Sunday, 3 February 2019

mobile phones

I bought a Nokia windows phone for my wife three years back for valentine's day at rupees 12000($185).  I wanted to change it for this valentines so went to the mobile shops for an exchange offer.  Most of the shops refused to take it back. One shop offered me rupees 400($6) and another rupees 800($12) against purchase of a new phone costing rupees 19500 ($300).

Then i have realised that a fully working phone bought for 12000rs has become next to worthless in 3 years.

Nokia 550
It also struck me how these phones are silently eating into our budgets.  In the last 5 years i changed 4 phones and my wife & teenaged daughter 2 each.  That is 8 phones in all.  Considering each costs about 13k rupees ($200) on the lower side that is more than a lakh rupees ($1600) in five years or about 20k per year.  This sum multiplies 4-5 times if high end phones are used by the family.

Imagine an Iphone which retailed for 35k 3-4 years back is worthless now as no one wants it.

As per open source reports, our country had imports of more than twice our population in the last 6-8 years with majority of the sales going to chinese XIAOMI or HUAWEI or SAMSUNG or other foreign manufacturers.  So we are not only denting our pockets but also filling the coffers of foreign telecom companies.  We have far more phones than there are toilets in the country!!!

And  - what is happening to all the e-waste we are generating?? Where is it getting dumped??  Also a lot of rare earth metals are being used up to manufacture these new smart phones, the excavation of which is reported to be causing significant ecological damage.

This is where the government can consider stepping in and introducing some regulation both to safe guard us from our own spending and the environmental damage this buying spree is doing.  This is one regulation which needs to be implemented in current times than several other archaic ones in force.

But can it be done??  

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Farmers Water drought and Government aid

The central government has been kind enough to grant about 4700 crores to Maharashtra in India as drought relief.  The state had asked for about 7200 crores.  As aid given to farmers is presumed to cover bare neccessities only, the amount can be safely doubled if we have to ensure a reasonable dignity of living which may come to about 15k crores.

Maharashtra has about 11 million hectares under sugar cane cultivation which is extremely water intensive and has produced about 8 million tonnes of sugar per year.

How did we reach these high production figures.  Sugar cane is a good crop for farmers as it is quite weather proof and the buyers(mill owners) are assured, that too at government controlled prices.  This led to further improvements in agriculture and the seeds which led to bumper harvests which exceeded the demand and  there were no takers for the surplus. Consequently farmers went unpaid and led to hardship!!!

To put this in perspective we need to look at sugar statistics.   A tonne of sugar fetches about 15k for a farmer so the 8 million produced would fetch about 12,000 crores for the farmer.  As it seems that is less than what the farmer needs to be paid for just a reasonable level of dignity in living.

Then what is the point in this high production figures.  They are sucking up all our water resources and not even giving any ROI (return on investment) to our farmers.  Won't it be saner to import sugar (like advanced nations) and let our farmers grow more sustainable agriculture like paddy, vegetables etc. This not only saves our water but also ensures that a farmer never starves as even in the worst condition he can live off his own produce.  The importance of agriculture cannot be more emphasized. Of course, the people at the present sugar factories also need to be taken care of so that their lives are not affected.

Two of the largest importers in the world at No 1 and No 3 are China and United States respectively.

Why they are not growing their own??? Think of it!!

Disclaimer - the Statistics quoted by me may not be accurate - but accurate statistics about sugar cane are not my point - My point is - How do we save water for ourselves and our future generations!!

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Farmers and Water Drought

 Our neighbour hood sage predicted two things in 1950:-

1. India and China would be two new super powers in the next century and thereafter India will be the only super power.
2.  Water will be costlier than petrol.

Needless to say everyone laughed - Me too included, when I heard of it in 1980.  India as a super power was unimaginable in 1980.  All that changed with the introduction of the computers to India on a large scale by Shri Rajiv Gandhi.  Though the first computer came to india in the 1950's, the scale at which Shri Rajiv Gandhi pushed computers on the common man revolutionised India to a point, where it is now on the cusp of being a super power. So the prophecy may come true after all!!! 

