Friday, June 11, 2010

Rational Tragedy, Irrational Tragedy

25 years in delivering "justice" and there still seems to be no respite for the victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy.

In the aftermath of the ridiculously disproportionate judgment for the perpetrators of the tragedy a lot of issues have been flung into the open forum for discussion and debate. There is one particular point in question where the rational arguments made by our "beloved" men in charge (the bureaucrats and the politicians) have been put so elegantly that it almost seems right.

They talk about Dow chemicals (the company that acquired Union Carbide after the tragedy) as being not responsible for the chaos and the damage and hence not being liable.

This seems fair to most, but I TAKE VERY VERY STRONG EXCEPTION to this.

While I agree that there was no way for Dow chemicals to prevent the lapses that led to the disaster since they were not involved, when you take over a company you cannot simply take the good and let go of the bad. You cannot simply take all the assets and leave the liabilities for the govt to pay. That is WRONG. Morally ethically and even legally!!

When you think the company you are acquiring is profitable you also have to be responsible for all their commitments of that company like returning the land of the factory to its proper state (as mandated by the lease signed by union carbide).

I fail to understand the absolute ignorance on the part of the media to pin politicians like Kamal Nath and Abhishek Manu Singvi down on this. These guys seems to make nonsense sound rational. Why should the tax payer pay for the losses while Dow chemicals profits from the assets. The moral and criminal burden of the disaster and the lives lost will forever lie on the people running union carbide at the time and the regulatory authorities who failed and the legal and the financial responsibilities will fall on the current owners if it has already not been paid.

Dow chemicals like any profit seeking drone will push for policies and favours from the Govt, but "our" people in the govt need to safeguard our interests first and not suck up to the foreigners like they have been doing traditionally.

This is just one small piece of a whole lot of issues emerging out of this tragedy and the "justice" it has served up.

In the absence of any real justice I think the anger and the agitation against such injustice is the only respite. Lets not let go of this!

Gopal Balakrishnan

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Music that moves - Part 1

Wanted to write a separate post on each of these songs that moves me to a different plane. But that will take too long and the ode and my appreciation for these songs for helping me discover some of the different sides of me cannot wait.
2 songs per post
Please help me discover new music and songs that can be part of this series.

Music makes all the bad times easier and the good times better:) (cliche' but true)

High Hopes by Pink Floyd

Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
There's a hunger still unsatisfied
Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
Though down this road we've been so many times

These 4 lines and the crescendo of this song always take me higher, it gives true meaning to the words psychedelic rock!

Gravity by John mayer

Oh I'll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away
Oh twice as much ain't twice as good
And can't sustain like a one half could
It's wanting more
That's gonna send me to my knees

The depth of meaning explained in such simple words that can be universally understood. And the feeling of blues and vibes that the music sets you up while the words catch up to sweep you off your feet makes this song a great one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The inevitable first fall

I have had my Esperanza (my Black Yamaha YZF R15 for the past 6 months now. In those 6 months I have witnessed many firsts,
1. Breaking a 140 kmph barrier solo
2. 120kmph barrier while riding with a co-passenger
and a lot of near misses.

I have missed being in an accident numerous times. Sometimes due to sheer dumb luck and sometimes due to some intelligent maneuvering. (Or so I have convinced myself :)

All this while I have been warned many times by my aunts, some close friends (AP and AB) and also by strangers about how dangerous bikes can be and why it need not be your fault that leads to your "fall"

If you own a bike is "the fall" inevitable? I kept pondering and every time a near miss happened to me I kept asking myself how could I have restricted the damage if this was indeed the fall. I had somewhere in my mind already resigned to the fact that the fall was inevitable and it’s just a question of minimizing your losses.

6 months down I was really wondering if I had indeed dodged the law of averages and was on the verge of achieving something remarkable.

My hopes and aspirations and my dreams of a victory speech were shattered last week when I did have my First fall. It wasn't quite how I had imagined it and to be honest I don't think any of you would have been able to either. Unless of course you live in a toon world.

