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Sunday, June 30, 2013

India - West Indies clash at Sabina Park, Kingston today.

India plays West Indies in Tri Nation tournament today… India has hit the crescendo – the Champions Trophy win adding to the win WC 2011.. giving rise to speeches that this Team is by far the best…
The venue was found way back in July 1962 reportedly  as a place for refugees and survivors of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal. Before the earthquake, this place was used as agricultural land.  The town did not begin to grow until after the further destruction of Port Royal by the Nick Catania Pirate Fleet's fire in 1703. The government sold land to people with the regulation that they purchase no more than the amount of the land that they owned in Port Royal, and only land on the sea front. Gradually wealthy merchants began to move their residences from above their businesses to the farm lands north on the plains of Liguanea.
There were times when teams used to fear to tour West Indies and India has a bloody memory of this place.  In 1976, India toured West Indies under Bishan Singh Bedi.    WI won the first test at Bridgetown, by an innings and 97 runs.  The second one at Port of Spain was drawn and the third one on Apr 1976 was historic.  Indians chased 405 in the fourth innings and won by 6 wickets with Sunil Gavaskar and Vishwanath making centuries, ably supported by Mohinder Amarnath, Brijesh Patel and Madanlal.  In the fourth  Test no. 776 in April 1976 - score card would read  India 306/6 decl !! ; WI 391 all out.  India 97 all out and West Indies making the 13 runs required without losing a wicket.  Statistics will never reveal the real story. WW Daniel made his debut in a bloody test, where Indians were intimidated with crowds calling for blood.  The short pitched bowling was overdone and Holding from round the wickets caused most damage to the bodies of Indians.  Gaekwad’s innings was one of raw courage taking several blows on the body and arms – the gears were not so protective those days.  Gaekwad was forced to retire bleeding in his ears ~ that was the test when one player after other had to be escorted to hospital with bleeding injuries.  In the Second essay, Gavaskar failed to Holding and half of the team was not fit to play.   With 5 batsmen absent hurt – it was recorded that Indians were all out for 97.

It took place at Kingston, the  capital and largest city of Jamaica, located on the southeastern coast of the island.  Two parts make up the central area of Kingston: the historic Downtown, and New Kingston.  Sabina Park, the home of the Kingston Cricket Club, is situated in the driest part of Kingston and for many years the pitch was one of the hardest and fastest in the Caribbean. But in recent years the surface slowed, despite attempts to restore life by relaying it on more than one occasion.
Six months ago, Indian cricket was supposed to be at its nadir. On the back of those eight successive overseas Test defeats came a shocking home Test series loss to England. MS Dhoni  was severely criticized.   Things have changed so fast ! now it is  No. 1 ranked ODI side, the World Cup and Champions Trophy holder. India's opponents, West Indies, showed against Sri Lanka in the opening game why an ODI ranking of No. 8 does them no justice, especially when they actually use some of their enormous potential.
India has won 47 of its matches against the once formidable West Indies representing a win % of 43 and you will not be surprised to know that most of these have come in this century.  Prior to 1990, India clashed 32 times and won a mere 6 losing the rest 26.  The first ever win came in its 3rd encounter in 1983 at Berbice. 1983 was so good for Indians as they beat WI twice in WC 1983 – the most important one coming at Lords in the Finals on 25th June 1983, which is part of history now. Krish Srikkanth top scored there – later India won once at Calcutta in Jan 1988 and twice at Sharjah – Srikkanth scored a century in one of that becoming the MoM and 40 in the other. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Petrol hike... to cost Rs.1.82 more from tonight

You read with not much of interest that rupee is weakening and has touched historical high in exchange to dollar… nothing affected you – thought so…

A couple of days ago, when mopeds ruled the roads ~ the common man would stand in long queues at petrol bunks the day prior to the budget, fearing a hike in petrol hike…………. Not for once he thought that with his limited capacity petrol tank, nothing much would change ….but to the good planner every pie saved was rupee earned and hence such attempts to fill the tank to its capacity in perhaps the lower price………….

Gone are those days…. Not that common man has grown wiser… fact is ~ petrol hikes do not occur with every budget, they happen any time – infact keeps increasing all the time.  The month of June is yet to end and has seen the third such price hike………… the news is that petrol price was today hiked by a steep Rs 1.82 a litre,  as falling rupee made imports costlier.

At Chennai on May 1 2013 it was Rs.65.90; on 1st June it was 66.85 and on 16th June it was 69.39;  At Delhi:  May 1 2013 it was Rs.63.09; on 1st June it was 63.99 and on 16th June it was 66.39  ~ from midnight of today, it would sell at Rs.68.58.

An increase in diesel rates is expected early next week. Oil companies raised petrol rates by Rs 1.82 a litre, excluding local sales tax or VAT, with effect from midnight. Actual increase will be higher and will vary from city to city depending on local taxes. The revision in prices as per the practice of changing rates in line with cost every fortnight, was due on Sunday June 30 but were raised today. Diesel price too is expected  to be raised by 40-50 paisa per litre early next week in accordance with the government mandate for small doses of increases every month.

This week’s increases have almost negated the four reductions this year that had brought down the rates at the beginning of May.  The deterioration of Exchange rate is quoted as the reason by Indian Oil Corporation.  Diesel prices have been hiked on five occasions since January when the government authorised state-owned oil firms to increase prices by up to 50 paisa per litre every month till entire losses on the fuel are wiped out.

Don’t be surprised if your autowallah in Chennai charges Rs.10/- more per kilo metre.  LPG, kerosene, diesel and petrol prices are bench marked to global prices. These benchmarks are used for calculating desired price of the fuels as well as the revenue loss incurred by oil marketing companies (OMCs) on selling below that price. Oil companies were allowed to revise price of petrol in accordance with international prices and exchange rate in June 2010 and diesel price since this January is moving towards market price. Non-subsidised LPG cylinder too is marked to international price. The Singapore region price for petrol is used for this purpose.

So, more expenses from tomorrow is the news as you are about to hit the bed

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th June 2013.

Govt hikes Natural gas rate... Rangarajan formula !!

