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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Professional coaches - poor performances; Varun Aaron bowls fast... but ..

In the Asia Cup -   the crowd waited for Virat Kohli to reach his 19th ODI hundred, and started heading for the exit soon after he reached the landmark. India still needed 77 from 12.3 overs…. earlier they had batted well and set a target of 280 …. .. ..and that poses a straight Q on the continuance of the man who was earlier a plainclothed policeman and who has dealt with armed robberies, child abuse, and been part of special undercover drug squads.

I have liked watching Karsan Devraj Ghavri bowl [in Buchibabu too] ~ unfortunately, for long he had the ignominy of being the most expensive Indian bowler in Onedayers for that 83 off 11 overs in the inaugural match of Prudential World Cup 1975.  You may not remember Lewis who has the dubious distinction of the most expensive ODI bowler with figures of 10-0-113-0 in that multiple record-breaking 5th One Day International between South Africa and Australia.  In all, there are 5 in that list of more than 100 givers…. Led by Aussie Lewis (113); Tim Southee of Newzealand (105);  BV Vitori of Zimbabwe (105); Martin Snedden of New Zealand (105) and our own R Vinay Kumar (102)  Before we proceed further on the Asia Cup match….the worst bowling performance in a Test innings has been that of LO Fleetwood-Smith in Test 266; playing for Australia he conceded 298 runs; 2nd is Rajesh Chauhan in Aug 97 against Sri Lanka conceding 276; the others in the top 5 are : OC Scott, WI (266); Khan Mohammad, Pak (259) & Fazal Mahmood, Pak (247)

At Fatullah, Varun Aaron was fast and furious but not fearsome… for once an Indian bowler was seen bursting out genuine speed. At  Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, he maintained an average speed of 88.2mph, and his fastest delivery clocked 93.2mph on the speedgun. That's 149.99kph. He is known to bowl fast and in fact the fastest bowl in Indian soil is his ….. but yesterday, his pace offered enough freedom for the Bangla batsmen to score. In fact, in Aaron's third over, Anamul jumped down the track and clattered him over long-on for six. After the spanking, he ended with figures of 1 for 74 in 7.5 overs. His agony ended as he had to be taken off after bowling two beamers !

I am excited at his speed; as also that of Umesh Yadav – and both go for runs……… yet there are some others in contention for ‘the run giver title’ and they are selected rather regularly.  Statistically, Aaron's spell in Fatullah was the 12th instance of an Indian fast bowler conceding eight or more runs per over in an ODI spell of six or more overs since the start of 2013. Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma appear once each on that list. Vinay Kumar and Mohammed Shami, like Aaron, have two entries each, while Ishant Sharma features a staggering four times. All of this, remember, has happened in the last 14 months.

This win ended India's eight-match consecutive winless sequence for ODIs outside India. Their last win in an overseas ODI came in Bulawayo last year against Zimbabwe. To our disconcert, India has bee regularly chasing scores over 300 – not only on sub-continent wickets but also in Johannesburg, Kingston and Wellington. ~ that way the target of 280 was far low – but still you need to remind yourself that the opponents were Bangladesh and not the mighty WI of past with Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes opening. 

The target was achieved with ease was thanks to another great knock by Kohli and his partnership of 213 with Ajinkya Rahane.   Cricinfo reports that Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami bowled the yorker particularly well at death and that was attributed to  first pre-tournament training session, where  India's bowlers practiced  their yorkers against a foam dummy made to look like a batsman !!! Virat Kohli's 136 was his 12th hundred in successful chases in ODIs. Kohli's 19th ODI century brought him level with Brian Lara on the list of batsmen with most ODI centuries. Only seven batsmen have scored more centuries than him in ODIs.

Now back to the primary Q of why have professional Coaches – specialized bowling coach – and what do we do with them after these consistent poor performance.  There are talks that the proximity of the 2015 World Cup is likely to work in favour of Fletcher and Trevor Penney. In Tests, there has been a solitary win in 15 away Tests under Fletcher, though ODI record is decent enough.   The bowling coach Dawes came on board at the end of India's disastrous tour to Australia in 2011-12, seemingly has done little for the bowlers.  In Oct 2009, Robin Singh and  Venkatesh Prasad were unceremoniously sacked but when it comes to foreign coaches, things are much different ~ there are talks of Sanjay Bangar or Bharat Arun coming in likely

Joe Dawes, a 41-year-old Queenslander,  who had earlier worked as a police cop could well find the exit soon.  – whether that applies to bowlers like Ishant Sharma remains to be seen

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27th Feb 2014.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Was Mohammad Ali - Sonny Liston famous bout fixed ? ....

Match fixing is at the centre of it again…… in 2000, Delhi police intercepted a conversation between a blacklisted bookie and the South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje in which they learnt that Cronje accepted money to throw matches.  South African government refused to allow any of its players to face the Indian investigation unit. A court of inquiry was set up and Cronje admitted to throwing matches. He was immediately banned from all cricket. He also named Saleem Malik (Pakistan), Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja (India).   Cronje exposed the dark side of betting, however with his untimely death in 2002 most of his sources also have escaped law enforcement agencies.  Saleem Malik became the first player to get imprisonment;  Mohd Azharuddin was banned; ban was later overturned and went on to become an elected MP from Mordabad.  

