The Worm sees nuke salesmen crawling all over India!

A free-wheeling look at current events without an editor to hinder me!

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Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Friday, November 10, 2006

American nuke sellers make beeline for India

America’s nuclear suppliers are embarking on a love affair with India!

Reminds me of the days shortly after Union Carbide’s plant at Bhopal spew tonnes of poisonous gas on the city killing tens of thousands. Carpetbaggers from America descended in hordes seeking power of attorney from the victims in an American court in return for a percentage of the compensation.

The nuclear suppliers descending on Indian soils are somewhat like the carpetbaggers of the 1980s. There are huge profits to be made. India is short of power so anyone stringing up a line from a power plant to the electricity grid can sell all the power he makes if the Indian government ushers in a laissez faire regime.

So the big American companies who have been on the retreat in a saturated home market see a virgin opportunity in India. About 200 of them led by the biggies like General Electric, Westinghouse who build the big white domes in which the atom is split will be here to suss out Prime Minister and various Chief Ministers. Other major defense contractors from the US including Boeing and Lockheed-Martin will also be represented as they try to milk the goodwill overflow.

The public sector Nuclear Power Corporation is pushing to keep nuclear power generation with itself. With foreign technology and experts, NPC’s new plants will be up and running in double quick time. But the private biggies are unlikely to give up without a fight. The Tatas will surely vie for this business as will Anil Ambani’s Reliance Energy.

Even as the Indo-US nuclear deal was being debated in America, the Indian government quietly went about acquiring plots of land across the country’s vast coastline to set up nuclear power plants. As per NPC’s grand vision, clusters of nuclear power plants will spring up along the coast thereby lighting up the country’s interiors.

So India will be the new El Dorado for the American nuclear industry. The industry promises to provide nearly 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in the US in a bid to soften opposition among American lawmakers. President George Bush is pushing the deal in the US Senate before the newly-elected Democrats take over.

India is keeping its fingers crossed and will play hardball if the US attempts to extract more concessions on the nuclear weapons front.

Top officials in the Bush administration including the President himself have had close links with the nuclear industry, so India is waiting for the nuclear deal to be signed sealed and delivered as a nice Christmas present. From the New Year the Americans will build the nuclear plants and worry about finding the fuel since their profits depend on the facilities generating power.

India’s own stock of uranium will be sufficient for making nuclear weapons. The machines to make them can be fabricated at home. And the brains to do all this will be trained at the American nuclear generators coming up in India. If every thing goes according to plan, that is.

The writer is contactable on journoshiv(at)gmail.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will jihadi terrorists strike Goa this year?

It is a question that has been asked ever since jihadi terrorists set off bombs at the tourist resort town of Bali in Indonesia four years ago. As television images of hundreds of European and American tourists left dead and injured in the terror bombings streamed in, fears of Goa coming under the terrorists scanner came to the fore.

Though the past few years have been peaceful and the number of foreign tourists coming to Goa likely to cross 400,000 the authorities are keeping their fingers crossed. The detention and questioning of several Muslim suspects from the troubled Indian state of Kashmir only added to the general insecurity.

This year though, the Indian government has openly expressed fears of terrorists targeting tourists from Goa and the local police have been asked to stay on alert especially during the Christmas-New Year period when tourist arrivals peak.

Last week, the top police official of Goa was summoned for a briefing by the Federal Interior Ministry where intelligence reports about tourists being targeted were shared with him.


The Indian government is particularly worried about the security of tourists from
Israel. Every year thousands of young Israelis on a gap year after serving in the national army arrive in Goa to chill out at the rave parties. Remote villages like Morjem in North Goa have all night raves with thousands of revellers getting high on ecstasy and other psychotropic substances.

Considering that many of the Israelis may have served in the troubled Palestine region, there are fears that they may be targeted by the jehadi forces. Mossad operatives land up frequently in Goa to keep an eye on the Israeli youth. The Jerusalem Post routine covers the excesses of the visitors from Goa to Manali. But except for the occasional man or woman ODing on some forbidden substance or drowning off the beach, little untoward incident has happened to the Israelis in general.


But will this year be different? Both the local and central governments hope its is not. Popular hangouts in North Goa like the discos at Anjuna, Baga, Calangute and Candolim where European tourists outnumber the local population will now be under the watchlist of state and central agencies. The Wednesday night flea market at Anjuna and the popular Titos pub at Baga may well have several snoops looking around for the black RDX instead of the white cocaine.



