Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Energy Updates

The Indic View wrote about the prospect of Gas Hydrates in India. Methane gas hydrates worldwide have been estimated to hold some 400 million tcf (trillion cubic feet) of gas. Worldwide all known natural gas reserves total some 5000 tcf. That means hydrates hold 80,000 times as much gas as natural gas reserves. In fact, India is estimated to have gas hydrate reserves of around 1,894 trillion cubic metres (67,000 tcf).

In the mean time, Cairns Energy finds more oil in Rajasthan.

The Pakistani newspaper wrote about the importance of IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) Gas pipeline. It is known that Iran, Pakistan and India have agreed on a formula for setting a rate for Iranian gas, the main point of dispute. India should concentrate on buying more gas from Iran and Turkmenistan. Interestingly, the Kashmir condition did not block the negotiations.

Meanwhile, India is eyeing stakes at Sakhalin-III as a continuation of Sakhalin-I where they already have stakes. A Russian company, Gazprom, has asked India to let them join IPI project as a contractor. Vladimir Putin himself backed India for the deal.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How to Educate Students

After the allegation of Shankarmurthy against Tipu Sultan as a Kannada-hater, I tried to gather news about the state of Indian textbooks as whole. Also, later I was involved in a brief research on worldwide textbooks and the ways of teaching.

The pathfinder article tries to show how BJP Govt was trying to manipulate the History Textbooks for their political gain. It went onto the extent of denying a genetically and historically accepted fact that Aryans came to India from outside. The Historian Romila Thapar pointed out correctly -
it wants to "project a unified, continuous Indian identity where Aryanism, encapsulated in the culture of the Vedas and the upper castes, is the major cultural expression of India."
For a little humourous touch, this article says that a Rajasthani textbook compares a housewife to a donkey and concludes -
"It has to toil all day and, like her, may even have to give up food and water. In fact, the donkey is a shade better, for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents' home, you'll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master."
Such is the pathetic bias against women in Indian textbook.

The best of them all was not surprisingly a Gujarat Textbook, promoting Nazis and went onto include one includes a chapter on the "internal achievements of Nazism"!!! It rubbishes the Holocaust and projected Hitler as a true leader!!

As the international case study, the list of biased and hateful text books are almost endless. The Japanese textbooks often present downplayed or vague historical accounts on the parts where Japanese were guilty of mass-murder.

The Saudi textbooks came under scrutiny after most of the 9/11 conspirators were found to be from Saudi. This is a brief account of Saudi textbooks, having bias against non-Muslims and Jews in particular. The claim that the bias is due to Palestein conflict does not garner much support since the textbooks of Palestein does not contain anti-Semitic writings. In his blog, Mezba recounts the way of teaching as he found in Saudi.

Coming closer to home, I had already wrote about Pakistani textbooks. As SDPI wrote, the textbooks were biased on factual inaccuracies, religiousand ethnic prejudices, gender stereotypes, glorification of war and lack of direction towards peace. The most prominent lie was
After 1965 war India conspired with the Hindus of Bengal and succeeded in
spreading hate among the Bengalis about West Pakistan and finally attacked on
East Pakistan in December 71, thus causing the breakup of East and West
However, the things are changing due to moderate views of President Musharraf (or under US-pressure?) with new textbook policies are brought about.

In Europe, the issue is to forget the World Wars and unite against USA. A new Franco-German joint textbook at least tries to promote European culture and denounces USA. I don't see any reason for denouncing USA to promote their own values. The British-Argentine spat over Falklands continues to the pages of the textbooks as the latter accuses Britain over colonialising the island. An American organization also suggests changes in US-version of History books.

The ethnic spat is well demonstrated in Malaysian textbooks, which is accused of racial bias against Indians and Chinese people living in Malaysia. However, the things are changing in positive direction.

I hope that everyone knows the role of upbringing in today's world. A better upbringing can definitely lead to a better world. To shape the mind of the children, should we use these hate-materials or the books of peace - are to determine the future of the world.

Reference :
1) Return of Rightwing Textbook
2) Thou Shall Cross the Pig

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Holy dip in Dirty water

The Ardh-Kumbh is at last over. Another gathering of people took the holy dip in the dirty Ganges river. A river, if it is really a pious place and is treated as a godess, should be kept clean at least. Or otherwise, the fanatics of religion should understand that a holy dip in a life with whatever belief they had, can actually do more harm than the upgradation of the life. Is it at all possible to have a clearer 'soul' if you pollute your body? I have serious doubts.

