Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Phone harassment and registering the complaint

I was at the local police station last night.

My family had received three harassing phone calls from an unknown cellular number. So when I reached home, the first thing I did was to call back the number to talk to the person who had made the calls. After making a lame excuse that 'You are not *****?', the other party launched into a tirade of abuses in the local languange. I told him that I understood the local language and would go to the police. Which resulted in another barrage of abusive language. I was enraged and set out for the nearest police station. Now, that was the easy part.

Unless you are fluent in the local language, you are at a disadvantage the moment you step into a government office and the police station was no exception. After convincing an officer to register the complaint, I had to lead the officer through the how's and when's of what had happened. After entering all of it into a form and taking the printout, I was asked to sign it. It was of course in the local language, which I am not able to read, but I could see that my address was showing the old one that I had previously moved from, a few months back. I asked the officer about that and he said that perhaps their systems were not updated. They just feed in my personal registration number and the rest of the details are retrieved from the system. Anyway, I signed it and gave it back to him and then he told me to come back in the morning at 9 AM. I was surprised and asked why he could not do anything right there and then. He had a phone right in front of him and all he had to do was contact the person over the phone and talk to him. I was made to understand that his job was just to register the complaint and the officer-in-charge of the day shift will decide what action to take.

So, this morning, I was at the police station again at 9 AM. After waiting there for about twenty minutes, I was finally able to get an officer to work on the case and the first thing he asked me was to get my family there for taking their statements, which left me speechless for a moment. It took me a few minutes to make them understand that I was the one making the complaint, not my family, so why would they want their statements? The officer got my point and finally decided to call the other party. They tried twice, but it was in vain because the other party did not respond. The officer told me that I could leave and they would contact me if they needed more input from me. I asked them to make sure that my phone number on the paperwork was correct, since it was automatically retrieved from the system, just like the wrong address. And of course , it was incorrect, because when we moved, our number was changed as well, and the system was not up to date. I provided them with the correct contact number. What I understood from the officers' banter among themselves was that the case would be kicked upstairs to the next authority in the chain, which was not very heartening.

Do I feel justified in approaching the authorities in this situation? I have already spent some valuable time and effort on it to get the wheels in motion and who knows how much more time and effort I might have to devote to it in the future. While, the guilty party has not been impacted at all so far and may perhaps never face any action. Because it is so easy to get mobile phone chips over the counter and almost impossible to track down the actual user.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fighting Terrorism

The Rand Corporation has been the "mother of all think tanks" according to some, while others revile it as a tool for shaping US policies, controlled by a clique with vested interests. Our concern here is what its research says about combating terrorism.

According to a recent report, the best way to combat and ultimately bring an end to a terrorist group is by effective policing and intelligence.

Of the 648 groups that were active at some point between 1968 and 2006, a total of 268 ended during that period. Another 136 groups splintered, and 244 remained active. As depicted in the figure, the authors found that most ended for one of two reasons: They were penetrated and eliminated by local police and intelligence agencies (40 percent), or they reached a peaceful political accommodation with their government (43 percent). Most terrorist groups that ended because of politics sought narrow policy goals. The narrower the goals, the more likely the group was to achieve them through political accommodation — and thus the more likely the government and terrorists were to reach a negotiated settlement.

How 268 Terrorist Groups Worldwide Ended, 1968–2006
How 268 Terrorist Groups Worldwide Ended, 1968-2006

In 10 percent of cases, terrorist groups ended because they achieved victory. Military force led to the end of terrorist groups in 7 percent of cases. The authors found that militaries tended to be most effective when used against terrorist groups engaged in insurgencies in which the groups were large, well armed, and well organized. But against most terrorist groups, military force was usually too blunt an instrument.

Although we know in our hearts that it is a war, what we need to focus on, is that we do not glorify it as such, because that provides some sort of legitimacy to the terrorists. We do not want to elevate them to the status of holy warriors. Instead a policy should be implemented so that the public perceives them as criminals and not warriors in a holy war.

What does this mean for counterterrorism efforts against al Qa'ida? After September 11, 2001, U.S. strategy against al Qa'ida concentrated on the use of military force. Although the United States has employed nonmilitary instruments — cutting off terrorist financing or providing foreign assistance, for example — U.S. policymakers continue to refer to the strategy as a “war on terrorism.”

But military force has not undermined al Qa'ida. As of 2008, al Qa'ida has remained a strong and competent organization. Its goal is intact: to establish a pan-Islamic caliphate in the Middle East by uniting Muslims to fight infidels and overthrow West-friendly regimes. It continues to employ terrorism and has been involved in more terrorist attacks around the world in the years since September 11, 2001, than in prior years, though engaging in no successful attacks of a comparable magnitude to the attacks on New York and Washington.

There is an urgent need to focus on developing effective continuous policing techniques, not knee-jerk reactions in the aftermath of terrorist incidents. Nipping them in the bud is a better solution than going after them with full force after an incident takes place. Because the nature of this war is such that the terrorist has the privilege of deciding the next battlefield and the state machinery is usually caught unaware. Heightened security measures, effective policing and infiltration of terrorist cells is the only way to fight them.

