, the term Lokpal have all become household names.  People across the Nation carried the spirit of patriotism alive in their hearts and displayed it at Public Forums and street corners.  The venue chosen by him – the Ramlila grounds remained abuzz with people as crowds thronged in his support. 

The resultant ‘Jan Lokpla Bill’ is citizen’s ombudsman bill – a proposed independent anti-corruption law in India.   It is an offshoot of the Lokpal bill first introduced by Shanti Bhushan in 1968,  passed by the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969.  Subsequent versions were re-introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008 – none of them have seen the light and finally the crusader has ensured there would be on in 2011 at least !!
The word ‘Lokpal’ seemingly has a lengthier history than the ‘Lokpal bill’ which is 42 years old.  The word Lokpal was coined in 1963 by L.M.Singhvi, a Member of Parliament during a debate in Parliament about grievance redressal mechanisms. The prefix  ‘Jan’   was added much later  to signify the fact that these improvements include input provided by "ordinary citizens" through an activist-driven, non-governmental public consultation.  L. M. Singhvi born in Jodhpur (1931 – 2007) was an eminent Indian jurist, parliamentarian, constitutional expert, scholar, distinguished diplomat. He was the longest-serving High Commissioner for India in the United Kingdom He was conferred Padma Bhushan in 1998.  
LM Singhvi  was a member of the Third Lok Sabha from 1962-67 from Jodhpur as an Independent .  He was elected to Rajya Sabha (1998–2004) as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  A linguist and a prolific author, Singhvi was also a well acknowledged scholar of Jain history and culture, remained president of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. He spearheaded the Indian delegation to the United Nations conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993.  There are reports now that he had moored the idea of the Lokpal bill way back in the 1960s based on his study on the Ombudsman's role in the Scandinavian countries.

Going into the history of Lokpal, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley of BJP  on Saturday (27/8/11)  recalled that it was the then independent MP L M Singhvi, who had coined the term Lokpalway back in 1963.   TOI reports that Jaitley got a phone call soon after his speech from the late L M Singhvi's wife, "who was moved to tears" as Jaitley put it, saying, how she appreciated her late husband's mention on this historic day.

The son of LM Singhvi,  now heads the Standing Committee of Parliament which is entrusted with the job of looking into the Lokpal Bill against corruption. It is  Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi.    He represents Congress party and is presently a Member of the Parliament of India representing Rajasthan in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament and also  the spokesperson of the Congress party.

An articulate spokesperson, he was  embroiled in controversy when he had offered legal advice in his professional capacity as a lawyer to Dow Chemicals(parent of Union Carbide) on whether it would be held accountable for the Bhopal gas tragedy in any way post its acquisition of Union Carbide.  Singhvi recently was again bogged down in controversy when, after being criticized for "talking only in generalities and legalese jargon without any specific solutions", he was unable to answer any question on the topic of Anna Hazare's fast and the Jan Lokpal bill. Upon being confronted by some difficult questions, he abused the questioner himself and arrogantly walked out of the debate on live national television.

Success will have many fathers and recently former election commissioner GVG Krishnamurthy said that the Country's first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was interested in setting up an independent body to check corruption.  He has stated that the issue of creating an ombudsman to fight graft had come up for discussions at 3rd All India Law Conference at instance of Nehru in 1962.

Welcome to Jan Lokpal Bill;  many thanks to Team Anna Hazare; Long Live Democracy and Jai Hind.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fight Against Corruption - Supporting Anna Hazare - Need of our Life

We are at  crossroads.  The entire Nation is – there is debate in nooks and corners of the Country.  There is perceptible feeling that people want it to happen but are still unsure of how it would or whether it would at all.  The world's largest democracy is at a very crucial stage.  Corruption has been felt by almost all of us at some point of time; whether willingly or for lack of choice, we have had subscribed to corruption in some manner.  For some it has become a way of life – it is easy to say that nothing moves without greasing somebody.  Many find it the easiest way – to pay and have their work done.

