Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bangladesh needs to change the National Anthem?

Of late I am coming across several discussions in Bangladesh news sites on whether Bangladesh should change the National Anthem and incorporate a new song from Nazrul Islam. Let me categorize the different kind of discussions I have come across.

1) There are some people who support them with some unbelievable logic. The basic logics are : Tagore was an Indian Bengali. As we hate India and Indian Bengalis, let's scrap the Anthem wrote by an "Indian".

2) Some Indian Bengali came up with "suggestion" that Indian Bengalis and Bangladeshi Bengalis are carrying two different cultures. As Tagore was a poet of the former culture - his poem does not "suite" as National Anthem of Bangladesh. He has got a reply from a Bangladeshi patriot that people of Bangladesh are the proud of Bengali inheritance and they think Tagore belongs to their culture. There are some communal Mullahs who think otherwise, but they are limited in number. Another person responded in a similar tune.

3) There are some people who discuss about the origin of the song and term it as meaningless to retain as a National Anthem. As the song was written in favour of "United Bengal", that is not possible, Bangladesh should reevalute its' decision.

4) There is one scholarly article which talks about how fitting National Anthem Bangladesh has.

I don't understand a simple fact that how can a person like Prof Aftab Ahmed hold an important post as a VC of the National University even after such a proposal. Is the country running short of quality people to lead the nation?

On the topic, I found almost all the criticism to be meaningless. Tagore is the soul of Bengali literature and his poem is the most suitable choice for Bengali nation, Bangladesh. It is quite unfortunate that a few people today are starting to deny their Bengali culture. For the West Bengal person, it's one more example of comments from ignorants. West Bengal no longer inherit Bengali culture at all, they have become Indians. A century later, I doubt there will be many Bengali speaking individuals left in West Bengal. Let the Bengali culture be a property of Bangladesh, it's better for the language, better for Bengali literature.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Beyond Farakka : Need for permanent water-treaty involving SAARC

A few days ago, I came across a report in a Bangladesh portal on drying up Teesta Barrage.

Till now, most of Bangladeshi people depend on water-intensive agriculture. Hence, the govt of Bangladesh should take this matter with utmost importance and go for a permanent water treaty with India. Pakistan has done it way back in 1960 by Indus water treaty. By the treaty Pakistan and India has equally distributed 6 international rivers among them. While anybody is free to build any Hydroelectric project on any river, for water-diversion projects, they have to go by the treaty. India also paid 62 million Pounds to Pakistan as compensation towards the reconstruction of Eastern river-fed canals.

For Bangladesh, most of the water comes from its' Eastern rivers, and some from Western rivers. Bangladesh can seek permanent access to to all Eastern rivers, as the North-East India is water-surplus region. In forseeable future, the region won't require any barrages. Once that is secured, Bangladesh might use the surplus Eastern water to divert(using canals) and feed Western rivers. This is similar to what Pakistan has done, it has used it's water-surplus rivers to feed other rivers, which has less water due to withdrawals from India. There are 57 rivers those enter from India to Bangladesh. Going by this framework, Bangladesh can secure the most out of them, because, the Brahamaputra basin rivers carry more than 70% of the water that enters in Bangladesh.

The Farakka case is one of the major source of trouble of Bangladesh. The treaty between India and Bangladesh is not-permanent, it's renewable in every 25 years. Every 25 years, the basis of the treaty remains the flow of water in last 25 years. There is a lower limit set in the treaty(50000 Cusec, Article II(iii)), crossing which both parties will share the burden. Due to water-withdrawals in Indian upper-riparian states and dams in Nepal, the flow in the river is diminishing year after year. Hence, a major conflict is expected between India and Bangladesh when the treaty is going to be renewed in 2020. India will come up with water-supply statistics at Farakka and Bangladesh will be defiant citing the water is withdrawn in India.