In the first match of Asia Cup 2014 - Sri Lanka made  296 for 6 (Thirimanne 102, Sangakkara 67, Mathews 55*) beat Pakistan 284 (Umar Akmal 74, Misbah 73, Malinga 5-52) by 12 runs.  Slinga Malinga was at it again – when Pak was having an organized run chase with Misbah and Umar Akmal, Malinga bowled a great spell – he was taken for some runs in his first 5 but the comeback was good enough as he ended up 5 for 52 and a win for Lanka.  For sure this match is not under a cloud but is something else.

Only recently  came the news that this man’s first heavyweight title gloves  fetched £520,000 in a sale in New York.  The gloves were used by the boxing legend, when he took to the ring against Sonny Liston Miami Beach, Florida, in February 1964. Charles L. "Sonny" Liston was the famed American professional boxer known for his toughness, punching power and intimidating appearance, who became World Heavyweight Champion in 1962 by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round. Liston was the most intimidating fighter of his day, and considered by some, at the time of the Clay fight, as among the best heavyweights of all time. Many were reluctant to meet him in the ring.  His challenge came to an end before Cassius Clay who weighed 210lbs against  Liston at 218lbs, and  fought for seven rounds before the former heavyweight retired and Clay was declared the winner by technical knockout. The next day he changed his name to Cassius X but was called Muhammad Ali a week later for religious reasons.

This is the story of Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport's history. He is one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned"Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Sports Personality of the Century" by the BBC.  At the age of 22 he won the world heavyweight championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset. In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali remains the only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion; he won the title in 1964, 1974, and 1978.

Ali revolutionized the sport of boxing by sheer power and magnetism of his personality.  At a time when most fighters let their managers do the talking, Ali thrived in — and indeed craved — the spotlight, where he was sometimes provocative, frequently outlandish and almost always entertaining. Now comes reports that ‘FBI suspected Muhammad Ali's legendary 1964 victory over Sonny Liston was FIXED, top secret documents reveal’……… here is something from Daily Mail [as this is reported in many other news sites too….]

Fifty years on from the legendary boxing match in which Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world for the first time, new documents have come to light which reveal that the FBI long suspected that the shock result was really a fix. The fight between reigning champion Liston and brash young upstart Ali - then known as Cassius Clay – took place on Feb. 25, 1964, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Ali, just 22, entered the ring as a 7-1 underdog, but pulled off a shock victory which laid the foundations for his glittering career to follow.  When Liston quit after the seventh round and Ali started jumping and waving his hands, yelling 'I'm king of the world! I'm king of the world!'

Now documents released to The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the FBI suspected the fight may have been fixed by a Las Vegas figure tied to organized crime and to Liston. The memos, so sensitive that they were addressed directly to Director J. Edgar Hoover, show the FBI suspected Ash Resnick, a Las Vegas gambler with organized crime connections, of fixing multiple boxing matches, including the first Clay-Liston fight. The key new evidence is an FBI memo dated May 24, 1966, that details an interview with a Houston gambler named Barnett Magids, who described to agents his discussions with Resnick before the first Clay-Liston fight.  Magids told them that Resnick strongly advised him against betting on Liston winning. The reports also reveal that Resnick and Liston both reportedly made over $1 million betting against Liston in the fight. The documents show no evidence that Ali was in on the scheme or even knew about it, while nothing suggests the bureau ever fully corroborated the suspicions it investigated.

The result was such a shock at the time that there was speculation that the outcome might have been manipulated. Liston said he quit because of a shoulder injury, while the Miami Beach Boxing Commission doctor reportedly diagnosed a torn tendon in Liston’s left shoulder.  Miami Beach Boxing Commission Chairman Morris Klein said commissioners were satisfied that there was 'no wrongdoing' and allowed Liston to collect his $370,000 purse. A U.S. Senate subcommittee conducted hearings three months later but found no evidence of a fixed fight. Liston was found dead by his wife in their Las Vegas home in Jan 1971.  Police determined he died from a heroin overdose, but the cause of death remains controversial.

After 5 decades, there is more getting infused in to that historic fight…though nothing appears to be proven. Once doubts are cast, one tends to look with tinted glasses at every other result, as people tend to speak about every close match in Cricket these days.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
26th Feb 2014.

Photo courtesy :

Asia Cup - India plays Bangladesh - Mortaza hype on beating India..

More cricket to come…. ..the Asia Cup is on – it is the 12th edition of One Day International tournament .. and is being held in Bangladesh from 25.2.14 to 8.3.14.  The teams are  four Asian test-playing nations, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; and ICC Associate member Afghanistan.

Shitalakshya River  is a distributary of the Brahmaputra.  The match of the day involving the hosts and India is played at - Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, in Fatullah, Narayanganj in central Bangladesh. Narayanganj  is a city in central Bangladesh, nearer capital Dhaka and is situated on the  bank of the Shitalakshya River. The river port of Narayanganj is one of the oldest in Bangladesh. The town got its name from Bicon Lal Pandey, a Hindu religious leader who was also known as Benur Thakur or Lakhsmi Narayan Thakur who leased the area from the British East India Company in 1766 following the Battle of Plassey. He donated the markets and the land on the banks of the river, bequeathed for maintenance expenses for the worship of the God Narayan. 

