Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Lost Temples of India

The Lost Temples of India part 1

The Lost Temples of India part2

The Lost Temples of India part3

The Lost Temples of India part 4

The Lost Temples of India part 5

The Lost Temples of India part 6

What Happened to Jesus after his resurrection ? Did Jesus came to India after wards? See these videos and read to know more

After surviving the crucifixion, Jesus Christ arrived in Kashmir, where he took up residence for the remainder of his life. There he ministered to Israelite tribes of the area, continuing to preach. The Negaristan-i-Kashmir book allegedaly says that he eventually married a woman named Maryan, who bore him children. He died at the ripe old age of 120 years. His tomb is located in the Mohala Kan Yar district of the capital city of Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, Northern India, and is called the Roza Bal ("The Site of the Honored Tomb").

Jesus in Kashmir,India(BBC Documentry)-1

Jesus in Kashmir,India(BBC Documentry)-2

Jesus in Kashmir,India(BBC Documentry)-3

There is another claim : Reref to this websire


This website presents and offers evidence that Jesus Christ is dead and buried in a tomb in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, and will not be returning to earth. The website examines a range of topics from the Shroud of Turin to the Israelite origin of the people of Asia. It aims to brings together research and material related to this theory from a variety of sources.

Yet another first in Bihar - Now FIRs can be lodged through e-mails in Bihar

Lodging FIRs (first information report) at police stations in Bihar is not a child’s play for the victims of crime. In fact, it’s a trial by fire: The victims have to face a volley of uncomfortable questions, make umpteenth rounds of the police station and, in many cases, they end up being made ‘accused’ themselves.

But in the next few months, all that will change. For, in the not too distant a future, it will be possible for the victim of a crime to send an e-mail to the higher police authorities, giving details of the crime committed against him/her. This would be treated as an FIR and follow-up action initiated forthwith. Lodging FIRs through e-mail will become a reality, once the government accepts the Administrative Reforms Commission’s (ARC) recommendations for police reforms. The ARC will submit its report by October-end.

ARC Chairman VS Dubey said the Commission would suggest ‘foolproof’ measures to ensure that commoners did not face difficulty in lodging FIRs and the cops were held to account if they refused to accept complaints.

The ARC is sparing no efforts to curtail the sweeping powers of the police so that the cops shed their ‘brute’ image and act friendly with commoners. The draft report makes a strong recommendation for taking away from the police the power to arrest anybody on mere suspicion that he/she might commit a crime (as per Section 151 of the Cr PC) or on the suspicion that a person holds stolen goods or if a person fails to give his/her correct address to the police.

“We feel that the sweeping powers given in the criminal procedure code to the police is the core reason why cops misuse their authority. This is why people perceive the police as tyrants and despots,” said Dubey. He also said that the ARC was intent on paving the way for civil control on the police so that the cops, especially at the police station-level did not act in an arbitrary or prejudicial manner. There will be recommendation to give powers to citizens groups, NGOs and ward committees to review pending cases in each police station of their area and also give suggestions to the police on important cases. “ We want an element of civil control on the police force,” said Dubey.

The ARC is of the strong view that shoddy investigation of incidents of crime is one of the core factors responsible for the spurt in crime in the State. So, the ARC is going to recommend a separation between the law and order duty and investigation work to avoid any overlapping of work. The ARC is also going to suggest strong measures to tackle organised crime and economic offenses by suggesting to the government to equip the investigation wing with sub-inspectors having professional knowledge of computers, law, commerce and economics.

“The poor training and knowledge of sub-inspectors vital for tackling professional crime is one reason why there has been an increase in white-collared crime. We will also suggest raising the eligibility bar for appointment as sub-inspectors requiring the candidates to be graduates besides reserving a certain percentage of seats for people with professional degrees. This will be a great help to better investigation of crimes,” said Dubey.

Besides, the ARC is also keen to suggest that the government bring in amendments in the IPC to make more offenses bailable so that those committing petty crimes could get bail at the police station itself and was not sent to jail.

The ARC Chairman said that the idea behind bringing more offenses (other than serious crimes like rape, dacoity, sedition, terror acts, murder) under bailable clauses so that petty offenders were not pushed into jail to live among hardened criminals.

Lastly, the ARC is also looking at ways to lessen the work pressure on police personnel, especially those on field duty, including sub-inspectors and constables. “Constables behave rudely with the people as they are overstressed and less educated. Once they are de-stressed, there could be behavioral changes in them,” said Dubey.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Five eventful years for President of India,A.P.J.Abdul Kalam-THANKS GIVING ADDRESS TO THE NATION

Five eventful years

"When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you"

Friends, I am delighted to address you all, in the country and those living abroad, after working with you and completing five beautiful and eventful years in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Today, it is indeed a thanks giving occasion. I would like to narrate, how I enjoyed every minute of my tenure enriched by the wonderful association from each one of you, hailing from different walks of life, be it politics, science and technology, academics, arts, literature, business, judiciary, administration, local bodies, farming, home makers, special children, media and above all from the youth and student community who are the future wealth of our country. During my interaction at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi and at every state and union territory as well as through my online interactions, I have many unique experiences to share with you, which signify the following important messages:

1. Accelerate development : Aspiration of the youth,

2. Empower villages,

3. Mobilize rural core competence for competitiveness,

4. Seed to Food: Backbone for agricultural growth

5. Defeat problems and succeed,

6. Overcome problems through partnership,

7. Courage in combating calamities,

8. Connectivity for societal transformation,

9. Defending the nation: Our pride and

10. Youth movement for Developed India 2020.

Now let me share with you each of the messages.

Accelerate Development: Aspiration of the youth

While there were many significant events during my tenure, a question from a little girl Anukriti of Sri Sathya Sai Jagriti Vidya Mandir School, of Darwa village from Haryana, during children’s visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 22, 2006, rings in my mind ever after.

Anukriti asked me “why India cannot become a developed nation before the year 2020”. I appreciated the question and said it was indeed a thoughtful question and assured her that that her dream would be taken to the highest institution of the nation and we would work for it to achieve before 2020. This question reflects how the desire to live in developed India has entered into the minds of the youth. The same feelings are echoed by over fifteen lakh youth, whom I have met so far and who represent the dream of the 540 million youth of the nation. The aspirations of the young to live in a prosperous, safe and proud India should be the guiding factor in whatever profession we contribute.

Empower Villages

Friends, I recall my visit to Nagaland on 26th October 2002, soon after my assuming office as President. It was a unique experience for me at Khuzama village to meet tribal village council members and discuss with them the village progress and the dream of village citizens. I was very happy to see the empowered village council functioning with financial powers and taking decisions. I saw a prosperous village with fruits and vegetables production. However, there is a need for providing physical connectivity in Nagaland through quality roads for enabling faster movement of products from villages to the market. That meeting gave me a powerful message about the transformation which can take place to the 600,000 villages of India, if all the villages are empowered to deal with their development and are well connected among themselves and with the urban societies.

Mobilizing rural core competence for competitiveness

Now I would like to talk about the initiative of Periyar Maniammai College of Technology for Women, Vallam, Tanjore of Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) complex involving 65 villages with a population of 3 lakhs. This includes provision of three connectivities - physical, electronic and knowledge - leading to economic connectivity. Periyar PURA has health care centers, primary to post graduate level education and vocational training centers. This has resulted in large-scale employment generation and creation of number of entrepreneurs with the active support of 1000 self-help groups. Two hundred acres of waste land has been developed into a cultivable land. The villagers are busy in cultivation, planting Jatropha, herbal and medicinal plants, power generation using bio-mass, food processing and above all running marketing centers. It provides a sustainable economic development model for the whole region.