Still, the Kumbh draws 50-70mn pilgrims and takes place once in 12 years and indeed is the largest religious gathering on the earth. Sometimes I ask myself, is it really worth having a dip with such a powerful belief? The realities might be stranger than I think.

Read a foreigner describing their experience of Kumbh-mela.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Shia-Sunni Clashes Worldwide and My Views

I am not very sure that I am a good person to have a write up on this debated topic, still I tried to come up with a non-partial view.

Ever since Saddam Hussain had been hanged, a new secreterian difference has come up in the already-split world. It is the Shia-Sunni split among Muslims. Is it a new split that started with Saddam's hanging or a long stading dispute raised it's head once more? As listed in the wiki, the relation was never a sweet one.

To know about the faiths and key differences, one can look around wiki, and would amaze that the difference is almost zero. The demographic distribution is also continuous, Shia and Sunnis are neighbours.

The outcome of the spat is visible everywhere, may it be a religious summit, a suicide attack or a riot. In Lebanon, where Muslims are half of the population, with slight Shia majority, the actual rift is between Hezbollah and anti-syrian Lebanon Govt. The Lebanon Govt is backed by the Christians and Sunnis alongwith Saudi and USA while the opposition Shias are backed by Iran and Syria. It is actually a 'trial of strength' for the outsider forces. The riots are reported even in USA. In India, the rift of personal laws started earlier, and now

For Iraq, the facts themselves talk about the rift. After Saddam's execution, the reaction in Sunni and Shia faces tells the truth that they had separate interests. The clash of interest resurfaced in repeated suicide bombings in Iraq over last few weeks.

Globally speaking, the neo cold war(verbal war) in the Middle-East is actually between Saudi and Iran, with the former backed by USA. The more unstable the Middle-East, more the threat would be on the oil-price, a concern for India. The cold-war is to attain a politically coveted powerful position in the oil-rich region. Saudi Arabia discovered the biggest oilfields in the world. But 70% of its oil lay in the Shia-majority region on the Gulf shore. This made the Saudi royal family paranoid about the possibility that these Shias, abetted by Iran (and now Iraq), would secede and take the oilfields with them.

Internationally, people are less concerned since it's less likely to affect the countries outside the Middle-East. And of course, there is a punching bag, USA, to blame for the internal rift. The situation is comparable with Indian Partition riots, which is blamed on Britishers but fully executed by the Indian people. It's shameful for the society to indulge in secreterian riots and then blame it on others despite the sects living almost together for hundreds of years.

Strategically, from US and Israel, this rift can become their biggest weapon. As it is very difficult to distinguish a Shia from a Sunni, a group of trained Spies can easily penetrate the opposite sect terror organizations. Major world powers were in search of spies after the 9/11 debacle. And, the rift is a gift of God to them.

Is there an end to this problem? I guess it's not so soon. In deeply religious Middle-East, it can only get more polarized. Would it ever be possible for a Shia in Iraq to accept Saddam as a Martyr? Or otherwise, would it ever be possible for a Sunni to displace Saddam from the position of Hero, who fought against a super-power? I guess it's not. Sometimes it requires a person or country to be more practical and less religious, I feel. The people of Middle-East missed that very point. One example you can find in Turkey, where the Shia-Sunni clash is not present, where people and politics are indeed less religious. Let's see when others can understand and can actually reconcile the two sects.

Updated :
1) A suicide bomb blast in Peshawar killed 15 people. It was meant to target a Muharram pocession although both Shias and Sunnis died at the end. Today another suicide bomber fails to reach the site and killed three in the blast.
2) Cold war in Middle-East.

New US Weapon

US Military is reported to have developed a new weapon - something that spreds heat-ray. It's named as Silent Gurdian. It's a good ploy and is expected to be used for dispersing huge mobs. Although, it's reported to be non-lethal, it's claimed to be actually less-lethal.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Undercover Mosque

Once the video of "Undercover Mosque" has come online, bloggers has started coming up with their views on that. I had a long discussion in a blog. Today, I got the update that MCB and MJAH (Organization that runs Green Lane Mosque) has lashed out against the media for it's bias against Muslims. It was expected but equally unwanted response to the debacle. They said that they were quoted out of context and both side of the view were not aired in a balanced way. But, if one goes through some of the quotes, one can easily decide whether any context can really justify them.