In the pre-match hype, Mashrafe Mortaza said that beating India is no longer considered to be an ‘upset’ by the Bangladeshis as they have notched up quite a few wins against the continental heavyweights, including one in the last edition of Asia Cup.  In the marketing World, people talk big or made to prattle !!  Last time in Mar 2012, Bangladesh came close but could not realize their dreams at Mirpur.  A target of 237 was eminently gettable. They could fancy their chances till the last ball… when Umar Gul began the penultimate over it ws 19 off 12; 9 were  required from the last 6 legal deliveries; Aizaz Cheema bowled that… Pak eventually won the cup for the second time.

Back during the 2012 Asia Cup, Tendulkar scored that much awaited 100th century and set to chase 290, Bangla put up a spirited performance and won ….. and perhaps that is one of the reasons why Mortaza brags that it is no longer an upset.   India is without Dhoni but still ! – here is the statistics…

The teams have played 24 matches – of which all but 3 have been won by India ~ besides that loss at Asia Cup 2012; the first of Indian losses came at Dhaka in Dec 2004 and the second one at World Cup 2007 at West Indies whence India and Pak were eliminated in the preliminary round itself.  ~ and it is this performance that Mortaza is bragging about…

In 2004, Bangladesh made 229 for 9 (Aftab 67) beat India 214 (Sriram 57, Kaif 50) by 15 runs.  It was a historic first victory at home and also their first-ever win against India.  Mortaza first hustled a crucial unbeaten 31, his highest ODI score, in the slog overs, taking Bangladesh to 229 and gave his side the perfect start by striking with his third ball, beating Virender Sehwag.  Sridharan Sriram was the top scorer in that match.  The run out of Mohd Kaif by Rajin Saleh was a good effort.  Joginder Sharma chipped in with an unbeaten 29… but none was good enough.  Interestingly, India lost many matches in that year reaching new nadir with that loss to Bangladesh

The bowling was in the hands of  : Ajit Agarkar; Zaheer Khan, Joginder Sharma, Murali Kartik, Sridharan Sriram [10-1-37-1] and Dinesh Mongia.  Sriram made 57 with 7 fours.  Incidentally, for Sriram it was the last International match.  The doughty left handed allrounder played in 8 one dayers with a solitary 50 – made in that match only.  He started as a left arm spinner coming from the junior ranks, made runs in the domestic – after that went to Maharashtra from Tamilnadu – joined the rebel league of ICL – playing for Chennai Superstars before switching over to Ahmedabad Rockets; was given BCCI amnesty, quit the league – was even signed up by RCB……… but is forgotten now.

On that day at Dhaka, the ecstatic Banga team was adored, went for a victory lap, posed before cameras and thoroughly enjoyed basking under the Sun; still with only 3 wins – somebody bragging in a pre-match conference is more of a hype as India take on Bangladesh in the 2nd match of the 2014 Asia Cup.

After those disastrous tours of South Africa and Newzealand, India should be finding the home turf now !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

26th Feb 2014 @ 07.20 am.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Accident of Schumacher... Skiing - hazard and exclusions of Insurers

People have to take decisions….they cannot keep telling it is somebody else’s call !! ~ for many computer eye strain and coffee spillage are the biggest risks …….. there are some others for whom the spectre of falling from a great height, being crushed under heavy equipment or bombed are all in a day's work.  In cinema, we often see the hero deeply perspiring, perplexed with the Q of ‘which wire to cut ?’ to defuse a bomb… he disconnects the red wire and heaves a sigh of relief.  

Personal Accident Policies of Insurers offer compensation in case of death or bodily injury to the insured person, directly and solely as a result of an accident, by external, visible and violent means. There are death only cover; coverage for permanent disablements and temporary total disablements. The proposal would elicit information on whether the proposer is engaged in Racing on wheels or horseback; big game hunting; mountaineering; winter sports, skating or ice hockey; ballooning or polo or sports of similar nature… these are considered higher category of risks.. !

Skiing is a recreational activity and competitive sport in which the participant attaches skis to boots or shoes on the feet and uses them to travel on top of snow. Aside from recreation and competition, skiing has been used for military purposes and travelling in areas that experience heavy snowfall.

Michael Schumacher, the ace racing driver, a  seven-time Formula One World Champion, widely regarded as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time is still in trouble.  The heroic race ace suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries in the accident and is last still fighting for his life in intensive care despite a scan showing a slight improvement in his condition.  Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident in Dec 29, 2013,  was a result of “extreme bad luck” and not because he was going too fast, his manager has claimed. Doctors put the 45-year-old into an induced coma after the accident  to reduce brain swelling and give him a better chance of recovery. Some reports suggest that the  attempt to bring him round was called off last week, leading brain injury experts to fear that Schumacher's chances of making a full recovery had decreased. Some hazard that the skiing accident may have been made worse by the camera attached to his helmet at the time of impact. Sad for his fans and family that he still remains in the same condition with everyone hoping of improvement.  

Away from the ace driver and the unfortunate accident, here is  something on European travel  insurers cracking down on skiers who have a tipple and then hit the slopes ~ reproduced from Daily Mail article of Jan 2014

Insurers are cracking down on reckless behaviour from skiers who ignore warnings on the slopes or fail to wear a helmet. The terrible head injuries suffered by Formula One ace Michael Schumacher - who was wearing a helmet - have highlighted the dangers of skiing. Every year around 10,000 Britons hurt themselves so badly while on winter sports holidays that they need hospital treatment. Serious head injuries and deaths are mercifully rare, but broken bones and knee ligament tears are much more common.