During the last eight months, people of Periyar PURA villages technologically supported by Periyar Maniammai College of Engineering for Women have worked with experts from Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) on various products, for which core competence and raw material are available in Thanjavur district. They developed internationally competitive prototypes for 55 life style products with support of JETRO specialists and feedback from exhibitions at Delhi and Tokyo. This co-operative venture has enhanced the innovative ability of the people of all the 65 villages enabling them to develop and produce internationally acceptable products. I have seen similar type of PURA being established in many states. The whole country needs 7000 PURA to bridging the rural – urban divide.

Seed to Food: Backbone for agricultural growth

Let me now share with you, the enriching experience I had, while meeting more than 6000 farmers from different States and Union Territories visiting Rashtrapati Bhavan. They evinced keen interest in the Mughal Gardens, the Herbal Gardens, the Spiritual Garden, the Musical Garden, the Bio-diesel garden and the Nutrition Garden and interact with the Horticultural specialists. Recently, during my address to the agricultural scientists while participating in a National Symposium on “Agriculture Cannot Wait”, I summarized the many practical suggestions given by farmers. We have to double the agricultural production with reduced land, reduced water resources and reduced manpower and improve the economic conditions of the nation through the principle of “Seed to Food” since agriculture is the backbone of the nation. We should empower the farmers to protect and nurture the fertile land for second green revolution. Meeting the Scientists and the Farmers has given me the confidence that the nation is poised to increase the agricultural GDP growth by atleast 4% per annum through the partnership of farmers and agricultural scientists and industries particularly for value addition.

Defeat the problems and succeed

On the evening of February 24, 2007, at Coimbatore, I had a very beautiful experience. As I got ready for meeting the first person out of twenty appointments, a wheel chair was in sight with a smiling person probably in his late fifties; unfortunately he has no hands and legs. His radiant face was revealing his happy state of mind. He introduced himself as Vidwan Coimbatore SR Krishna Murthy. I greeted him and asked him how this had happened. He smilingly said that it was from by birth. He thanked God, his parents, teachers and many others for giving him confidence, training and help. I asked him, what I could do for him? He said, “I don’t need anything from you. I would like to sing in front of you”. I readily agreed. He sang melodiously the Saint Thyagraja’s pancha ratna kriti entharo mahanubavulu in Sriragam giving me a glimpse of his talent. I was quite touched. What is the message? Despite being physically challenged, the latent talent of music could blossom in this person with his positive attitude and perseverance, encouraged by the parents, teachers, academics and rasikas. Now he wants to give, give and give his art to inspire others. Of course, by his merit of music, in July 2007, he performed in the Rashtrapati Bhavan art theatre.

Overcome the impact of disaster through partnership

I had the opportunity to experience the Indomitable Spirit of the people and children of Jammu & Kashmir even as they were just recovering from the devastating earthquake in 2005. I visited Urusa village on 26th November 2005 which has been adopted by the Western Air Command, Air Force for providing relief and medical aid to the residents of that area. When I went there, I found that the school building had been severely damaged. I met all the school children and the village citizen of Urusa. The villagers apprised me of their losses and had all praise for Army and Air Force role in rescue and relief operations along with state government. I appreciate the courage of the people of Urusa in defeating their problems. They have actually become the master of the problem rather than allowing problems to become their master. Despite the severe loss due to the earthquake, the children and the members of the village participated in the relief operation with the Armed Forces bravely and were smiling when I went to meet them. They interacted with me and said that the school was functional in the temporary tents. Here, I also witnessed the participation of acting Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir along with State Government authorities in on-the-spot settlement of relief grants to be provided to the victims whose houses had been damaged in the earth quake. I have experienced many such acts of courage from our citizens when faced with severe challenges.

Courage in combating calamities

In 2005, I met the Tribal Council Leaders, Students, Children of Chuckchucha village during my visit to Car Nicobar Islands. While various reconstruction and rehabilitation activities were in progress, during the discussions with the members of tribal council, I realized the unique trait among the Car-Nicobar islanders. Even though there were many human losses due to the Tsunami of 26 Dec 2004, the tribal islanders had taken possession of affected victims as their children and there is nothing like orphanage in Car-Nicobar Islands. Touched by their courage, I composed few verses called “Sea Waves” which reads as follows:

Sea Waves

We are the children of Sea waves,
Sea waves are my friends.
When they become angry,
Sea waves give the challenges.
God has given the courage,
To challenge the sea waves.
And we will succeed,
We will succeed
With Almighty’s grace.

All the members who were gathered in the village sang the poem with me and exhibited lots of courage and enthusiasm even though they had gone through severe suffering during the Tsunami.

Connectivity for societal transformation

I addressed the Pan African Parliament on 16 September 2004, at Johannesburg, South Africa. This was attended by 53 member countries of the African Union, where I proposed the concept of Pan African e-Network for providing seamless and integrated satellite, fiber optics and wireless network connecting 53 African countries at an estimated cost of US $ 100 million.

As part of the project 12 universities (7 from India and 5 from Africa), 17 Super Specialty Hospitals (12 from India and 5 from Africa), 53 tele-medicine centers and 53 tele-education centres in Africa will be connected. The pilot project on tele-education and tele-medicine in Ethiopia has already been commissioned. Indira Gandhi National Open University has taken up the MBA Course for 34 Ethiopian students of Addis Ababa and Harmaya Universities. As regards, tele-medicine, the specialists from CARE Hospital, Hyderabad are providing one-hour live tele-consultation to doctors in Black Lion Hospital, Addis Ababa in Cardiology and Radiology since November 2006. Using the Pan African network the Heads of the State in all the 53 countries will be connected for instant communication. I am extremely happy that Indian experience in bringing the benefits of technology to the people has enabled us to work with Africa to bring societal transformation in the African continent.

Defending the nation: Our pride

I visited KUMAR in Siachen Glacier located at 17,000 feet altitude held by the Indian Army, had a memorable underwater journey in INS Sindhurakshak and flew in a Sukhoi-30 fighter experiencing 2.5 g. In these three experiences, I personally felt proud of our ever vigilant Soldiers, Sailors and Air Warriors performing their tasks beyond the call of their duty even in the most adverse circumstances natural and man made. During the last five years, I had an opportunity to present colours to many regiments, participate in number of passing out parades, meet the troops who were going to undertake peace missions and interact with the family members of our Defence Forces. Our Defence Forces are in a beautiful mission. When the nation sleeps during night, Members of our Defence teams are awake to guard us and remain vigilant to counter any threat. The Nation cherishes the valour, commitment and devotion to duty of our Defence Forces. Similarly, I had opportunities to interact with members of our para-military forces, central and state police personnel including internal security forces who are making immense contribution in augmenting the safety and security of our citizens under difficult conditions.

Youth movement for Developed India 2020

Recently, in Hyderabad, I met a group of citizens who are putting into practice the motto of transforming of our youth into enlightened citizen. The Lead India 2020 Foundation created by Dr. N.B. Sudershan at Hyderabad is training thousands of students in many districts of Andhra Pradesh in partnership with the District Administration. Particularly, I happened to know the transformation which has taken place among the students of Medak district. As per the district authorities the impact of the training on the students is visible in terms of self-discipline, love for their parents and teachers shedding of stage fear and recognition of their duties towards the nation. I talked to Ms. Padma, a student leader from Andhra Pradesh Tribal Welfare School, Nalgonda who related how she weaned her father away from smoking after imbibing the spirit of the 10 point oath from the Lead India Training Camp. This gives me an assurance that the youth of our country are on the right path through this mission oriented programme. With the ignited minds of the 540 million youth below the age of 25, which I consider is the most powerful resource on the earth, under the earth and above the earth, we have to empower the youth through value based education and leadership.


