Fun has gone out of Train Journey

In my childhood day,  I used to like train journies. I was fascinated by engines. Earlier there used to be steam locomotives of two different models. One with tapering front end with headlight at the centre. My aunt told me once, this engine was called Canadian engine. I never asked why, but I was attached to this model. With a deep booming whistle, I felt, the engine had a personality of its own. Second engine was called Chittaranjan engine. This engine was manufactured in Chittaranjan locomotive factory in West Bengal. I did not like this model with headlight on top of the body of engine, like hood of a snake. Then came a third kind. The diesel locomotive. Madras mail, travelling from Howrah to Madras and back, was pulled by this engine. I saw one in Balasore. Though sleek compared to a steam engine, I never did like diesel engine. I felt it was too impersonal and lacked character.

I would travel at least three times a year from Kanpur to Howrah and back. Those days our favourite train was Toofan express. It was not the best train or the fastest train. Those in a rush could avail  Howrah – Delhi – Kalka mail or Deluxe express, nowadays called Poorva express. Rajdhani express had just been introduced into service. But most people from our social strata felt Rajdhani express was for the rich and powerful and was beyond our reach. A bogey would be attached to Toofan express, as it came from Delhi, at the Kanpur station.  Most people like me who were travelling from Kanpur would avail a booking in this bogey.

Unlike the name suggested, Toofan express hardly moved like Toofan. It would take close to twenty four hours to travel from Kanpur to Howrah. Most often it used to be late, much to the annoyance of people that would come to pick me up at the Howrah station. Those days there was no internet, no SMS, basically no way to tell if train is coming on time or not. There was rudimentary landline phone service, which no one bothered to pick up at any government office, including railway stations. Families, of our socio-economic strata, usually did not own a telephone set at home. One had to be physically present at the station to know the status. Except when there was an accident, people would hear it on radio and much later see it on TV, those who had access to a set. For me, I did not care if train ran late. From my perspective if the train ran late, my vacation would be extended that bit longer. 

Most of us used to travel in a three tier compartment. These compartments were not air-conditioned. Not that I ever felt the need. All I cared was to have a window seat. So that I could see the engine chugging along at bends from my compartment window. I would crane my neck and strain my eyes to watch the engine whistling all the way. Engine smoke would carry coal dust. By the time I reached Howrah station my face would turn blackish. 

Engine would be changed at Mughalserai and at Asansol. I also remember between Jhajha and Shimultala, in present day Jharkhand, Toofan expressed would be pushed by a second engine from behind. I would pray to god please let our engine/s be a Canadian engine. I would make it a point, as I got out of the train and moved towards the exit at Howrah station, to see which engine was pulling us.  If I saw a Chittaranjan loco was pulling our train, I would feel really sad and humiliated. How is Toofan express different from an ordinary passenger train, if it is being pulled by a Chittaranjan engine?

These days life has changed. I do not travel by train as much. Whenever I do, I travel by A/C two tier or three tier. Toofan express still runs and runs late often. Not many people I know travel by Toofan express. Most people do not even consider travelling by  Delhi Kalka mail and Poorva express.   Most of us prefer Rajdhani and Duronto express. Reduced travel time and improved convenience have become major determining factors.   Steam engines have been replaced by  diesel and electric locos. There is no way of watching the engine from compartment because windows are sealed. There is hardly any scope for face getting blackened by coal soot. Tea vendor or snack  vendor cannot be accessed sitting inside compartment.   Trains do get late even today. But that is more of inconvenience and less a matter of fun. Fun actually has gone out of train travel. 

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Animal Rights and Wrong : There are Two Sides to a Story

India is caught in the vortex of cow politics. It started with terrible lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in his home, which was followed later by mob lynching of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer. In between and beyond, there had been several instances of mob lynching and violence against cattle traders, transporters and beef / meat sellers. A state governments have closed down illegal slaughter houses. Many citizens have protested acts of vigilantism, slack and biased law enforcement, high handed behaviour of government/s and administration. Protests erupted against perceived intolerance and high handed behavour of state supported vigilante groups against citizens belonging to minority community.  Media attention drawn by such actions has brought embarassment to administrators.