The apparent trumpcard in Indian hand is the withdrawal by upper-riparian states like UP and Bihar (withdrawal by WB is for power generation, hence it is stable). Is there a possibility that this can be reduced? Most likely - No. The reason of drying up river is the free electricity given to the farmers in UP and Bihar for last 5 years, which in turn is used to draw water from rivers using pumps. This is a truth for Ganges, as well as ground-water that are virtually connected. Moreover, Indian govts' Rural Employment Scheme targets building roads and digging irrigation canals. The canals will add up to the drying river. Unfortunately, there are no way to stop these withdrawals, because, there is no way one can convince an illiterate poor Indian farmer that the Ganges is an International river and India is bound by International treaty to supply a minimal amount of water to another country. The net output? Ganges will dry up before Farakka.

The solution from Indian point of view can be a huge water reservoir in Nepal (Kosi river) to save the surplus rain-water and supply that in dry season. The proposal has another party - Nepal, which might cry foul later and spoil the whole party (Nepal is a water-surplus country, it only lacks investment to develop them into water and power resorces). Quoting source:
"Though Nepal would like to earn revenue from selling power to India or
Bangladesh to invest in important social sectors like drinking water, education
and health for long-term development, it should remain hesitant to make huge
investments. ... At the same time, Nepal wants to extract its reasonable share
from those proposed high dam projects. Aspects like irrigation and flood control
benefits are issues that cannot be left unaddressed. ... In the case of
augmentation of low flow in the Ganga at the Farraka Barrage (the lowest
recorded flow of the Ganges at Farraka is 1,1OO m3/s), the Kosi High Dam would
be an appropriate scheme because of its proximity to Farraka and Nepal should
seek access to the sea by developing a navigational channel from Nepal's
territory. The Kosi High Dam could be a multi-country venture in sharing the
benefits it accrues in terms of power, irrigation, flood control, low flow
augmentation and navigation."

The river-interlinking project to connect North-East Indian rivers with Gangetic rivers, hence came into study. This will harm the Bangladesh interest in a broader way. If that happens, they might be forced to share Brahamaputra river water as well. From Indian perspective, RILP is a painfully cost intensive affair.

It shows that the water-problems between India and Bangladesh is not "Farakka-deep". It revolves around 6 major regions -
  • Water-scarce West and Central India,
  • Water-stable Gangetic India,
  • Water-stable Bangladesh (except dry season),
  • Water-surplus North-East India,
  • Water-surplus and Glacier-rich Bhutan/Sikkim
  • Water-surplus and Glacier-rich Nepal
It will be great, if SAARC and World Bank can be involved in a water sharing treaty. A few water-reservoirs at a quarter the cost of river interlinking can solve all problems for India and Bangladesh. The reservoirs can be located in water-surplus regions like Bhutan, Nepal North-East India and even in China. Notable fact is, World Bank pays a loan only when it is assured of a stable treaty (Indus water treaty resulted in loans to India and Pakistan) among the parties.

These drying up rivers are a wake up call to Bangladesh. They should start the water-management policies soon, internal and foreign, with a do and die attitude. For India, this might bring a long-term stability of relationship with one of its' neighbors. Nepal and Bhutan are willing to materialize their power generation potential to their economic benefits. End of the day, all parties need water resources in order to secure better living of its' large agrarian society.

Some other news sources on Hydroelectricity in the region :
The Hindu : "Water is to us what oil is to Arab" : The Bhutanese King.
Quoted from Rediff :
A few years ago Bhutan's per capita income was around $230. This was at about the same level as Nepal's per capita income. After the construction of the 336 MW Chukha hydroelectric project, Bhutan's per capita income is around $600 today, with the country experiencing a remarkable improvement in its human development indicators. When construction of the 1020 MW Tala hydroelectric project is completed in 2004, Bhutan's per capita income will reach $1,000. More ...
International Herald Tribune : The untapped might of the Himalayas
New Concept : Micro-Hydroelectricity in India and Nepal
Organization : The South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Cooperation and Development.
The Wikipedia : The Tidal Power

Some other news sources on Barrages in the region:
Maoist Threat to Kosi river barrage
India-Pakistan talks on Wuller Barrage
Ganges Waters in BBC
Trans Boundary Waters : India-Bangladesh Ganges water sharing

