Monday, April 30, 2012

Sundarbans Solar Express Gets Derailed

Bad news for those who love  nature, tigers and believe in sustainable development: Sundarban  - world's largest delta, a UNESCO world heritage site and  home to the Royal Bengal Tigers - has just chosen thermal power over renewable energy.

Early this month,  Manish Gupta, the power minister of West Bengal - the state where Sundarban is - inaugurated the supply of grid power. Later, the minister said that  this is 'just the beginning', that the government had decided to extend grid energy throughout Sunderban

And this is happening when Rio 20+ or the Earth Summit - where the world is gearing up to adopt green economy and sustainable development  - is just a few weeks away. 

 I am finding the news too hard to digest. And I have reasons: for nearly a decade, Sundarban has been seen and talked about as the biggest hub of solar energy in India. Way back, in 2001, the delta became famous for having India's largest solar power station that provided electricity to 400 houses. Around that time, the government actually announced that  grid power would not be extended to Sundarban.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Maoists 'pro-tribal' Bandh? Well, I call it a farce!

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One of the many chronic illnesses that Indian politicians suffer from is the tendency to call a Bandh (shutdown) at the drop of a hat. And this is an illness prevalent among politicians cutting across the lines of ideology, color and regions. Besides causing huge economic losses (sometimes in billions of rupees) and utter inconvenience to common people,  most of these Bandhs are also ill-conceived and don't seek a true solution to the problem. And yet another example of that is the Bandh called  tomorrow (Saturday, 14th April), by the Maoist rebels in eastern India to seek higher prices for Kendu Leaves

The flat, oval shaped leaves of Kendu  trees (in picture) are used to roll Bidi (also known as Beedi)-  an unfiltered, coarse cigarette indigenous to India. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Will Gunter Grass Face the Fate of Taslima and Rushdie?

Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie have a new comrade-in-stirring a hornet's nest: German Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass. Grass has just published a poem that blasts (well, verbally of course) the nuclear program of Israel, calling it more dangerous to the world security than the nuclear program of Iran.

And with that- especially with that bit of comparing  it to Iran - Grass, a German, has committed a political blasphemy.

Lines from the controversial poem

The poem - titled "Was Gesagt Warden Muss" (meaning  What must be said) was published on Wednesday in several European publications's where I read it).  I got to learn of it only while trying to browse some Israeli newspapers. That's when I found the fiery reaction of a fuming Benjamin Netanyahu - the prime minister of Israel, calling Grass's action (read words) 'ignorant' and 'shameful' which should be 'condemned by the whole world'.

Now, I must admit, I am not a huge fan of Grass, though I loved his The Tin Drum (which I read in English translation). I have never counted him among my most favorite authors. Also, my knowledge of German is quite limited - maybe the reason why I actually liked the poem! But well, my lingual expertise - or the lack of it - apart,  if  Gunter Grass thinks Israel's nuclear bombs are no less dangerous than the bombs of any other country in the world, then that's his opinion (technically, all nuclear bombs do have equal power to kill) and he should have all the freedom and respect in the world to stick to it. Also, as a citizen who votes, if he thinks his government should stop aiding (which he says in the poem) Israel's nuclear program, then its his prerogative to say so. And he should be entitled to these thoughts no matter whether he is a German or of  any other nationality.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Saluting Suu - the harbinger of change

The last time I visited Myanmar, everyone said, "when Suu Kyi comes, things will change. You come back then." Today that change is about to happen. But before I plan another visit, let me salute the lady behind the change

Its late evening in most of Asia and midnight in some parts. But, one country is already witnessing the breaking of a unique dawn, one that is going to stay on for days to come. Its Myanmar (Burma).

What is unique of this dawn? First, its the dawn of democracy that has come after a long, dark night of armed rule. Secondly, this dawn has been made possible by a woman. The name's Aung San Suu Kyi. She, of a frail frame but of iron will. She, who is the voice of dissidence. She, who is persistence, resistance and inspiration reincarnated.

We all know of her story: born in Burma, married and settled in the UK, she returned to Burma to lead the country and, in the 1990 general election, steered her party to a landslide victory. But the anti-democracy Junta government put her under house arrest where she would stay for almost 15 years. She didn't meet her family for over a decade and when in 1999 her husband died, she couldn't be there even to pay a final visit. Awards after awards flowed in, including the Nobel peace prize, but Suu Kyi couldn't step out of her home to receive them. No other leader I know, except Nelson Mandela of course, has undergone such tragedies and difficulties, just for the sake of democracy and love for the country.

However,  no amount of evil, suppression and isolation could take away her will or her ability to lead Burma towards democracy. And this Sunday(1st April) , when Burma had its general election again, Suu Kyi, freed by the Junta government earlier, was there, as its emerging, beloved leader again.