In the middle of all these brouhaha, people trying to prevent cows from being slaughtered have tried to point out that cattle traders are not as innocent as being projected. They also resort to violence. It is claimed such a violence is never highlighted by media. Recently at least three such incidents came into light. One BSF officer when confronted cattle smugglers in India Bangladesh border in Tripura, was attacked. Injured officer lost his life a few days later. In another instance, an animal rights activist was attacked in Bangalore when she reported illegal cow slaughter in the city. In the same city,  a team of court commissioners, lawyers, police and members of cow protection NGO was heckled, chased and attacked when they went to investigate an illegal slaughterhouse.

As an average law abiding ordinary citizen, I strongly disagree with anyone trying to unilaterally enforce their point of view on my lifestyle. Let us talk about cow vigilante groups and animal welfare groups and their impact on our lives:

  • Members of cow vigilante groups hold cow in high esteem because of their religious belief. As a result, these people discourage, often violently, slaughter of cows. It is believed that action of cow vigilante groups have not only interfered with food habits of people, many people associated with leather and meat export industries have lost their livelihood. Loss to economy has been considerable.
  • Animal welfare groups look after interest of all animals. Members of these groups had made biology research very difficult. Functioning of organisations undertaking drug discovery research and contract biology research were severely affected due to interference by animal rights group. Even today, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a permission to use dogs and monkey for pharmaceutical research. In an industry where time and cost plays a very important role, animal rights groups have made processes very unattractive.
  • It appears that animal rights organisations are very vocal against targets that are concerned about their public image, organisations that play by the rule, and groups that do not resort to violence. Apart from pharmaceutical companies, government agencies that have tried to control population of nilgai, wild boar and wild monkey. Jalikattu, an annual bull taming sport in rural Tamil Nadu has come under  protective gaze of animal rights group. PETA has approached supreme court of India to stop Jalikattu.
  • Yet, the same animal rights groups like PETA look otherway when it comes to animal slaughter for food or during religious festivals like Idul Fitar. Anyone who has seen how chickens are coupled up in a small cage, may understand what I am saying. I have never been to an abbatoir, but I have heard horror stories about them. Yet thee groups were silent about mass sacrifice of animals during religious festivals like idul fitar.

It is not difficult to understand the importance of high quality animals for food as well as for experimental work. A diseased animal may be harmful as a food as well as may give erroneous result if used in experiment. From this angle. there is no dispute that interference of animal rights group has streamlined process of breeding, selling. procurement and use of experimental animals. These groups have force laboratories interested to do animal research, to create good quality experimental animal facility. Cost of research has gone up, but quality of research data has probably improved. But permission ot undertake studies on dogs and monkeys remain very difficult.

There was criticism when similar principles as pharmaceutical research towards breeding and procurement of animals were applied towards streamlining slaughter of animals for food. Like in pharmaceutical research, cost of doing business of animal slaughter went up. Many people went out of business. Chief minister of UP faced flak for being anti-minority.  While animal rights group remained quiet on the issue.  Now that an animal right activist has faced ire of people who make a living slaughtering animals, may be things will be different.

We cannot but not miss the inherent contradictions. Those who support Jalikattu, oppose cattle sacrifice. On the other hand, those who oppose cruelty to animals, keep quiet when animals are slaughtered en masse during religious festivities. If legalisation of illegal abattoirs lead to job loss, so does streamlining animal use in pharmaceutical research. Lynching of a cattle farmer is abhorrent, so is attack on animal activists and law enforcement agencies who inspect illegal slaughterhouses.

We all need clear transparent enforceable rule of law not vigilante groups enforcing their own ideas of right and wrong. Please outrage against loss of life and liberty on both sides of the divide. Then and then alone we shall look at issues in a dispassionate manner.

References :

What is ‘Not in My Name’ all about? – The Hindu

BSF officer attacked by cattle smugglers dies | Business Standard News

Mob attacks animal rights activists, two constables trying to rescue …

200 Nilgai Shot. Required, Says One Minister. Unacceptable, Says …

 

Aarushi Talwar Murder Case , Many Questions Remain Unanswered

 

 Aarushi Talwar, a fourteen year old girl, was found murdered in her bedroom in NOIDA, a suburb of Delhi. Hemraj, the family helping hand, was also found murdered and his body concealed on terrace. The apartment where Aarushi lived with her parents had three rooms. Aarushi had one room to herself. Parents of Arushi occupied the room adjacent to Arushi’s. There was a servants quarter in the apartment where Hemraj lived.