Insurers are clamping down on skiers' claims where the policyholder has been drinking alcohol ~ and the number of accidents is climbing as many resorts become more crowded and increasingly sophisticated equipment means even relative beginners can hit speeds of up to 30mph. Thousands of these winter sports fans face huge bills if they fail to take proper insurance, or get caught out by small print.  While basic medical costs in most European Union countries are covered by the European Health Insurance Card, this does not include other popular destinations such as the U.S. Being airlifted, or treated in a private resort hospital anywhere in the world, will also probably have to be covered by insurance. Yet one in three skiers takes no cover. And if you are forced to pay a medical claim from your own pocket, it can be astronomical.

Even relatively minor injuries such as a broken ankle can leave you with a £22,000 bill. A knee injury can cost £16,000 to treat once rescue from the slopes is factored in, according to insurer Aviva. Head injuries make up around a fifth of all accidents - with the cost of a serious blow as high as £100,000. The bill for being airlifted, or stretchered off a mountain by rescuers, can be as much as £9,000 in the Swiss alps. Because of the exorbitant costs, insurers are getting tough. Bob Atkinson, of website says: ‘Increasingly insurance companies are expecting people to follow the rules and regulations. If you fail to read or ignore clearly laid out conditions in your ski insurance policy, do not expect them to protect you.’

According to the post - hundreds of deaths on the slopes each year are linked to alcohol - yet glance at any social media website and you’ll see dozens of videos of skiers young and old joking about skiing while intoxicated. Research by insurer MoreThan has found how one in three skiers have more than seven units of alcohol in their blood - the equivalent of two large glasses of wine. The drink drive limit for a man is four units. Many insurers now have exclusions in place that mean they will at least question a claim if you have alcohol in your blood and will refuse to pay out if they think you were under the influence. And if a doctor deems alcohol played a part in your accident, it is highly likely you won’t be covered.  Other firms are toughening up on skiers who hit the slopes without the right equipment.A study last year by John Hopkins University in the U.S. shows how helmets cut the risk of serious injury in accidents. Research from insurer Direct Line found how the head experiences a force of two tonnes in a crash without a helmet.

Essential Travel is the only UK insurer which expects customers to wear a helmet. Other firms’ policies are less clear-cut. Some refuse to pay out if you fail to stick to local rules, such as in some parts of Canada which demand you wear a helmet. In Italy, anyone under 14 must wear a helmet. Other companies are now threatening to throw out claims when the policy-holder did not have the correct equipment or clothing - so a claim for hospital costs if you suffered hypothermia would not be covered if you went onto the slopes without a ski jacket.Experts also warn holidaymakers to beware of exclusions when skiing off piste - this is excluded by most policies unless you hire a guide. You may think off piste means skiing in wild untouched areas. However it can simply mean not being on the official slopes - so if you are cutting across from one run to another, and get injured, you may not be covered.

If you ignore weather warnings issued by a resort before going off piste you may have a claim thrown out. Be wary though because guidance can be confusing - as often resorts warn that the weather or snow conditions can be bad, but rarely actually tell you not to ski. Chris Radford, director of off-piste skiing website Henry’s Avalanche Talk, which studied ski insurance policies, says: ‘Insurance policies require you to follow resort advice, but resort advice will rarely tell you not to go out.  ‘Instead it is down to you to make the judgement call depending on how well prepared, knowledgeable and how good a skier you are. ‘But if your claim is thrown out on the back of that decision, the consequences can be devastating.’

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Special acknowledgement :

Amul vends milk sachets through ATMs

That is an interesting Ad of Amul when Facebook bought Whatsapp at whopping price !..... Amul is an Indian dairy cooperative, based at Anand in the state of Gujarat. Amul  is derived from the Sanskrit word amulya, meaning invaluable ~ the Cooperative was initially, Anand Milk Federation Union Limited hence the name AMUL.  It is the brand managed by Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd which  spurred India's White Revolution.

Gone are the days when we ran to Bank for all our financial transactions ~  filling up a withdrawal slip for withdrawing money or depositing money into  bank were challenges of yesteryears.  Now we transact them online or go to ATMs - most ATMs in Chennai dispense 500s and the last 500 in 100s – there are some which dispense 1000 rupee notes.  ATM called by some as ‘anytime money’ are Automated teller machines (also known as Cashpoint – a trade mark of Lloyds TSB)  are man-free interaction points through devices from which people can access their bank accounts and withdraw or depositcash.  From the traditional withdrawal from Bank standing in queue filling challans and always appearing bemused, automated teller machines (ATM) have changed the way of money transaction. All and sundry now flaunt no. of cards and allowing withdrawal from ATM of any bank has just added to the confusion. I fail to understand  why people should queue before ATM and how do people get change of small denominations for their daily needs  ?

Moving away, ATMs are not exclusive to Banking and dispensation of money ! – they also vend other products such as magazines, chocolates and soft drinks. Amul has gone a step further: it will now sell milk through “Any Time Milk” vending machines. The pilot project of this 24x7 ATM began with the installation of a vending machine at the gate of Amul Dairy in Anand town of Gujarat last month. “To start with, we plan to set up these ATMs at each of the 1,100 ‘mandalis’ (village-level milk collection centres) in Kheda and Anand districts where we market Amul, Ramsinh Parmar, Chairman of Amul Diary was quoted as saying.  

