The inevitability of Modi

Narendra Modi’s ascent to the top to become the Prime Minister now seems inevitable.

How would this impact relationships between adherents of different religions in India?

Modi’s USP has been his ability to deepen the existing communal fractures and use these explosive situations to further the goals of his party and himself.

However, both Modi and his supporters have been pushing the image of Modi as the “Vikas Purush” – the leader who will bring development to this country. Modi has been projecting himself as someone who will completely turn around the financial situation of India.

What happens if these GDP growth figures do not grow as expected while the nation is under Modi’s government?

My concern is that Modi and his supporters will soon discover that increasing the GDP growth rate is not going to be as easy as they are making it out to be. When analysts start to question the Modi government about their performance will Modi turn to his tried and tested approach of dividing the people to further his goals once again?

I think that too is inevitable.

Maids in slavery in the middle-east

The west seems to be slowly waking up to the reality that has been obvious to those of us in Asia and Africa for a long time. This time it is an article about the abuse of maids in the middle east.

The middle-east’s record at human rights is just appalling and this article further highlights it. What is worrying is that the average middle-easterner probably considers the current state of affairs to be quite acceptable. It is entirely possible that this feeling of superiority over the Asians is endemic to the culture of the middle-east.

The stories about the abuse that the poor foreigners face in the middle-east is coming in quick and fast and now I have had to add a new category of content to my blog – “Slavery”. I had never even considered that such a category of news would be needed in this time and age

However, this sense of superiority does not seem to have embued them with a better sense of right and wrong. There is no benevolence, magnanimty or any redeeming character.

The right to a defence

The news that the Mumbai Terror accused Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi has been terminated from his position as a trustee in the Gymkhana is worrying.

It indicates to me that even educated and well-placed people like the trustees of a prestigious organization such as the Gymkhana believe that it is alright to suspend due process and deny a person his fundamental right to a legal defense. What worries me even more is that many seem to consider this a laudable act by the Gymkhana.

The same old reasons are stated in support of Gymkhana’s position on the issue:  Ajmal was photographed with the weapon during the attack and many witnesses have corroborated the police account that he was indeed, an active participant in the terrorist attack and so why bother with filing a case in court – let us just lynch him and be done with it.

There are multiple problems with this argument – for one thing it implies that it is indeed alright to suspend due process when we feel like it. If the person is guilty, why bother with even filing a case and taking it to court. It would be faster if we just dispensed the punishment fitting the crime.

The very real danger of setting such a precedent of short-circuiting constituitionally laid out provisions do not seem to have dawned on those propounding such a position.

Any civilized nation will grant any accused a way of defending himself/herself in a court of law. Any civilized nation will expect the law enforcement and the prosecution to provide evidence to substantiate the charges against the accused and if these charges hold, the court will rule against the accused.

What benefit is there in subverting this system of  justice? We will just weaken these constitutional safeguards and set a dangerous precedent of allowing the mob to dispense the “justice.”

Our constitutional framework is weak as it is, to weaken it further would be to welcome anarchy. If we grant the power-that-be the authority to skirt these constituitional provisions for protecting the rights of an accused, we run the risk of allowing them to suspend the rule of law at will.

The political class has already corrupted our systems, should we allow them even more control over the judiciary?

The existing mechanisms are more than sufficient to ensure that Ajmal gets the punishment he deserves if the evidence against him holds. The prosecution has the legal sanction to produce evidence against Ajmal in court and if they can prove their accusations, Ajmal will receive a punishment fitting the crime.

Kazmi, as Ajmal’s lawyer, was directed by the court to be Ajmal’s defence counsel. Kazmi is carrying out this assignment. Why should anyone oppose this?

Those calling for the suspension of the due process claim that to allow Ajmal legal help is an act of weakness. I disagree. I will state that the exact opposite is true – to allow Ajmal the right to legal defence speaks highly of the strength of our judiciary. It is a sign of strength and not weakness.

I am glad and relieved that our judiciary took a courageous, if unpopular, stand and allowed Ajmal legal help. I applaud the courts for this strong and righteous act.

Slavery in Dubai

I read Johann Hari’s article on slavery in Dubai. I was quite disturbed by this article and to be completely honest, it angered me a lot to think of how these poor people are being treated so badly by the middle-eastern nations.

I was also quite upset to know that the Indian Embassy in Dubai, though completely aware of the slave labour-like conditions in the Middle-east, and despite being aware of the hundreds and thousands who are dying there every year, chooses not to highlight this issue.

Again, I am forced to read up about this from a western journalist.

Why is it that the Indian government cares so little for the plight of these millions of poor workers from India who work in the middle-eastern nations? Why doesn’t the Indian government publish details on these workers who are dying in the middle-east?

There is more than a hint of class discrimination in the attitude of the Indian government, the media and the general populace towards the plight of the thousands of poor workers in the middle-east. When anything happens to any of the richer NRIs who resides in the US, Europe or pretty much any other western nation, the information will be all over the media and will feature as headlined articles.