 

The case was difficult because first it is believed that during initial investigation, crime scene was not secured. As a result a lot of evidence was destroyed. DIG of NOIDA police, further complicated the matter by making public pronunciation about character of Arushi and her parents. Aarushi’s  father was arrested, however, he was released. The case was handed over to CBI. First team of CBI had one line of thinking. However, they did not make much headway.

The second team of CBI was constituted and they pursued a different line of investigation. Finally, CBI submitted to court that they cannot solve the case because they do not have enough evidence. CBI wanted to close the case. However, Talwar family wanted CBI to continue investigation and find the killers. Talwar’s all along believed someone from outside the house had killed Aarushi and Hemraj.  Judge also did not accept CBI’s closure report and wanted CBI to continue. So CBI filed a report where they implicated Aarushi’s parents as the potential killer.

The verdict of the case came out in the week of 25th Nov, 2013. The CBI court pronounced Dr. Rajesh Talwar and Dr. Nupur Talwar guilty of murdering their daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj. There were a lot of criticism of the judgement. Many thought it was a travesty of justice. Higher courts, many experts proclaimed, will tear the judgement apart and acquit Talwars. Talwar family vowed to appeal to higher court. On 12th Oct, 2017, Allahabad High Court, gave Dr. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar benefit of doubt in the case and ordered their release.

It is good for Dr. Rajesh and Dr. Nupur Talwar that the judge in high court saw their point of view. There are still many questions that remain unanswered:

1.If there were four people in the apartment, why only two people were killed.

2. Dr. Talwar had claimed he had scolded one of the house helps a few days before the incident. This person may have had motive to commit the crime. Even if we accept this theory, why would this person kill Aarushi and spare Dr. Talwar? His enmity was with Dr. Talwar and not his daughter!

3. Two people got brutally killed, yet two others not only stayed unharmed but they slept blissfully! This is either plain concoction or there was no motherly instinct. Any normal person wakes up, if they subconsciously suspect someone entered their property or something wrong with his / her children.

4. If an outsider actually killed Aarushi and Hemraj, why would they drag Hemraj’s body to terrace? If we accept Hemraj was killed on the terrace, why would the killers care to lock the door?

5. One fully grown adult was killed, there was no noise and no one knew in a 3 bedroom apartment!

6. Dr Talwar repeatedly mentioned about a glass where there may be finger prints of killers. This glass, according to Dr. Talwar, was used by killers to drink whisky in Talwar’s dining room. Why would a killer/s first kill two people, then decide to drink in the place where they have a high possibility of getting caught? All the while the alleged killers enjoyed their drink, Talwars happily slept through! Is this possible?

7. There was no evidence of forced entry. Even it was, Talwar’s never knew as discussed above. In the morning after, when the maid came in the door outside was locked from inside.

The above are some of the mysteries that I could not understand. I do not think any one else other than Talwar’s could have killed the girl and servant, evidence for which investigating agencies could not furnish. If parents did not do it, and if point number 6 we accept, then someone known to Talwar’s had done it. That is why Talwar’s kept repeating killer was out there somewhere. Could it be then paid assassin/s? No one knows. May be Talwars have trained their mind to forget the incidence and they continue to believe that someone else other than them had killer their daughter. Judge saw through the charade, applied his mind and gave a verdict. We must respect it now.

 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Circumstances-that-point-toguilt/articleshow/26453542.cmshttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Circumstances-that-point-to-guilt/articleshow/26453542.cms

Aarushi murder case verdict leaves many questions unanswered, say legal eagles toi.in/Pd1mUZ/a24gk via @TOIDelhi #AarushiVerdict

 

Tale of Corruption: Fact or Fiction

The present government at the centre came to power with a promise that there will be no compromise against corruption. As a result, it became a matter of great discomfort when an article appeared in a web portal, The Wire.in, suggesting son of party president had benefitted after BJP government came to power at the centre in 2014.