Future Problems :
UNESCO : Sharing the Giants
In the summer of 2000, a landslide in Tibet caused a dam to collapse, unleashing a 26-metre wall of water that destroyed every bridge on the Siang, as the Brahmaputra is known in the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh. The water then rushed through the Indian state of Assam and, within a week, devastated parts of Bangladesh. Human casualties were light but damage to property was extensive. An effective early-warning flood system is a goal that all three governments must therefore work towards.
Rediff : Conspiracy Theory - Chinese Dam on Brahamaputra
World Bank : India bracing for a turbulant water future

River interlinking project:
Excellent analysis of the project by IISWBM scholars

Go Global

Newzzz updates :

Religion around the world
Bit of Malay Culture Is Now Vanishing Under Muslim Rules
Introduced to Southeast Asia in the 13th century, Islam gradually supplanted Buddhism and Hinduism, but co-existed with ancient traditions over the centuries. Since the 1970s, however, fundamentalist Islam has spiked in multicultural countries such as Malaysia, with Muslim students and scholars galvanized by Iran emerging as an Islamic state. Political gains of Parti Islam parallel the increasing conflict between fundamentalist interpretations of Islam and traditional Malay culture. More ...

Circus : RSS chief's advice to Muslims about Krishna
So RSS Chief Sudarshan has asked Muslims to give respect to Krishna and treat him as one of the paighambars/ prophets. Mr Sudarshan, what world you live in? More ...

Anti-Christian Extremism Attacked
Newspapers in the Arab world have weighed in on recent attacks against Christian churches in Alexandria, addressing issues of extremism’s threat to Egyptian society. To overcome the forces of ignorance, hatred and sectarian sedition, leading newspapers call for concerted action on the part of government, religious and civil institutions to unify citizens against extremism that could lead to a “frightening collapse” of Egypt and possibly other nations in the region. More ...

Pakistan's Hindu Marriage "Ban" to be broken after 18 years!!!
The last traditional Hindu marriage was held about 18 years ago at the Neela Gumbad Mandir, between Jogindar and Mohlay. Mohlay’s brother, Pandit Bhagat Lal of the Neela Gumbad Mandir, said things had not been as hard for the Hindu community during the two wars with India, as they were after the Babri Masjid incident. He said several Hindus gave in to social pressure and converted to Islam or Christianity for better lives, which was why the community’s size had been decreasing. More ...

Tackling Terrorism - Varanasi,Jama Masjid Show the Way
After the blasts in Jama Masjid, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmad Shah Bukhari's statement acted as the glue of harmony and peace when he stated that "Emulate the people of Varanasi, who did not react in anger and defeated the plans of communal forces". The calm and usual chores followed in the city of Delhi, the city with rich syncretic traditions and heritage. More ...

'New Bin Laden tape' aired by TV
US, India agree to share data on fighting terrorism

Clever ploy Nepal king's offer throws spotlight on divided opposition
With Nepal's seven-party political alliance soundly rejecting King Gyanendra's offer that they name a new prime minister, the stage is set for a showdown. The opposition says the king's offer does not address their central concerns, and opposition leaders have pledged to continue the protests, now entering a third week. Many believe the opposition cannot embrace a king who has become so unpopular with the Nepalese public. More ...

US-China face-off in Latin America?
Not all Sino-Latin American experts see China's hunt in Latin America for secure supplies oil and other natural resources as necessarily a bad thing. In 2003, Riordan Roett of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, told Congress that it was "good for Latin America, and should be seen by Congress as complimentary to the dynamic relationship between the US and China." Roett added, "A counter plan by the United States in the region is most welcome." More ...

Sovereignty of Bangladesh in Danger (Bengali)

Dhaka again declines Delhi's transit proposal
Bangladesh yesterday reiterated its opposition to the Indian proposal for transit through it as the trade talks between the two countries in Dhaka ended on a gloomy note. Bangladesh experts said if the country accepts the transit proposal, in the long run it will lose advantage in trade with the next-door neighbour. More ...

Is India's rural poverty plan working?
Earlier this year, the Indian government launched a bold, multi-million dollar scheme to tackle rural poverty. It guarantees 100 days work a year for every rural household. It's manual work at the minimum wage. Critics say corruption and bad governance mean it is unlikely to work. So two months after the launch, I travelled in northern India to see if it is working. More ...

