Thursday, February 26, 2009

Economic package is a farce

Two reports in The Hindu and The Times of India, which carry my views. For the benefit of my readers:

The Hindu

Reject criminals contesting Lok Sabha polls: M M Joshi

Varanasi (PTI): Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi on Wednesday urged the public to reject the criminals contesting Lok Sabha elections, even if the political parties do not dare to do so.
"Reject the criminals contesting the Parliamentary elections, howsoever important figures they are, even if political parties do not dare to reject them. Do not spare such parties also," Joshi said here today.

Talking to media here, Joshi, however, admitted that the BJP had also done some mistakes regarding the selection of candidates for elections. "Sometimes we also commit mistake," he said when asked about the BJP's efforts for clean politics.

"But I never allowed criminal elements in politics," he added.

All political parties should think seriously to end criminalisation of politics, he said, adding that the voters should not forgive the mistakes of political parties and corrupt leaders.
Joshi also expressed his concern over the increasing 'Talibanisation' of Pakistan and said that it was a threat not only to India but also to the entire world.

Hitting out at UPA, he said the reduction in excise duty and service tax was its political move ahead of the general elections. The interim budget was only a fraud played with the people of the country, he alleged.
The senior saffron party leader is contesting the general election from Varanasi while the BSP has fielded mafia don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari against him.

The Times of India

Joshi laughs away govt's duty reduction move

VARANASI: Describing the reduction in excise duty and service tax as a political move of the Centre in view of forthcoming parliamentary elections, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said that it was not for boosting the economy.

Talking to reporters here on Wednesday, Joshi said that the interim budget of the government showed that the nation was heading towards economic bankruptcy. By giving such relief the UPA government was misleading the masses as the new government after election would have no option but to impose taxes in the budget, Joshi said adding that it was not a helping hand but a pickpocket's hand. The BJP advocated for a pro-India economy based on agriculture, medium and small-scale industries, he said.

Regarding the criminalisation of politics, he admitted that the BJP had also done some mistakes. 'Kahin Kahin hum bhi chook jate hain' (Sometime we also commit mistake), he said when asked about the BJP's efforts for clean politics. "But I never allowed criminal elements in politics," he added. All political parties would have to think seriously on this issue to end criminalisation of politics, he said adding that the voters should not forgive the mistakes of political parties and corrupt leaders.

It may be mentioned here that Joshi is contesting the parliamentary election from Varanasi, and the BSP has fielded mafia don-turned-politician Mikhtar Ansari against him.

Joshi also expressed his concern over the increasing Taliban's dominance in Pakistan and said that it was also a matter of serious concern for the neighbouring countries.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bhartiya Heritage in Engineering and Technology

The Ancient Indians had a capability to design and make surgical instruments, chemical apparatuses, furnaces and other auxiliary appliances and astronomical instruments in their hoary past. This would imply that they possessed a fairly high level of mechanical competence and technological skills. Various texts starting from Rigveda, the Upavedas, epics, Puranas and other manuscripts refer to a large number of mechanical contrivance s. The Samarangan Sutradhara of Bhoja describes various Yantras including robots. It may also be recognised that before the advent of foreign rulers India had a very high share of the world market. At the beginning of the British Raj India’s share in the world market was more that 20 percent. After sixty years of independence our share is not even one percent. If India has to occupy her rightful place in the contemporary world, she must use her talent, resources and capabilities to evolve a technology capable of meeting the current challenges. The food security, energy security, technological security are all to be preserved and protected in order to safeguard our economic and above all strategic security. The high capital, high energy and low human resource based but environmentally hazardous, western technology has thrown a serious challenge before us.
We have to convert this into an opportunity by identifying our strengths and weaknesses. We have to be innovative and original. What the developing world is suffering is the tyranny of the western technology. Let us redeem ourselves for developing a technology with human face and a sensitive heart. Let us promise a new techno-economic order based on spirituality which assures a non-violent, non-exploitative world order.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My views on IT BHU issue

A reoport carried out by The Times of India today

Joshi asks BHU V-C to pursue IIT issue

VARANASI: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Rajya Sabha member Murli Manohar Joshi has written a letter to vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Prof DP Singh, requesting him to take appropriate initiative for the conversion of the Institute of Technology (IT) into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

In his letter dated February 19, 2009, Joshi claimed that he had raised the issue in the Raj Sabha and also taken account of the situation at government-level from the secretary, human resource ministry, RP Agrawal. He was told that the Cabinet had not issued any formal directive for the conversion of IT-BHU into IIT, but approved in principle.