Another person, writing on behalf of UK Islamic mission, claims the greatness of Wahabism(!!) and says that most of UK Muslims practise belong to that sect. He even went onto claim that
"The Saudis did not need to buy British Muslim support. It was worth little and yet had this been possible, considering the trillions they contribute to the British economy, the Saudis were very well placed to buy up the British establishment itself."
I feel the person has a delusion over Saudi money, which is much less in compared to that of UK in all scales - be it defence or science.

I liked the approach that iMuslim took, clarified that the religion does not support the view expressed by the Imams in the video. He also plans to clarify some of the topics.

The required response could have been setting up a panel to investigate inside and then expel those who are already blacklisted in the video. This could have been a minimal face-saving reaction. Or otherwise, they could have made a transparent system of speeches from next time onwards.

Some of them, like Bilal Philips, tried to do a little bit damage control through a video. Even that seems not enough. Lots and lots of bloggers are pouring up their materials in the blog sites. This blogger points out the lack of apologies from the mosque authorities actually proves that they intentionally spread this kind of message. Another blogger sums up as the phobia warnings is the primary objective of C4 investigation.

Some other blogger has importantly pointed out that the section projected here are very small in number and they may not be any real threat to Britain.

For my concern, there was a blink of reference against India - to attack Indian business. May it be peacefully (boycotting) or violently (planting bombs), it's a dangerous ploy for India. The sufferers would be innumerable Indians (both Hindus and Muslims), despite the fact that they contribute very little towards the global sufferings of Muslims (nothing in individual level). I think it's a responsibility for Indians living in UK to lobby in the Govt for a crackdown aginst these hate-preachers.

1) The video - Undercover Mosque (48 minutes).
2) The response - Yasir Qadhi's response
3) The response - Abu Usamah
4) The Saudi Archive of Wahabism.

Racism Updated

In my previous post I wrote about Indian maturity in dealing with racism. It seems the confidence of Indians is really sky-high to tackle these minor issues. The tourism department of India has invited Jade Goody to have a free-stay to know more about India. The effort is laudable as well as shows a way how to deal with racist mind. It has been reported also that Jade Goody is indeed planning to visit India and already visited Indian Highcommission in London in regards to that.

The advertisement, published in The Times and The Gurdian, came up on behalf of Incredible India, the official tourism promoter on behalf of Indian Ministry of Tourism.
The advertisement read:
Being one of the world's oldest civilizations, our land is one where the ancient and the modern co-exist and a multitude of religions live in harmony. We have a modern thriving culture and offer an amazing wealth of sights and sounds, tastes and textures making our country a place like no other. ... As a beauty therapist, you may be especially interested in visiting one of the many spas where you can cleanse your stresses away, enjoy yoga in the land that invented it and experience Ayurvedic healing which promotes positive health and natural beauty.
I feel whoever accuses anybody else to racism, should take a similar effort to make things straight. That's exactly how the next century is going to be shaped !!!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Racism and UK

After the incident of racial abuse on Shilpa Shetthy by a British actress on a Reality show 'Big Brother' on Channel Four, there has been a chain reaction of events going on. The reactions, however, pointed out the maturity of Indians and Britishers to retain the pride of the respective countries. The Indian media, although attacked the person seriously, has also shown no bias against the Britishers. They have also covered the anti-racism protests held inside Britain and singled out that it's possibly not the country but the individual responsible for the debacle. The British media also did not try to cover up the concerned actress Jade Goody and accused her of racism. The political leaders, thanks to the democracy in place, condemned the event. The sponsors withdrew their support, may be due to the forsighted problems in entering Indian market. Eventually, the actress apologized.

A BBC coverage on Indian maturity to handle the event.

I would also add to the report about the maturity of British people in this regard. Although, the actress was popular in British entertainment world, they showed no mercy on her. They realized the importance of saving the reputation of their own country and behaved rationally. Rather than blaming media or the channel (which is actually partly responsible), they zoomed into the actual problem, down to the individual level, and made ger apologize. When'll India mature and behave similarly?

To some extent, Indians getting matured. I saw it in the latest Bangalore riots report. Everybody blamed politicians instead the other community for the violence. I have doubts whether Indian politicians are 'matured' enough to apologize.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Ancestors we had

Of late, I was reading about different findings and theories around Human Ancestors. I tried to summarize what I found out.

Over years human beings believed that human beings are special creation of God and got created at His will. The lack of reasoning and strong believe in divine beings forced human beings to rely on divine theories rather than looking at the nature to find out the laws. Over years, human beings have got rid of those burdens through science and started finding the natural laws. Let us visit where exactly we are in terms of knowledge of Human ancestry.

