Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wikileaks, India and Pakistan

While wikileaks has embarrassed the US, Pakistan are probably the most pissed off by the leaks. It is one thing to keep saying that they are partners in the 'war against terrorism', but totally another to defend the same in the light of solid 'evidence' that the US do not trust Pakistan.

I listened to the Pakistani Ambassador to the US in BBC World News, claiming emphatically that Pakistan have spent money and lost lives in fighting the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. No one will deny that. But, at the same time, it is not easy for the Pakistani Ambassador to deny that several rogue elements in the Pakistani establishment have always colluded with the terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. NY Times opinion clearly touches on this point.

As far as most of the Americans are concerned, Pakistan is destabilizing the war efforts of the US. That is why, NY Times headlined the wikileaks story as: Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert.

Can all this help India in some way? It is important for India to curtail Pakistan from easily getting military and other aid from around the world. However, it is not in the interests of India to have a bankrupt Pakistan. It will destabilize that country to such an extent that Pakistan will become a Somalia and there will be a hundred jehadi warlords roaming the country.

So, Pakistan should get aid - civilian aid. And the aid should come with a lot of strings attached. The strings should be in the hands of a global consortium. And India should join such a consortium so that it can control the rogue elements from capturing power in Pakistan. Part of the task should be to force Pakistan to cut down on its military spending. This will help India save up substantially on its military spending (focus mainly on China). Part of the job should be to de-nuclearise Pakistan (which won't be easy).

So far, Pakistan got away by saying it was the most important ally of the US in the war against terror. Now, it has been proven that such is not the case. We in India should really be looking forward to the American response to this.

One point though. The information leaked out to public only now. But the American officials knew about this all along, and hence they should have been tougher with Pakistan already. But, now the media and public will pressure the US administration to act, and act fast.

Americans should remember that some of their soldiers were killed in Afghanistan because some Pakistani elements helped Taliban.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Profits up, but manager in jail

Sterlite has announced an increase of 50% in net profit for the first quarter ending June 2010. But one of its vice-presidents is languishing in jail, because the management screwed up.

Varadharajan, Vice-President (Indirect Taxes) for Sterlite based in Tuticorin was arrested on Friday night on the charges of Sterlite evading excise duty to the tune of over Rs 700 crores.

One would have expected that the company will work towards getting the employee out on bail on Monday, but that has not happened. The next hearing is apparently only on Thursday.

It is unclear to me how a vice-president should be held liable for such an act. If anything, the Chief Executive or the Finance Director (in the board) should have been hauled up in front of the court. Instead, we see the CEO M.S. Mehta announcing the company results, while a lower level employee is thrown in jail.

It is time the corporate top men - full time executive directors and chief executives - take full responsibility for the acts of their companies and not get their lower level employees undergo punishments on their behalf. Any decision to pay or not to pay excise duty would have only been taken by the CEO along with the approval of the board, given that the amount disputed is over Rs 700 crores.

It is also a wake-up call for the professional managers. Never accede to what the owners and directors want you to do, if you think it is against the law. You can always quit the company and find another job. It is not worth spending even one day in a jail, for some fat cat in London to make obscene profits.

Nokia, Foxconn gas leak problem

News reports indicate that leaking of a noxious substance in the Foxconn factory inside the Nokia SEZ in Sriperumpudur near Chennai has resulted in several workers affected by nausea, coughing of blood and breathing problems. A Tamil website vinavu.com has a more detailed story.

This is a distressing news. Nokia should also be pulled in to deal with this problem. Foxconn is a dedicated manufacturing facility for Nokia's mobile handsets. It has subsequently come to the light that Foxconn does not have certain necessary approvals for re-opening the plant. This plant was not functional for a few months because of low orders and was restarted only recently.

Nokia should come out with a report of its own about what caused this problem and what measures are being taken to avoid recurrence of such a problem.

Further, Foxconn and Nokia should jointly announce reasonable compensation and that too immediately. Nokia cannot shirk away its responsibility in this case.

Looking through vinavu.com's website, it is shocking to find that the employees take home a paltry Rs 3,270 for working 26 days. For factory work, this is horribly low!

What is the minimal wage law in India? Something has to be done to increase this to a reasonable level.

It is because of instances such as this that capitalism gets a very bad name.

$35 Indian notepad

When I saw the announcement from HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, I couldn't believe it. As usual, newspapers heralded the announcement. Then came the skeptics with their clear arguments. The bill of materials comes to nearly $50.

That is what I thought too. A 2 GB RAM, wi-fi connectivity, around 32 GB storage space, a touch screen, a processor and so on, cannot be given away for $35 (of which half is a subsidy from the Government, we are told).

What India needs is realistic goals. Not this kind of nonsense. Our students need cheap computers and decent Internet connectivity. We need enough manufacturing companies to produce these devices.

Even in poor households, if one can demonstrate the use of such a device, people will be ready to buy it for anywhere up to $150.

These devices need sufficient processing power to play audio, video and flash animation - minimum requirements for educational purposes. Linux OS with Indian language Unicode fonts and software keyboard for all the Indian scripts should be present.

Let us hope that we will have some such under Rs 10,000 devices out in the market in less than an year, than what this vague announcement offers.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Muralitharan 800

I have watched Murali bowl from his debut Test. He used to be an ordinary bowler. I can't remember when he transformed himself into a match winning bowler. If one goes through statsguru, one should be able to figure out that critical timepoint.

Even after he became a matchwinner, Indian batsmen handled him quite comfortably. Until Murali developed his doosra into an art. A wild spinning off break, or a power packed top spinner can be handled well, if you can estimate the spin in the delivery. But doosra makes you so confused.

My biggest disappointment was that my favourite batsman Dravid could never deal with Muralitharan properly.

Somehow, Murali's 800 wickets seem so unreal. Next time I see his picture in a newspaper or a TV, I am unlikely to remember his 800 wickets. The only picture in my mind is him strapped to some biomechanical probes, wanting to prove that he is not a chucker. I can only remember the pain in his eyes.

The Australians dealt with him in the most unfair manner. That includes Darrell Hair as well. But the Aussie fans were incorrigible. Right through that tough period Sri Lankan cricket machinery stood firmly behind Murali. And in particular Arjuna Ranatunga.

For that unflinching faith the Sri Lankans had in Murali, he has delivered back, more than his share.

Good bye Murali!