Joshi's letter further stated that he had also requested the secretary to take necessary action in the present session, but due to time constraint it would not be possible. The secretary, however, informed that the ministry could take initiative if BHU formally sent a proposal for the conversion.

It may be mentioned here that Joshi is contesting the forthcoming Parliamentary election from Varanasi seat.

Demanding IIT status, the students of IT-BHU had observed hunger strike recently. They had called off their hunger strike after the intervention of the university administration. However, they had continued to pursue the matter. The Union Cabinet had, in July last, given nod for the setting up of eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Cabinet had also approved in principle for the conversion of IT-BHU into an IIT and integrating it with the IIT system of the country.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Let's not tamper with future generations

Around eight years ago, when everyone else was speaking about ‘Sustainable Development’ I emphasized the need of ‘Sustainable Consumption’. I will put forward my own vision of sustainable consumption and the road map to achieve it.

Let me begin by looking at the global trends. Poverty, social and gender inequalities are increasing globally. The consumption of most affluent part of population influences the consumption patterns and aspirations of others worldwide. Another worrisome point is that the consumption pattern in the developing world is blindly following those in the developed world i.e. the affluent population in developing countries tends to adopt the lifestyle of rich countries, which is exemplified by the use of all kinds of gadgets, luxury goods and automobiles.

The gist is that the consumption trends in industrialized nations are assuming unsustainable high levels which will be followed by the developing world in their own time. Rise in the world population, decline in the forest cover and of freshwater availability and a tremendous increase in the demand for primary energy are causes of great concern. If the current consumption patterns continue, the ecosystem that provides us with renewable resources could collapse long before the world runs out of non-renewable resources. There is thus an urgent need to set up a firm agenda on achieving ‘Sustainable Consumption’ in the next few years at a global level.

What is sustainable consumption? To my mind it has to deal with the use of products and services that respond to basic needs and bring quality of life. It brings together a number of key issues, such as meeting basic needs, enhancing the quality of life, improving resources efficiency increasing the use of renewable energy sources, minimizing waste, reducing environmental burden and reducing health risks. But this must be achieved by minimizing the use of natural resources and emissions of waste and pollutants. Sustainable consumption has to be focused not only on the present citizens of the globe, but also on the future citizens, so that we do not, with our greed, tamper with the future generations.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Concrete action against Terrorism

These are my views on some pressing issues confronting us. I am reproducing a news item published by The Times Of India today, for the benefit of my readers.
VARANASI: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi demanded a specific time frame for concrete action against the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November. "It is unfortunate that the central government lost the opportunity to capitalise the national unity following the Mumbai attack due to its weak policies," said Joshi, who is contesting the forthcoming Lok Sabha election from Varanasi seat. Talking to reporters on Wednesday, he accused the government of failing to pressurise Pakistan to own the responsibility of Mumbai terror attack. "In such a slow pace it seems that the matter will be delayed for an infinite time like the execution of capital punishment of Afzal Guru," he said adding that the government should clear its stand. He said that the remarks of Supreme Court on the functioning of CBI exposed that this investigating agency was working on the whim of the government. The laws should be amended to ensure the impartial functioning of the agency, he said and added that people's confidence in constitutional institutions like election commission, parliament and state assemblies should also be maintained. Replying to a query regarding the reservation in higher education, he said that there was a need to expand the reach of higher education with accessibility, affordability and quality so that everyone could get higher education. "The reservation will be meaningless if there are enough seats," he said.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Time to act on threats of global warming

I read with great concern some of the recent news reports highlighting the imbalance in weather patterns. According to a recent report from the meteorological department this year the temperature rose to 38.2 degrees Celsius at Ocala in Maharashtra on 29th January. It was reported that this was the highest in last 50 years. This and many similar revelations are alarming.