The market is buoyant and shares of gas exploring companies like ONGC  , Reliance Industries  and Oil India  rose after an expert panel approved gas price hike, a move that could  boost bottomlines of these companies by atleast 10 percent.

The Cabinet Committee for Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Thursday night approved the Rangarajan panel's complex pricing proposal to hike the natural gas price to USD 8.4 per mmbtu (metric million British thermal units) from April 1, 2014.  The committee has further noted that Rangarajan panel's formula for gas pricing would be valid for five years and gas prices will be revised quarterly.  The government of India has approved a doubling of natural gas prices, in a politically-sensitive move that will take effect around the time of next year's elections. The rise will have a knock-on effect on the cost of electricity, transport fuel, fertiliser and cooking gas.

Indian state energy companies welcomed the news, saying it will increase investment within the sector and help to attract money from outside. Well, Corporates can be happy – but the common man would be made to bear the additional burden and hence the price increase is likely to be unpopular with voters, who go to the polls for both local and national elections within the next 12 months. The Communist Party of India (CPI) described the price rise as a "disaster", which would lead to accelerating inflation and higher costs for farmers.

Some reports suggest that  the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, went along with the Rangarajan Committee formula was consequent to the demand made by Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) for doubling, thus bringing them on a par with the international price of LNG.

IANS reports that these would be the people who will suffer the consequences of the Govt's actions:
* The hike would directly impact over 21 lakh households using piped natural gas.
* More than 17 lakh vehicles running on CNG.
* It would also jeopardize the economic competitiveness of more than 1,000 small and medium enterprise sectors.
* The blow would be higher for 119 million farmers who would have to pay 65 per cent more for urea — from Rs 5,360 per tonne to Rs 8,892 per tonne.

Prices only move one way ^^^^ up up up…. Not the shares that you have ….

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

PS: Collated from Indian Express and Economic Times.

Accidents ~ School vans ~ utter neglect of safety - a day in life of Chennai student !!!

How does your kid commute to school … many of us are not in a position to drop them to school…. Most make arrangements with private autos; vans and cycle rickshaws….. and feel that they have done their duty….. how many have cared to see the way their children commute in the vehicle arranged….. many a parents would keep on making calls to their van driver … just to know where the van is, whether their delay in preparations  could impact and whether their children is safely travelling…….. all ‘without even thinking that they are imperilling their own and other children travelling in that van’……… see some small boyish driver driving the van rashly ~ speaking on the mobile phone all the time !! and he could well be answering your call….. duty does not stop with that… after all you are paying for that van, can’t you care to check whether the vehicle is properly maintained and whether it is being driven by a person, who possess valid DL and is in a state of mind to drive it properly….. ???

Public memory is shortlived….in July 2012, the city mourned the unfortunate death of a class II child at Mudichur. The unfortunate girl slipped through a hole on the floor of the school bus she was travelling and was run over by the rear wheel of the same vehicle.  Going by newspaper reports, S.Sruthi, a class II student of Zion Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Indira Nagar in Selaiyur, Tambaram, was seated on the sixth row on the bus (TN 23 S 9952). It was 4.05 p.m; her stop, near Manimangalam koot road on Mudichur Road, was near. Sruthi got up, but her little feet slipped into a gaping hole right under the seat, into the road below. The rear wheels of the bus ran over her, killing her instantly ~ a clear case of negligence ….. of the society – by the driver, the owner not maintaining properly, the school not caring for their students and the parents not caring to check up !!!

Now in a recent gruesome instance of vehicles ferrying school kids turning into veritable death traps, a 13-year-old class IX student of a private school was killed and eight of his batch-mates injured after the van in which they were travelling overturned at the tail end of the over-bridge on Pallavaram Radial Road on 26th June 13. The victim, Deepak, was crushed to death under the weight of the vehicle, which dragged him for some distance before coming to a halt, in a mishap caused by a clear case of negligent driving. A group of 20 students of Vel’s Vidhyashram had been proceeding to the school, when it met with the accident at 8.10 am.  The accident took place about a km from the school.

Indian Express reports that it was the cleaner of the van, Mahesh, who had been at the wheel when the accident took place, and he does not even have a valid licence. After the accident, Mahesh abandoned the vehicle as well as the children and ran away. The driver, Saravanan, who had picked up the students from their residences, had entrusted the cleaner with the job of dropping them at school. And this had been the routine in the past two days. It was ironic that the parents had hired the vehicle, as Saravanan was formerly employed on the school fleet. According to eyewitnesses, Mahesh, while driving, was talking to a friend accompanying the van on a two-wheeler. While overtaking a car, he tried to avoid hitting his friend riding the two-wheeler and swerved to the extreme left in an attempt to prevent the vehicle from jumping off to the service lane. This caused the vehicle to overturn. The driver alighted from the vehicle and escaped with his friend on the bike.

Immediately, a passer-by alerted the 108 Ambulance Service. A private ambulance of Parvathy Hospital, which was stationed in front of Vel’s University, also rushed to the spot and moved Deepak, Aarthy (14), and Nirmalraj (12) who were injured on the spot to Parvathy Hospital. Deepak was declared dead on arrival, while Aarthy and Nirmalraj were admitted in hospital.

A news article in TOI states that Schools are clear that they would refuse to take responsibility for accidents caused by private vehicles. They have categorically stated that the management is not responsible for accidents that occur outside. Schools said the onus was also on parents to ensure the safety of children by checking the vehicle and the driver’s background.  One of the Correspondents is quoted as stating “Parents have to first look for a neighbourhood school to put their children in. If that is not feasible, they should make efforts to shift their residence near the child’s school. Safety should come first,”.      

One cannot even think of antagonising school managements ~ but by the same coin, does any of the school ensure that their school bus is being operated safely – the vehicles are properly maintained, that the drivers are qualified and that they adhere to safety norms including not speaking on mobile phones……. Just go to any school or college zone, you can see for yourself the violations and the rash driving of yellow colour buses owned by Educational institutions…. ‘Safety should come first’ for all – and these vehicles are endangering the safety of other road users too….

With concern – S. Sampathkumar.