How ethical, How moral, should there by any protest at all ?  For long none seemed to care or those voices were stifled.  Now there is a crusader who is 74 and  India Against Corruption (IAC) is a citizen's movement to demand strong anti-corruption laws.  He has not eaten since Aug 16 and so also many supporting him (or are they simply the ones who have readily come forward to fight the Nation’s cause and in the process theirs !!).  Sure he is human and  Doctors attending on Anna Hazare have started expressing  worry over the fasting social activist's falling blood pressure and said he should end his fast, which entered day 12, as his health has begun to deteriorate.  Anna   Hazare, 74, has been surviving only on water since Aug 16, when he started his fast against corruption.   Anna  on his  12th day of  hunger strike  says he will not eat till the government agrees to three features that he deems essential for an effective Lokpal or ombudsman committee. The Lokpal is intended to function as an independent agency that will handle charges of corruption against all public servants. The government has prepared one draft of the Lokpal Bill; Anna wants his version to be adopted; other activists have prepared their own drafts.

India is a Parliamentary Democracy – drafted in fine fabric – there are representatives of the people – who are to voice the genuine grievances of the people they represent.  It is the Parliament which is the Supreme body, a body run by elected representatives theoretically representing the collective will of crores of citizens.  In the Lok Sabha,  today  Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has initiated the debate on the Lokpal Bill with a statement.   The discussion is to  focus largely on the version of the anti-corruption bill drafted by activist Anna Hazare and his associates.

These are the highlights of Mr Mukherjee's speech:
•       Would like to again appeal to Anna to end his fast
•       Discussions were held to discuss the draft of the Lokpal
•       There is agreement on 20 of 40 basic principles put forward by government and civil society activists
•       BJP chief's letter in June said civil society not decision makers, Parliament must have last word
•       Told Team Anna no immediate commitment possible
•       Explained to Team Anna that we need multi-layered laws

Mr Mukherjee said there are six major issues of divergence:
•       One single act be provided for both Lokpal in Centre and Lokpal state.  Will state govt be willing to accept draft provisions for Lokayukta on same lines as Lokpal?
•       Should PM be covered by Lokpal?
•       Should judges of high Court and Supreme Court be brought within ambit of Lokpal?
•       Should conduct of MPs inside parliament be brought within purview of the Lokpal?
•       Should Lokpal have quasi-judicial powers?
•       Can all civil servants be punished and dismissed by Lokpal and Lokayuktas?
Pranab said, We wrote to all parties to collect their views; Samajwadi Party and BSP did not respond. BJP said civil society cannot be decision makers. After an all-party meeting we called, all parties said that supremacy of Parliament must be maintained, institutions of democracy cannot be undermined, laws have to be made by parliamentarians.

There can be endless debates – Nation has seen it all.  One need not be intelligent to know how it has been treated by the politicians.  More than 4 decades back, the Lokpal Bill was first introuded by Shanti Bhushan in 1968 and passed the 4th Lok Sabha in 1969. But the Rajya Sabha was dissolved,  before the bill got through the Rajya Sabha.  ] The Subsequent versions were re-introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008,-  but none of them passed.   Will any such thing happen to any other bill where the MPs are interested ..  how many times have their salaries and perks have been revised and how many sittings did they require for passage in Parliament ?  

Again the bill or the movement in its present form is not a creation by Anna Hazare in August 2011.  Renewed calls for the bill arose over resentment of the major differences between the draft 2010 Lokpal Bill prepared by the government and that prepared by the members of the associated activists movement — N. Santosh Hegde, a former justice of the Supreme Court of India; Lokayukta of Karnataka; Shanti Bhushan; Arvind Kejriwal; Prashant Bhushan, a senior lawyer in the Supreme Court; and members of the India Against Corruption movement.  There is discernible feeling all over the Country sweeping through the minds of all individuals that the existing laws are too weak, full of contradictions, insufficiently empowered and toothless against corruption.  It is a fact that those who are arrested on corruption charges enter the prison cells with glee writ large on their faces and come out after passage of some time, unconvicted.  How long should this happen ??    