I was touched by the variety of Indian panorama, emotional content of the tune, cultural diversity and unity of minds in the vast land of ours. I have cited these examples just to give a glimpse of the richness of our tradition and effort being taken by different agencies to preserve it. There are also many new adventures by institutions and individuals. I have experienced many of them and learnt a lot about my country and our people. Even while pursuing our economic growth, we need to do a lot to preserve the rich and diverse treasures of our culture and civilization. It is our duty for our future generations. This has to be done in a much larger scale through countrywide participation of multiple institutions. Our country is blessed with natural resources, has shown considerable progress in the last sixty years, and above all we have hard working people particularly the power of the 540 million youth of the country. Every sector of our country has given me the confidence that India can become a developed nation well before 2020. Whomsoever, I met they constantly ask what they can give to the nation. We should constantly strive to empower such members of the society. With this spirit, I am extremely happy that we are on the right path. Here I am reminded of a famous poem:

"When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are,
Anything your heart desires,
Will come to you”
This poem is true to all of us, and particularly for our youth and if they aim great, I am sure they will reach close to the target or the target.

My dear citizens, let us resolve to continue to work for realizing the missions of developed India 2020 with the following distinctive profile.

1. A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line.

2. A Nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.

3. A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.

4. A Nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.

5. A Nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.

6. A Nation where the best of health care is available to all.

7. A Nation where the governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.

8. A Nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.

9. A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path.

10. A Nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.
Finally let me thank each one of you for showering your love and affection on me throughout the last five years by your cooperation and support.

Dear Citizens, I conclude my address by sharing with you my mission in life which is to bring connectivity between billion hearts and minds of the people of India in our multicultural society and to embed the self confidence that "we can do it". I will be always with you, dear citizens, in the great mission of making India a developed nation before 2020.

May God bless you.

Jai hind.

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Bosnia bets big on tourism

Perched on the rocky southern ridges of Mount Bjelasnica, the Bosnian village of Umoljani is both new and ancient. Destroyed during the 1992-95 war, its stone-and-wood huts have been rebuilt, as good as old. Its welcoming people, handmade artefacts and organic food are a window into the past, and a hit with tourists seeking a different sort of holiday.

Bosnia’s tourist arrivals in the first four months of 2007 were almost 20% higher than the same period last year, and the World Tourism Organisation study predicted the Balkan nation would have the third highest growth rate in the world by 2020. The pristine landscape around Umoljani is one of the many natural gems featured in a new series of adverts promoting Bosnia as a travel destination under the slogan ‘Enjoy Life’.

The television spots are infused with a feeling of serenity and laid-back, unassuming fun. Tanned young people ride horses, kayak in the great outdoors, eat and drink in the shadow of ancient monuments under clear blue skies. The images challenge western perceptions of a war-ravaged, brutal and hostile land, projecting instead peaceful beauty and generous hospitality.

“The ‘Enjoy Life’ campaign is already giving results and one of its main achievements is that people do not associate Bosnia with the war any more,” said Haris Basic, the head of Foreign Investment Promotion Agency which stands behind the campaign. When he opened his Umoljani guesthouse in 2005, Emin Fatic did not expect to begin turning a profit for a couple of years.

Instead, within three months, the money was rolling in, as hundreds of nature-lovers began arriving, some from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. “My idea was not to have a hotel or restaurant but rather to keep in touch with the traditional life and promote our natural beauty,” he said.

Bosnia’s central bank said tourism generated close to 900 million Bosnian marka ($625 million) last year, when according to official statistics 5,00,000 tourists visited the country. The foreign trade chamber said tourism’s share of 2006 GDP was 1.3%. Life in Umoljani, some 1,300 metres up Mount Bjelasnica is deeply connected to the traditional pursuits of farming and sheep-breeding. Several households grow organic produce while women sell woollen socks and jumpers, bragging their knitting talent is unmatched.

The wild beauty around the village is striking. Steep hiking tracks, accessible only on snow shoes in the winter, lead to the remnants of ancient settlements, and medieval tombstones, called stecci, are perched on the rugged, high mountain ridges characteristic of the Dinaric Alps. In the valley below, the Studeni creek zigzags through the fields, ending up in a large waterfall in the Rakitnica canyon.

Tim Clansy, who runs eco-tourism group Green Visions, said Umoljani could serve as an example of how a Bosnian village can make a living without betraying tradition. “But Bosnia is not a destination for mass tourism, for those seeking luxury and five star hotels. It’s the right place for active tourists, for the middle class, for professionals eager to hike and see something new, something interesting.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A person acting as judge, jury needs to know the truth

During the trial of Jesus Christ with Pontius Pilate acting as Judge and Jury, a question arose about the nature of truth. “What is Truth?” said Jesting Pilate and, as the Bible reports, paused not for an answer. He knew that he was going to sentence Jesus totally unjustly. He did not have to know the truth.

Out of a billion and quarter people in India, the Congress has knowingly chosen Pratibha Patil as its candidate for the presidentship of India; nobody had heard of her before. Overnight, as it were, there were inquiries about her past and Indian Express carried three brilliantly analytical articles by Arun Shourie on Pratibha’s past. Arun Shourie made his name as an investigative reporter when he was editor of The Indian Express; He is a scholar of distinction and a journalist committed to the highest standards of journalism. One can’t imagine him attacking Pratibha out of any personal grudge or party purposes.

The life of a presidential candidate should be an open book. Pratibha is a human being like all the rest of us and susceptible to errors. But the charges levelled against her are not ordinary charges and it is open to Pratibha—and the party she represents—to sue Arun Shourie in a court of law for damages. That she hasn’t done. Instead, the Congress is now finding out the shortcomings of Shekhavat in an act of vengeance. India’s reputation is being dragged in the mud. Pratibha can be tried in a court of law and wait for judgment.

There is a saying in Kannada: adige kaddaru kalla, aane kaddaru kalla thereby meaning: It does not matter whether you have stolen an elephant or just a piece of areca nut, you are still a thief. But few papers have dared to attack Pratibha; among those who have dared is the Free Press Journal which cannot, under any circumstances, be called a BJP paper. It carried two strong editorial. In the first one (June 25) it pointed out that “the string of scandals which have begun to swirl around in the public space after her (Pratibha’s) nomination in the eyes of her hackers do not diminish her usefulness as the tenant of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Indeed they might enhance her value since the allegations would make her more dependent on them in the face of attacks from critics.”

The paper said that “at least Rashtrapati Bhavan should not be tenanted by a tainted person.” It was a damning indictment of Pratibha. In the second editorial (June 27) the paper said that “from what has already surfaced about the sordid past of Pratibha Patil it is clear as daylight that she will only sully the high constitutional office” and it added for good measure: “Even though her success in the presidential poll is more or less assured, Sonia Gandhi and others should ponder the question whether the office of the President of India should be occupied by someone facing grave charges of fraud, defalcation of accounts, theft of public resources and profiteering from avowedly charitable institutions”.