28th June 2013.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cities are not meant only for people ..... dogs and everything else too - says Maneka Gandhi

Heard of ~ Cynophobia ! Dogs are considered man’s best ally and among the most sought after pets ~ to some they bring endless joy and fun. For some they are too scary…. One shudders to think of walking alone in by-lanes especially in the night time, when suddenly a stray dog starts barking, making a few more join and perhaps giving a chase…..too scary…

Recently a public interest litigation was  filed at the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai seeking to control the stray dog menace in the city. The petitioner pleads for direction to authorities to  administer “fatal injection” to the dogs afflicted by rabies in order to control the dog menace.  There 2 women died in successive days due to rabies’ infection. In Chennai there were news of a 4 year old and another 5 year old girls becoming victims of stray dog menace in Washermanpet.  Another was attacked by her neighbour’s dog within RK Nagar police limits.

TOI reports that Chennai Corporation has revealed before the Madras High Court that it killed a total of 779 stray dogs in 2012. Terming it euthanasia, the civic body admitted that it put to death 4,406 dogs in a three-year period beginning April 2009. It was the civic body’s reply to a public interest writ petition seeking a direction to the authorities to curb the stray cattle menace on Chennai roads. The PIL-petitioner wanted the authorities to take action against owners of animals that loiter on streets without licence or regulation. Noting that they are a hazard to public safety, he wanted the corporation to remove the stray animals under Sections 280 and 281 of the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act.  According to statistics submitted by Corporation, in 2012, they captured 19,131 dogs, of which 779 were euthanised and the remaining 18,352 sterilised. 

I am no great fan of dogs ~ do not suffer from ‘cynophobia’ though… Cynophobia is the abnormal fear of dogs.  It is classified as a specific phobia, under the subtype "animal phobias”.  This article in The Hindu by Maneka Gandhi stating ‘it is dangerous to think cities are built only for people’ makes a very interesting reading and provides another perspective to the mongreldom.
Article by Maneka Gandhi…

The Mayor of Chennai has been making a lot of noise about removing dogs from the street and putting them in permanent pounds. One does not have to be a dog lover to realise how dangerous this is to the wellbeing of Chennai’s humans. Let me explain.The first letter I ever wrote as an animal welfare activist was in the 1980s to the Municipal Commissioner of the New Delhi Corporation asking him not to kill dogs cruelly. It did not occur to me that there could be a world in which dogs were not killed at all.

In 1995, I went to the U.S. for a major conference on the subject of killing street dogs. A county called San Mateo in California had replaced the killing with sterilisation and vaccination and, within two years, had so much scientific evidence that this worked. In 1980, there was a survey of dog numbers in Delhi; the figure arrived at was 1.5 lakhs. From 1980 to 1990, about 800,000 dogs were killed. So what was the number of dogs in 1990? The same 1.5 lakhs! Killing them — by picking up the dogs with tongs, breaking their limbs, keeping them hungry for a week, stuffed 30 to a cage lying in their own faeces and urine, throwing water on them and then electrocuting them — had no effect on the numbers.

I asked the World Health Organisation if there were any alternatives. There were. I came back, filed a case against the killing of dogs in Delhi and won. The typical bureaucrat/lower politician’s attitude — “Do you want people to live or animals? Cities are built for people, not animals.” — is outdated and unscientific.

Nature has allotted to the dog the role of a scavenger of the city. Its specific purpose is to keep garbage, rats and other pests in check. Do you think that dogs survive because animal lovers feed them? Certainly not. One pair of rats is ready for breeding within six weeks of being born — and each pair can breed 35,000 rats by the end of each year. Who keeps this potentially disastrous situation in check? No municipal corporation has allocated a single paisa for the destruction of rats. Each city has over 10,000 cases yearly of humans bitten by rats. Is there any municipal money allocated for rat elimination? No. Instead, the Corporation removes the rat eliminators: the dogs.

And which dogs? Sick dogs? Rabid dogs? No. The Class IV catchers are not going to risk their lives by catching dogs with a communicable disease. They catch only healthy, happy dogs that are owned or fed by people working as servants, dhobis, small hawkers or shopkeepers who feed them but have no space to keep them. The sick dogs, the dangerous dogs — these are the ones that survived and went on to breed.

Wolf packs decide, on the basis of available food , what each pack’s optimum size will be. For instance, if there is only so much game in an area, the pack limits its numbers. The dog too follows a similar pattern. It is as if the dogs decide a city’s food capacity is and then stay at a certain number — no matter how many we remove.

Now let us come to rabies. The standard justification for killing is that stray dogs cause rabies. In Delhi, 585,192 dogs were killed but the rabies rate continues to climb. Why? For one thing, government records show (in a report published by the Rabies Control Programme) that 70 per cent of the people suffering from rabies had been bitten by pet dogs — not strays.

What did the administration of Delhi think of its own killing programmes? In a secret report circulated to the Delhi administration, the Manager of the Slaughter House (TU) MCD, stated that in regard to the money being allocated in 1991-92 for the ‘rabies control programme’ the indiscriminate killing of stray dogs serves ‘no purpose whatsoever.’

The Report stated that as soon as the stray dogs of one area were killed, their space was filled by an equal number from another area. It recommended that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi constitute a unit in every zone to maintain a record of the dog population in the zone and that each dog should be brought to one spot and set free after being sterilised and immunised with the anti-rabies vaccine. The Report stressed repeatedly that this is the only way to reduce both rabies and the dog population of the city.

During my 1995 trip to Chennai, it took me 45 minutes to make a presentation to the CM and the officials. They understood immediately and the killing was stopped. The dog-killing pound was given to an NGO and the ABC programme started. This was the first city in India to do this. The Government of India came to the same conclusion in 2001, after many cities started this programme on their own. Jaipur was first to declare zero-rabies incidence. This programme has been repeatedly challenged in court — and each time the judges have seen the sense of the animal birth control programme and the sense of having the dogs back on the street after their operations.