How long can Governments dilly-dally stating that these are attempts to create institutions with superceding powers !  Is not a wait of close to 50 years not long enough – why were the Governments never serious of enacting, legislating and prosecuting corrupt persons ??
A few months ago, Ministers went to the airport to receive him, then they tried to cast apsersions and attack him personally.  Anna Hazare and his team have successfully faced all the tribulations and still the hopes of a solution remains hard to come by.  

There were reports that last midnight, law minister Salman Khurshid was meeting with Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar at his residence.  It is common knowledge that it is a game of numbers in Lok Sabha or any political institution for that matter.  The Congress Government speaks in multiple voices and says that it is not opposed to these demands but when would the endorsement come !!

The three contentious demands are including the lower bureaucracy within the Lokpal's ambit, a central law to set up Lokpal-type Lokayuktas in states and a citizens' charter detailing the responsibilities of government departments and the penalty for their non-fulfilment.  The Hazare group maintained that the veteran campaigner, who has been on fast for more than 250 hours now, won't call off his protest unless he gets parliamentary commitment on his three demands. The Congress, as it mulls its response over the demands, was anxious about not only Anna's failing health, but also the risk of appearing to be the sole hurdle in the way of the Gandhian's populist anti-corruption agitation.  

Rather than concluding the issues, the People’s representatives sparred over which rule the debate should be held under, with the government suggesting rule 193, which doesn't entail voting, and the BJP insisting on rule 184 under which a debate ends with a vote.  Understand that there would only be discussions after the statement of the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who also happens to be the Leader of the Lok Sabha.   On Friday, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi strongly argued against dilution of parliamentary sovereignty.  Yes Institutions are important but were they not created only to promote and protect the interests of people ! and have not the Parliamentarians displayed how adept they are  at working out resolutions that accommodate diverse concerns, sometimes even mutually antagonistic ones.  Whether it is the Ruling Party alone or with its coalition partners or including its political rivals,  the most reputed Institutions could easily have devised strong anti-corruption measures, without demand by individuals.  Sadly that has not happened and there are no indications that any such thing will happen in near future.  That way the action of civil activities has brought in a sense of urgency and seriousness and it is not NOW it may NEVER BE.    There is still hope that on Saturday, Parliament will come together and adopt a resolution that sincerely seeks to address Anna's three remaining concerns. If a consensus is not possible, then let there be a vote.  Parliament is very centre of democracy and Voting, for or against, is integral to the parliamentary process. It also lets the electorate know where their representatives/ parties stand.

A section of the Press has behaved rather strangely.  The Hindu prefers to give more attention to the detractors and there was an article by Arundathi Roy on ‘why she would not be Anna’.  First, it is not a position and sure most of us know that she cannot be one.  Her attempt to compare Anna with the Maoist is ridiculous.  She tried to sidetrack the issue by asking why Anna is not concerned about farmer’s suicides, Singur, Nandigram, Posco &…  Well Anna, is not Arundathi, to write on anything for a day and forget.    Anna is not running a Government either.  The only issue at stake is whether corruption needs to be rooted and when will a strong legislation capable of enforcing it, will ever come ?

Anna Hazare is certainly great.  At 74, he is strong still.  Quoting a  Pune-based doctor who attended to Hazare in 1996  there are reports that  he seemingly has not  changed  much in  fitness, thanks to yoga and a balanced diet. Going by reports from Delhi, Hazare seems in the same health despite his advanced age. Any deterioration in his health is due to the natural effects of fasting.  This is not the first time he is fasting for a cause.  The longest fast came in 1996, when he went on a hunger strike for 14 days to demand the removal of two Maharashtra cabinet members. However, at that time he was 59 years old. Today he is fasting at the age of 74. Hazare was born on June 15, 1937.

He was on 9 days fast in 1989 on ‘agrarian crisis and inadequate power supply.  In 1996 demanding removal of two corrupt cabinet ministers, both of whom were dropped subsequently.  In 2003, 8 days of fasting demanding action against a minister and 9 days in 2004 demanding RTI Act in Maharashtra.

