Monday 29 April 2013

Air India still in the midst of turbulence?

In the present time with new airlines flying sleek aircrafts and young crew compete in the aviation business; India with a grand old Air India is still living in the bygone Maharaja era with uncle-aunty crew. The Air India air hostesses once known as hawai-sundari are now seniors who still cling to flying duties.  Earlier it used to be said, ‘Air India me safar karo.’ And in the last many years, Indian flyers are complaining, ‘Air India me suffer karo.’ Senior retired officials admit that over the years Air India was milked by officials and staff to the maximum; and an unprofessional attitude was mainly responsible for the bad state of affairs of the national carrier. Other airlines are getting younger and fitter. However, if Air India thinks of some new measures to upgrade the carrier, the unions block the proposal saying it is not in the interest of the staff and crew. And the end result is the uncle-aunty crew competing with modern airlines run professionally, with smart young staff and crew.

Market share for international traffic to and from India in 2011-12, Air India Group is 18.3%, as per Aviation Ministry. Is the tide turning for Air India? Huge losses, a 2-month long pilot strike and grounding of Dreamliner fleet. Are things finally looking up for Air India for the first time since its merger with erstwhile Indian Airlines in 2007? Air India is beginning to experience a reversal of fortune. Air India will be EBIDTA positive this year. EBIDTA of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization is the approximate measure of a firm’s operating cash flow. Air India’s expected cash surplus in 2012-13 is Rs 25 crore and estimated cash surplus by 2013-14 is Rs 1,000 crore. The airline is also expected to turn profitable by 2018.

The government will infuse additional capital of about Rs 30,000 crore into Air India by 2020. And Rs 6,750 crore equity capital, the government will infuse into the airline in 2012-13. The government has infused Rs 3, 200 crore between 2009 and 20012.

Rise in the passenger revenue during April-Dec 2012 was Rs 680 crore, compared to the year-ago period. 70.4% Load factor during the period against 68.4% a year ago. And there has been a decline in net loss during the period which was earlier at Rs 1,110 crore.

The positive fallout is the encouraging sign of pilots who had had resigned from the airlines to take up lucrative job offers abroad are looking to join back. Basically the work ethics and the sarkari attitude of the crew and staff have to change to compete and meet the new challenges in the aviation business. The airline has 1,496 pilots on its rolls, out of which 32 are expatriates. ‘Air India pilots are a pampered lot and they will find it very claustrophobic to work in any professionally run airlines’, said a retired Air India pilot. However, while salary and perks may be better in some foreign carriers, Air India pilots will find it very difficult to adapt to the working conditions of other professionally-run carriers.

Experts attribute to the turnaround and positive trend to better working conditions at the national carrier and its recent improved performance. But the recent tie-up of Jet Airways and Etihad will affect Air India the most, but it can still meet the challenges with a professional approach and proper planning to keep its market share going. And very soon the grounded Dreamliner aircraft will start flying giving the carrier more options.

Will the maharajah rule the sky again? Possibly not, but with the increasing market share of international traffic, will keep the Indian flag flying and will serve the Indian fliers, many of whom still love to fly Air India.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Amma & Food Politics

For years food has always been a vital ingredient in South, especially Dravidian politics. Tamil Nadu has a history of mixing politics and food for many years during elections. Rice being the main food, the price of rice has played a vital role. With Jayalalitha’s Re 1-Idli scheme becoming a hit with even the middle class; has she perfected the art of food bank politics? Has this given her the confidence for the coming 2014 general elections to do well against her arch opponent DMK?

In 1967 assembly elections in the state was fought purely on rice. But the main question being - is Food Politics a political bribe to the common voters? Does it augur well for Indian democracy and national politics?

The 200 canteens sell 2.73 lakh Idlis, 62,500 plates of Sambhar rice and 34,500 plates of Curd rice everyday. Twelve women are employed in each canteen on a monthly salary of Rs 9,000 each. The total cost to the exchequer is Rs 31 crore, and income of each canteen is about Rs 2,500-4,500. The positive from this is, it has generated employment for about 2,400 women and empowered the illiterate women in remote areas.