Now we come to bites. Sterilised dogs do NOT bite. Sterilisation removes the testosterone from the male and all sexual incentive to fight. Cities that have employed sterilisation have shown a steep decrease in the number of bites. What continues to increase the statistics are bites from unsterilised pet dogs, which account for 95 per cent of all dog bites

Now let us come to the Mayor of Chennai and his plan for dog pounds. Let’s look at this programme:

1. Will the pounds be able to hold dogs indefinitely? Can you put five dogs in your house, feed them well and expect them not to fight ? No. The dog is a territorial animal. In a stressful situation he will fight. If, God forbid, animals escape from there, they will be wild and angry.
2. What will it cost Chennai? The cost would be over 100 times that of sterilisation. Feeding the dogs and paying the staff will mean a minimum of Rs. 50,000 a day. More would be needed to pay doctors and organise housing during the rains. Do you want to pay for this?
3. Will the dogs disappear from the streets? They won’t. A large number of the dogs that the Mayor proposes to impound are sterilised. When they are removed, unsterilised dogs from the hinterlands will pour in. So Chennai will go back to its pre-sterilisation days. The new dogs will bite, they will carry rabies.
4. What will happen in Chennai? More citizens will be bitten. There is now zero rabies in Chennai. It will come back. And rats will come back in millions. Rats are not scared of humans. They have two predators: dogs and cats. Remove the dogs, as the Mayor and Collector did in Surat, and the rats will swarm into the city with their diseases. Do you want to be menaced with rat bites and plague? And pay for dogs to loll around in government pounds while you run for your lives?
5. What is the alternative? Restart the sterilisation programme. The Chennai Corporation has left the job of sterilisation to two small NGOs — Blue Cross and People for Animals — and neither has the money to cover the whole city. You do not have to be an animal lover to understand the fraud being perpetrated and what will befall the city of Chennai once the Mayor gets his own way.In the first case against the killing of dogs in India, the judge observed: “It needs no great learning to appreciate that dogs or animals are not encroachers on earth. There is no question of eliminating them.

Wolf packs decide, on the basis of food available to them, what each pack’s optimum size would be. The dog too follows a similar pattern. It is as if the dogs of a city decide what the food capacity of that city is and then stay at a certain number — no matter how many we remove.

Uttarakhand disaster : Indian Army stands tall in rescue and relief....

Extremely sad to read more news of the Uttarakhand tragedy… ~ the scale of the massive human and ecological disaster of Uttarakhand can barely be explained by the present reports. It is feared that it could  take years and huge investment of resources to rebuild lives at these places of pilgrimage. One only hopes that after the usual handwringing this will not be forgotten as attention in India invariably gets diverted to other problems.  Uttarakhand disaster has again triggered an environment versus development debate. This brings forth two conflicting viewpoints. One that nature is used by people to serve humanity and support civilisation. Second, as per conservationists, nature is threatened by humanity, and thus they strongly argue to fence it off from the influence of humanity as far as possible. This debate, sadly, comes to the fore only when relief and rescue measures are needed to be taken on a war-footing after a diaster like we are witnessing in the hill state. The impact of the calamity is yet difficult to comprehend.

It is feared that the death toll could be much more than what is put officially. The flash floods have swept away several villages and many still suffer. A week after the cloudburst that was followed by torrential rains  thousands still remain stranded in various parts.

There has not been a coordinated relief operation is somewhat clear. There is National Institute of Disaster Management, constituted under an Act of Parliament in 1995; but it is not the supreme authority.  Environmentalists say the disaster in Uttarakhand was inevitable due to rampant construction, felling of trees and building of dams in the name of development. They warn it will continue if the state doesn't change its plans. This is a place having many many dams. Uttarakhand gets high intensity rainfall and is prone to landslides. It also falls in a zone of high seismic activity. Untreated sewage flowing into the river is another problem. It pollutes the river, causing the riverbed to rise, leading to floods upstream and flash floods downstream. Illegal mining of stones from the riverbed using excavators is also rampant. 

In every such pilgrimage places where thousands converge, commercial activities thrive as everyone tries to cash out of the tourist rush………. When a disaster strikes, Governments may fail ~ not our military…. Reports state that the IAF established "an aviation fuel supply bridge" at Dharasu in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand to hasten rescue operations by helicopters. The move described as "very innovative, yet daring" by the Indian Air Force (IAF) officials will allow additional fueling at Dharasu. An official release stated that  the first C130J "Super Hercules" aircraft landed at Dharasu in a ground only 1,300 feet long Saturday morning despite inclement weather. "On landing, the aircraft defueled 8,000 litres of fuel into an empty bowser which was airlifted Friday from Sarsawa by a Mi 26 helicopter. With the availability of additional fuel now at Dharasu, the extraction, evacuation and rescue operations have picked up pace and the available helicopters are now able to make more number of trips," the release said.  Apart from carrying fuel to Dharasu, the first C130J on its return trip carried about 40 stranded pilgrims.  The second C130J aircraft took about 100 injured and stranded pilgrims to an air force station where an emergency medical centre had been set up; while the third is carrying a medical team of the IAF to attend to sick people at Dharasu itself before they are moved out to safer place," it said.

In all, the IAF has flown 768 sorties in which 10,3350 kg of load has been dropped/landed and 5,347 passengers airlifted under 'Operation Rahat'.  Elsewhere, the State machinery under CM Vijay Bahuguna has come under sharp criticism.  Top politicians make aerial visits and then the advertisement blitzkrieg launched by it as part of an image makeover drive has only ended up adding salt to the wounds of the affected families.  Critics say that like its relief operations in the state, the Bahuguna government could not even get the ads right as they were marked by spelling errors and have been described as "downright crass and insensitive". The first advertisement, carried by news dailies on Monday, contained photographs of a smiling UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Bahuguna. Only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in the mug-shot, did not betray any emotion. At a time when there is widespread gloom and despair over the havoc wreaked on large parts of Uttarakhand by the calamity, the photographs of the two smiling leaders stood out like a sore thumb. Realising that it had committed a major goof-up, the state information and public relations department, the brain behind the publicity drive, replaced the photographs of the smiling leaders with a new set, in which the Congress president and the chief minister were shown in a sombre mood. The ads also contained dramatic errors. On the first day, Uttarakhand was spelt as "Uttrakhand" and "relief measures" as "relief measurers".