Among several points raised by the article, the following are the key :

  • In 2013 , the company Temple Enterprise, recorded a loss of Rs 6,230;
  • In 2014, the company reported a loss of  Rs 1,724;
  • In 2015, company showed a profit of Rs 18,728 on revenues of Rs 50,000;
  • In 2016, the firm’s revenues jumped to over Rs 80.5 crore, a growth of 16 lakh percent;
  • Reserves and surplus turned negative to Rs 80.2 lakh from Rs 19 lakh the previous year;
  • Trade payables were Rs 2.65 crore, up from Rs 5,618 the previous year;
  • Short-term loans and advances were Rs 4.14 crore, up from Rs 10,000 the year before;
  • Similarities were drawn between the present case and another case involving son in law, Mr. Robert Vadra, of president of congress party;

As expected, opposition parties smelled blood. More so, keeping in mind upcoming Gujarat state assembly election. It was demanded that BJP president step down from his position. Prime Minister must explain and initiate an enquiry. It is expected that upcoming winter session of parliament will very likely be occupied with this issue.

Whether government will initiate an enquiry or not, it is for government to decide. The article appears to be erroneous and/or deliberately misleading on many facts related to financial health of the company in 2015 -16. A closer reading of the article indicates that while

  • revenue (total sale) of the company increased significantly in 2015 – 16;
  • profit (sale – expenses incurred) did not increase. In fact;
  • company reported a loss of 1.7 crore in the financial year 2015 – 16;
  • company owed money to its creditors;
  • company was closed an down.

The author had also tried to draw a parallel between the present case with that of land acquisition case of Mr. Robert Vadra. Alleged, key highlights of the case included the following:

  •  Haryana government had made an alteration to change of land use law, such that Skylight Hospitality of Mr. Vadra could acquired an agricultural land;
  • In a public sector bank, Mr. Vadra’s company had an account balance of 1 lac rupees. Yet, it could secure an overdraft of 7 crore. This amount was issued in the form of a cheque to pay land owner;
  • Actual fund was transferred to land owner, only when land developer paid the amount to Skylight Hospitality. Money transfer was contingent upon alteration in,  change land use rule, courtesy Haryana government;
  • Skylight Hospitality sold the land to DLF for 58 crore;
  • An official of Haryana government, Mr. Ashok Khemka, had claimed illegality in the   transaction and cancelled change of land ownership in the name of Skylight Hospitality.

In the present case, till this time, there is no alleged government complicity, there is no complainant, no involvement of any public sector bank. According to information in public domain, loan was obtained from a Non Banking Financial Company. Normally,  such organisations charge high interest rate. Loan was taken by mortgaging personal property. Loan was repaid back.

From the overall reading it appears that the author has misrepresented facts, either out of ignorance (unlikely) or to create an innuendo of possible corruption. In view of impending sate assembly election and alacrity with which opposition jumped on the fray, such a possibility does not appear to be unfounded.  It is only fair that son of BJP president has taken the matter to court. Many people have argued that such an action is an attempt to muzzle free speech. The Wire.in has refused to be bowed down in front of bullying tactics by government. It must be remembered that few years earlier, Mr. M. K. Venu, one of the editors of the web portal, himself had adopted similar tactics and had sued a magazine. So what is sauce for gander, must be good for goose.

 

1. The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah – The Wire

2. After OpIndia expose, The Wire selectively alters its story, gets further …

3. All you need to know about the alleged scam behind Robert Vadra’s ..

4. Outlook apologises to MK Venu for Radia tapes cover image – The Hindu

Diwali Fire Cracker Ban is Necessary

Supreme Court has banned sale of fire crackers in Delhi before this year’s Diwali. The decision will be used to monitor the effect of ban on air quality post Diwali. The decision is a tough one. On one side there is tradition of bursting crackers. I have seen it happening for last five decades. The ban may make many people that make crackers jobless. Many shopkeepers who have purchased fire crackers will lose money.

At the same time there is no doubt at this time of the year direction of air tends to change. Air is heavy due to chill in atmosphere. Wind does not blow strongly enough to wash away the smog. Smoke from burnt crackers tend to hang around close to ground. Smoke from burnt crackers hang over the city. One cannot see few feet ahead long after mid night. In addition to damaging human health, cracker burning is also cruel to animals. Many animals with sensitive ear drums feel pain due to loud noise. Many animals not used to loud noise become startled and afraid. 

Many people who are susceptible to airway disease, on Diwali night and aftermath of Diwali night, their health problems aggravate. It is true that air pollution is a chronic issue. One must tackle all problems simultaneously and in a systematic manner to address the issue of air pollution. But on and around Diwali there is accumulation of concentrated pollutants in different localities. At least this issue can be controlled with minimal colateral damage.