When politicians actively try to evade conclusion by citing rules, there is another suggestion that Rule 342 of Lok Sabha provides a way of taking up a discussion which would initially not provide for voting.   Every one knows that this is serious issue and there is solution – will the Government have the political will to enact and whether it would be done before it does any incalculable harm to the Gandhian and inturn to the Nation is the primary Question before all of us.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Friday, August 26, 2011

best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe and jokes in our own land !

Those with a good sense of humour make the environment lively and reduce the stress – be it in Office or in life.

Stage comedy or Comedy dramas have been quite popular in Tamilnadu and two names that have ruled the roost are : S Ve Shekhar and Crazy Mohan – both in their own way.  SV Shekhar ventured in the politics and represented Mylapore constituency earlier.   His dramas are known for their political satire and the timing of jokes.  They would be interspersed with so many jokes that there were even comments that they were only beads containing jokes.

To recall some :

-          he will ask his lady love (when she is offering coffee) – ‘why is water in your house so brown shaded’
-          when the lady love expresses her will to speak to him in person – colloquially we say ‘I want to talk alone’ – he retorts – there is so much of space outside, do go there and talk to yourself  !!
-          one of his dramas would start with rather a tragic scene – when the mother of a big family would speak of all the failures that they had in their lives; she would prefer all the family members taking poison and ending their lives together.  Then she wants to complete her vow to a village God by stitching an old carpet – she would say that her ill-luck is so bad that even for this, she is unable to pull the thread through the needle.   Shekar on entry would say ‘ amma, not you ! no one in the World can ever pull the thread through that needle – for it is not a sewing needle but gundoosi (the pin that we use for putting papers together)

In yet another one, the School Master would ask the student to name – eight dreaded jungle animals.  The immediate response is “Five tigers and 3 Lions”.   He and his fans have reasons to feel ‘missed out’.

You probably would have heard and read about the  Edinburgh Festival Fringe (The Fringe) -  the world’s largest arts festival. Established in 1947 it takes place in Scotland's capital during four weeks every August. The Fringe mostly attracts events from the performing arts, particularly theatre and comedy  alongside dance and music.   There is some story that just after Second WW, when everyone was miserable and fed up of eating ham from a tin,  a group of like-minded individuals decided to do just that and started the first Edinburgh International Festival.  And over the years,  comedy emerged to be a dominant art form on show.   Comedy has come to define the Fringe, largely because it's much cheaper for one person to turn up on stage in front of a microphone than a full touring theatrical company.

Comedian Nick Helm has won an award for the best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe. The up-and-coming funnyman was given the prize by digital TV channel Dave, whose panel put a selection of their favourites to a public vote.  With the lengthy introduction to this piece, can you imagine which joke got him the coveted first prize ??

He won for the joke: "I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."

Last year's winner, quick-fire joker Tim Vine, was beaten into second place by Helm.  The top 10 festival funnies were judged to be:
1) Nick Helm: "I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."
2) Tim Vine: "Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels."
3) Hannibal Buress: "People say 'I'm taking it one day at a time'. You know what? So is everybody. That's how time works."
4) Tim Key: "Drive-Thru McDonalds was more expensive than I thought... once you've hired the car..."
5) Matt Kirshen: "I was playing chess with my friend and he said, 'Let's make this interesting'. So we stopped playing chess."
6) Sarah Millican: "My mother told me, you don't have to put anything in your mouth you don't want to. Then she made me eat broccoli, which felt like double standards."
7) Alan Sharp: "I was in a band which we called The Prevention, because we hoped people would say we were better than The Cure."
8) Mark Watson: "Someone asked me recently - what would I rather give up, food or sex. Neither! I'm not falling for that one again, wife."
9) Andrew Lawrence: "I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience. I can't even be bothered to check my OWN voicemails."
10) DeAnne Smith: "My friend died doing what he loved ... Heroin."

Some times, it is good to start the day with a ‘good joke’

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Following Happy Feet - Emperor Penguin Online - 120000 and counting

There are times when small things garner National attention – here is something which has attracted International attention.