History of Findings
The first light was thrown on this topic by the famous scientist Charles Darwin. In his book named "Origin of Species", he mentioned how a species can separate it out from other through "Natural Selection" and "Evolution". However, he was not able to explain how the first life on the earth was formed. A contemporary scientist, Gregor Mendel came up with the idea of Hybrids which was later converted to study of Gene and DNA. Although Darwin's findings were widely contested by the Church those days, his theories opened floodgates to a new set of discoveries in the medical science and human genetics.

Darwin's theory - A mere theory?
There are a series of accusitions on the Darwin's theory that it was a mere 'hypothesis' and has proved nothing. Most of the accusitions came out of religionalists, who are threatened as this theory annihilates a long standing interpretation that 'God created the Man'. A lot of scientists even today accuse Darwin's theory to be having 'no evidence'.

However, there are yet to be a proof found that goes against the Darwin's theory. The tools used to evaluate the theory were mostly undiscovered at Darwin's time. More and more the human knowledge is growing, the evidences seem to be piling up in favour of it. For example, the use of RadioCarbon Dating to determine the age, use of Genetics to study inheritence, Comparative Anatomy, Geographical distribution or the Fossil records, all supported evolution. On the other hand, there are no counter-evidences of it are found yet, neither a fossil of a human in Jurassic age nor a specific bacteria which defies the laws of natural selection.

The limitation of the study of evolution is the time it takes to perform an experiment to open eyes. Due to less complexity, the evolution can be observed in the level of microbes and it takes less time. However, in bigger creatures, like a human being, it takes thousands of years to become recognizable to a naked eye.

In short, evolution and creation of species take the same position in the world of science as that of gravity. Gravity can not be proved, it can be observed till date, the same is with Evolution. We are yet to know whether gravitation works on all celestial bodies due to our limited knowledge of the Universe, same with evolution of living beings.

Mitochondrial Eve
Coming back to the human ancestors, the study of ancestors are now powered by Genetics and Molecular Biology. The inductive study on human genetics reveals an important fact. A person directly inherits the mitochondrial DNA directly in his/her maternal line. Male sperm contains only enough mitochondria to power the sperm to the surface of the egg – it does not enter the egg. The egg, however, contains mitochondria that have been passed from mother to daughter for countless generations. The only way for mitochondrial DNA to alter is by natural mutations, which occur very slowly when compared with the almost frantic gene mixing we and our parents take part in. Because the rate of mitochondrial genetic mutation is slow, the mutation difference between the two populations can then be compared, and a 'clock' can be produced, enabling the rate of mutation in mitochondria to be established. The genetic survey that produced the whole Mitochondrial Eve scenario didn't just sample Africans and Europeans – it sampled genes from people all over the planet. When mitochondrial DNA was compared, the survey discovered a startling result. Fundamental similarities in mitochondrial DNA in living humans suggested that we all contain genetic material from a single woman who was living in Africa around 200,000 years ago. The woman is called Mitochondrial Eve.

The confusion
Wilson's naming Mitochondrial Eve after Eve of the Genesis creation story has led to some misunderstandings among the general public. A common misconception is that Mitochondrial Eve was the only living human female of her time — she was not. Mitochondrial Eve is the most recent common matrilineal (female-lineage) ancestor for mtDNA of all humans. She didn't live alone – she would have lived within a community. There is no reason to suppose that she had more than one female child. But there is reason to suppose that whatever female children she had, they contained specific advantages for survival over the rest of the population.

Y-Chromosomal Adam
Similar to women, men inherit their Y-Chromosome directly from their father. In human genetics, Y-chromosomal Adam (Y-mrca) is the patrilineal human most recent common ancestor (mrca) from whom all Y chromosomes in living men are descended. Y-chromosomal Adam probably lived between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago, judging from molecular clock and genetic marker studies. While their descendants certainly became close intimates, Y-chromosomal Adam and mitochondrial Eve are separated by at least 30,000 years, or many hundred generations. Y-chromosomal Adam probably lived 65,000 years ago, and mitochondrial Eve some 150,000 years ago. The people living around the same time as these two individuals would have passed on their genes like Adam and Eve, but their Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA lines would have eventually died out.

1) It qualifies as an evidence for Single-origin hypothesis. Again, it has nothing to show that human beings started from a single couple, but to show that human beings originated in a single place through mutation.
2) A milestone in the path of Genetic Genealogy.