We don't need reservation, but do need social justice (Bengali)
10% a year : A distant dream in India? (Bengali)

West Bengal
Tata certificate to West Bengal (Bengali)
Farakka : A West Bengal perspective (Bengali)
Contract Farming : An Analysis (Bengali)

Monday, April 17, 2006

What's your faith?

Today I came across a site (thanks to Rezwan) which asks you to fill up a questionaire, and based on what you fill up, they'll tell you from what faith you are. There are some interesting results from each person, I am not an exception to that. Here's what I got :

1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (95%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (93%)
4. Reform Judaism (86%)
5. Bah�'� Faith (79%)
6. Jehovah's Witness (77%)
7. Sikhism (75%)
8. Theravada Buddhism (73%)
9. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (71%)
10. Secular Humanism (70%)
11. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (68%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (64%)
13. New Thought (63%)
14. Neo-Pagan (62%)
15. Orthodox Judaism (62%)
16. New Age (62%)
17. Scientology (60%)
18. Mahayana Buddhism (60%)
19. Islam (56%)
20. Jainism (54%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (50%)
22. Taoism (45%)
23. Hinduism (43%)
24. Nontheist (42%)
25. Seventh Day Adventist (42%)
26. Eastern Orthodox (25%)
27. Roman Catholic (25%)

The only Indian religion that came close to my top-10 list, is the Sikhism. The Baha'i faith also has a large number of followers in India, though it originated in Iran. The other Indian one, the Theravada Buddhism, is something new to me.

Though the results are not at are covering the whole domain of believes, still the revealations are quite satisfactory to me. The reasons are - I'm away from Roman Catholic, Hinduism(Orthodox), Islam and Orthodox Judaism; those I consider as problem to today's society as they are less flexible. I am close to Liberal Christian Protestants and Reform Judaism, followed by the most advanced people on the earth. Also there are touches of Buddhism and Baha'i Faith, which I think are impractical to certain extent, but good for Human beings.

I will be really happy to see faiths called Neo-Hinduism and Moderate Islam, which is existing in reality. Moreover, as the science will progress, it will take place of religion. The logic will take place of belief and religion itself will lose it's context. Hope that happens in 21st Century so that I can see it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

News and Views today

West Bengal
Infy at Rajarhat and Tata at Kharagpur (Bengali):Tata's coveted 1 lakh rupees car will be produced at Kharagpur. It'll become a major employment generator if the project succeeds. At the same time, Infy is opening up in Kolkata.
CapGemini at Kolkata(Bengali)

Indian Growth Story

World Bank Concerned Over India’s Economic Growth at YaleGlobal : The article by Priya Basu talks about the disparities as the outcome of India's globalization story.
Tech development from the heart of rural India at Hindustan Times : Knowledge-based growth in Agricultural sector.
Where India’s Brave New World is headed at Daily Times : Disparities once more.

Nuke Deal
Congress, NSG question deal
American CEOs throw in weight behind US-India nuke deal

A New Challenge for Bangladesh at YaleGlobal : The article by Sumit Ganguly talks a lot about Bangladesh but missed the focus on Bangladesh' natural secular practices, which is the way out of the problem. It also does not mention the Saudis to be the exporters of terrorism to Bangladesh by covertly funding the extremists. On the whole the article is inconclusive and lacks depth.
Trade deficit with Malayasia at The Daily Star : Bangladesh has politicised the issue of Trade deficit with India while the deficit with others is also soaring up.
Bangladesh firm plans to export version of Tamiflu at Reuters : Bangladesh to export Tamiflu which can curb the pandemic Bird flu.
This artist wants to paint a new Bangladesh at Hindustan Times : Bangladeshi artist Kanakchanpa Chakma, whose painting won the best prize at an exhibition in the US, says she wants to show to the world the rich cultural heritage of the country known more for its poverty and underdevelopment.

Now US to join SAARC?

Excellent Bengali Article on Anandabazar on Convertibility of Rupee : This article analyses gains and losses out of Indian aim at full convertibility of Rupees.
Three years of success of Indian equity market : India does a hat-trick. Returns from Indian equities are once again the highest across emerging Asia for fiscal year '06 (April '05-Mar '06). At a 74% return, India is far ahead of the next best, which is the 41% return offered by the Korean equity market.
Global cotton prices robust, limited benefit to India