For  Rs.10/-currency note, which this machine will read through a sensor, the ATM would dispense a 300 ml pouch of Amul Taaza milk. The ATM, fitted with refrigeration facility, has a capacity to hold 150 pouches at a time. … so, it would continue to be ATM (any time milk – this time) – which will take care of the demand of the white commodity at odd hours.  Officials said an ATMwas installed outside its factory on an experimental basis. They pointed out that 650-700 pouches could be dispensed in a day. However, the maximum utilisation of the ATMs would happen at night.

Automated milk vending machines are not totally new…. Remember that in many places in Chennai – Aavin had the facility of automated milk vending machines, where one needed to buy plastic tokens and when placed inside the machine, milk in prescribed quantity [1/2; 1 litre] used to flow… that was unpacked pasteurized milk and now Amul vends them in sachets.

A couple of years back, Gitanjali Gems, the world’s largest integrated-branded diamond jewellery manufacturer and retailer, introduced gold, silver and diamond sales through vending machines.  The  first machine of its planned network of vending machines was reportedly launched  in Phoenix Mills at Lower Parel, Mumbai. Again the precedence of gold vending ATMs were the ones  at Airport in Frankfurt and a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi where Vending machine gives you shining gold. It is not only shining luster looking machines ; they give out gold in the form of 1 gram, 5 gram, 10 gram and 1 ounce bars, and also Krugerrand, Kangaroo and Maple Leaf gold coins.  The bars and coins come in snazzy presentation cases but even so, they're said to cost about 20 percent less than what a German bank or other financial institution would charge.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th Feb 2013.

the killing Marines of Italy aboard Enrica Lexie - India not to invoke stringent law

Not all followed or understood the implications; nor can one understand the expedient action of the Central Govt…. the Govt. told the Supreme Court that the law, which carries the death penalty, would not apply in the case. The accused will still be tried - but under less stringent criminal laws. Earlier, India's decision to use the anti-piracy law led to a diplomatic row with Italy. Last week, Rome recalled its ambassador to India over the issue. The Italian foreign ministry said Daniele Mancini would return home because of "yet another unacceptable, deliberate delay" after a hearing in the Supreme Court was postponed. The Italian government also asked the UN and European Union to intervene in the continuing dispute with India ~ and then came the Indian submission…

Public memory as usual is short lived.  If one recalls, on that ill-fated day of 15th Feb 2012,  two fishermen, Gelastine (45) and Ajesh Binki (25), were brought to Neendakara harbour late on the night and were taken to the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, for post mortem. Subsequently, Gelastine's body was taken to Kollam and buried on the morning of 17 February, while the body of the Ajesh Binki, was taken to Erayammanthurai in Tamil Nadu's Nagercoil district and buried. The Kerala government announced a solatium of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of each of the victims, while the Tamil Nadu government announced a solatium of Rs. 5 lakh to the family of Ajesh Binki.  Generally such deaths of fisherfolk would have appeared in an obscure column of newspaper and forgotten.

This was not to be – as they had been shot dead  by Italian naval guards from aboard oil tanker Enrica Lexie, and has been in the news all through these months.  There were also reports of  Italian authorities coming forward to settle the compensation claims. Indian police immediately opening a murder enquiry and later arresting two members of the Italian Navy security team over the shooting.  According to the Indian Coast Guard, Indian government sources and the crew of the fishing boat Saint Antony, when the fishing boat was returning from a fishing expedition, those on board the oil tanker shot them dead.  Enrica Lexie, is a Aframax tanker built in 2008 at Shanghai Waigaogiao, double hulled, Italy flagged, ABS classed – has LOA of 243 M, 14.82 draught bearing IMO no. 9489297.  Sure the ships transitting the Arabian sea are at high risk in the piracy infested waters but Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden can never be classified in the same league alongside Kerala border.  Italians put forth the argument that notwithstanding the killing of Indian fishermen in their own soil, the arrest of the two mariners would hamper international fight against piracy.

Now after so many months, on Monday, Indian attorney general Ghoolam Vahanvati told the Supreme Court that the prosecution did not intend to proceed against Mr Latorre and Mr Girone under the anti-piracy section of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA). Mr Vahanvati did not give any reason. The men earlier were allowed to go to Italy for voting in the elections; now India has decided not to invoke anti-piracy law.  Italy demanded closure of case saying without SUA charges NIA has no jurisdiction to probe the case. The SC said it will examine if NIA or some other agency will handle the probe. The Apex Court referred Italy's plea for quashing of the case to a larger 3-judge bench. With Italy strongly opposing, India has gone soft in not invoking the tougher provisions of the law.

The punishment even when convicted would be less stringent now; the new Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, made it clear on Monday that the issue would remain a priority for his government, saying that he had made two "symbolic telephone calls" to the marines as one of his first acts as premier since his swearing-in on Saturday.  India had originally sought to prosecute the marines under the piracy law partly because the incident occurred outside the geographical area covered by the country's criminal code.

Italy marines - photo courtesy : BBC co uk

BBC report states that the  delays in filing charges, not unusual in India's notoriously slow legal system, spurred Italy to approach the supreme court last month demanding approval for the marines to return home and a block on any use of the anti-piracy law.