It is not that the Congress was unaware of Pratibha’s past. In his third and final column in The Indian Express Arun Shourie made it plain that Sonia Gandhi was fully aware of Pratibha’s past and that Pratibha was not chosen at random. What is shocking is that except for The Indian Express and the Free Press Journal, the latter with a great reputation for ‘calling a spade a spade” and never shying away from doing its duty by the people, hardly any other paper of repute has dared to take on the Congress.

Fear prevails in editorial dens. The Indian Express (July 2) carried an article by Shekhar Gupta, weak in spirit but nevertheless one that noted that “the Congress guilt is not so much about who they chose for the job as it is about how it trivialised the job.” Gupta condemned the Left (a despicable group of people anyway) by saying that when all the chosen candidates of the Congress had been rejected by the Left “after its Home Minister had been publicly humiliated and his secular commitment questioned, it produced Pratibha Patil”.

Gupta said while Pratibha will surely be ‘elected’ President “let there be no doubt at the same time that her tenure as President will be the most controversy ridden in the history of Rashtrapati Bhavan.” Gupta argued that “Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Election Commissioner and the President are three positions where incumbents must not carry any baggage of the past that could raise any question about their judgement.”

A. B. Bardhan, CPI General Secretary showed the CPI in its true colours when he was interviewed by Kiran Thapar on TV. It was a disgraceful and disgusting performance and one of the founders of the CPI, Comrade Dange would have been ashamed of him. Thapar was merciless and one could see that Bardhan was wilting and all he could say was that the charges were made by the BJP, as if truth and objectivity is the sole virtue of the communists. Whatever else the BJP may have done wrong, it did not sell the country to the British or betray patriots as the CPI did, during the Quite India movement. But one can’t argue with a man who cannot distinguish between right and wrong.

It has been said that F.D.Roosevelt had a mistress, so had Eisenhower, that John Kennedy was a womaniser as was Bill Clinton. But they did not pilfer peoples’ money but even if we concede that the Americans have their own sense of right and wrong, India must elect to the Presidentship someone who can at least hold a candle to Rajendra Prasad, Dr Radhakrishnan, V.V. Giri and Dr. A.P.J.Kalam. It is significant that when the notorious Pentagon Papers were first published by the New York Times, the matter was considered of such vital importance, that many papers like Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reproduced the papers. In India our newspapers are keeping away from The Indian Express as if it is poison.

The revelations that Shourie has made are frightening. If the Congress thinks he had indulged in defamation, he should be taken to court. Otherwise what he has stated, quoting chapter and verse, would remain as truth and an eternal black mark against not just Congress or the UPA but India with its 1.2 billion people.

Is this country so poor that the Congress not only had to humiliate three of its own leading partymen, but had to push Pratibha Patil into the Rashtrapathi Bhavan? What sort of people does the Congress think we are? And what sort of media do we have that cannot stand up for decency in public life?

By putting up Pratibha Congress has betrayed India

By M.V. Kamath

It does not matter whether, in the end, Pratibha Patil wins or loses. In her choice the nation has already lost. The general belief is that she will win because of the cumulative vote of 5,97,645 votes that she is expected to get. The point is made that even if Vice President were to mop up every other vote, it would only add up to 4,98,826 or about a lakh votes less than what Pratibha Patil is expected to get—unless, of course, there is large-scale cross-voting. Such an eventuality cannot be dismissed out of hand, politics being politics.

Dr. A.P.J.Kalam now is out of the race, which is just as well. Sonia Gandhi has seen to it that he will not get a second chance. For one thing, the point is made that traditionally an elected President will not get a second-term. But considering that it was Dr Kalam who had raised the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s ineligibility to the Prime Ministership because of her alien past, it would have been a miracle if the Congress president stood by him at this crucial hour.

It is clear that the Congress had originally no women in mind for the post of such high honour as the presidentship; to claim that it had, would be sheer hypocrisy….. if not downright lie. Pratibha Patil’s name emerged only after five Congress leaders—all men—were first considered and then, under Leftist pressure, rejected to their utter embarrassment and eternal shame.

Think of them, all well-known figures, each distinguished in his own way, men like Pranab Mukherjee, Karan Singh, Shivraj Patil, Arjun Singh and Sushil Kumar Shinde. All of them were humiliated. For the Congress, therefore, to claim that it was their idea to have a woman President is pure humbug and large-scale cheating of the public. It will fool nobody.

Till she was nominated, Pratibha Patil was almost totally unknown outside her native Jalgaon. When her name was announced, the usual reaction was: “Pratibha who?”. What comes as a shock is to learn that she had stuck to her maiden name: Patil. What that signifies is anybody’s guess. Is it a form of extreme feminism currently in favour among young married women to retain their individuality? Is it an assertion of one’s identity, not to be diluted through marriage? Is it a way of showing that she is essentially a Maharashtrian and refuses to accept a Rajasthani identity though the surname ‘Patil’ is by no means confined to geographic Maharashtra? No explanation is available. It certainly is an affront to tradition. But even as a true-blue Maharashtrian, what has been her contribution to Maharashtra?

As Shobha De, the columnist, relevantly notes: “Pratibha has no known track record of having done anything of consequence for women in all these decades of being in public life. Even as the Governor of Rajasthan (a state that has to be visited to believe how repressed its women are in this day and age) Pratibha has not covered herself with special glory in this sensitive area. So I fail to understand why she is being thrust on us as a Joan of Arc slaying demons that stand in the path of women’s progress. This is simply not the case.”

De, incidentally, is a Maharashtrian, Shiv Sena kindly note. So is Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in chief of CNN-IBN and a columnist besides who wants to know who is bothered, that in her selection was also the humiliation of another son of the (Maharashtrian) soil, Shivraj Patil. “Smt Patil”, writes Sardesai, “has revealed no glimmer of threatening talent, no unsettling flamboyance, no unnecessary excellence or extraordinary charisma that her supporters and patrons might undoubtedly have hated or seen as a rival power centre.” Indeed, her body language and her utterances expose her low caliber from any point of view.

Yet another columnist, Santosh Desai (The Week) stressed the point that for Pratibha to become President not because she is worthy but because she is a woman is to “mock the cause of empowerment of women”. Also, he added: “To assume that women alone must represent the cause of women is to shrivel our democracy into a market where different vested interests collide and compete.” Besides, to expect only a woman President always to defend the interests of women is asking for the moon. It was a man, Raja Ram Mohan Roy who fought against suttee (sati). Not a woman. What did K.R. Narayanan do as President to raise the status of dalits or Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to raise the educational standards of Muslims? Forget the fact that Pratibha Patil’s brother has been charged with a grievous crime. Forget the fact that the sugar factory of which Pratibha Patil was founding chairman owes a bank some Rs 19 crore—and not a paise has been repaid. The cooperative bank in Jalgaon set up by Pratibha Patil ostensibly to empower women had its license revoked in 2003 by the Reserve Bank of India which charged the bank with a faulty loan policy and a policy which largely benefitted her own relatives. It is shocking to learn that the bank waived loans given to two of Pratibha’s nieces, one, Anjali Dilipsingh Patil who got a waiver of Rs 29.86 lakh, a sister-in-law Rajkaur Dilipsingh Patil who got a waiver of Rs 2.47 lakh and yet another sister-in-law Kavita Aravind Patil who got a waiver of Rs 8.59 lakh.

According to reports, in all, a dozen of Pratibha’s relatives were granted loans totalling Rs 2.2 crore, most of them declared Non-Performing Accounts (NPAs). After an RBI inspection of the bank in 2002, it was declared “sick”.