But our post is not about this prophecy.  It is about the worrying prospect of the second prophecy coming true.

In some ways we have already reached there, with a litre of premium drinking water costing about $7 or Rs 420 in India.   Even the cheapest drinking water costs about Rs 15 for one litre bottle.  There are millions of households utilising water cans of 20 litres selling for about 40-100 rupees each.  Apart from this, there is a huge marketing chain of water purifiers, replacement filters and their maintenance contracts etc.  So water vertical is in itself a huge business driving the water shortage.

In addition, there is the textile industry, leather industry and water intensive crops such as sugar cane etc.

According to one study, 30 billion litres of water is used annually by the leather industry. Considering that an average person requires just 30 litres of water in a day, this is a huge huge requirement of the industry. 

In the textile industry, every kilogram of textile produced uses about 100 litres of water.  India consistently produced 1300 million tonnes of cloth every year in recent times.  You can imagine the water requirement.

Apart from the problem of consuming drinking water, this water gets contaminated with pollutants and chemicals and if improperly disposed would lead to contamination of remaining water also.

In addition there are water intensive crops like sugar cane which bleed an area dry of its water.  A farmer may get about 5 lakhs per acre from the sugar cane but this has to be seen against the millions of litres of ground water it consumes for the same.  Indian exports alone are between 3-5 million tonnes and therefore the water utilised could be again huge.

And we are one of the top exporters of textiles, leather goods and sugar cane!!!!  Does that ring a bell?
#water shortage
#sugar cane
#Rajiv Gandhi

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Tirumala Tirupati venkateswara swamy darshan

Tirumala Tirupati venkateswara swamy darshan
I am reposting an old post of mine as a tribute to Lord venkateswara in the year 2019 and with a view to be of some assistance to his devotees

This was my third visit to Tirupati. The first was after my marriage where we hardly had any time to know what was happening around us. The second was for the 'mundan' ceremony (of giving the birth hair to the Lord) of my first child and that too passed away with little time to understand the setting. This third visit of mine for the 'mundan' ceremony of my second child was far more enlightening. To begin with, I was amazed by the scale and the grandeur of the entrance to the abode.
It was one of the grandest entrances that I have seen and was truly spectacular.  As we progressed our journey to Tirumala I was struck by the roads which were so neat and tidy and to top it there were no pot holes at all. The concerned department must be working very hard to ensure this.  I also for the first time in my life saw the sign "No open Urination - Fine Rs/-25".  It was mind boggling to see such a sign in our country where this practice is so prevalent - atleast the major cities could take a cue from this. On reaching our destination I was fascinated by the use of technology to root out corruption!!! Yes you read right - to root out corruption!!!. To understand better I will explain how our room was reserved.  At the local TTD counter in our city I booked a room online. The clerk took my photo using a webcam and took my forefinger impression on a finger print scanner. When I reached Tirumala, my photo and finger print were already in the computer of the reception and the clerk there again took my photo using a web camera and my finger print using a finger print scanner. After verifying that both are same, my room was allotted.  Such a wonderful system obviously leaves no scopes for middlemen, agents or touts in room allottment. But as all the rooms are not allotted online there is still some scope for the operations of these people in the rooms that are allotted on the spot. Well things cant be too perfect!!

Then there was this ceremony of mundan where the waiting time in the free kalyankatta (the place where the mundan is performed) was upwards of six hours. The Temple administration had opened a few more kalyankattas which charge a small fee of Rs/-10. We managed our ceremony in about half an hour. Thereafter we went for darshan. It was very heartening to see that the administration have commenced a seperate darshan for children of less than one year old (along with father n mother) called Supadham darshan.  Incidentally Supadham darshan is also for Defence, TTD employees, Newly weds and NRI's also. It was nice of TTD board to extend this facility to these categories especially the Defence as they are guarding our country's borders and therefore may have limited time.