The two men deny killing anyone or aiming directly at the fishing boat. They are on bail but cannot leave India now ……  what looked complicated earlier ;;;; - the vessel an Italy flagged oil tanker; the men shot were innocent Indian fishermen; the place – shores of Kochi – men arrested Italian marines of the Reggimento San Marco, Marina Militare. Now legal wrangles are giving way and decision could be soon out….. and there are enough indicators as to which direction the case is heading for – thanks to powerful intervention of Italy Govt and numb submission of Indian authorities coupled with the delay.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th Feb 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Of Post Offices & Ultra Small Branch of Bank .... at ThirukKannapuram

Do you know that besides the Postal address which consists of Door No., Street Name, Area, City …. .. ..there existed something known as PO Bag No. ?  ~ here is something which I found interesting during my visit to this divyadesam on 15th Feb 2014.

In the business World, small was also considered beautiful and there emerged SMEs (Small and medium enterprises). The abbreviation "SME" is used in the European Union and by international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO). SMEs are also said to be responsible for driving innovation and competition in many economic sectors. Indian SMEs represent the model of socio-economic policies of Government, which emphasise job creation at all levels of income stratum. The current classification marks enterprises in manufacturing sector with an investment in plant and machinery of up to Rs 25 lakh as micro, up to Rs 5 crore as small and up to Rs 10 crore as medium enterprises. Similarly, the limits for enterprises providing services are set at Rs 10 lakh, Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore for micro, small and medium enterprises, respectively.

There are organized sources of Credit and unorganized – Banks and other financial institutions offer loans at a reasonable rate of interst; while private money lenders fleece charge high rates… ….yet rural poor have to depend upon moneylenders as they could not provide proper collateral security….. banks at their doorsteps (villages) would be of help, one thought !

‘Thirukannapuram” –  is the abode of Sri Sowri Raja Perumal.   The Neelamega Perumal temple situated near Nannilam on way to Nagapattinam from Mayiladuthurai is a big imposing temple with a beautifully made pond (Thirukulam).   From Mayavaram (Mayiladuthurai) as we travel towards Nagapattinam, there is Thirupugalur from where one needs to travel in – for less than 2 km for reaching the temple, which is around 4 miles from Nannilam railway station.  The temple has a 7-tier rajagopuram and a vast temple complex.  The Nithya pushkarini just infront of the Temple is so vast that it looks more like a large lake… it is neat and clean and a bathe here would cleanse our soul.

Till a couple of decades ago, hardly a day would go by without the postman bringing a postcard from a family member or an acquaintance. One used to wait anxiously for the arrival of the postman who used to bring in some important message written in postcards or folded blue inland letters. Sir Post ! [thapal] was the most sought after word to be heard ! ….. Postcards, covers and inland letters used to be the most popular format and at many places the only means of postal communication.  In those days, frequent users could register and obtain what was known as ‘PO Bag No.’ ….. it was sort of special space for the recipient at a Postal Office and was an easy way of providing accurate address….

Gone are those days……… I found a Post Office in front of the temple ~ the person manning the Office was exceptionally pleasant ; I bought a inland letter just to post home to show my son that such things existed ~ he said – it is quite sometime since an inland letter was sold there ………. ..and you can imagine its position in a city. Literally none use inland letters these days, whence e-mail itself is considered old-fashioned.  People live on SMS / live message / Whatsapp and the like. 

In those days, Post Office was the most important one in any locality and people lived on covers / cards / inland letters / telegrams / money orders  etc., which Post Office transacted besides the postal savings schemes.  A system which peaked from the days of East India Company is almost gone now.  It is history that the first post office in our Region  was established on 01-06-1786 in Fort St George, which later grew into Chennai GPO.

At ThirukKannapuram, another board caught my attention ~ that of a bank … not any ordinary branch but ‘Ultra Small Branch’ … what ?

RBI guidelines read that an intermediate brick and mortar structure (Ultra Small Branch) may be set up between the base branch and Business Correspondent (BC) locations so as to provide support to about 8-10 BC Units at a reasonable distance of 3-4 kilometres. Such Ultra Small Branches should have minimum infrastructure such as a Core Banking Solution (CBS) terminal linked to a pass book printer and a safe for cash retention for operating large customer transactions and would have to be managed full time by bank officers / employees.  According to guidelines, such branches will operate in an area of 100-200 square feet.   

Indian Overseas Bank  has opened ultra small branches at some villages and the divyadesam of Thirukannapuram is one !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

24th Feb 2014.

ghastly murder of a techie of Siruseri SIPCOT IT Park

The road of IT Corridor, OMR bustles with traffic – vehicles of all hues – 2 wheelers, autos, spanky cars all vie with Volvo buses and vans and more…. Signs of a busy area – many IT & ITES companies – rich World – trendy dresses, ears-plugged n swaying to music, happy people all earning great salaries – many wonder ! but is the life pleasant and peaceful and more importantly safe ? One needs to ponder…   

The ghastly death of a 23 year old techie is in news and that throws open lot of  Questions  ! in a Metropolis brimming with floating population, crimes do get reported … but this murder is to be not seen as an isolated incident and there is imperative need for action from many fronts. 

In what would remind one of some film stories,  23 year old B. Uma Maheswari, a software professional with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) at the SIPCOT IT Park in Siruseri, went missing on the night of Feb 13 and a few days later the decomposed body  was found in a bush hardly 200 hundred metres from her office.  A Police official is reportedly suspended and news reports suggest that Kancheepuram police met with officials of five IT and BPO firms and urged them to tighten security, especially for women employees. Police officers issued a set of instructions to the companies which included posting armed guards, installing security cameras, ensuring that woman employees working night shifts take only office cabs with security guards to return home. The officers also suggested that companies note details of cabs and autorickshaw drivers that enter their officers to pick up employees. They asked the companies to check the antecedents of drivers they hire. Women employees should not travel alone, even by office transport, but be accompanied by a colleague, they said.