The usual suspects like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have been put on the watchlist. The large number of Kashmiris who flock to Goa during the
tourist season to sell carpets to foreigners may face a little more harassment this year. And local residents living away from the coast who usually keep away from tourists will pray that yet another season passes off peacefully.











Saturday, October 28, 2006

Kids are collateral damage in the battle of the sexes

While India's new Domestic Violence Act claims to empower women suffering from abuse by the men in the household it has little to offer young children who stand to become unwitting victims as women in troubled relationships take recourse to the law.

Under the new law which came into force earlier this week, women including wives, live-in partners, daughters, mothers, mothers-in-law, etc would be protected against abusive male members of the household. Those accused of abusive behaviour may be fined Rs 20,000 and may be sentenced to a year's rigorous imprisonment.

How the law is implemented depends entirely on the police officials investigating the case. A kind-hearted police officer may push a feuding couple into arriving at a settlement so that their family life is not ruptured. But more often than not corrupt or overworked police officers may act in a high-handed manner permanently destroying a relationship.

The very first case under the Domestic Violence Act has resulted in a man from Chennai getting arrested. His wife is in hospital nursing severe injuries. Media reports on the case speak nothing of the children assuming at least one is part of the household. Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chaudhary who gloated that the law was a 'Diwali Gift' for millions of women too had nothing to say about the fate of children who would end up as collateral damage.

Such a law will not really work if the state is not able to provide for the welfare of children in trouble relationship. Instances where even women set afire by their in-laws refrain from naming their husbands for fear of jeopardising their children's safety only indicate that many genuine victims of domestic violence will continue to suffer in silence. It may safely be assumed that many of the cases registered under the Act may be those done suo motu by the investigating officers.

Incidentally, the law as it stands at present does not take into account men who are victims of abusive women. After all, if women can go out, earn a salary and run the rat race just like men they can as well end up becoming abusive like their opposite sex as well. This gender disparity in the law though will need to be addressed by judicial intervention.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Guess who will be the stars at the Mumbai Madame Tussaud's?

So Madame Tussaud's will be coming to Mumbai! Can think of half-a-dozen Bombaywallahs embodying the spirit of the metropolis who deserve to be recreated in wax.

Bal Thackeray. He surely did make a big impact in the life of the average Bombayite. From the 1960s at least till the 1990s, the man dominated the city's consciousness. The high point of his career was the pogrom against the Muslims in 1992-93. If Bombay's denizens did not dig trenches around their houses and install machine gun nests, it was not for want of Bal T's trying.

Amitabh Bachchan.
Every time the man faces a setback, the Big B returns larger than before. Much like the city itself.

Laxman's Common Man. Price rises, declining quality of life, the rough and tumble of existence in Bombay..... He must have gotten skinnier after his creator's illness, but nothing gets as much as a word out of the man.

Mrs Common Man. For doing all the talking for the two of them.

Sachin Tendulkar. You don't need no education to succeed. Just talent, sheer grit and a razor sharp brain to spot the big (money-making) opportunities.

Dhirubhai Ambani
. For teaching the average Mumbaikar to Think Rich. Come what may!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mumbai journos raise toast to Bapu on Gandhi Jayanti!

Year after year while bartenders across Mumbai take a break on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, tipplers with contacts in the media hit the telephones so as to be treated for some inexpensive booze at the Mumbai Press Club.

On this and other days when sale of liquor is prohibited across the country's financial capital, the usually sleepy Press Club come alive with every table occupied by members and their guests. Usually, the guests outnumber the members since there is no restriction on the number of guests a member can bring in.

The party gets going by around 10 pm and the place usually begins to rock as the witching hour approaches. That's when the journalists on the night shift at The Times of India next door come in after work. Though under the rules the bar should be shut by then waiters discreetly slip a drink or two to the regulars.

The decibel level is up a few notches even though the music system has been turned off a long while ago. Closing time is late. Its past 1 AM when the Press Club begins to shut down and the last of the stragglers catch a cab home.

Thanks to the power of the media and specifically journalists from The Times of India who form the biggest contingent at the Mumbai Press Club, no cop would ever dare to venture inside to enforce the rules. So journalists can drink day after day for the rest of their lives without even holding a liquor permit. The handful of journalists who own liquor permits have hundreds of bottles totted up against their names.