My Esperanza and I were cruising along the road in Bangalore next to Star Bazaar (the tata equivalent of Food bazaar/big bazaar) and the roads were quite empty in the direction I was headed in. There were 4 bikes in close proximity to one another including mine. All of a sudden a hero aunty with 2 bags of groceries decided to just cross the road and believed that the world of automobiles would somehow conform to her Laws of motion.

I saw the first bike miss her with great skill on part of the rider (or maybe it was aunty controlling time and matter around her to make the bike miss her)

Aunty decided she had to teach the world of horrid bikers a lesson and then continued on her march across the road. Factoring in her walk across I too started drifting away from her. Just as I was about to pass her almost relieved that I had managed to miss her, I realized aunty had chosen me as the example for all bikers.

I felt a big whack on my helmet, temporarily blinded by a huge star bazaar sign; I lost my balance and fell to the ground. Aunty not caring for her valuable soaps and maggi noodles had hurled her shopping bag at me. How dare I miss her by only 6 feet! It was an invaluable lesson indeed.

After I rolled over a couple of times aunty walked over to me and said "Are you ok?, It’s not my fault it’s your fault, it’s not my fault it’s your fault, are you ok it’s your fault?"

Indeed aunty had taught me a lesson. I couldn't understand why people were reprimanding aunty for her acts when clearly "it was not her fault" she was only doing what any other superhero aunty would have done, selflessly sacrificing her soaps and creams to save me from myself.

It’s been a week after the fall and I am still recovering.

As the fall was happening all I could think of was "wow, how often does this happen to someone, and how awesome a story I now have"

In all fairness to aunty I don't think she intended to throw the bag at me, when the first bike passed her I think she panicked and her reaction was a little unorthodox but hey we have all done stupid things on the road and gotten away with it. I am sure aunty felt guilty about hurting me (after the crowd started weighing in on her)

The best part about the recovery has been the story behind the fall.
Even though the pain and the bruises are real, I would have rather had a first fall this way when the story is right out of a movie scene than if i received the same number of bruises and I simply slipped on the road with an oil slick (all considering that the first fall is inevitable)

That’s the story of my first fall and now I can cross one more thing off my list. (to be de-biked by a superwoman) :)

Gopal Balakrishnan

Friday, January 15, 2010

To the paradise city...

Not preachy, not contrite, not unhappy, no one to lead, no one to follow, is a world without achievements and desires the ultimate paradise? Often wondered if a world filled only with happiness would be a grand outcome and the purpose of civilized society. But the argument that ensues is that without pain without the downs in life the ups mean nothing. The argument become even more vehement and forceful when we are talking about God as the creator of an imperfect world and imperfect creations.

Well, we are so worried that we wont be able to enjoy the pleasures if we didn't have pain that we want to hold on to our pain and misery.

It is pointless to think of things that could have happened and changed the course of history. simply because the causes of that change or turning point would ensure that the entire situation is completely different.

If most of us understand this then why do we not consider that if indeed we had a pain free world we would have other forms of other means of contrasting our lives, why must the canvas of our lives only be painted with shades of joy and pain? Why cant we have something absolutely different? We could have fun and more fun. And why have a contrast at all.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hope and Vengence

We hoped for freedom for too long
then we hoped for a government for too long
we hoped for food clothing and shelter
we hoped for peace in the valley
we hope we never have to hope for anything again

and even now we hope,
we hope for VENDETTA!!

But i hope that this is one hope that is not misplaced. For there is no greater loss than the loss of innocence. When the innocent are engulfed in the flames within the world burns.

Its not the time to loose ourselves to the anger or the disgust or the apathy of those who think they rule us.

Lets use this to rise above. Vengence is sweet but not enough.

In mankind i trust!