It is a continent which has no permanent residents though a no. of Governments maintain permanent manned research stations over there.  By definition, a continent is a large landmass – the identification is more conventional rather than any specific criteria – for one cannot group Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia on any common yardstick !!

Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent – Earth’s southernmost continent, in the South Pole.  About 98% reportedly is ice and so not many animals inhabit this place.  There are many fish varieties and some bird varieties.  They include fish, whales, sharks, seals, arctic terns, and penguins.  Living things adept themselves to surroundings – the  ice fish is interesting because it has antifreeze which keeps it's body from freezing. There is the large sea bird Albatross.  Then there is the Penguin - aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have become flippers. Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sealife caught while swimming underwater.  There are many species and one is ‘the Emperor Penguin’.
 the colony of penguins and Happy feet below

Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.  Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.  Its diet consists primarily of fish, but can also include crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. In hunting, the species can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft). It has several adaptations to facilitate this, including an unusually structured hemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels.

Happy Feet is a 2006 American-Australian computer-animated family film with music, directed and co-written by George Miller. It was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros  and was released in North America on November 17, 2006.   Happy Feet won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.

Not sure whether even that film version would have attracted so many on the Web World as the present ‘Happy Feet’ has done.  This, Happy Feet is a  wayward emperor penguin, discovered on a New Zealand beach six weeks ago, and is proposed to be returned to the wild soon – now he has  an online following of more than 120,000.

Well, that is the count of  unique visitors who  have logged onto a Web camera monitoring his every move. Thousands more are expected to follow the updates after he's released in coming weeks, with feeds from a GPS tracker attached to his back posted online.  Added is the the chatter on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Actually there is nothing to follow him, he does nothing more than eating, sleeping and waddle occasionally.   Facebook is full of comments – at …. Hrs Happy Feet was sould asleep; he flipped and moved his left foot; he got up ……….  are the comments !

The penguin was found June 20 on Peka Peka Beach, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of Wellington and far from his Antarctic feeding grounds. He was moved four days later to the Wellington Zoo after becoming ill from eating sand, which he likely mistook for snow.   Penguins have not been spotted here since 1967.  The New Zealand Herald reports that X-rays taken at the zoo revealed the penguin had a belly full of sand and that it was badly dehydrated.   He was administered intravenous drip and  has since gained weight and been given a clean bill of health to return to the ocean.  His unusual journey captured worldwide interest, with local TV3 station setting up a webcam on June 30 in his small, ice-filled room at the zoo.  At some point of time frenzied phone calls prompted the Zoo to send a veterinarian to check on the penguin worrying whether it was alive when it was in fact sleeping.

The zoo raised the $10,000 through a public campaign to cover the costs of housing Happy Feet, and had also  raised about $8,000 so far for returning him to the sub-Antarctic ocean south of New Zealand - a trip that could cost up to $30,000.  The GPS tracker unit will likely come off when Happy Feet molts in April, if not sooner, though the penguin has also been fitted with a microchip that will be triggered if he roams near monitored colonies in Antarctica. 

Strange are the ways of people and stranger are those of birds.. if at all Penguin can be classified as a bird !!

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quenching the thirst – the story of a Goli soda Manufacturer…

The atmosphere is still hot – in August it still sweltering heat – a few minutes outsides leaves you parched.  You would think that an icy-cold soft drink is the necessity ! – you go to any mall or any shop even it be a roadside one – you get the multinational branded Coke or Pepsi and can enjoy the chill bottled drink.  It might appear to be refreshing but actually it is not – it would neither reduce your thirst nor supplement you in any manner.  Loaded with sugar and devoid of any nutritional value, carbonated soft drinks can only do harm.  You can read that it contains – carbonated water, sugar, caffeine, phosphoric acid, caramel colour and natural flavouring but does not contain any fruit juice or fruit pulp, yes a fruit drink where fruit is not a component in any manner.   An occasional soft drink would be relatively harmless but not when it is consumed displacing nutritional food and beverage.  The soft drink corporations are aggressively marketing their products targetting children mostly through grand advertisements, movies and promos.