IG Manjunatha told TOI that police would start patrolling the locality regularly and said he had requested that a police outpost be set up in the area. TOI report states that the knee-jerk response to the murder did not impress all the company officials and employees blamed police for poor patrolling that allows strangers to lurk around on roads at night. They said there had been an increase in crimes against women in the area because of lax policing.  It is common sight that not all are provided with transportation and many are seen walking in the main road, waiting for public transportation, travelling by crowded share-autos; the Railway stations at Perungudi, Tharamani, Thiruvanmiyur … are overfilled with heads in the peak hours.   

Some say with sadness that Kelambakkam police did not attach any seriousness to the ‘missing person’ complaint by the father of Ms Uma.   Reports suggest that the post-mortem revealed stab injuries in her stomach and abdomen, and  the police have registered a case of murder. The personal details of the person, that she was native of Attur in Salem, graduated and was hired in Campus recruitment, joined the Company and was at Siruseri are of little relevance. It is stated that she was last seen leaving office at 10.10 p.m. on February 13, which was recorded on a CCTV camera at the facility.  reportedly she took permission and left early than usual but sadly never reached the rented home at Medavakkam, which she shared with two of her colleagues. 

This gruesome murder to new to Chennai but is not totally unheard of for the Nation.  There had been crimes against working women, especially who have to work late shifts – at the Nation’s Capital, Bangalore and in a couple of other places.  A couple of years back, Delhi Police mandated that BPOs, Corporates and Media houses should drop their women employees at their homes during night hours and also confirm their safe arrival.  It also made compulsory that a security guard  should accompany the woman employee to her residence and ensure her safe arrival if the office vehicle cannot drop her right outside her house.  The Police further added that the  cab drivers should not pick any stranger or stray away from designated routes.  They further suggested selecting the routes in such a  manner that as far as possible women employees are not the first to be picked up or the last to be dropped. 

The instruction also asked the employers to maintain a database of all employees, security personnel, cab drivers and contractual workers, which the police could access, besides hiring security personnel and other contractual personnel as far as possible from licensed agencies only.

It may never be possible for Police to provide individual security …. It makes sense for all concerned to be concerned about the safety aspects always…. Coming to work and having to work at odd hours is a reality …. Long travel from workplace and residence is another…… between – the Companies and the individuals need to strategise and plan practically – the mode, time and accompaniment of travel – leaving nothing to choice – after all, safety is the most important aspect and one cannot dangle with danger even for a short while.

Sad the life of a techie was brutally snatched away ~ the culprit may be found – may or may not get proper punishment – may be by some quirk, even the offender’s punishment may get curtailed ~ the techie may never come again, the pain and suffering of the poor parents may never heal ~ we all will pray for the departed soul – more importantly, plan and ensure that such a ghastly incident is never repeated.

With grief
S. Sampathkumar.

24th Feb 2o14.

asylum seeker dies in Manus Island ... something on Papua New Guinea

I have not heard of this island before (Manus) nor know anything about - Pacific Solution which is in news now for wrong reasons.  

Before that something on Cricket – of the U19 Worldcup now on at Dubai.  On Saturday, a ball from Kuldeep Yadav, the chinaman bowler, pitched outside the off, jumped, turned, beat the bat, and ended up down the legside – Umpire called it a wide – one felt too harsh for a great delivery. English batsmen could not read him properly but still India lost the match, which was sealed in the penultimate over of Hooda, whom Vijay Zol chose to bowl.  India had earlier won all their group matches; in one of them – India crushed minnows Papua New Guinea by  245 runs.  Opting to bat in their last league match, the defending champions posted a mammoth 301 for six, before bowling out their hapless opponents for just 56 in 28.2 overs at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Defending a big total on what did not seem like the best of batting surfaces, left-arm spinner Yadav, returned impressive figures of 4/10 in8.2 overs.  Earlier Afghan caused the biggest upset beating Australia – scoring 253 and restricting the stronger team to 217.  

Papua New Guinea,  is a group of islands located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.  It is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world - 848 different languages are listed for the country, of which 12 have no known living speakers.  Though mining provides impetus to the economy, many people live in extreme poverty.  After being ruled by three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea established its sovereignty in 1975 after Australia ceased to administer it. It became a separate Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II reigning as its Head of State.

The news is about the violence in an island here  that led to the death of an asylum seeker.  Down under,  Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says new information casts doubt on initial reports that 23-year-old Reza Berati died from injuries he sustained outside the centre. The Federal Opposition has called for an explanation and says Mr Morrison is not being transparent. More than 60 other people were injured in the violence, and Australia and Papua New Guinea are both conducting investigations. Mr Morrison says detainees risk their safety if they engage in riots, but says that service providers must abide by the law in any response.

Manus Island is part of Manus Province in northern Papua New Guinea and is the largest island of the Admiralty Islands. Lorengau is the capital of Manus Province. Manus Island is covered in rugged jungles, and is home to the Emerald green snail, whose shells are harvested to be sold as jewellery.  In addition to its resident population, asylum seekers have been relocated here from Australia between 2001-2004 and since 2012.