I have always believed, and said, that uneven patterns of climate change is scary and require all of us to take a grim view. It calls for immediate action. The challenge of global warming and climate change is no ordinary challenge. I am reproducing some excerpts from the speech which contain my views on Global Warming. It was delivered at the International Conference on Science & Technology Capacity Building for Climate Change on October 20-22, 2002, New Delhi.

“The phenomenon of Climate Change is the most dramatic manifestation of a created imbalance in the relationship between man and his eco-system. We know that the earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era and that these changes are primarily attributable to human influence. The concentration of green house gases and their radioactive forcing have increased mainly as a result of human activities. We know that the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the next 200 years - about two to ten times larger than the central value of observed warming during the last 100 years. 1998 was the hottest year in the past one thousand years. Seven of the ten warmest years ever recorded occurred between 1990 and 1999.”

“The adverse impacts of these changes are numerous. There is evidence to show that recent regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases, have already affected many physical and biological systems in many parts of the world. A general reduction in potential crop yields in most tropical and sub-tropical regions, decreased water availability, an increase in the number of people exposed to vector-borne and water-borne diseases, an increase in heat stress mortality, widespread increase in the risk of flooding and increased energy demand. Sea level rise and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones would displace tens of millions of people in low lying coastal areas of temperate and tropical Asia.”

“Current scientific and technological approaches to dealing with the issues of climate change are, in my view, fundamentally flawed. Firstly they confuse symptoms with the disease and offer cures which can at best delay the consequences. Secondly, within the framework of the linear, mechanistic and reductionist science within which we are imprisoned we tend to break every problem into isolated parts and hope that a part by part solution of the whole is possible.”

“Is this what science is about? I have always believed and will continue to believe that science has a divine purpose, which is - 'to know', to probe and probe and constantly stretch the frontiers of knowledge. Should we stop asking questions because the questions cause discomfort to certain entrenched and powerful interest groups? Should we allow the scientific agenda to be determined by those who would rather not have us ask questions which embarrass? Never.”


It should be evident, though it is not to many, that as long as the goal remains to have constantly higher levels of consumption with unlimited consumer choice and profit maximization as the predominant value, efforts to tackle the problem of an imbalance between man and his eco­system have little chances of success. In a situation where unbridled consumer choice is unquestionably accepted as a value, it is impossible to go beyond technocratic and economist approaches to sustainability. A purely economic and technological solution to unsustainable forms of production and consumption is an impossibility because production and consumption are social acts and un­sustainability is primarily a social problem. Social problems apparently created by technology the way we presently understand cannot be solved by the application of yet more technology. Social problems have to be understood in terms of social value systems and values have to change fundamentally for the problems to be resolved. The question is how do we institutionalize policies and structures which prevent or eliminate the use of non-sustainable technologies and stimulate the use of sustainable ones? Relying purely on market forces under distorted market conditions will delay the achievement of sustainability goals. On the other hand regulatory mechanisms have severe limitations as do any statist interventions. The challenge is to create a social environment and forms of governance and power structures which provide the framework for the expression of collective initiative and community control as well as the development of the full capabilities and creativity of the individual. Is it possible to create a society in which the distinction between social and technological values, the first reflecting the values of man, the second those of the machine no longer exists?

Let me now turn to the role that technology can play in finding solutions to the problems created by the Climate Change phenomenon. I have on many occasions, elsewhere, made suggestions on remodeling our technology development and technology application processes so as to be similar to natural processes. A natural eco-system functions as a closed loop involving slow changes, which occur at a pace which allows time for adaptation to the natural environment. In contrast, technology has so far used a linear approach in which resources are extracted as though they are inexhaustible, processed to make synthetic products which have no natural counterparts, involve lengthy transportation both of raw materials and manufactured products and each step impacts on the environment and generates waste. Further technology design is insufficiently evaluated in terms of its impact on nature. We need technologies which completely eliminate the concept of waste, we need to design every process so that the products themselves, as well as leftover chemicals, materials and effluents can be reused in other processes. We need quantum leaps in energy efficiency and a shift from non-renewable to renewable sources, by applying the principle of de-carbonisation.