The gross NPAs of the bank, that is, loans that have gone bad, amount to 65.8 per cent of the total loans and advances. A Writ Petition filed by the bank’s depositors in the High Court says: “Because of the influence of Respondent 8 (Pratibha Patil), the bank has given various loans to the relatives and to a sugar factory of which she is a Director. Her relatives have not paid back the loans. Most of the loans were given without security. Most of the loans are closed.”

“With the cancellation of the bank’s license and commencement of the liquidation process, the bank is closed and people (have) lost their jobs.”

All these facts were long suppressed, but now they are coming out in the open. That the Shiv Sena has not taken all this into consideration but has allowed itself blindly to be taken in by the fact that Pratibha is a Maharashtrian, is a disgrace.

Are we to have Presidents by state rotation and caste considerations or strictly on merit? Are we Indians first and Maharashtrians next, or the other way round? At this rate we would soon find Gujjars and Meenas demanding that the next President must be from their caste and then sub-castes may take a lesson from them. What the present situation shows is a betrayal of all principles by the Congress. Worse, it is a betrayal of India. If the Congress does not understand this, it understands nothing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cement giant LAFARGE mortgages Indian land to foreigners

See what these Multinationals are up to In India?? Is anybodz listening???

Lafarge, the world’s largest cement manufacturer, has mortgaged to Bangladesh banks land it was given in Meghalaya to set up a $225 million limestone plant.

Nongtrai, a Khasi tribal village near the India-Bangladesh border, leased 100 hectares of community forest to Lafarge to extract limestone. Village headman Binlinda Lyngdoh says the village allowed the company into its forest because it wanted economic development. That faith may have been broken though.

A CNN-IBN report has proved that Lafarge got permission to enter the forest based on a misleading environment impact assessment report, which was describes the plant site as rocky and barren.

The company has also told the Supreme Court that its plant is on a wasteland—a claim challenged by the Environment and Forests Ministry. B N Jha, Chief Conservator of Forests with the Ministry, insists the company’s mining site is on a forest and not on a wasteland. “If you ask me this area has one of the richest forests—no topsoil, thick canopy cover—and even a layman can see that this is a forest and not wasteland,” says Jha.

Local activists allege that Lafarge has mortgaged to seven banks, including two in Bangladesh, the 100 acres forestland it got from Nongtrai villagers on lease. The Bangladeshi banks are called Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh and Arab Bangla Bank.

“They have mortgaged the land to a bank in Bangladesh. Tomorrow, if they cannot pay the loans does it mean Bangladesh can take over the land in India?” asks human rights activist Dino Dinpep.

The company, in an e-mailed statement to CNN-IBN, said it had the Reserve Bank of India and the Meghalaya Government’s approval to mortgage the land. But does that mean if Lafarge defaults on its bank loans then will land under India's sovereign control be transferred to Bangladesh?

People in Meghalaya are debating if Lafarge is bringing them economic development or taking away their land and mortgaging it to banks in Bangladesh.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Patna Museum to be modelled on Singapore Museum

The display of antiquities, light arrangement in the galleries and others in the Patna Museum may soon be modeled after the Singapore Museum. The culture department is planning to impart a modern, technologically advanced look to the interiors of the Patna Museum.

It is planning to work over the development project in collaboration with the Singapore Museum, seeking technological support and guidance from Singapore. A MoU for the joint venture is to be signed soon between the two museum officials.

Confirming this the culture secretary, Anjani Kumar Singh said in Patna on Saturday that the department had taken initiatives to join hands with the Singapore Museum. It had sought their technical support for the modernisation of the Patna Museum.

“A team of the Singapore Museum officials led by Gauri Krishnan visited the Patna Museum recently to study the number of antiquities, galleries, the display of museum collection and others. We are now waiting for the study,” he said.

Patna Museum is widely known for its rich collection of Natural history and Buddhist antiquities. But their display had remained to be the old and needed to be modernised, he added.

In Singapore there is a Civilisation Museum, offering visitors an opportunity to witness the development of civilization, especially in the region. The display of the collection and the light arrangement there are highly advanced and impressive.

The department is planning to adopt those technical advancements. It is also considering consulting architects there for any renovation in the galleries, he informed.

The culture secretary said that the department was also planning to organise an exhibition of art and antiquities of Bihar in Singapore in November this year.

“The South East Asia Summit is expected to be held there at that time and so the event will be attended by number of foreign delegates. The exhibition will provide a good opportunity to popularise rich cultural and architectural heritage of the state across the globe,” he said.

He said that technical expertise of the Singapore Museum officials would be sought in the exhibition also, he added.

New Seven Wonders that will be unveiled in Lisbon on 07-07-07.

Al Jazeera’s English news channel is still not available in India or in the United States. But in a triumph of technology over television cartels, the pioneering satellite channel is available on the web. It even has a YouTube channel.

Riz Khan, the former BBC-CNN hand has a show on it, and in this discussion talks to Bernard Weber on the New Seven Wonders that will be unveiled in Lisbon on 07-07-07.

Lights from India now illuminate homes in Afghanistan

TECH-SOLUTION: Dr. Ranganayakulu Bodavala with his LED-based home lights at Chintapally in Andhra Pradesh.

tiny organisation in this village in Andhra Pradesh’s Nalgonda district is now a part of international efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan, supplying home lights based on LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology.

The small lantern-type lamp, developed by “Thrive” (jumbled acronym for Volunteers For Rural Health, Education and Information Technology), has been illuminating about 4,000 homes in the provinces of Kabul and Maidan Wardak in Afghanistan since November 2006. A consignment of 3,000 lamps is all set to reach there this month, according to B. Ranganayakulu Bodavala, founder of Thrive.

“[The illumination provided by] our light is undoubtedly equal to a half a dozen kerosene lanterns and it can also be recharged with solar light,” Dr. Ranga, who has an MBA besides a Ph.D. in information systems, said.

United Nations Emergency Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) entrusted the task to the organisation to convince Afghans that this form of lighting is the most suitable in the absence of kerosene supply. As the $1.4-lakh project has come to an end, many local women are requesting Thrive to continue it, ready to pay from their savings.

Community participation is the key. “Each battery in the lamp lasts for three to four years and the village volunteer appointed by us recharges it once in a week. Our volunteers carry back-up batteries to replace the used ones,” Dr. Bodavala said.

As part of Columbia University’s Millennium Village project, Thrive despatched 500 lamps to Kenya. Another 300 were sent to Cambodia under an international project. Some non-governmental organisations have been working with Thrive to illuminate more off-grid areas in India. It is implementing a project for 10,000 Kondh homes in Koraput district with World Bank support.

The organisation imports LEDs from Japan, control circuits from the United States and batteries from China. It has produced 16,000 LED-based lights and is planning to go for mass production at a sprawling complex here to meet national and international demand.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A dramatic President

The netizen, Abdul Kalam, replies to around 70 emails every day. It's mostly enthusiastic school children whom the President prefers to converse with. So when Ajay Kumar, editor of an obscure portal, the BiharTimes.com, casually sent Kalam an email in January, inviting him to the three-day Global Resurgence Bihar Meet, it was a shot in the dark. Neither Kumar nor the Bihar government, the co-organiser of the meet, could believe it when Kalam wrote back accepting the invitation.

Today Biharis adore the 76-year-old Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam with as much vengeance as they hate their own politicians. In the last five years, Kalam has visited Bihar four times, prompting a Patna-based journalist to rave, "No president has shown so much interest in the development of Bihar. In that way he is even ahead of Dr Rajendra Prasad, the country's first President, who was from Bihar."