Many say this decision of supreme court is interference with tradition. I think traditions change with time depending upon societal needs. Open defecation is also a tradition given since how long this act is being practiced. Government is trying to alter behavioral pattern on open defecation. The same is true for cracker burning.  I think it is a good decision.

Indian Economy : A Few Facts

Recently, noted economists and former finance ministers, namely Mr. Jaswant Sinha, Mr. Arun Shourie, Mr. P Chidambaram and Dr. Subramaniam Swamy have attacked finance minister and prime minister for mismanaging economy. Some has blamed demonetisation for the slowing of economy. Others have suggested poor implementation of recently introduced Goods and Services Tax along with demonetisation to be responsible for low GDP figures. Apart from poor GDP number, critics have pointed out high unemployment, contraction of manufacturing sector, distress in agriculture sector, disruption of informal business opportunities all may be linked to poor GDP growth or contributed to it. Add to this distress high price of petroleum products also came under criticism. Though several others including prime minister of India have indicated that because of structural change in Indian economy there is a temporary slowdown, which will very likely recover soon.

I do not pretend to be an economist. I decided to study to get a better understanding of economic issues. In the best of times economy of India is as complex a subject as the country itself. Many people with great erudition have devoted their life in understanding and managing Indian economy. My understanding of the subject is rudimentary. Like every average human being, I understand than one should spend only as much as he / she earns. Otherwise, one may have to borrow and one may get into a debt trap if he / she cannot service his interest and payback his loan on time.

I started to read on the net about the state of Indian economy. I learnt that like an individual, government also borrows money and has to payback loan amount with interest. Fiscal deficit is a term that reflects difference between government earning and government spending.

Fiscal Deficit = (Government Spending – Government Earning)

Most governments borrow money for social spending, for infrastructure development and for many other reasons in national interest. Government issues a guarantee to borrower that it will return the money, by issuing government bond. Debt servicing is a term that includes the amount a government has to pay as interest plus the capital amount upon maturity of loan amount.

Debt servicing =( Interest on borrowed capital) + (return of borrowed capital at maturity)

Ratio of Debt servicing to Fiscal deficit was 0.7 in 2009 -10. It rose to 1.28 in 2014 -15. This ratio means in 2009, government was using 70% of borrowed capital in debt servicing. In 2014 -15, government was borrowing money to payback previously borrowed money and accruing debt. This is called a Ponzi scheme.

Financial Year 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Debt service : Fiscal Deficit

0.7

1.02 0.75 0.87 1.04

1.28

Vivek Kaul

In the second half of UPAII government, government was losing revenue due to scams, at the same time  government had to fulfil its social commitments, for example MGNREGA. So government borrowed money to fulfil her commitment and more money to pay interest and maturity amount for borrowed money. A key outcome of such a scenario is government is left with little money for spending on social schemes and government has to raise tax to generate more revenue.

Financial Year 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Inflation 3.8 5.6 6.5 5.5 9.7 14.9 9.5 6.5 11.1 9.1 5.6 6.3 2.2 3.4
GDP 6.2 8.4 9.2 9 7.4 7.4 10.4 7.2 6.5 3.2 7.2 8 7.1 5.7
Prosperity

Influx of money leads to inflation which touched close to 10%. While a lot has been said about slowing GDP growth in second quarter of 2017, a relatively less time is devoted on  inflation data. It has been suggested that for people to prosper, atleast 1.5% difference should exist between GDP figure and inflation. As shown in table above, though growth was high between 2008 to 2012 prosperity declined due to high inflation.  By contrast, despite demonitisation, we do not see an outburst of public distress may be due to low inflation and average GDP growth. However, situation may change if GDP growth declines further and inflation rises.

It is generally believed that economy takes a long time to show real time change. So one government may pay for sins of previous government. At the same time, economic sagacity of one government may be beneficial to popularity of next government. Policies of previous government possibly has forced the current government to find avenues to generate more revenue. Demonetisation, among many things it may or may not do, will bring more people under tax net. In a nation where only 2% citizens pay tax, this may be an important step to get more tax revenue. Similarly, Goods and Sevices Tax will likely force business people to declare more income and pay higher tax. Higher price of petroleum products is very likely related to an effort to generate more revenue.

We cannot ignore what people like Mr. Jaswant Sinha and Mr. Chidambaram has said on economy. They have based their arguments on existing facts. However, if is doubtful if in a politically charged environment, if these people have considered and / or revealed all facts.