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Stop Clapping!!!

Barack Obama, the lead Presidential Democratic Party candidate, is
for banning all guns in America . He is considered by those who
have dealt with him as a bit more than just a little self-righteous.

At a recemt rural elementary school assembly in East Texas ,
he asked the audience for total quiet. Then in the silence, he
started to slowly clap his hands once every few seconds,
holding the audience in total silence.

Then he said into the microphone, 'Children, every time I
clap my hands together, a child in America dies from gun

Then little Richard Earl, with a proud East Texas drawl,
pierced the quiet and said:

"Well, dumb-ass, stop clapping".
(Hat Tip: Jump)

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Thank god for our Neighbors!

Kishor's comment at the GreatBong had me thinking. Here is the comment in its entirety:

There is no meaning in blaming govt or politicians. The fact is Indians do not deserve such things like independence, society, and life with pride. It is basically the lack of character and the system reflects our attitude. 99% of the Indians cheat in one or other way like at petrol bunks, builders, and even vegetable vendors. An average Indian means person without character. The only possible consequence in the the next 30 to 50 years is India will split into 8 or 9 countries, some occupied by Pakistan, some by China, and some independent countries. And that is the best thing. Degeneration is our future.

It does indeed paint a gloomy picture and shows the depth of despair that some of us are feeling. We are so much engrossed in issues of day-to-day survival, that we do not give any thought to things that really matter. Such as character-building in our schools, which have just turned into factories that churn out students who are good at scoring at exams, but who have actually learned nothing of lasting value. We just want our kids to learn skills that would help them survive the economic rat-race that most of them will face. In the process they are deprived of an education, instead, from a very young age, they are pitted against one another like rats, all trying to be the first to reach the piece of cheese at the end of the maze.

And it is not just the education system which is at fault. Parents have failed as well, because character-building is best done by providing examples. When parents cheat and steal and litter and jump queues and use nepotism and give or accept bribes and are indifferent to injustice meted out to others, what kind of message do the children get?

We do not think like a nation, we do not act like a nation. We are plagued by north-south, east-west, urban-rural, hindu-muslim divides. What has been holding us together as a nation? Is it the fact that India has been blessed with wicked neighbors, which acts as the glue that unites us as Indians? Because, we present a united front as a nation, only in the time of adversity, when faced by an external threat. If that is correct, thank god for our neighbors!

Or is it just a matter of time before India falls apart and is broken up into smaller entities to be either gobbled up by its neighbors or eternally doomed to internecine squabbling?

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

India is at war

First Jaipur, then Bangalore and now Ahmedabad. Whether we realize it or not, India is at war. This low-intensity war has been forced on it by its neighboring countries, who run training camps for young Indian Muslims on their territories as well as providing logistic and financial support to the terrorist cells working within the country.

India ranks among the world's most terrorism affected countries . Sure, we haven't had our 9/11 yet, but it is just a matter of time. The low-intesity warfare that is being carried out across the country since the nineties has bled and deprived India of vital economic and human growth.

And what is India doing about it? Not much, if we go by the results. India needs to have its own Department of Homeland Security with similar powers, if it seriously intends to combat home-grown terrorism. There is a need to retrain the demoralized police force, which, most of the time is unproductively deployed in guarding dignitaries and such other mundane duties. There is also a need to develop avenues for gathering intelligence as well as revamping forensic laboratories.

But all of those will just remain cosmetic gestures until the root problem is tackled. There is a pressing need for reforms to be carried out so as to bring young Muslims into the mainstream of Indian society. No other strategy can work as effectively as making them equal partners and stakeholders in India's progress and march towards prosperity. I sincerely hope that our politicians stop utilizing Muslims just as vote-banks and start working towards integrating them as full citizens into contemporary Indian society.

I would like to give an example here. I spent three years studying at a technical college in Agra. And during those three years, I did not come across a single Muslim student there.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

China has more internet users than any other country

According to this report China has now surpassed the U.S.A. in the number of internet users. The number of Chinese with access to internet is now more than 250 million while the US has something like 225 million internet users. In terms of penetration, we can take approximate 73% for the US and 19% for China, which means that China still has a long way to go to achieve internet parity with the US.
Compare that with the Indian internet penetration of about 5.5%. But what is even more worrying for India is that China boasts 22 times more broadband connections than India. And it is broadband which is required to really empower internet users to take full advantage of the capabilities offered, be it government services, e-commerce or media -sharing. Dial-up connections can only go so far. In today's e-society, dial-up users are at the lowest rung of the consumption ladder because their connection limits the usage they can put their internet access to. Internet infrastructure is going to be as important as physical infrastructure for any developing country and India needs to focus on this.

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The future is here now….

I read somewhere that as your age progresses, the way you perceive the passage of time changes. Time moves faster for older people, and I guess it is true in the sense that I am able to accomplish much less in the same amount of time than I used to in my youth.

That brings me to another question, if you were given a bonus couple of years, where would you want those added? At the end of your lifespan, in your childhood or in your youth? Most people would answer youth and I agree with that. The point is that for you kids, this is not the time to sit back and relax. It is the time for you to accomplish whatever you need to, so that you are prepared for the future because it is here now!!!