And Firstpost adds that -  Sonia, Rahul’s relief trucks run out of fuel, get stranded.  According to a report appearing in it, the Congress took another hit in the face of the Uttarakhand tragedy. The relief trucks that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi flagged off have run out of fuel and have reportedly got stranded in Dehradun. CNN IBN reports: “Each truck driver was reportedly given only Rs 2,000 to buy fuel for the entire journey which was exhausted during the drive to Dehradun.”   According to the report, the relief material might have to be sold off. However, the Congress has not officially confirmed the news. Apart from flagging of these trucks ceremonially, Sonia Gandhi has asked all Congress legislators to donate a month’s salary.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

27th June 2013.

Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf given out.... Bruce Oxenford is an Elite Umpire

Do you know or can you connect :  Madhav Gothoskar; Arani Jayaprakash; Swaroop Kishen; M. V. Nagendra; VK Ramaswamy; Judah Reuben; B Satyaji Rao; Mysore Vijayasarathi and Srinivas Venkataraghavan…………………. The Gentlemen in the middle with white coats with authority to decide – the finger going up, signalling or ordering the batsmen to trudge back towards the pavilion.   Much before the advent of IPL, crowds used to gather at Chepauk hours before the scheduled start and would go raptures when one could stop the Umpires stepping on to the field……

Even Umpires can be given out !!! - Long-serving duo Asad Rauf and Billy Bowden have been dropped from the Elite Panel of the International Cricket Council's umpires. Rauf's exclusion comes after he was stood down for the recently-completed Champions Trophy after it was reported he was being investigated by Mumbai Police in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that engulfed this year's Indian Premier League. Rauf has been on the elite list since 2006 and stood in 47 Tests, has subsequently refuted claims that he had been involved in match-fixing.

England's Richard Illingworth and former Australia seamer Paul Reiffel have been promoted to the 12-man list. It is stated that the  selection panel considered the overall performances of the umpires over the past 12 months when deciding which umpires would be offered contracts for 2013-14. The exclusion of Bowden, a popular figure in international cricket for his own unique style, comes after 11 years, and 75 Tests, as a top official. Paul Reiffel has played 35 Tests and was part of the winning 1999 World Cup  squad of  Australia; he has stood in four Tests since becoming an international umpire three years ago. Illingworth, a former left-arm spinner, played nine Tests and 25 ODIs for England, including the 1992 World Cup final against Pakistan. He has umpired in 4 Tests, 16 ODIs and seven T20Is since July 2010.

Now the present Elite Panel of umpires is : Aleem Dar, Kumar Dharmasena, Steve Davis, Marais Erasmus, Ian Gould, Tony Hill, Richard Kettleborough, Nigel Llong, Bruce Oxenford, Rod Tucker, Richard Illingworth and Paul Reiffel ~ there is not a single Indian in that…..

The Elite Panel of ICC Umpires is a panel of cricket umpires appointed by the International Cricket Council to officiate in Test matches and One Day Internationals around the world. The panel was first established in April 2002 when the ICC decided to reform the way that international cricket was umpired. The main change was that both umpires in Test match and one of the umpires in One-day international are now independent of the competing nations.

The one Indian in the Elite panel was the first to depart in 2004 – the great Offie [and gentleman] Srinivasa Venkatraghavan who retired.  Asoka de Silva, Dave Orchard and Russell Tiffin did not have their contracts renewed.  Darrell Hair, who joined the panel in 2003, was banned from officiating in matches involving full ICC members following the Ball tampering controversy in August 2006; though he was permitted to umpire later, he handed in his resignation after he was only allowed to officiate in two tests.

Elite panel obviously means that they form the best of the available lot and are differentiated from the rest……here is something interesting on - Bruce Nicholas James Oxenford, a former Cricketer and Umpire in Elite panel.  In 2008 he debuted in ODI and in test in 2010.  In Sept 2012, he entered ICC panel. 

It was 29th over of the ODI 3244 between India and Australia at  at Woolloongabba, Brisbane – 3rd ball of the over - Billy Bowden and SJ Davis  were the ones on field. Mike Hussey missed a delivery from Suresh Raina and Dhoni did a smart stumping.   The screen  on referral to 3rd Umpire showed ‘Out” – Hussey trudged back, Billy went running after recalling.  It was explained  that the Third Umpire has told him that it was not out but had pressed the wrong button –   it was not wrong technology but incapacity to do the simplest task – the man was Bruce Oxenford.   In June 2013, in ICC Champions Trophy finals, his decision giving Ian Bell stumped by Dhoni became hotly debated.  In a ODI in Sri Lanka at Hambantota, the TV commentators were surprised.  When Indians  sought the batting Powerplay later  and were told it had already been taken. It turned out that Virat asking for the cap was misunderstood as calling for powerplay – again Oxenford was at the centre.

Umpires can err; to err is human – but when it was Indian [Asian Umpires] – there would be outbursts and remember something done by an Asian Umpire, a couple of decades ago and the reaction of England or Australian to that…….  Poor Swarup Krishnans and Ramaswamis bore the brunt those days …

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
27th June 2013.

PS:  Peter Willey was invited to be on the ICC Elite panel, but declined the opportunity because it would have required him to spend too much time away from his family.

RS Elections in Tamilnadu..... political alignments !!

Do you what brackets – Anu Aga, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Javed Akhtar, HK Dua, Dr Ashok Ganguly, B Jayashree, Mrinal Miri, Bhalchandra Mungekar, K Parasaran, Rekha and Sachin Tendulkar….. ?