Aussie Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the "majority of the riotous behaviour" that killed an Iranian man and injured 62 other asylum seekers on Manus Island this week happened inside the Australian-run immigration detention centre, contradicting his earlier claims.  Greens leader has accused Mr Morrison of repeatedly misleading the Australian public over Manus Island, and called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to sack him from the ministry.  The furore is over the killing whilst in the care of Australian Govt in a far off place.  The activists claim that the occurrence and its handling is shrouded in secrecy.  Secrecy is completely inadequate for democracy but totally appropriate for tyranny. The events on Manus Island give rise to many questions the public have a right to know as to what happened?; whether asylum seekers were beaten to death and why there was contradicting information flowing from the authorities.

They further want Australia to accept global responsibilities of accepting refugees.  The asylum seekers trying to arrive in boats are fleeing their own Nation for saving their lives and a multicultural Nation should accept them.  

The Pacific Solution is the name given to the Australian government policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention centres on island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland. Implemented during 2001–2007, the Pacific solution strategized islands away as migration zones; Australian Defence Force commenced Operation Relex to intercept vessels carrying asylum seekers and they were removed to detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea while their refugee status was determined. The policy was largely dismantled in 2008 by the Rudd government but in 2012, the succeeding Gillard Labor government introduced a similar policy, reopening Nauru detention centre and Manus Island detention centre for offshore processing.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23rd Feb 2o14.

Death centenary of Thillaiyadi Valliammai - woman who inspired Gandhiji

No explanation required perhaps for this photo, which in realtime would have attracted women….am trying to somehow connect this with Indian freedom struggle !!...  The Tamil Nadu Handloom Weavers' Cooperative Society, popularly known as Co-optex, is a cooperative of traditional handloomweavers of Tamil Nadu ~ and you are looking at display in front of a Cooptex showroom. 

This little village  has connection with Gandhiji … hundreds of people from here had gone gone to South Africa in the early 20th Century both as indentured and free labour. Several of them had been deported back after that first Satyagraha movement Gandhiji had launched while in South Africa ~ and one among them was a woman (rather a young girl) who lived for only 16 years.  Tharangambadi also known as Tranqubar is in Nagapattinam from where indentured labour from India, mostly Tamil and Telugu peasantry, left from Madras aboard the S.S.Truro.

22nd February [Saturday] marked the death centenary of  Thillayadi Valliammai, the revolutionary, famed to have inspired Mahatma Gandhi in his fight against colonial rule.  Born to Mangalam and Muthusamy Mudaliar, Valliammai was initiated into political struggle by Gandhi, when the colonial State of South Africa declared null and void all marriages forged outside of the South African law or Church law. Thousands of marriages were annulled. Valliammai marched with her mother from Transvaal to Natal protesting against the unjust laws. Valliammai also participated with her mother in protests against exorbitant taxes levied against workers. They were arrested and sentenced to three months of hard labour.

It is recorded that when Gandhi visited a fragile and ill Valliammai shortly after her release, the young girl vowed to be arrested any number of times to carry on the fight for people’s rights. Gandhi quoting the girl cited her as someone who inspired him to stay the course in the fight for equality in South Africa. But the girl’s physical health did not match her mental strength. Shortly after her release, Valliammai, all of 16 years, died on February 22, 1914.

As the bust of Valliammai at dusty Thillaiadi drew crowds, a function to mark her sacrifice was being held in Johannesburg it is stated. Newspaper reports state that a Dharmapuri-based retired BDO Balasundaram took the initiative to organise the events jointly with the local panchayat. History records suggest that  Thillaiyadi Valliammai (22 February 1898 - 22 February 1914) was a South African Tamil woman who worked with Mahatma Gandhi in her early years when she developed her nonviolent methods in South Africa fighting its apartheid regime. Her father was a trader and owner of a confectionery shop. Since her mother Janaki is from Thillaiyadi in Tamil Nadu, her daughter Valliammai came to be popularly called Thillaiyadi Valliammai. Valliammai had never been to India. She grew in an environment that was rather hostile to Indians. But the young child did not even know that it was not right to be segregated so,until she was in her early teens.

A law was passed that any marriage that is not according to the Church or according to the marriage law of South Africa would be held null and void, which disproportionately affected the Indian community in that country.  Young Valliammai joined her mother in the march by women from Transvaal to Natal – which was not legally permitted without passes. Valliamma, and her mother Mangalam, joined the second batch of Transvaal women who went to Natal in October 1913 to explain the inequity of the three pound tax to the workers and persuade them to strike. They visited different centres and addressed meetings. They were sentenced in December to three months with hard labour, and sent to the Maritzburg prison. Valliamma fell ill soon after her conviction, but refused an offer of early release by the prison authorities. She died shortly after release, on 22 February 1914.

Gandhi wrote in Satyagraha in South Africa about his meeting with Vallammai when she was emaciated and terribly ill.  She reportedly expressed her strength to fight, go to jail again, and even die fighting for the cause.  It is stated that on 15 July 1914, three days before he left South Africa, Gandhi attended the unveiling of the gravestones of Nagappan and Valliamma in the Braamfontein cemetery in Johannesburg.
photo courtesy : The Hindu

Now a Memorial hall including Public liabrary stands at the Thillaiyadi village. A commemorative stamp on her was released in Dec 2008. The main showroom of Cooptex at Pantheon Road, Egmore, Chennai – is named after ‘Thillaiyadi Valliammai’………

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

23rd Feb 2o14.