Gone are the days when the world changed at a leisurely pace. The impact of technology in everyday life is not subtle anymore. We are communicating much more than our parents and to a much larger audience. The technologies in the workplace are changing at such a fast pace that people in their forties have a hard time keeping up.

You kids are going to face a much hostile work environment than your parents, in the sense that your skills will constantly have to remain current to cope with the demands that a fast-changing workplace may make. And because millions of people in China and India are hungry for your jobs!!!

N.B. This was posted on my wordpress blog on Saturday, Jan 5 2008. But I had posted it on a new page and this was the only post I was not able to automatically migrate, so had to do it manually. :( This post completes the migration process and I will be posting here in the future, not on the Wordpress blog anymore.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

DoubleYou. Tee. Eff.?

This report sent shivers up my spine. Are we in the 21st century or what?

Ask Kanchan and Krishna Waghela from Bhiwandi in Mumbai. The couple are still going around the villages hoping someone would give them back their daughter who was abducted from Mumbai and brought to Dharji village of Ahmedabad district in February, before she was sold to some unknown person. They had their daughter back for a few minutes last June, before she was snatched away in front of them.

This happened to people living in a suburb of Mumbai. I as a parent, would never feel secure about the safety of my child, living in a country where this could happen. I do not have the resources to check if the report is factual and if such things actually do occur in this day and age, but it sure scares me.

I remember the movie Hey Ram where the Lalvani character narrates to the lead hero Kamal Haasan how his daughter was lost while he and his family were trying to flee the madness surrounding the partition, from Karachi. 'Bheed mein station par uska haath chchoot gaya..' and he lost her forever to the chaos of partition. Lalwani wept uncontrollably and as a father of young daughters, I wept in my heart too.

The above report also reminded me of another movie I saw 25 years back. In Ashanti, a US citizen working as a medical missionary in Africa is abducted during a raid by slavers. The color of her skin makes her indistinguishable from the tribes folk and she has to endure all sorts of humiliations.

If the above report is true, whatever progress India has achieved in any other areas becomes meaningless, because a society that can not prevent this from happening and cannot bring the perpetrators to justice, is still in the dark ages and has no right to take pride in any of its achievements.

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Pakistan warns of Nuclear Arms Race

Nothing new there. Pakistan has been engaged in a clandestine nuclear arms race with India since 1974. So this is not news. What surprised me was this:

The Nuclear Suppliers Group bans exports to nuclear weapons states like India and Pakistan that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and do not have full safeguard agreements allowing the IAEA to inspect their facilities.

But the Nuclear Suppliers Group is ready to consider a waiver for India, in part due to lobbying from Washington.

The Bush administration has signed a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel but needs approval, first from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and then the U.S. Congress.

Pakistan is vehemently opposed to the Nuclear Suppliers Group doing business with its rival and may vote against approval of the draft at the August 1 board meeting.

I was amazed by the assertion in the article that Pakistan would be voting against the Indian Nuclear Deal. I didn't know that Pakistan was a board member or even a participant in the NSG. The website of NSG does not list Pakistan as a participant country. Perhaps this is just a typo and what the reporter actually meant was that Pakistan would be 'lobbying' against the deal and not actually voting.

Edit: OK, I got it finally. Pakistan, along with India, is at present members of the IAEA Board of Governors. Perhaps that is where Pakistan intends to vote against the India-IAEA specific agreement.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Pursuit of Teen Girl Purity

Someone anonymously posted a link to the above as a comment on my 'Hypocrisy' post. And I went thru the whole article. I had never actually given serious thought to this issue, but this is so dumb f***ing stupid, I just had to devote a full post to it. Here is the link by the way.

"The girls generally range in age from college down to the tiny 4-year-old " Yeah catch 'em young, teach them the virtues of purity while they are still babies. Don't people realize that if you carry this to its logical conclusion, you will end up with covering up all your womenfolk in burkas and trying to control every aspect of their lives?

"they wrote a vow for fathers to recite, a promise "before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the areas of purity," Patriarchy, anyone? You are responsible for your 'harem'.

"We're trying to be realistic," Lane says. "I'm not ready to be like India--have arranged marriages. But there is some wisdom there, in that at least the parents are involved." I guess if you stay on this course, Lane, you will soon be ready for arranged marriages and then, extend it logically, even 'honor killings'.

"I don't really know," she says, and she's shy about talking about all this. "But it means you make a promise to your dad to be a virgin until you are married and not have a lot of boyfriends." That is a 10 year old trying to make sense of what is happening around her.

What bugs me is how the parents' define the term 'purity' when talking about their daughters or their womenfolk in general. I am against promiscuity, let me make that clear. Instill in your children the concept of personal responsibility from a young age. I am with you on that. What irritates me is having one standard for your sons and another for your daughters.

What I have realized by going thru this article is that looking down on women in contempt or with prejudice is not restricted to eastern cultures. Perhaps the desire to have control is built into the male psyche worldwide.

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