When he became the country's 11th President on July 25, 2002, replacing the dalit scholar-diplomat K R Narayanan, the BJP-led NDA immediately hailed him as a "secular" trophy. Though Muslim, Kalam is the very antithesis of the Hindu-chauvinist stereotype of the Indian Muslim. He is fanatically vegetarian, reads the Bhagwad Gita, plays the veena, and is known to invoke not the Koran but the Hindu sages Thiagarjaswamingal and Thiruvalluvar.

The nomination of Kalam to the country's highest post was not celebrated in traditional Muslim pockets. The late Islamic scholar Rafiq Zakaria had upset many of his friends in the Sangh Parivar when he penned a provocatively titled newspaper article, "What is Muslim about Abdul Kalam?" and went on to prove that Kalam had never shown interest in the affairs of the Muslims.

Kalam may not be comfortable among the people of his faith, but is certainly fond of many other species. Like the flowers and birds that he has painstakingly patronised in the Mughal Gardens. When the shy, silver-maned scientist called on nonagenarian writer-columnist Khushwant Singh at the latter's Sujan Singh Park house in Delhi earlier this year, the President took along 100 red roses as a gift.

He confessed to the adorable "dirty" Sardar, "I have documented the birds and trees in Rashtrapati Bhavan. There are 140 species of birds and 200 varieties of trees, some 30 of them unique." Apart from turning the well-maintained Mughal Gardens into a veritable zoo, Kalam has also created a science museum at the 340-room mansion. Models of missiles, rocket launchers and photographs depicting India's military might decorate the visitors' room at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

"It looks more like a scientist's den than the President's drawing room," recalls a journalist who has been Kalam's guest a few times. Working late into the night (a habit he carries from his days in the Indian Space Research Organisation and Defence Research Development Organisation where he would be sequestered in the labs for weeks on end, often in shorts and a banyan).

Kalam sleeps five hours a day. And has a very deep relationship with idli-sambar. "He eats with his hand, digging his fingers deep into the sambar bowl," says a Mumbai journalist who has dined with him. Kalam is cautious enough not to walk into a trap.

A journalist who interviewed him a decade ago recalls how the scientist ensured that the interview didn't get published before he had okayed it. "He sent a defence officer on a motorbike to get a hard copy of the interview (the internet had not arrived then)," recalls the journo. "After deleting certain sentences, Kalam called me and told me to carry only the corrected version. I objected, arguing that I had him on tape. But he would not listen and ultimately we carried what he had okayed."

Though he has deftly built up an image of a humble, shy scientist, Kalam has been known to be pushy. A source who has closely watched Kalam says that the during Pokhran II in 1998, the then Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman R Chidambaram, the real architect of the nuclear test, was left in the shade while Kalam hogged the limelight. "The media, including the New York Times credited Kalam with the test even when Kalam's only contribution was the missile part," says the source.

A keen career planner, the much-revered "missile man" has almost frimed up his next vocation, which he will no doubt plunge into once he vacates the former Viceregal Lodge in Lutyen's Delhi. He has already ignited the minds of millions, including Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, with the idea of reviving the ancient Nalanda University. The Rs 1,000-crore project is being aided by China and Japan is under way and Kalam may head it.

Kalam is not about to walk into the sunset. He would rather walk into the arms of millions of Biharis, including those of BiharTimes.com editor Ajay Kumar.

Pratibha Patil: The truth behind the allegations

Arun Shourie has brought to light well researched points on the allegations against presidential candidate Pratibha Patil in two articles on the Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank case and the background of the alleged murder coverup. So, what do these well researched articles have to say?

Here is some of the background on the Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank. She was chairperson of the bank since its inception in 1973 till it was closed down by the RBI in 2003. Shourie claims in his article that she virtually ran the place. Arun Shourie told CNBC-TV18, " She established it, it's on her biodata as governor of Rajasthan. It's a close connection and she is proud fo the fact. Secondly, even in 2002 documents, she's referred to as the founder chairperson. Third, there is a resolution dated January 22, 2002 of the bank's board of directors, that she will appoint all the officers of the bank, and who will do what."

"The more important point is that when the bank was being liquidated, there is a communcation from the manager of the bank to the then chairperson in 2003, that these negotiations with the employees were taken in the presence of Pratibha Patil."

And despite being around at the bank for 30 years, she claims not to know how many of her relatives, nephews and nieces took loans from the bank.This bank was placed on the list of weak banks by the RBI in 1997 and because Patil didn't take any steps to rectify the situation, the bank had to be shut down to protect the depositors, who were small-time depositors anyway, like flower-sellers, ragpickers etc.

Shourie adds, "There is a case going on in the Bombay High Court about this bank and Pratibha Patil is respondent No. 8 today." What's more, an internal audit of the bank also revealed the fact that she had mismanaged the bank, and she simply can't wriggle out of the situation today, saying she had no clue about it.

Then there are charges of nepotism that can't be easily shrugged off either. She extended loans to her brothers and other relatives totalling Rs 2.25 crore was declared non-performing assets, NPAs. A further Rs 41 lakhs that works out as interest on this amount was waived off. So, while the bank's depositors were the poor and the marginalised women of society, the chairperson seems to have turned a blind eye to the fact that her relatives were misusing the bank's funds.

Even the bank's union - the Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Karamchari Sangh formally wrote letters and memos, claiming that Pratibha's brother, Dilip Singh Patil, installed a bank phone in his home and conducted stock market business on it, and ran up a bill of Rs 20 lakhs. The bank also entended unsecured loans to her sugar cooperative and she go her relatives jobs in the bank, when it should have gone to qualified people from the scheduled castes.

Shourie explains, "It's not just the union but also the chief administrator appointed for the liquidation of the bank, who also asked all these questions." And what's more when the situation got to hot for Pratibha Patil to handle, she may have threatened the union, which they also insinuated as much in a letter. Shourie goes on to say that, it could go further than just mere threats.

If she did indeed resort to threats, then was she hiding more than just the mismanagement of her bank. Could she be hiding her brother's involvement in a murder conspiracy as well? Shourie believes, it could be so. He says, "The working president of the Congress in Jalgaon, Rajiv Patil said in September 2005, that GN Patil was responsible for the murder (of district Congress committe President, VG Patil). This story was a eight column heading in the local papers back then."

On Sept 28, 2005, eight days after the murder of VG Patil, Rajiv Patil wrote to the Minister of State for Home at the Centre, Manikrao Gavit telling him about the allegation that Pratibha Patil's brother, GN Patil was somehow involved in the murder conspiracy. Gavit got in touch with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and asked him to investigate the matter. Eventually, even the two people caught for the murder corroborated this by stating in a letter, that these people has instigated them.

Rajni Patil, the widow of the murdered man, VG Patil, stated in a clear letter written on March 5, 2007, that boldly says that her husband was killed because he started inquiries into the funds collected for the Kargil and tsunami victims, which had disappeared, "under GN Patil's presidentship of the district Congress committee."

Patil was asked to stop those inquiries but he persisted. Rajni Patil goes on to say.."The supari (contract) to murder my husband, VG Patil was given by Dr Ulhas Patil and Dr GN Patil." So much so, after writing this letter to Sonia Gandhi, the widow even met her. Also, four delegations from Jalgaon went to meet the Congress leaders. So, it was entirely unlikely that the Congress hierarchy was unaware of the allegations made against Pratibha Patil and her involvement in trying to protect her brother.