It opened a door only to the study of Human genetics and evolution. The religionalists are coming up with Intelligent Design theory, which claims to bridge the religion with the Science. It says that the first instance of life was created by God on the earth, after which the evolution took place. It is true that the creation of life itself has been a point of contention as scientists are yet to create a fresh life in the lab. Let us wait till we can see life to be created in front of us and observe all the phase of Human Evolution inside a lab, open in front of our eyes. I will definitely write up on origin of life very soon.

1) The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins
2) BBC article.
3) Wikipedia articles.
4) MSNBC Page on Genealogy.
5) A simple version of the story.
6) An excellent documentory on Human evolution in this site.
7) Articles on Mukto-Mona.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Singur and Industrialization of West Bengal

I came across four excellent editorials from Anandabazar Patrika those talk about industrialization of West Bengal and the clash between the Agriculture and Industry to occupy the land.

The first one points out to the inability of the govt to understand the popular opinion and to walk with people. The second one highlights the need to build popular opinion before actually taking any action. The third one talks about the compensation issue with a historical perspective. The fourth one revisits the eternal war between Agriculture and Industry.

Whatever be the logic, it seems the left govt is likely to go ahead with projects in Nandigram and Singur. That the stance till day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Democracy Revisted

After the uninterrupted journey of Indian democracy for almost last 60 years, we can see the fruits of democracy. We have better education, health and overall standard of living for all in this 50 years. But, the negatives are also visible. Let me discuss a few negatives in Indian context produced by democracy as a continuation of Manas' blog.

The first argument against democracy is widely visible - the tyranny of majorities towards minorities. The majority and minority are generally distinguished based on ethnicity, religion or language. But how should we draw the division? What is the line between majority and minority? The boundary based on ethnicity and religion are output of democracy or they were pre-existing? In fact these boundaries are not at all resultant of democracy, rather democracy has asked for opinions to each and every people, not to communities and weighed them according to the share of the population the community had. It is the failure of the people that they drawn boundaries based on their ethnical, religious or linguistic grounds.

The biggest falacy of democracy is the same as the biggest strength of it. The rule of the majority. Hence, if someone is minority, he'll try to get to the end of minority - by any means. The means used are often beyond the interest of the people. Due to the lack of knowledge, people often step into the traps and one trap leads to another. The media emerges as a champion tool on manipulating popular opinion and drawing up invisible lines between once united people. As human inability to verify all facts around him, it is now to see how long the democratic system brings good output to human society.

The Indian case is little bit complicated one. Indians are divided on many different fronts, language, caste, ethnicity and religion. A mixture of all these four parameters could not determine a fixed majority throughout the country. A clear boundary is yet to be drawn. That's the only reason democracy is still floating in India - not due to the greatness of Indian leaders.

Whom should I point out as minority in India? Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindus can claim that they are minorities on religious ground. But, are Hindus a single monolith? All the reservation battle was fought between multiple castes of Hindus. The recent ULFA massacre points to a linguistic division in Asom despite they are all Hindus. It is difficult to see any cultural similarities between a Malayali and a Bengali Muslim. Only Sikhs are a little bit exception on this, as they were rooted only a few regions in India. In India, the minority is non-existent. It is a fact to the grass-roots of India. But, the falacies of democracy has at last catching India on the wrong-foot. Internal and external sources are engaged in draw up invisible majority-minority line. As I said, a clear majority-minority distinction is non-existent in India. Hence, it came up as a linguistic line in Asom and Maharastra; religious line in UP, Gujarat and Kashmir and ethnical line in Manipur and Nagaland.

A recent case of industrialization of West Bengal also should be remembered in this context. The State of West Bengal needs industrialization. So, the popular opinion is in favour of it. Unlike many other states, West Bengal has only 1% of unused land. Hence, it requires agrarian land to be acquired. Whenever a piece of land is declared to be acquired - the opinion splits between the population within and outside the land. The popular opinion says, the inhabitants of that land should amicably shift out of that land, even with a meagre compensation. The population of the land tries to gain as much compensation as possible as their future is insecured. An invisible line is drawn and the rest is visible today.

The last strength in Democracy is that it is opinion based. If people do really understand that the dividing lines are not helping them, they'll revert to the unbiased opinion. In that sense it's self-corrective. The correctiveness of popular opinion entirely depends on literacy and education of people. Only education of people can guide India to achieve the goal. We should remember that democracy is only a process and a process needs proper implementation to ensure output. Education should emphasize on the human-bonding and that should diminish the lines. Let's hope that we implement our system properly and achieve a borderless society.

Reference :