Perhaps this industry sells more than any other industry does ! Inside Shopping malls, departmental stores and even your neighbourhood friendly shops – you find breathtaking array of soft drinks.  From the days when you had Fanta, Campacola and Goldspot backed up by Kali Mark,  Bovonto and Mapillai Vinayakar in interior places, the industry has come a long way.   Now you have too many brands of Cocoa Cola, Limca, 7 Up, LMN, Slice, Maaza, Mountain dew, Slice, Sprite, Mirinda, Thumsup, Pepsi – to name a few.   The soft drink industry is growing at a hectic pace and Coke & Pepsi have a lion’s share of the market. 
Some of the prime reasons for their success would include – their advertisement, marketing technique, supply chain, transportation, shift from returnable glass bottles to pet bottles.  This story is not about the multinational giants but their subjugation of desi bottled drinks industry !

Once upon a time, in the Indian Nation, there used to be a drink called soda partnered by another variant ‘paneer’ soda (flavoured version).  One could see handcart containing loads of these bottles being delivered to road corner shops and they would sell in large numbers.  Tamilnadu was a place known for political meetings and speakers.  There would be roadside public meetings attended by large number of masses.  As the speaker would make an enthralling speech, a supporter would come to the make shift dias, open a soda bottle with his hands and provide it to the speaker lauding his speech.  It was a thirst quencher and had a pride of place in state politics – it is another matter that the same soda bottle was effectively used as a weapon to disperse crowds and make them run. 

That is the story of ‘Goli Soda’  - the bottled soda drink which had a marble in its neck.  It was pure carbonated water commonly called soda (not the club soda of these days) – it had a simple process of putting carbon dioxide gas under pressure dissolved into water, making the drink fizzy and effervescent.  A great drink which sold in great numbers -  can you spot them or would you be ok in your child drinking it now ?  Did you ever care to think how this transformation took place in a few decades. 

By some token, soda though local was not indigenous.  Its origin is traced to 1872 when  British soft drink maker Hiram Codd of Camberwell, London, designed and patented a bottle designed specifically for carbonated drinks. The Codd-neck bottle was designed and manufactured to enclose a marble and a rubber washer/gasket in the neck. The bottles were filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle was pinched into a special shape  to provide a chamber into which the marble was pushed to open the bottle. This prevented the marble from blocking the neck as the drink was poured.  This  became extremely popular with the soft drink and brewing industries.

The industry thrived and flourished even in cities and they were sold near schools also.  I have seen some goli soda factories in the vicinity of Triplicane though almost none exist today – all eaten by the big fishes.  The giant competitors crushed these small units not only by competitive edge but also by destroying the very fabric.  For the small time soda makers, the cost of soda and cost of retrieval was huge.  A broken bottle would harm not only the man but also the manufacturer.  It is widely believed that the Multinational giants resorted to buying the old bottles in bulk and destroyed them ensuring that the supply chain for the soda industry is broken.  By breaking the very backbone they ruthlessly restrained their competitors. 

Anna Salai (Mount Road) is the arterial road lying in the heart of Chennai and closer to the road (near LIC) in one of the narrow by-lanes, there exists still a factory manufacturing goli soda. Vela & Co is run by an young entrepreneur continuing the family traditions, run jointly with the brother of his father.  Decades ago, it was roaring business and around 10000 bottles were made and distributed to city shops when there was tough competition from similar soda manufacturing units.  Now virtually there is no competition – but the production has trickled down to few hundreds.  Not able to rely upon this product alone, they have diversified into making flavoured juices, milk, buttermilk and the like.  A bottled soda perhaps returns them 20% of the sale price of Rs.5/- which in these days is just not enough, as the turnover is modest to say it modestly.

The owner is Vadivel Koteeswaran, who worked with us for some time.

With regards
S. Sampathkumar.

PS :    The New Indian Express (City Express – Chennai supplement) featured an article on this factory on 2nd Aug 2011