Monday, June 15, 2009

What is in a name?

Notwithstanding the wisdom in the famous lines of William Shakespeare – “What is in a name? That we call rose by any other name would smell sweet” I still think name matters a lot. After all one hears his name thousands of times from the cradle to the grave. It is inextricably linked with everything of his life – his successes and failures, his nature and temperament, his social contributions as well as misdeeds. Consequently, a name gets firmly attached to the person like his shadow. Be that as it may, one must, to begin with, love his own name lest others make a dog’s breakfast of it.
On attaining adulthood, to my dismay, I realized that my name was solely responsible for encountering so many refusals against my initial romantic escapades. My grandfather had chosen ‘Satish’ at the time of my joining school and from then till date I am carrying it as a haversack. Satish - the hero of several novels of the great Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya must have been the favourite character symbolizing sincerity and sacrifice for many including my grandfather. Today TV serials give sufficient clues as to why I was not a hot pick among girls. The story would have been quite different had I got ‘Sayan’ or ‘Subhro’ or any such trendy names.
No wonder, people are so choosy in giving names for the newly- born. Those who have religious or astrological beliefs go to any extent to fulfill their compulsions. A few years back, I was asked to suggest a name beginning with the alphabet ‘V’ for my grand-daughter. There are a few alphabets out of twenty-six in English language which provide only a few words beginning with them. That is why words beginning or ending with those alphabets are always dreaded in word games. After scratching my bald head for two days, I came upon the name ‘Vaijayanti’ which was hailed by all as a sweet name befitting the cute baby. I have not revealed as yet to anyone the secret behind my creativity foray; my favourite celluloid heroine ‘Vaijayantimala’ who came in dreams so often during my college days was the source of inspiration.
Some names are really funny but only their users know how badly they feel using them. If I have to address a short man as Mr High, or a slow working official as Mr Quick, it would put me off. When election was announced, Mr Moody or Mr Power could cause confusion with the prime-ministerial aspirants Mr Modi and Mr Pawar.
In Southern parts of India, a person’s name traditionally includes the name of the ancestral place he belongs to, the name of his father and finally his own name. Therefore some names can make one breathless if all the initials are to be expanded. The famous author Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Narayanaswami is better remembered as R.K.Narayan. Long names may also sound anachronistic especially in an age of miniaturization and the need of the hour is to use as short names as possible. In Bollywood, for a year or two, films with long names were released expecting audience queues would be correspondingly longer. But the clever public came out promptly with acronyms like QSQT (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak) or DDLJ ( Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayange).
Taking cue from the above, my obituary should justifiably read: “SCD – Born 1940, Died 20..; Nobody knows what he did in between”.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting up after a deep slumber

My apologies to you all for going out of sight for such a long period. It is just like Rip Van Winkle getting up from sleep after twenty years and finding the world to have changed a lot meanwhile. Much water has flown through the Ganges river anyway.
I do not know what exactly caused this black-out. It was certainly not the usual periodic writer's block; I have been writing articles all these days for a magazine and also for a book. There has been some disillusionment after the whole world got affected by economic melt-down.
Hopefully the painful days of the recent past are going to be over soon. I also want to write on other topics which deserve analysis and discussion. Let me now get down to writing. Keep reading!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Politics and not Good Economics Prevail