The equivalent in Maharastra is the Zunka baker stalls. One wonders if it is as remunerative and effective politically as Amma’s effort in Tamil Nadu.

And you have Uttar Pradesh CM Akilesh Yadav’s much applauded free laptop scheme which has drained the state’s treasury. Now UP has no fund for conducting school exams. Budgetry allocation in 2012-13 for tablets and laptops is Rs 2,621 crore. May be tomorrow some shrewd politician may offer free houses, tractors or free holidays for the family. Where will this take Indian democracy? Is winning election at all costs the main motto? Where will the money come to finance these attractive schemes?

Monday 22 April 2013

River-bridge over a River

The movie ‘Bridge on river Kwai’ immortalized the Allied forces war with the Japanese during the world war, where the bridge played a vital role. You have heard about the London bridge and the Harbour bridge in New York. You may have seen many bridges over rivers with roads for vehicles and railway tracks for trains, but few may have seen a bridge over a river with waterway for barges, boats and passenger ships to sail across easily. It is practically, a river over a river. It is hard to believe even after you see it.

Yes, it is in Germany, a water bridge over a river. The engineering marvel is 918 meters long, and cost 500 million Euros with six years to build and achieve this remarkable feat.

It is a channel-bridge over the river Elbe and joins the former East and West Germany, as part of the unification project. It is located in the city of Magdeburg, near Berlin.

The bridge was designed just to withstand the weight of the water? As a ship always displaces an amount of water that weighs the same as the ship, regardless of how heavily a ship may be loaded. And that did the trick. It is the eighth wonder of the world.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Honey, no Bunny in Goa!

It’s final, Goa says no to Playboy. Goa, a popular tourist centre attracts over 24 lakh tourists annually, both foreign and domestic. It is known for its pristine environment and exotic beach life. The Playboy Club, a popular US chain of night clubs and resorts, had applied for setting up its facility in a beach shack at Candolim beach as per its business plan to open 120 clubs, bars and cafes in India by 2022.

The proposed venture faced stringent opposition from locals, led by BJP MLA Michael Lobo, who alleged that the club will promote vulgarity among the Goans, and threatened hunger strike if the proposal is allowed to operate in the state. There are many who beg to differ.

Hence Goa will not be home to the country’s first Playboy club with the state government deciding to reject a proposal for opening this facility at Candolim beach amid a controversy that it would promote vulgarism and corrupt the young generation. They allege, this would also act as a catalyst to an influx of unwanted elements in the state which is already facing some recent law and order problems with the influx of outsiders, crimes which Goa has not seen earlier; and it was known to be a very peaceful and tourist friendly state.

The Chief Minister bowing to political pressure from within ruling BJP against the US-based Playboy club which planned to open a branch in the popular tourist state. The CM Manohar Parrikar said the application would not be considered by his government on technical grounds; as shack licences are usually given to individuals and not to companies. Whatever be the case, honey, no bunny in Goa!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Foreign Policy - India needs Power, Will & Skill

Given India’s size and influence, India should have convinced the neighbouring countries to listen to its point of view and improve friendly relations in the region. However India has not been successful in making strategic inroads into other countries for various reasons. Recent incidents in Maldives and Sri Lanka are glaring examples. In contrast, American ‘cowboy’ style - of an assertive, abrasive and at times even arrogant and overpowering behavior have yielded results to suit their policies.

I am not advocating that India should replicate American style of abrasive and forceful behavior that won’t suit nor work in our region, but our foreign relations and policy should be more assertive and proactive rather than reactive. It is an accepted fact, the world respects power. India’s growth push in the 1980 and 1900s created the positive conditions for a greater role in global politics, but as all will agree, it was Pokhran II that put India on the world stage. To add to this the emergence of India as a leader in IT and growth in economy made the world notice of India for the first time. Leaders were keen to come and see the progress and development in India.

Military power and political acumen is generally a good recipe for astute diplomacy which helps in resolving key issues, fostering strategic economic relations with all neighbours. Hence military power and high economic growth backed with political skill will yield results and you are bound to be heard in international forums. For this you need a stable government which is not at the mercy of small, parochial regional parties, whose policies are based on regional, caste and other narrow considerations.