Then there is also the fact that after all this, even the CBI stepped in to investigate and it even took them 20 months to put the spotlight on GN Patil, because may be there was political pressure put on them as well.

Shourie says that, the fact that there was pressure put on the CBI can be inferred. He also says, if people - including the Prime Minister - wants all the information mentioned in his articles, he's more than willing to give them the 700-odd pages that he had to sift through. But he knows the Prime Minister won't ask for them.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Comparing China and India

Growth at 9 per cent for the next 13 years would still only get us a real GDP that China will have surpassed by 2007

With 9.4 per cent GDP growth in 2006-07 on the heels of 9 per cent of the previous year, some in India have begun to believe that we are poised to give China a run for its money. It may be a tactically good move to herald the arrival of India, and to tell global investors that it is time to actively pursue the India option.

It also true that in sectors such as IT, IT-enabled services and those that need strong engineering and systems inputs, India scores higher than China. And there is hard evidence that, despite many disadvantages, Indian companies perform far better than most of their Chinese counterparts — be it in profit margins, return on capital, or shareholder returns.

However, to claim that India can now play catch-up with China is a huge exaggeration.

To understand how far behind we are in economic terms and, thus, how much more we need to focus on reforms and governance, here is some evidence.

The life expectancy at birth of an average Chinese is 71 years; for an Indian, it is 64 years. In China, infant mortality is 31 out of 1,000 live births; in India, it is 85 per 1,000.

For people of 15 years and more, the average literacy rate in China is 91 per cent; in India, it is 61 per cent. For those in the 15-24 years bracket, China’s literacy rate is 98 per cent, versus India’s 76 per cent.

Let’s now move on to GDP. Without adjusting for purchasing power parity, China’s GDP (at both constant prices and exchange rates) is $2,600 billion — three times that of India’s at around $850 billion. China’s per capita GDP is almost 2.7 times that of India’s.

With an output of 423 million metric tonnes (MT), China’s steel production is 10 times that of India’s. The Middle Kingdom produced 1.24 billion MT of cement last year; India’s output was 168 million MT. India did very well to manufacture 1.5 million passenger cars in 2006-07; China produced 5.2 million in 2006.

What about infrastructure? In 2006, China produced 2,830 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of power and, for the first time, was power surplus. In contrast, India produced 664 billion kWh with a 14.5 per cent peak power deficit. China already has around 45,000 km of barriered, restricted access, multi-lane dual carriageways. Let’s forget barriers and restricted access, as on 31 May 2007, we had 6,989 km of four or six-lane dual carriage national highways.

Telecom is an Indian success story. In 2006-07, we had 166 million mobile subscribers. By March 2007, the number of mobile subscribers in China was 463 million.China’s exports are eight times that of India’s; and imports four times greater. In 2006, China’s total value of exports and imports was $1,761 billion (or 69 per cent of its GDP). India’s was not even a fifth at $307 billion, or 37 per cent of GDP.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in China during 2006 added up to $63 billion. India had a landmark year, with FDI at around $9 billion.

While beyond a point, it does not amount to much, the fact is that China’s foreign exchange reserves are now at $1,200 billion (that’s $1.2 trillion), while India’s is $208 billion.

Unless our political class decide to commit collective hara kiri, I have no doubts that India will continue growing at an average of around 8 per cent to 8.25 per cent over the next decade. Indeed, with a greater focus on infrastructure, we can even raise the decadal compound annual growth rate to a bit over 9 per cent. You know where that 9 per cent growth will take us? To a real GDP of around $2,950 billion in 2020 — a level that China will have comfortably surpassed in 2007.

In other words, 13 years of focused, unrelenting slog can get us to today’s China. That’s great. But China won’t be waiting for us to get there. So let’s get real. And realise that reforms have only just begun.

P.S. Are the Congress socialists and the CPI(M) listening?

Who'll be the Global Soft superpower?

China is soaking up resources in Africa and Latin America. And everybody else is eating their hearts out. Or are they? In its desire to lay hands on pretty much every mineral and fuel source it can find, China has laid out the diplomatic red carpet in these two regions. But while China has been totally unstoppable, India is moving in its slow, slightly chaotic way to improve its footprint in Africa and Latin America.

While the ambitions of the emerging powers may intersect, the approach and quality of China and India’s presence in these regions could not have been more different. In fact, you can almost distinguish between the Indian model and the Chinese model. But however you look at it, the underlying competition is one for soft power supremacy in a huge chunk of the world.

The Chinese model is pretty straightforward — exchange between money and diplomatic influence in return for unfettered access to natural resources. Take Africa. China first came into contact with Africa when their legendary explorer-conqueror Zheng He returned from Kenya around 600 years ago — with a giraffe. Today, China’s blitzkrieg through Africa, building roads, railways, power plants, football stadiums, writing off loans and removing tariffs bears no resemblance to Zheng’s adventures. In return, China gets loads of oil, timber, copper and other raw materials.

The Indian model is very different. From India’s freedom struggle and subsequent commercial success of the Indian diaspora in Africa, the non-aligned movement etc, India has been a subterranean constant. The difference was, India was more an inspiration than a way to fill coffers.

But China forced India to think differently. Today, India has certainly become more ‘business-like’ in its approach, though it stops short of being purely mercantilist. Senior Indian officials involved in India’s diplomatic push in these regions summarise the difference in approach. ‘‘China’s is resource-based investment, Indian investment concentrates on capacity building.’’

India’s big China jolt came in 2004 when it lost out on a huge oil bid in Angola. China blew India away with a $2 billion grant in comparison with a measly $200 million Indian offer to develop Angola’s railways. It made India sit up and take a hard look at its diplomacy and investment push in Africa. The story was no different in Latin America. During the 2007 World Cup, India made heavy weather of building one stadium in Barbados. China built six, and it doesn’t even play cricket.

But also, by 2007, the Angolans had joined a general buzz against China in Africa. Zambia was the first to start, after a Chinese-owned copper mine blew up. The Zambian opposition launched riots led by their fiery leader Michael Sata, to the extent that Chinese president Hu Jintao took the Chambishi copper belt off his schedule when he visited Zambia in February.

Angolans have complained bitterly about lack of job opportunities which the Chinese presence has worsened, and sources say Chinese companies have been pulled out of a refinery project. In South Africa, Thabo Mbeki warned against a ‘colonial’ relationship with China .

In Zimbabwe, China’s getting into bed with Robert Mugabe has not gone down well with the locals. The crux of the matter is: Chinese investment brings with it Chinese labour (many reportedly from prison camps) the growth of Chinese ghettos and little for the local population, but lots for corrupt dictators. The often irrational fear that China may be silently invading Africa is now commonly expressed.

India has taken a different path. Indian investments are largely private sector, riding on the back of the lines of credit given by the Indian government. They are also generally more equitable for the locals. Intent on keeping costs down, Indian companies find it easier to employ locals. In the process, locals end up with a greater stake in the Indian projects.

In Mexico, Indian IT giant TCS has set up a global delivery centre in Guadalajara with the declared intention of hiring 5000 staffers. The idea is to be close to its US customers. According to company reports TCS has a presence in Brazil, Uruguay and Chile — and all with local talent. Indian IT company FirstSource has just set up office in Argentina employing about 300 locals.