If over 300 million Indians who are grouped under the category BPL(Below The Poverty Line - an euphemism for the starving not in a position to get two square meals a day) continue to live in their misery despite two eminent economists being at the helm of economic power of the nation, and if the disparity between the rich and the poor has widened alarmingly despite their noble economic policies for the 'aam admi'(the common man), there must be something amiss. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister are acclaimed all over the world as eminent economists and they are architects of India's incredible growth story destined to emerge as the world's second largest economic power by the year 2050. However, going by the spate of recent policy announcements, one wonders whether they have turned seasoned politicians abandoning their garbs of economists as the general election draws near. First came the mega loan waiver for the farmers costing the exchequer over Rs 60,000 crores.The Finance minister has so far been able to reallocate Rs 10,000 crores only for the loan waiver. Is he leaving the Herculean unfinished job of providing over Rs50,000 crores for his successor being sure that he would not have to burn the mid-night oil over the problem? Then the largesse for the middle class following the announcement of tax sops would cost the nation dearly. The 'aam admi' are already reeling under as inflation shows no sign of being reined in. On the other hand, with more disposable income in the hands of a small percentage of population the raging inflation is most likely to become worse engulfing more people. As if not satisfied with its own profligacy, the government appears to be patting its back for having got the recommendation of the Sixth Pay Commission just at the opportune moment. About forty-five lakh government employees will get 40-60% salary hike putting an additional burden of Rs20,000 crores. What would happen to the pernicious inflation and also the growing disparity between the rich and the poor? There is no time for the policy framers to ponder over these mundane matters now as vote-bank politics is ruling supreme. For those hapless millions who are not part of any pressure groups, such bonanza makes little difference to their lives and on the contrary, they are viewed as ominous signs of darker days ahead. History says when Rome was burning, Nero was fiddling! Is history going to repeat?

Monday, January 07, 2008

POSCO PROJECT IN JEOPARDY

The 12-million tonne steel project in Orissa to be set up by POSCO was acclaimed as the biggest FDI over two and half years back but it seems to be jinxed. From the beginning, it has been facing roadblocks one after another. There was a furore over the company's reported plan to export high grade iron ores and it died down only after the officials refuted such reports.
The site and infrastructure demanded for setting up of a dedicated port at Paradip also ran into rough weather. But the biggest shock the company got when the landowners of the proposed site refused to part with their land. There was considerable media hype that the project would be a boon for the people of Orissa which is one of the most underdeveloped states in India.It was expected by inveswtors as well as the government that people would just lap it up. Instead, organised resistance groups sprang up to protest against setting up of the project for fear of thousands being displaced from their homes and farmers loosing their farmlands.The resistance soon found sympathisers not only among political parties of all hues but also social activists and environmentalists. If one has been following the news reports on agitation that is going on for months, he or she would conclude that the proposed site has turned into a veritable war-zone. Besides regular violence and injuries to protesters as well as lawkeepers, the situation is getting out of hand as people are arming and training themselves to continue their fight against any forcible acquisition of land. Perhaps, the wind of Nandigram has blown to the neighbouring state.
The last straw on the camel's back came by way of the recommendation given by the Supreme-Court appointed centrally empowered committee saying that POSCO should not be given piecemeal forest clearances. It has urged that only after 'considering the ecologicalimportance of the area, number of trees to be felled, adequacy and effectiveness of the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for the project affected persons and benefits accuing to the states', the clearance should be given.
From the hurdles faced by POSCO, it is quite clear that there there has been too many slips 'twixst the cup and the lip. In their anxiety to win some brownie points, both the state and central government have been going gaga over such projects without first tying up the loose ends. The Chief Minister of Orissa has made a bold statement that work at the project site would commence on 1st April, 2008 coinciding with the state's birth anniversary despite such poor progress made by the project in the last two and half years. The first day of April is also used by pranksters all over the world every year to fool people. Let not POSCO steel project provide fodder for April Fool's Day of the year 2008.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Water: Waste Not, Want Not !

Location of steel plants is generally decided upon the proximity to two most important resources – iron ore and coking coal. Surprisingly, the third one – water which is emerging as critical resource is not always given proper consideration. Water scarcity is flaring up often as a serious crisis in several parts of India despite floods ravaging the country for decades. Industrialization has worsened the situation as power and steel plants spring up which are water guzzlers.
Now that India is poised to emerge as the second largest steel producer in the world attaining 180 million tones of annual production by 2016, the crisis of water is going to aggravate with 3-4 mega projects of 6-12 million tones capacities along with dozen of smaller capacities being put on the anvil.
The states rich in iron ore deposits having wooed investors for new steel projects are in an unenviable position. The case of the state of Jharkhand serves best to exemplify. It was reported that 11 companies including Tata Steel and Jindal Power and Steel Ltd have applied to draw water from Subernarekha which has the flow of 1520 million cubic meter (MCM) water against the demand of 1667 MCM. Officials said that nearly 329 MCM is being drawn from the river for irrigation, 220 MCM for potable water and 150 MCM for industrial use.
Indian steel industry’s water usage is abysmally poor. For producing one tonne of steel, according to CSE, steel companies in India use 10-80 cubic meter water where as US plants use only 5-10 cubic meter water. Moreover, approximately 80-85 per cent fresh water used in steel making in India is discharged as effluent although over 90-95 per cent water used for steel making in USA is recycled.
Steel is necessary for development but water is essential for life. For sustainable development, the steel industry in India would have to learn to conserve water and use new technology to minimize its use just as it struggles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming and protect the environment. India’s quantum jump in steel production from 51 million tones to 180 million tones will call for celebration only when the scarce water resources are judiciously used without triggering social conflicts and causing miseries to millions of common man.
It may be recalled that someone had perhaps rightly warned “The Third World War would most probably be fought over water”. Let not steel industry be the villain of piece!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Glossing Over Climate Change