This dangerous trend has emerged in Indian politics, where due to this narrow considerations and short-term gains, the local state governments are dictating foreign policies to the central government. A case in point is, Mamta Banerjee of West Bengal creating hurdles in the Teestha waters accord with Bangladesh and, Jayalalitha and Karunanidi with the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. The state governments are playing petty politics to appease some section of their voters thereby ignoring the long term implications with a chance to other countries on inimical terms with India to step in and fish in troubled waters. Ultimately the nation suffers trying to please both of them. India’s image too takes a beating.

Rampant regionalism is dangerous it puts regional identity before national identity. India used to take pride in ‘unity in diversity.’ The compulsions of coalition politics, the centre is being held to ransom by political and economic diktats of the states. Despite their claims of being national parties with all-India presence, today it is a fact neither the Congress nor the BJP is in any position to from a central government on its own. They have to rely on support from regional parties.

Regionalism might seem constitutionally guaranteed principle of federalism. But it also has the potential to weaken the very foundations of the Indian state, if carried to the extreme. AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu passing a resolution in the state assembly for creation of a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, a move which is in open defiance of India’s foreign policy could prove embarrassing to the central government and interference in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs.

To preserve and enrich our nation and maintain traditional ties with all out neighbours, we will need a strong and stable government at the centre who can formulate skilful strategy, practical diplomacy with long term benefits in view. And for that a matured and stable central government, strong military and professional diplomat team is a must to face the new challenges in the coming years. And also make a positive impact on its immediate neighbours and other countries in the region. 

Monday 8 April 2013

Has Feni lost its kick?

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Feni bottlers and distillers have been lobbying with the state governments to classify the brew as ‘heritage liquor’ or IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor) so that it can be sold in other states with big demand and large market for Feni, that is famous as the Goan brew with the real kick. Regular drinkers say in a lighter vein, the Goan Feni can compete with Russian Vodka in terms of the kick!

Com And Hosting

Most of you must have heard about Goa’s famous booze – Feni. Did you know that the original Goan Feni is not available out the state of Goa. And what is the reason for this restriction? Lousy government policies and bureaucracy!

As per reliable sources, 60,000 bottles of Feni is bottled annually in Goa. Local experts say, it takes three days to make the Goan Feni. Now the GI certification gives only Goa the right to produce Feni. GI certification assigned to Feni in 2009 is valid for 10 years. And GI is considered as the first step towards claiming international registration.

Unfortunately as it has been labelled ‘Country liquor’ it cannot be sold in other parts of the country. Such alcohol can be on sale only within the boundaries of the state producing them. Also by virtue of the certification, only liquor made from cashew apples within Goa can be called Feni, very much like Champagne, the wine made in Champagne region of France.

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Feni bottlers and distillers have been lobbying with the state governments to classify the brew as ‘heritage liquor’ or IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor) so that it can be sold in other states with big demand and large market for Feni, that is famous as the Goan brew with the real kick. Regular drinkers say in a lighter vein, the Goan Feni can compete with Russian Vodka in terms of the kick!

‘The GI tag has absolutely not helped the marketing or sales of cashew Feni. If it is made IMFL, then may be the market will open up,’ says Gurudatta Bhakta, Secretary of the Cashew Feni distillers & bottlers association. However the President of the association, Mac Vaz differs, ‘The GI certification is to protect cashew Feni, not to promote it. The GI tag will prevent other states, such as Maharastra, Karnataka or Kerala which also produce large quantities of cashew apples, from producing and selling Feni. He feels if, the government classifies cashew Feni as ‘heritage liquor’, exporting it will become easier. 

According to the association sources, fake cashew Feni volumes are increasing to probably about 20 times the genuine stuff. Most of which is sold to unsuspecting local and foreign tourists. Besides most of the stuff sold in shacks, taverns and bars in Goa is also adulterated brew. Now the association is serious and has initiated a move to certify the genuine Goan cashew Feni. The government and present chief minister has promised to look into the matter, not only protecting it but also marketing it all over. It will also fetch the state good revenue. And one day Goan Feni might be famous world-wide as the Champagne from France or Vodka from Russia. Viva Goa!