Inside the line there was a fair amount of pushing and pulling but once we entered the temple the rush was too much. The day I went I realised how stampedes take place during religious processions. It was totally mindless of the people because they waited in the queue for 7-10 hours but they could not wait another 5-10 minutes for the people in front to have a peaceful darshan and they themselves have the same.  However, such common sense like someone said is not very common and therefore the stampede like situation continued right into the sanctum sanctorum from where the Temple ushers took over in moving crowds forward.

The Sight of the Lord was divine and I was mesmerised for that few seconds I could manage to stand in front of him.

Thereafter I was unceremoniously pulled aside by a Temple usher and I moved out. I looked for the Hundi inside but could not find it. As I came out I saw huge signs reading 'SriVari Hundi' and went there to give my offerings.   After the offerings I took the prasad and also went to collect my laddus from the laddu counters.  I was quite impressed by the notice in front of every counter (about 40 of them) mentioning the weight of the Laddu and that each devotee is free to measure the weight if in doubt. And believe you me - they installed a digital weighing machine outside every counter. This is another use of technology to curb any malpractices in laddu making (this gains even more significance from the recent event which had come to light where the executive officer of a Temple provided underweight laddus to the devotes over a period of one year without being detected!!).

The collection of the laddu technically marked the completion of our sojourn and we returned back to our room after having dinner. Peculiarly Meals are not available in most of the guest/rest houses of TTD and one has to perforce go to the nearest restaurant which would most of the time be too crowded though the rates are economical. The temple also serves meals to everyone (Anna Danam to reportedly about 40-50,000 people every day)at designated places. I also saw refreshments being given free of cost to people standing in the queue.

All in all, I returned from this trip as a happy man. Whatever little misconceptions that I had about mal practices in Tirupati management were reasonably dispelled by what I observed this time, atleast in the events that concern a common man (as I am not enlightened enough to comment on bigger games played there). I sure look forward to my next trip...

Monday, 21 January 2019

My car has electrically adjustable outer rear view mirrors - or ORVM's as they call them.  My car cleaner regularly tilts them anyway he wishes when he cleans the car mirrors.  Today while at a traffic signal i realised that my mirrors were awry and adjusted my left one first and then my right. as soon as i adjusted my right a beam of white light hit my eys through the ORVM.  On a second look i realised that it was a 2 wheeler fitted with a HiD light.

The light was so bright and 'so in my eyes' that i could not look at that side at all. Then i remembered my old post about HiD lights. Nothing has changed and they still continue to be a menace on the streets.  It is high time the transport ministry did something about it!!!!

my old post

I recently read that a high end car to be launched on the Indian roads is going to have Laser assisted lighting.  I immediately wondered about the plight of the poor pedestrians on the road who may get fried by these lasers!!!

Some people looked at me condescendingly and explained that its a new form of technology - that the lasers by themselves dont light up the road - they light up a gas and the illuminated gas lights up the road - its too complex for laymen like me to understand etc etc.

Well I may not understand all that high end tech but even as  a layman, i know that most of our cars are equipped to be fitted only with the ubiquitos yellow bulb. For some time even halogen bulbs were considered illegal (I think they still are). Then came the fully illegal HID kits and later OEM fitted HID lights on high end cars.  As if all that was not enough, someone designed these high tech laser lights.

Lasers when misalligned can cause dangers to people in front of them but as Laser lights are still too far away to be available freely on the streets, let us examine the immediate danger i.e HID lights.