There is a cliché – ‘a week in politics is too long a period’ – the Rajya Sabha electoral scene in Tamil Nadu is providing so many twists.  First there were 5 candidates from AIADMK – one each from DMK and CPI.  One of them was changed and when the deadline for withdrawal of nominations came closer, ADMK pulled out one making it a  fight between the DMK and the DMDK.  Then DMK which had walked out of Congress Govt citing Srilankan issue sought Congress support for their Ms Kanimozhi, daughter of M Karunanidhi,  facing trial in the 2G spectrum allocation case.
The Rajya Sabha (RS) or Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Rajya means "state" and Sabha means "assembly" in Sanskrit. Membership is limited to 250 members, 12 of whom are nominated by the President of India for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. Members sit for six-year terms, with one third of the members retiring every two years. The list that you read in the first para is that of nominated members in the present Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha meets in continuous sessions and, unlike the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, is not subject to dissolution. The Vice President of India (currently, Hamid Ansari) is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions. The Rajya Sabha held its first sitting on 13 May 1952.

The candidates are elected by the Legislative Assembly of States and Union territories by means of Single transferable vote through Proportional representation. AIADMK with 151 MLAs in the 234-member assembly is certain to ensure victory of its four nominees while Raja is expected to get through with the support of the ruling party. The Left parties have 19 MLAs. With the Congress’ backing, the number of legislators in support of Kanimozhi now stands now at 32 (DMK 23, Congress 5, PT 2 and MMK 2). A candidate needs 34 votes to get elected.

A press release issued by Returning Officer and Assembly Secretary A.M.P. Jamaludeen stated that poll would take place on June 27 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m; and the results would be announced around 5 p.m. the same day. The State will witness a contest in the Rajya Sabha elections after a gap of 17 years.

In February 1996, the State saw a contest when Peter Alphonse of Congress was elected to the Rajya Sabha. In the last 30 years, the polls saw two stalwarts losing the battle. In July 1983, P. Ramamurthi of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) lost to G.K. Moopanar of the Congress. In March 1984, when Ms. Jayalalithaa was elected to the House of Elders, Arcot N. Veeraswami, DMK’s second candidate and who later became Minister in the DMK government, was defeated.  That time, Cong leader Thangkabalu who should have secured 34 first preference votes got only 30 indicating cross voting.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova crash out - Wimbledon that Ivan Lendl never won !!!

Heard of ~ Roscoe Tanner – a left hander from America, known for his big serve.   In 1979 he reached the Finals of Wimbledon, eventually losing to the ice-cool Bjorn Borg in five sets.   Wimbledon, the grass court tournament is most famous among the Grandslam events.  Britain is known for adherence to past customs and Wimbledon traditions include a strict dress code for competitors, the eating of strawberries and cream by the spectators, and Royal patronage. The tournament is also notable for the absence of sponsor advertising around the courts.

Not sure whether Tanner – Borg  match was telecast but in the next year, we did see a new angry leftie throwing tantrums but stretching Borg no ends – that was John McEnroe; next year in 1981 he lifted the title – many of us, by now getting addicted to Borg’s winning ways, could not digest that win.  In the following years, it was Jimmy Connors; John McEnroe; McEnroe; young Boris Becker in 1985; again Becker, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Becker, Edberg, Michael Stitch …………. and slowly we started losing track… when Agassi, Samparas and others started winning… in between, I craved to see Ivan Lendl winning [which never happened]; those were the days, when I would not even read the newspaper on the day next when Lendl lost…….

Among these big names later came another growing to become a legend ~ Roger Federer, a Swiss who took the Tennis fraternity by storm.  He held No. 1 position for 302 weeks overall – with 237 consecutive weet stretch at top from 2004 – 2008 – winning 17 Grand slam titles; reaching finals in Wimbledon 8 times and winning 7 out of them. Federer was in news as he was called foul by the  Wimbledon fashion police. Wimbledon’s all-white rule can be loosely enforced at times. Other players wear bursts of color on their socks and shoes and raise no objection from officials. (Serena Williams’ arguably had more color than Federer’s). But the orange soles crossed the line, apparently.

The stunning beauty - Maria Sharapova suffered a shock defeat in the second round at Wimbledon Wednesday after being beaten by Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito. Third seed Sharapova, who won the tournament in 2004, was brushed aside 6-3 6-4 by a player ranked 131 in the world.  Michelle Caroline Larcher de Brito is from Portugal  and has a career-high ranking of 76 on 6 July 2009. She is the first Portuguese female player to enter the main draw of a grand slam, which occurred at the 2009 French Open. She is known for her loud grunts while executing shots, being noted for surpassing in decibels the likes of Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles, Victoria Azarenka and Venus and Serena Williams, other famous "grunters".

There was more shock – after Nadal’s shock first round exit, defending champion Roger Federer‘s remarkable run of reaching 36 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals or better was ended in a shock second-round Wimbledon defeat by unheralded lowly ranked  Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky on Wednesday.  Federer’s 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 7-6(5) loss in exactly three hours rocked Wimbledon to its core on a day that already seemed surreal after seven players withdrew or retired injured. The last time Federer, who has won a record 17 grand slam titles, including seven gilded Challenge Cups, failed to reach at least the last eight was in the 2004 French Open. Facing an opponent who had never beaten a top 15 player would have rung few alarm bells but at 8.15 pm local time shock waves reverberated around the grounds when he slapped a backhand wide to leave Stakhovsky rolling in the grass in triumph.

Federer is everywhere, on the cover of Wimbledon, on the results board, on the official Wimbledon book, on the roll of honour plaque, on official merchandise – but no longer in the Court ousted by the man from Kiev. Records do not matter - Federer’s Wimbledon win-loss record stood at 67-7, Stakhovsky’ 2-4. Federer’s world ranking was third, Stakhovsky’s 116.

Probably Wimbledon in the few more days could unlock more surprises

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

27th June 2013.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bajaj Auto launches Duke 390 ~ priced Rs.1.80 lakhs only...

Not long ago, most middle class depended on two-wheelers and scooters were once proud possession  ~ in fact were offered as dowries……… Bajaj Auto, yesterday launched its premium bike from the KTM platform at a price of Rs.1.80 lakh.  Not sure how this would enthuse you all…………

‘Hamara Bajaj’ was the most heard advertisements and Bajaj scooters were selling hot about a couple of decades ago.  Bajaj had its plant at Akurdi [no longer vehicles roll out from here] ~ now it has at Aurangabad and Uttaranchal. … There was the premium Bajaj Chetak, Super, Cub, Viking and more… 100 cc and 150 cc scooters with engines mounted on the side. Chetak was launched in 1972 and ruled the market for decades.  People used to wait for years after booking, vehicles were sold at a premium, some said they got it by paying in foreign currency which was extremely scarce those days.  Those were the days of Bajaj scooters which had sort of forced Lambrettas out of the market; then there were motor cycles of Rajdoot, Yezdi and Enfield Bullet.  With not many cars around, the 1980s & early 1990s were the age of two wheelers and their enthusiastic  riders.