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Army Day

In India, Army Day is celebrated on 15 January every year. On January 15, 1949, the command of the Indian army was handed over from Gen Sir Francis Butcher to Lieutenant General KM Cariappa. Army Day marks the transfer of power from the British to Independent India, an important event in Indian history. 

The Day is marked by a display of military strength at the Cariappa Parade ground in Delhi cantonment. The parade showcases various routines such as aerial stunts and bike pyramids. Bravery awards such as unit credentials and Sena medals are also presented to deserving personnel.

According to Global Firepower Estimates, India has the second largest military manpower in the world. As of 2019, total available active military manpower is 13,62,500 personnel.

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Tuesday 2 April 2013

Mary Kom – a gutsy woman

MC Mary Kom becomes the first Indian woman boxer to clinch a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, South Korea in the women's Flyweight category. She is a five times World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist. Mary Kom with 3 kids is a super mom!

Mary Kom at 31 is one of India's best known boxers, She is an inspiration for women. Kom said, 'It was my dream to motivate others.' Kom has been trying to get her training routine on track, afte a two-year break (for birth of her baby). She added, 'I never expected to win these many medals but I always had belief.'

This is the tale of an Indian woman with guts and determination, Olympic boxing bronze medallist Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom hailing from a remote village in Manipur, on how she sparred hardships in everyday life to go on and achieve glory for herself and the country. Mary Kom is not only an Olympic medalist, but a five-time successive World Boxing Champion.

Mary Kom was born on March 1, 1983, in Kangathei village (45km from state capital Impal) to mother M Saneikham Kom and father M Pontinkhup Kom. She was eldest of the four siblings. She is married to K Onler Kom with twin sons –Rechungvar and Khupneiver.

In the early days, Mary Kom assisted her mother on their small farmland and wove ‘punshi’ (shawl) and ‘punvei’ (wrap around) on the loom for their requirements. She loved to catch fish and help her father fetch logs he chopped in the woods and made charcoal, to sell in the village market to sustain the family.

Her entry into sports started with her habit of running. Complete one errand and run to the next. People told her that she was cut out to be a sprinter like PT Usha. Running brought her prizes in school. As the need to study in school that offered classes higher than eighth class, took her to Imphal. Here, Mary realized Manipuri athletes were doing well everywhere. And she thought if she was good enough, she would get a decent job if not medals. Job meant financial security in a state where jobs are few. Athletics coach Kosana Meitei advised her to switch to boxing when women’s boxing was introduced in 1999 Imphal National games. It did not take long for her to make an impression and win her first medal, her first gold medal in state boxing championship.

She received her first international women’s boxing championship gold at Pecs, Hungary in 2002. She has made history – as the only Indian to qualify for the first Olympic women’s boxing event and won Bronze medal in 2012 Summer Olympics in London, UK. She often had to prove a point – first when people said boxing was not for girls, then when they said she could not win after marriage, and later when they said her career was finished after giving birth to twins, she replied by winning her fourth world title.

Mary feels proud she won the medal for the country and specially when her community elders say she has put her minority tribe – the Koms, who number around 15,000 – on the world map. She will be 33 when Rio de Janeiro (2016 Olympics) happens. And she has great hopes.

'Mary kaun to Mary Kom' -  has been a tough journey of hardship, sacrifice and sheer determination; a lesson for others who wish to emulate her and bring glory to oneself and the country.

A film based on Mary Kom's life will be releasing soon. Popular Bollywood actress Priyaka Chopra is essaying her role. She has done justice to the biopic of Mary Kom. Mary Kom and Priyanka Chopra became good friends before and during the shooting of the biopic. Mary Kom sent Priyanka a dress from Manipur, which she wore in the film. Priyanka was trained by Mary Kom's coach. The film shows Mary Kom's life, struggles, success and glory. And how a poor girl from remote Manipur came on the national and international scene through sheer determination and hardwork. It sure will motivate others to do the same and bring glory to themselves and the country.

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India-China border in North India

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