HID stands for High intensity discharge and these bulbs are now being installed as a standard fit on some luxury cars and as an after market fitment for many other cars.  The advantages are as follows:-
1.  They draw lower power
2.  They last a longer time
3.   Higher illumination and resultant higher range
4.   Cool white glow with bluish tinge
5.   Better night time visibility - so more safer

But look at the disadvantages:-
1. Use inert gas so they place a strain on environment
2. May leak into sorrounding environment or into the car
3. Misalligned HID after market kits may not illuminate roads properly and may cause accidents
4.Blue light may cause problem in foggy/low visibility conditions
5.   Excessive heating up due to poor heat dissipation

but the more important ones are :-

as you can see, the disadvantages weigh far in excess of the advantages.  Its time companies rethink on OEM fitment of HID lamps & Laser lamps.  

They could concentrate on LED lighting as they are more cost effective, cooler (as all heat is used up to light up only) and safer!!!

Lastly - if you still have a compulsive urge to install HID kit for your car then -
1. do not install bi-xenon kits where there is a HID lamp for both low and high beams. HID on high beam can be very disconcerting and blinding for traffic in opposite direction and may cause accidents which could involve you also
2. Install HID for low beam only
3. For high beam, use conventional yellow bulb (preferable) or halogen

Happy driving to you and those in your opposite direction!!!

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Tryst with an Air India staffer and need for National character building

It was my transit flight from Vizag to Mumbai by Air India flight. 
'Air India' - you may be exclaiming😄😄  but all said and done I find that Air India flights have maximum leg room for the common people like me in economy class (except the Neo's ofcourse which in my opinion are most passenger unfriendly aircraft - but that is another topic altogether).

The flight arrival was before time as was also indicated by the flightaware software on my phone and boarding was also announced before time. As usual we were all in a queue to board and the person at the boarding gate was checking our plane tickets & passes and curtly counting numbers to his colleague with not even a faint acknowledgement of the passengers. There were two foreigners in front of me - with quite unkempt hair baggy clothes et al - after checking their boarding passes the Air India staffer gave them the sweetest of smiles and also said a 'thank you'. Next was me and he got into his curt routine again. After my turn i looked back to see if he wished anyone else amongst us Indians. There were none that i could see.

So the sweet smiles and greetings were only for the foreigners.  But this post is not to bicker over the attitude of that Air India staffer. That is for Air India to realise and brief their staff accordingly if this post reaches them ever.  But the bigger point is - do we as Indians don't respect ourselves? Can you imagine any country where Indians are greeted n treated better than their own country men? I am sure you would have rarely seen anything like that(if at all). But i have seen the reverse where foreigners are feted and Indians looked down upon umpteen number of times in India. Why does that happen? What could be a driving force for such behaviour? Are we still in awe of the 'white foreigner?' 

I can still understand a hotel steward trying to please a foreigner as
they generally are better tippers but in an airline or a bus or hotel room etc, the preferential treatment is disgusting and unacceptable like in this present case as all flyers pay equally depending on when they buy the ticket.

So is this hard wired into us that the staffer was extra nice to only foreigners? Someone may say "Athithi Devo Bhava' (roughly means guests are like Gods) but for Air India all of us are 'Athithis' only.  So are we lesser Gods?

Respecting your own countrymen is part of Nation building and all great Nations respect their citizens first.  Can you think of Staffers in US of A giving preferential treatment to Indians over Americans??   You can safely discount that to be impossible!!!
                                 Related image

So it is time to instill pride in out country men about our own country.  How do we do it. It is easier said than done and is a long process.

A change is required in the mindset.

Soch badlo desh badlo (change the way you think and you make you can change the progress of your country). Text books are the best answer for this. There is a need to rewrite the textbooks  with stories of valour pride riches and bravery of Indian men and women alike to instill a sense of pride.
These stories when taught at a young age would make an   indelible impression on their minds. This change would take some time maybe a decade or two for these small children to grow up and arrive in responsible positions.  That's fine - what is   a decade or two in the progress of a Nation.

Truly, we must start respecting ourselves because if we don't respect ourselves,  no one else will and no one will ever consider us a super power(in the making or otherwise)

Look forward to a new future in a decade from now!!