After one party at the Press Club, I saw the staff credit a whopping 45 bottles of Signature Whisky against a colleague's permit number on that just one night!

Yes, anything is possible except the impossible. If TADA accused Sanjay Dutt can successfully peddle Gandhigiri on screen why cannot journos say cheers to the Old Monk on his birthday!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Will the dragon slay St George?

Poor George Fernandes! Just when his friends in Bihar led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar looked at his ailing frame last year and wrote his obituary, ol' George bounced back. The glow in his face returned as did the spring in his step. And as he did for the past 30 years the khadi-clad polyglot rolled up his sleeves to stitch together another coalition in a bid to stay relevant in politics.

Okay, it was time to say goodbye to Bihar. The past three decades had been one long journey through the badlands of the blighted state which George made his home after having frittered away his base in Bombay long ago in the 1970s. The past three decades had seen some caste chieftain or the other open his doors for George to hunker down. Nitish was the last of his hosts in Bihar and suddenly like the Catholic missionary his parents intended him to be, George saw a sign - from Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.

The UP phase would have been another of George's pauses between political wheeling-dealing at the Centre but for Sonia Gandhi's deep antipathy to the Yadav Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza Amar Singh. You can't sup with the two and live, decrees Mama Mia! Amitabh Bachchan discovered this the hard way when he was forced out of the royal court. Anil Ambani is busy completing his penance for having sinned. The RBI's watchdogs are still baying for `Saharashri' Subroto Roy's blood.

So George's feet must be fed to the fire for stepping across the Laxman Rekha. And there has been plenty of ammo to arm his detractors. George's track record as India's Defense Minister was not exactly glorious. The Kargil fiasco happened under his watch. The coffingate scandal could be traced to his own office. His closest associate Jaya Jaitley was allegedly caught taking money in a sting operation by Tehelka. George was accused of overruling his army officers to permit gun-runners have a free run on the Indo-Burma border.

Were it not for his role as Prime Minister Vajpayee's main trouble shooter in keeping the NDA government afloat, George Fernandes would have been sacked and tried for treason long ago.

Now this cat's nine lives seem to have run out. The CBI under the Sonia Gandhi dispensation seems to have done its homework before filing the FIR against George for allegedly taking kickbacks in the purchase of Barak missiles from Israel.

Documents signed by President Kalam as head of the DRDO opposing the purchase have already been released to pro-Congress media outlets. Naval officers who expressed dissent over the purchase of Barak missiles are being paraded around to discredit George.

As speculation mounts about George's interrogation at the hands of the CBI and his possible arrest, support for the man remains muted. BJP, which heads the tattered NDA of which George is still the convenor, has a few soothing words on offer. As are Nitish Kumar and Mulayam. But none will go out of their way to risk their careers for George.

The road seems lonely for the man who can't even win a municipal election on his own. Suddenly George's mask has been ripped off to reveal the political fixer he has allowed himself to degenerate into. And with ignominy comes the status of pariahdom. Poor George Fernandes - dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Will Windows Vista compromise India's national security?

Its time India's security establishment sat up and took notice of the Windows Vista Operating System that launches early next year. Of particular concern should be the anti-piracy features that Microsoft is building inside Windows Vista.

Lines of code embedded in new the OS will allow Microsoft to peer into each and every computer so that machines with pirated versions of WV and other licensed software can be blitzed automatically. In other words all data inside a computer with WV installed is liable to be dissected for examination by techno-snoops in the US and other sites where Microsoft has its servers.

While the impact of WV technology on the privacy of the ordinary computer user is still being debated, the portents are more ominous for government establishments.

At present nearly all computers in Central government offices including those in the Defence and Home ministries have Windows installed in them. Not all of them are licensed either! Should these be upgraded to Windows Vista, every single byte of data flitting through wires of the Indian establishment would be rendered vulnerable.

If Microsoft can read the data, then so can the CIA. Microsoft's cosy relationship with the CIA came out in the open when techies from the secretariat of the National Security Council who sold sensitive data to the American spy agency found jobs with the company in exchange.

Banks, financial institutions, technological and educational institutions like IIT, Research and Development labs, patent offices...in other words anyone concerned with espionage should steer clear of Windows Vista. Never mind what the sweet talking executives of Microsoft tell the babus if Bill Gates can see your data so can Uncle Sam. And their interests do not always coincide with India's interests.


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