Mexico is the biggest beneficiary of Indian investment — over $3 billion — its proximity to the US and low costs working to its advantage. Dr Reddy’s Labs bought a Roche facility in Mexico and populated it with Mexicans. The result: Latin America is beginning to look at Indian companies as ‘partners’ not out to rob them of jobs and resources, as the Chinese are now believed to be doing. Indian energy major Reliance is reportedly planning a huge investment in Colombia, in collaboration with its US stakeholder Chevron, that is likely to run into several billion dollars.

In Africa, Reliance is planning a push into Sudan’s oilfields in a few years when the current political crisis has settled, an investment, company insiders say, that will be around $3 billion. And in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, India is the second largest stakeholder.

China has taken more flak on its investments in Sudan than anywhere else for its cynical policies — CNPC is the majority stakeholder in both Petrodar and Greater Nile and China reportedly lifts about $2 billion of oil per year. But China has also supplied weapons to Khartoum for the genocide in Darfur and shielded the Bashir regime from international sanctions in the UN Security Council. Its only after the international NGO circuit started dubbing the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the ‘genocide games’ that Beijing decided to act.

This has been a lesson to India as well. In 2005, Manmohan Singh refused permission to ONGC to invest in two big oil deals in Nigeria because of due diligence concerns. Although India is also in Africa for economic reasons, there is an effort at humane-ness. In fact, India’s big push is to get Africa connected and educated. Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, and Mauritius will be the initial countries for the Indian government’s $1-billion pan-Africa e-network project, a joint initiative with the Africa Union (AU).

The project aims to develop Africa’s information and communication technologies by eventually connecting all of the 53 African countries to a satellite and fibre-optic network. It’s ambitious and imbued with virtue. India also plans to export its open university system, among the largest in the world, to Botswana and Uganda, among others in Africa.

Of course, India is no China when it comes to focused attention to resources, but strategists in the government are convinced this is the way India would like to go in Africa — a more inclusive presence. These are aspects of Indian soft power that India believes will pay greater dividends in years to come. More than the Chinese model.

The new Nalanda

This could be the New Bihar Story. From the thousand-year-old ruins of an ancient university, a blueprint is being unveiled to build a world-class institute of learning...

Nearly 90 km from Patna lies a morsel of the past. Though dead and mostly buried, it jibes at the present: it speaks of a legacy that the state of Bihar perhaps so undeservedly lays claim to. Till recently, no one listened to the ruins of Nalanda. Now, their silence is being heard.

In a visionary gesture, the Nitish Kumar Government has decided to revive the university that was perhaps the biggest international seat of learning between 5th and 12th centuries AD, the first residential academic centre that attracted scholars from as far as China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. Some of these countries, including China and Japan, are now coming together to bring Nalanda to life.

“You can gauge the enthusiasm from the fact that the issue figured in the recent talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao and then with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It also figured in the East Asian Summit held in January in Philippines this year and is likely to be raised again at the summit in November in Singapore,” says N.K. Singh, Deputy Chairman, State Planning Board.

Though countries from East and Southeast Asia—for whom Bodh Gaya and Nalanda were crucial pilgrimages—had always wanted to revive the university, it took concrete shape when it was pursued by outgoing President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He had outlined the contours of the proposed university during his special address to the Bihar Legislature last year. Of the 10 suggestions for a prosperous Bihar, revival of the university figured as crucial.

The Nitish Administration lapped up the idea, with the Chief Minister taking a keen interest in the project. He, perhaps, realises that the project can transform Bihar’s image in the international arena and yield long-term benefits for the state in terms of investment. Within a short span and at a surprising pace, the Government identified around 500 acres of land for setting up the international university and had a bill enacted by the state assembly. “By next week, we hope to take possession of around 450 acres,” says Nalanda District Magistrate Anand Kishore.

The proposed university will be situated 16 km from the ruins of Nalanda at the foot of the hills in Rajgir (earlier known as Rajgriha) and start functioning from 2009. It will be unique in the sense that it will be owned jointly by several countries, especially from South and Southeast Asia. The University Act clearly talks about setting up a consortium of international partners and friendly countries, and the project has already attracted the attention of some of the most dynamic economies of East and Southeast Asia, ringing hope in a state lagging far behind in all indices of development. The Nalanda project hopes to revive the historical ties this region enjoyed in areas like trade, science, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy.

Possibly the first of its kind in the world, it intends to recreate the spirit of its ancient counterpart. “The architecture and the buildings for the university and its campus shall be carefully designed so as to reflect its vision and mission as set out in the objectives of the university,” the Act for the university states.

History has it that Nalanda was an architectural marvel and its sprawling campus could accommodate nearly 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. It had a nine-storey library, eight compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. The ancient university was multidisciplinary and the scholars jostled to take lessons in subjects ranging from fine arts and medicine to philosophy and astronomy. Mathematics and politics were the other crucial disciplines along with warfare. Nalanda’s most celebrated scholar was perhaps Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang, who not only studied here but also taught and spent nearly 15 years at the university. In fact, India and China have recently erected a memorial at Nalanda to honour Tsang.

The Union Government has also set up a Mentor Group, which would be headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, have members drawn from different countries and Foreign Secretary as its ex-officio member-secretary. Singapore Foreign Minister George Hui, Wangei Hui, Director, Institute of Indian Studies, Beijing, Prof Sugata Bose (Harvard), Lord Meghnad Desai and Prof D.N. Jha of Delhi University are some who have consented to be members.

“The Mentor Group will give a report on pedagogy, syllabus, academic calendar, funding and organisational structure of the university. The group’s first meeting is scheduled in the middle of July in Singapore. After that it will hold three more meetings in Tokyo, Beijing and India to give a final shape to the plan. The report is expected by the end of the year,” says Singh.

“The report will be given a final shape in consultation with the university’s Visitor—likely to be Kalam after his term as President ends—and it will then be submitted to international agencies for funding,” says Bihar Human Resource Development Secretary Madan Mohan Jha. Nitish Kumar will formally offer the Visitor’s post to Kalam after he leaves the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The Bihar Government has already had a detailed project report (DPR) prepared by Educational Consultants of India Limited (EDCIL) for the establishment of the university, which is expected to incur a total expenditure of Rs 630 crore and an annual recurring expenditure of Rs 375 crore. Once international funding is assured for the University of Nalanda, the state government hopes that its other projects for developing tourist infrastructure would also receive international support.

To begin with, the new university will have seven Schools of Learning, including Philosophy and Buddhist Studies, Information and Communication (Informatics), Basic and Applied Sciences, Development Studies, Natural Resource Management, International Studies and Languages. The final structure will, however, depend on the report of the Mentor Group.

In the first phase, the university will offer only postgraduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees, and it expects to attract students from several countries. A scholar of international repute will be the university’s chancellor.

According to the DPR, in the first year, the university will have 1,137 students and the number will increase to 4,530 by the fifth year. The university will maintain a 1:10 teacher-student ratio and a minimum proportion of academic and non-academic staff in the ratio of 70:30. The faculty members shall be so selected that they are culturally tuned to the vision and mission of the university.

Realising that history could repeat itself in the modern context, the Nitish Kumar Government has already chalked out an ambitious plan to develop Nalanda and Rajgir as per international standards. A state-of-the-art tourist park, township, airport and golf course have been planned, targeting foreign investments, which will be used to build world-class infrastructure in the region to help boost tourism.

The biggest challenge before the state, Centre and others involved in establishing the university would be to arrange funding and get the best faculty. Only then can it hope to attract students from across the world. Only then may the clamouring ruins of Nalanda finally fall silent, the dead past laid to rest.