However, on this issue of slavery in the middle-east, even after this article from Johann Hari was published, there are still no notable articles in the mainstream media highlighting this issue.

There is no outcry, no outrage nothing..

When we Indians couldn’t care less for our own fellow citizens toiling in the middle-east, why then should anyone else care for them?

Advani Vs Manmohan Singh

I don’t know about you but this spat between Advani and Dr. Manmohan Singh seems to be going on an on. And it is a really silly one at that.

Here we have two elderly men – one in his seventies and another in his eightees going on an on about who is the “tougher” leader. To be fair, the person who raked up this stupid fight is Advani with his moronic statements about how India is now in a weaker position because Dr.Singh is running the show as the PM.

Advani’s assertion that the BJP did a better job in combating terror is laughable (if it weren’t tragic). During his rule, there were multiple major terrorist attacks including the attack on the parliament, the Red Fort, the Kandahar incident when the government capitulated to the terrorists and handed over terrorists who were in Indian jails.

Also, Advani needs to really find something else to say now that Dr.Singh has lasted this entire duration of 5 years without any person challenging his leadership from within the Congress. If Dr.Singh was a puppet, you can bet your backside that someone within the Congress would have already tried to get Dr.Singh off the PM’s chair.

I am hoping the two gentlemen would just stop with this nonsense and talk about issues that matter.

Linux and its role in India

Is Linux the answer to many of India’s problems?

I ask this question because there has been a lot of discussion about how the use of Linux would really improve the situation in India – especially in the government and educational institutions. Linux holds the promise of reducing the cost of deployment of solutions for the government, for schools and other educational institutions, non-governmental organizations etc.

The freedom from having to pay the steep MS licensing fees will definitely lower the barrier of entry in many organizations when it comes to automating mundate administration tasks. Linux also holds the promise of bringing IT within the reach of the poor.

Those are all the good things about Linux.

However, there are some real problems with the usage of Linux in India.

  1. Linux requires pretty capable people to administer it. Most users are quite clueless when it comes to administering Linux. People who have problems working with Windows can hardly be expected to setup and manage Linux.
  2. Lack of applications – Linux does include the OpenOffice.org package and this will be of great use to many organizations which will implement Linux. However, when it comes to packages such as financial management packages, payroll packages etc, these are largely absent in Linux. There are some attempts such as the OpenLX package, but nonetheless, the variety of options available on Linux is very limited – this is particularly true for software customized for the Indian conditions.

But luckily, there are ways and means of addressing some of these difficulties.

The problem of the users not being able to load and manage Linux on their own can be addressed by the Linux User Groups across India. Actually, a lot of this seems to be already happening.

If groups of committed enthusiasts trained on Linux administration are available for setting up and installing Linux, it would definitely help organizations to adopt Linux more readily.

The second problem about the availability of software customized for Indian conditions is more difficult to solve. The reality is that Linux’s popularity in India is tied to its free as in beer status rather than to free as in freedom. If Linux were only commercially available, then it would have far fewer takers in India.

Though Linux is being used by many people in India, the number of applications being developed using the open source licenses in India for Linux is disproportionately low. The reasons why this should happen is an entirely different discussion.

This leads to the particular conundrum wherein a company which decided to migrate to Linux for the cost reduction on MS licenses must now spend money to custom develop applications for Linux which may already be available for a reasonable cost on Windows.

This is a real issue, which if not solved, will greatly impede Linux’s growth within India’s government and industry.

However, this is not really much of a problem when it comes to the usage of Linux in the labs in the educational institutions in India.

The development tools on Linux are excellent for new programmers to cut their teeth on. Once a developer is fairly comfortable using development tools on Linux, he will be able to utilize the equivalent tools on other platforms such as Windows without much problem.

The free availability of compilers and development tools for so many different languages on Linux is a great boon when it comes to utilizing Linux within a computer lab or a class room setting. As a consequence of this, a large number of educational institutions are migrating over to Linux.

This can only be a good thing. The number of developers with Linux skills will go up proportionately, and we can all hope that as the number of Linux developers grow, so also the possibility that some of them may start releasing applications as open source.

But as long as this doesn’t happen, Linux will be confined primarily to governmental organizations, universities and organizations big enough to spend money developing custom applications for Linux. The vast majority of computer using organizations who depend on off-the-shelf software for running their business on windows will remain less than willing to migrate over to Linux.

Need for heretics in science

Group think and the negative effects it can have on the scientific establishment is dealt with very succinctly in this nice article by the noted professor Freeman Dyson. Mr.Dyson calls for more youngsters to question the popular theories in science.

Professor Dyson also includes some interesting “heresies” of his own. He claims that global warming is grossly exaggerated and he gives some points to explain this. An excellent read, highly recommended.

Need for heretics in science by Freeman Dyson