Bajaj brand is known internationally and Bajaj Auto is one of the largest group founded in 1926 at the height of India's movement for independence from the British. Sri  Jamnalal Bajaj, founder of the group, was a close confidant and disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. KTM Sportmotorcycle AG is an Austrian motorcycle, bicycle and moped manufacturer. The company was founded in 1934 by engineer Hans Trunkenpolz in Mattighofen. It started out as a metal working shop and was named Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. In 1954 KTM began producing motorcycles.

Unlike Bajaj’s utility scooters, KTM is known for its off road motorcycles though in recent years it has expanded into street motorcycle production. The term off-road refers to a driving surface that is not conventionally paved. This is a rough surface, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow. This type of terrain can sometimes only be travelled on with vehicles designed for off-road driving (such as SUVs, ATVs, snowmobiles or mountain bikes) or vehicles that have off-road equipment. KTM manufactures vehicles for these environments. KTM has a wide range of these.

Bajaj Auto,  the second largest bike manufacturer in India has now launched the second offering from the KTM stable, the Duke 390 for Rs 1.8 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).  The  Duke 200 was launched  last year for Rs 1.18 lakh. The Duke 390 combines 43.5 bhk (break horse power) of  peak power, 35 Nm (newton metre) of torque and a host of features like ABS, Metzeler tyres, aluminum swing arm, aluminum alloy wheels. The six-speed transmission-enabled bike weighs 145 kg and has a fuel tank capacity of 10.2 litres.  At 373.2cc, the 390 Duke would be the first midsize sports bike in the country. Bookings for the Duke 390 would commence from June 26.

According to Bajaj Auto, the price is an introductory price. Bajaj has promised to launch a Pulsar on the Duke 390 platform later in the year. It would be the most powerful Pulsar yet from the company. The company had so far sold 11,000 KTM 200s since its launch, out of which 7,500 units were sold last fiscal, Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajeev Bajaj said after the launch.

Shares of Bajaj Auto are trading around 1780 now – below the 2200 mark in Jan earlier  this year….. the sentimens are bearish after workers at its Chakan plantwent on strike. It is stated that the Company has received a notice from the workmen's union of its Chakan plant viz., Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana stating that they propose to call for a stoppage of work by all the workmen employed in Chakan plant from the morning shift of June 28, 2013. However, the workmen have stopped coming to the Chakan plant from June 25, 2013. The management had refused to concede their demand that all the workmen working in Bajaj Auto should each be given an option to subscribe to 500 equity shares of the company at a discounted price of Re 1 per share.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
26th June 2013.

Tragedy strikes rescue team of IAF - Exemplary work of Indian Army & Airforce at Uttarakhand

India won the Champions Trophy and most of us would be able to recognize almost all the players…… may not be this man … he is Anil Kumar Browne….

The tragedy at hills of Uttarakhand is assuming demonic proportions going by the reports. There are heroes and topping that list for sure is our Army Jawans.  Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which is deployed along the Indo-China border, was the first to reach and initiate rescue operations in Uttarkhand’s Kedarnath Valley, the worst affected by the floods unleashed by the onset of monsoon rains and the cloudburst on June 16.  They have been doing a great job in reaching out to the worst affected regions and evacuate people when all connections – roads and bridges – had been washed away in the deluge.

Another tragedy struck – this time at Gaurikhand  on the rescuers themselves… very sad to read the news of an IAF Mi-17 helicopter carrying 20 people  crashing during a rescue mission killing all those on board.   Those on board the ill-fated chopper include five from IAF, six from ITBP and rest from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sources said. The Mi-17 V5 chopper was on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath and crashed yesterday afternoon while returning from Kedarnath north of Gaurikund, according to an IAF spokesperson. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal himself rushed to Uttarakhand today to boost the morale of pilots operating in difficult weather conditions. The crash occurred in “difficult” weather conditions created by rains and fog, a senior IAF official said here. The chopper belonged to a unit from Barrackpore Air Force Station in West Bengal under the Eastern Air Command.

The tragedy that Uttarakhand is faced with is neither new to the country nor something that was unexpected. Another cloudburst in 2010 killed 1000 people in Leh just three years back. While the enormity of the tragedy is coming to fore just now, past experience should have told political leaders of our country about the magnitude the tragedy could assume right when it broke. Sadly we have leaders who undertake aerial surveys and ceremonial dropping of food from thereof / flagging of relief vehicles and the like – all in front of cameras. This catastrophe seems to be an amplified version of past landslides and flash floods which typically hit the state in August, after the peak tourism season has ended.

Though it is not right to make comparisons, perhaps what is written in Firstpost is absolute truth.  Politicians, right from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh downwards, have been singing paeans to our armed forces heroes who have been putting their lives on the line in the mission to rescue people in the thousands in the flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand. But these words come across as empty nothingness when one considers the compensation that those who died in Tuesday’s helicopter crash will receive – and contrasts with the “reward”  for the Indian cricketers who won the Champions Trophy on Sunday. Appearing on a CNN-IBN panel discussion late on Tuesday, Col Anil Kaul pointed to this as exemplifying the “platitudes” that politicians offer the armed forces in times of crises – without doing anything substantive once the crisis fades away.