An opinion poll conducted by a leading newspaper asked the poser - 'Neither our policy makers understand nor care about climate change'. Pat came the response from the readers; 93% agreed whereas only 5% disagreed with it. Interestingly, the newspaper carried the same day a photograph of a group of school children staging a street play on global warming. The message from the events is clear. The politicians do not put their hearts into such mundane issues as they are obsessed with much more serious matters like how to expand their respective vote banks. Climate change can take care of itself whereas they have very limited time to feather their own nests before the edifice built by severely compromising social and national interests crumble because of their own infightings. There was one more shocking news relating to increasing pollution in cities. Despite directions from the Supreme Court to take measures to curb pollution, the city of Kolkata is chocking due to a lax administration and the city has a maverick Transport Minister who fires salvos unfailingly whenever courts deliver any judgement putting restrictions on the irresponsible and undisciplined public transport operators. It is reported that the mandatory emission tests of vehicles averages a mere 14% for 1.3 million vehicles belching their polluting fumes at will throughout the city. No wonder, Kolkata city has the highest incidence of lung cancer in the country. If only our policymakers understood that they are as much susceptible to health hazards caused by high pollution, they would perhaps divert their attention from power games to climate changes and fighting pollution which will benefit common man.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Politics Invade Steel Projects

There is all round euphoria and optimism pervading the steel ministry. The national steel policy had envisaged a total production of 110 million tonnes by 2020. The ministry had originally envisaged steel production of 65 million tonnes by 2012, which had been revised to 80 million tonnes. Having revised production figures for crude steel production in the financial year 2006-07 and pegging at 50.71 million tonnes and that of finished steel at 51.90 million tonnes thus becoming the 5th largest steel manufacturer in the world, the optimism of Steel ministry understandably continues to soar high. The steel secretary said recently “Based on the current expansion program, that the companies have presented, it is estimated that the capacity of all the companies put together to touch close to 120 million tonnes. Even if they operate at 90% of the installed capacity, the production level will be at 110 million tonnes.”
In industry circles, such projections of capacity expansion are termed differently namely Pessimistic, Optimistic and Realistic. While the Optimistic projection has been given above, the pessimistic projection would be quite uninspiring based on growth attained in the past decades. The growth of steel industry during 2006-07 though very outstanding cannot be taken for granted as normal for the next five years, some cynics may argue.
It is understandable that such optimism is based on what was discussed by the ministry officials with the steel industry captains recently. It is reported that they pledged to create an additional capacity of 70 million tonnes within next five years and "they have gone full throttle to fructify their expansion plans".
Unfortunately, things are not moving always exactly as per the plans drawn up by industry captains and bureaucrats. There is too much politics in the air polluting the industrialisation tempo. The violent resistance in several states to SEZs serves to tell the people who are actually calling the shots. Even the POSCO steel project in Orissa which was showcased as the largest foreign investment in the steel sector has been languishing for nearly two years due to local agitation over land acquisition problems. The inter-ministerial group (IMG), set up by the government to expedite investments in the sector, cannot provide relief to investors whenever politics get precedence over economics.
So whether projections will ultimately turn out to be optimistic, pessimistic or realistic will depend upon politics and going by the present uncertainties and the low level to which it has already plummeted, such optimism may turn out to be misplaced.