Some years ago, Robin Clarke of Biotechnic Research and Development in UK catalogued a thirty five point criteria for what he called a 'soft technology society'. These include. ecological soundness, low energy inputs, use of renewable and recyclable materials, craft industry orientation, integration with nature, democratic politics, decentralization, emphasis on agricultural diversity, community control, multi-disciplinarity, science and technology not dependent on specialist elites but performed by all, among others as the essential constituents of an ideal social system and as the criteria for evaluating the appropriateness of technology solutions. Some of the categories are possibly contradictory and some impracticably utopian but the overall approach they represent makes for- a coherent statement of an ideal society. With some modifications to reflect contemporary developments and some flexibility, such a criteria can serve as a measure for differentiating between 'good' and 'bad' technology, and for setting standards for scientific and technological capacity development.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Operation of Inoculation of the Smallpox

Dr. Kaushik had asked me about a reference on practicing of vaccination in India prior to its discovery by Dr. Jenner in 1796. While speaking in a Conference in 1998 I had quoted the following material as published in the 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century' by Dr. Dharampal, Impex India, Delhi, 1971, pp. 141-42.

Here follows one account of the operation of inoculation of the smallpox as performed here in Bengal taken from the concurring accounts of several B(r)hamans and physician of this part of India.

The operation of inoculation called by the natives tikah has been known in the kingdom of Bengall as near as I can learn, about 150 years and according to the Bhamanian records was first performed by one Dununtary a physician of Champanagar, a small town by the side of the Ganges about half way to Cossimbazar whose memory is now holden in great esteem as being thought the author of this operation, which secret, say they, he had immediately of God in a dream.

Their method of performing this operation is by taking a little of the pus (when the smallpox are come to maturity and are of a good kind) and dipping these in the point of a pretty large sharp needle. Therewith make several punctures in the hollow under the deltoid[2] muscle or sometimes in the forehead, after which they cover the part with a little paste made of boiled rice.

When they want the operation of the inoculated matter to be quick they give the patient a small bolus made of a little of the pus, and boiled rice immediately after the operation which is repeated the two following days at noon.

The place where the puncture were made commonly features and comes to small suppuration, and if not the operation has no effect and the person is still liable to have the smallpox but on the contrary if the punctures do suppurate and no feaver or eruption insues, then they are no longer subject to the injection.

The punctures blacken and dry up with the other pustules.

The feaver insues later or sooner, according to the age and strength of the person inoculated, but commonly the third or fourth days. They keep the patient under the coolest regimen they can think off before the feaver comes on the frequently use cold bathing.

If the eruption is suppressed they also use frequent cold bathing. At the same time they give warm medicine inwardly, but if they prove of the confluent kind, they use no cold bathing, but [keep] the patient very cooll and given cooling medicine.

I cannot say any thing of the success of this operation or of their method of cure in this disease, but I intend to inform myself perfectly when the time of this distemper returns which is in April and May.

[1] From Ro. Coult to Dr. Oliver Coult in 'An account of the disease of Bengall', (dated, Calcutta, February 10, 1731.)
[2] The other reading of this word from the original might possibly be 'delloid' : Editor.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mangalore gives us a lesson!

On the request of some readers, here are my views on the Mangalore incident

Every society during its march of civilization evolves a set of values and code of societal behaviour. India as the oldest living civilization has over the aeons produced a culture which believes in respecting diverse views and behavioural patterns experienced during its interaction with other societies. However, as every society has a core culture and a value system, interactions with other societies may result in producing something which is not in conformity with the traditional value systems of the society.

People can express their indignation on what they dislike but violence and vandalism are completely unacceptable. It should be left to the better judgment of the people to accept or reject such behavioural patterns or values which have come through the interactions in a highly mobile and globalized world.

Violence or ban by the State do not produce any lasting effects. Instead, awareness about the consequences of such practices should be brought through dialogue and education.

I am fully confident that our culture has an inherent strength to separate evil from good and preserve the value system and the health of the society.

Mangalore incidents are an occasion to pause and ponder as to how we strike a balance between tradition and the emerging trends among the younger generation.