“People in the services are remembered in times of war, calamity,  disaster – and anytime that things go wrong,” said Col Kaul. “But once the crisis is over, we are a forgotten tribe – until the next disaster strikes.” In particular, Col Kaul drew attention to the fact that while the cricketers who won the Champions Trophy on Monday had been given a reward of Rs 1 crore each, the relatives of the armed forces personnel who perished in the helicopter crash on Tuesday while on a rescue mission in Uttarakhand will be paid a measly Rs 15 lakh in compensation. Even the countless other armed forces personnel who have been involved in the rescue operation – in hazardous terrain, facing inclement weather and putting their own lives at risk – will, he noted, retire over time. But the “same worthies” who represent the various segments of the political mainstream and civil society will go to court against us ex-servicemen and deny us our basic compensation,” said Col Kaul, giving expression to his frustration.

Col Kaul also made the additional point that many of the civilian deaths in the Uttarakhand tragedy may have been averted if the appropriate flood prevention equipment had been procured in time. Brandishing a piece of equipment before the camera, Col Kaul narrated another typical story of corruption in government that preys on human lives. The equipment – which looks like nothing more than a piece of cloth – was, he said, a “replacement for the erstwhile sandbag”.  But it has hydrogel packed in it, and when dropped in water, it expands from its original weight of 40 grams to 250 kg. “It can be used to divert water, and serves other multifarious functions.” According to Col Kaul, he exhibited the technology to the erstwhile vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Agency six months ago, but was told that it was a State subject. After which, he said, he was approached by “touts” from the State who wanted him to pay money to get the State government to procure the hydrogel sandbags. Equipment like these, says Col Kaul, could have saved thousands of lives.

The ruling party at the State and the Centre  has not distinguished itself with its planning nor timing of their action.  News of floods and devastation started trickling in from Uttarakhand almost two weeks ago. Yet, there is little logic to explain why the leaders chose to react and visit the state this late. While they blame Narendra Modi, he for sure cannot be faltered for taking care of his own people – yes he caring only for his own people is sought to be over played now. 

You may or may not like him being called Rambo….but shortly after the disaster Modi was in Uttarakhand, held a meeting till 1am with his crack rescue team of five IAS, one IPS, one IFS and two GAS (Gujarat Administrative Service) officers. Around 80 Toyota Innovas reportedly were requisitioned to ferry Gujaratis to safer places in Dehradun so also were four Boeings. On Saturday, 25 luxury buses transported a bunch of people to Delhi. Modi even offered to "completely rebuild" the temple at Kedarnath using "the latest technology available" in such a way that no natural calamity would ever shake it again.  Political compulsions ensured that the Uttarakhand CM  refused to take the help offered.  Modi's men have not only para-dropped a complete medical team in Hardwar, they have also set up camps across th flood-hit regions ~ and he drove back 15000 Gujaratis who had been struck there…….

In what differentiates Great men from mortals, IAF Chief NAK Browne who visited the site of a chopper crash said meanwhile, that most of the evacuation work has been completed, adding that they would continue with rescue work once the weather allowed them a window of opportunity. Speaking about the chopper crash that took place on Tuesday evening Browne said, “What exactly happened we will know only once we recover MI17 voice data recorder. We have sent commandos to the crash site. We have recovered recording devices and only analysis will reveal the cause of the crash.” Browne was also quick to say that the IAF was not going anywhere. “Morale is still very high…Our rotors will not stop churning”, he said.  Hats off to such great persons…..

Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, also known as "Charlie" Browne, is the current Chief of the Air Staff(CAS) of the Indian Air Force (IAF). He was Vice Chief of the Air Staff until 31 July 2011 when he replaced outgoing Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Largely reproduced from

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rafa Nadal and Sara Errani sent packing by : Steve Darcis and Monica Puig ~ who !!

Heard of Steve Darcis who ? and is No.5 unlucky ??  ~ certainly not good news for Rafa fans…. Here is a photo of Darcis and who is the other…

The Spaniard Rafael "Rafa" Nadal Parera is a  former world No. 1.  Now  he is ranked No. 5 by the ATP.  He is nicknamed ‘King of Clay’, considered to be one of the greatest players in clay court. Nadal has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles, and a record 24 ATP World Tour Masters .

For those of you who follow Sports other than Cricket too, the Wimbledon 2013 is now on ~ it is the 127th  edition of the Wimbledon and  the third Grand Slam event of the year. It takes place  at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, and runs from 24 June to 7 July. The tournament consists of both men's and women's singles and doubles draws as well as a mixed doubles event.  The tournament is being played on grass courts and is taking place over a series of 19 courts, including the four main showcourts.  Roger Federer and Serena Williams are the defending champions in singles events.

For those of you interested here is the Men’s top 10 : 1. Novak Djokovic;  2.   Andy Murray;  3.   Roger Federer;  4.   David Ferrer;  5.   Rafael Nadal;  6.   Jo-Wilfried Tsonga;  7.   Tomáš Berdych;  8.   Juan Martín del Potro’  9.   Richard Gasquet and 10.   Marin Čilić.. In Women, the top 8 is :  Serena Williams; Victoria Azarenka; Maria Sharapova;    Agnieszka Radwańska;  Sara Errani;  Li Na; Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitová

Moments before Roger Federer marched onto Centre Court to mark the official opening of the 2013 Championships, the event provided its first shock with the exit of the fifth ladies’ seed, Sara Errani. The 26-year-old Italian crashed out 6-3, 6-2 to Monica Puig, a teenager from Puerto Rico making her senior Wimbledon debut. The 19-year-old Puig, consistently took the match to her vastly more experienced opponent and faltered only on the brink of the biggest victory of her young career, needing seven match points to wrap things up in one hour 22 minutes on Court 18, which ironically is the setting of the longest match in the sport’s history, more than 11 hours between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Errani was runner-up at the French Open last summer and a semi-finalist there this year.

Then another no.5 was shown doors……… yes, Rafa Nadal is out of Wimbledon suffering a shocking straight set defeat in the hands of Darcis.  Steve Darcis hails from Belgium and has won two titles and achieved a career-high singles ranking of World No. 44 on 12 May 2008. Darcis has won two ATP titles but is  would best be known for his giant killing of Nadal today……..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
PS : Darcis, ranked No.135 in the world, is the lowest-ranked player to beat Nadal since world No.690 Joachim Johansson (a former top 40 member) beat Rafa in Stockholm in 2006

Photo and news courtesy :