Gopal Balakrishnan

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To Budget: Another opportunity Lost

By definition a Budget means “a summary of intended expenditures along with proposals for how to meet them” someone please let our Government know this
Budget means the same or similar things to most people; just the treatment rendered is somewhat different. Well to our government it has to mean something totally different.

It’s not a limit on spending, it’s not control, it is in fact how the treasure chest can be plundered.
Think about it

Why are so many government services inefficient and their private counterparts doing so very well, take mtnl for example, the telecom boom has had virtually no effect on productivity or quality, in fact the incumbent in such a huge market has done nothing while the competition has gobbled up so much of the market. Why??

Well the budget has a lot to do with this inefficiency. A private enterprise is rewarded for saving money while a government enterprise if efficient and saves some money then it’s penalized by getting allotted a lot less money the next time. It’s the sheer mentality of people who don’t understand economics and people who think they understand people trying to make economically viable solutions for “the people”
Let us just make sense of one fascinating aspect of this budget. The Rs. 60,000 Crore farm loan waiver. Here is where bad governance takes the shape of populism and ends up hurting everyone and helping the incumbent government in the near term. I often thought to myself “what’s wrong with populism”; I mean the government is supposed to think of the public good that’s why they have been elected. The answer is there is nothing wrong with populism its bad economics along with cunning and wrong use of position that I have a problem with, and this government seems to have done both with “the waiver.”

With growth rates of the country tending towards a decline on the back of a US recession, foreign investors and the industry in India needed some confidence in the capital market system of the country. The waiver which flouts the banking regulations and asks the banks to give a ‘no dues certificate’ even without reimbursing the waived amount the banks. This just sucks out liquidity from the system. To cut it short, the govt says it will clear 60,000 crore worth of bad debt from the banks books and that this is good for the banks, but here’s the catch
They will only provide 10,000 crore this year as for the remaining they claim to clear that in the coming 4 years (giving the burden of the majority of the weight of the waiver to a possible “incompetent” NDA government). In the mean time the banks have no money to show for the ‘no dues certificates’ they have issued. This pushes the country’s organized banking system to a big slow down a 50,000 crore slow down.

There are other problems with the waiver too

• It sets a bad precedent. What about farmers who have paid their debt by selling
their belongings or land or both?

• What about the farmers in the Vidarbha and Telengana region who all have land holdings greater than the lower limit 4 acres set by the FM?

The worst thing about this waiver is that it still offers no solution to the farming community. The solution to the problems of the farming community is that it’s not productive or profitable for most. The reasons are clear ever since 5th standard for me and most other paanchvi pass students. The vagaries of the monsoon determine almost completely how the year is going to be. Good rainfall = excellent harvest and the family is happy for one year and too much or too little rainfall implies debt burden increasing.

The solution has to be irrigation development. Israel which is war torn and has virtually no big source of non brackish water. It requires 1.2 billion cu metres of water annually of which a staggering 900 million is portable. Imagine if that were true in India, 75% water requirement is portable, every farmer will be able to come out of the death trap and lead a sustainable life.
Drip irrigation has helped Israel export water intensive citrus fruits as well. The catch with irrigating Vidarbha and Telengana is not the cost involved because it is much less than 60,000 crore. It is purely a matter of political will. Drip irrigation for the entire Vidarbha and Telengana region together will ensure water usage up to 95% and increase productivity by 75%. Its initial setup cost would be close to 15000 crores.

India is still not a consumer driven economy, it’s driven predominantly by government spending. This is the opportunity for the govt to spend on infrastructure and pick up stake in the growth it promises. There are a lot of opportunities of public private partnerships in the waiting. If only the Government can ‘budget’ for the losses if these opportunities are lost.
Kya humari government paanchi pass se tez hai??

(wrote this for the college IEEE magazine immediately after the budget. found it now, and thot it'll make a good read.)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hockey Still Our National Game

Who says hockey is not played anymore with the same passion and doesn't deserve to be our national game?
India always wins because hockey is part and parcel of life as this ad beautifully shows...

Good Job Times of India :)