It Happens Only In India

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Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group had a vision. He had seen the struggle of the Indian middle-class, a family of four traveling on a two-wheeler. He wanted to provide succor to the millions of such families. He wanted to give them a car that would be affordable, safe, meet pollution norms and of course be fuel efficient. Tata’s brainchild, came to life, christened as “Nano.” Tata accredited this to the teamwork. I agree and look on in awe.

But it did not end there. Nano was confronted with many hurdles. From skeptics in the industry who questioned the feasibility of such a project to environmentalists who cried hoarse about the potential pollution boogey that would rear its ugly head. Tata and his team of young engineers and designers silenced all critics convincingly.

But, they were not prepared for the Singur hurdle. I guess they had shot themselves in their foot by completely depending upon the current West Bengal government.

Majority of the land acquired by the West Bengal government for the factory did not belong to the people who tilled the land. The land owners had rented out the land to laborers and sharecroppers.  Hence, when the government acquired the land, the hardest hit were these laborers and sharecroppers. They had no-where else to go as the landowners got the moolah from the government, while these sharecroppers were left staring at the wrong end of the barrel. Their only means of livelihood taken away, they became prime targets for the opposing politicians in the state. These politicians played on their emotions and caused a civil rift in the small village of Singur and its surroundings.

I can understand the plight and anger of these people whose livelihood was stolen from them. I can understand their fight for their livelihood. But I also understand that these people would end up losing any way. It is the politicians who are playing this dirty game who are to gain from this.

And the biggest losers are the Tata’s. They are currently mulling to pull out of Singur and construct the plant elsewhere. Their initial move to set up the plant in West Bengal was a leap of faith and a sign of their confidence in the leadership in the state. I think they are paying dearly now. The delay would cost them dear. Spiraling steel prices and inflation would make it difficult to sell the Nano at Rs 1 lakh.

But if you would ask me, the real losers are we: Indians. Here was a vision by one man envied by the rest of the world. Yet we, Indians are the ones who are derailing this vision. As someone had rightly pointed out, it happens only in India.

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Olympic Cricket Is ‘Inevitable’ – says Ponting

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Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting believes it is only a matter of time before Twenty20 is part of the Olympics. Just days after the completion of the Beijing Games, Ponting said it was “inevitable” the new form would become an Olympic event, given its popularity in the subcontinent.

Ponting, who also called for a portion of the international calendar to be kept free for Twenty20 tournaments, was speaking at a dinner in Sydney to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Don Bradman.

“I actually think it’s inevitable Twenty20 cricket will be an Olympic sport,” Ponting said. “You think about the audiences in the subcontinent, 22 or 23% of the world’s population is based in that area. The IOC could do a lot worse than put cricket in the Olympics.”

Although he wanted Twenty20 to be part of the world’s biggest sporting event, Ponting warned that the format had to be handled carefully by international cricket bosses. He has concerns about players chasing quick dollars rather than playing for their country.

“The critical issue with the game of Twenty20 cricket is how do we make it work,” Ponting said. “We definitely need a carve-out period. The reason I say that is not because I want to go off and play, it’s not about that.

“I want to play for Australia as much as I can, I want to play as many Tests for Australia as I can. I want the next generation of Australian players to have that dream to put on the baggy green cap and play 100 Test matches and 300 one-day games.

“I’m worried if there’s not that period of time, be it in the IPL or the EPL, or whatever competition it might be, that this next generation’s opinions might change. They might see the dollars and think, ‘maybe it’s more appealing to me that I go and play IPL instead of playing for my country’. That would be the saddest thing ever to happen to this great game.”

By Arunava Das

Dhoni Binds A Winning ODI Package

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India don’t like being favourites, and being written off by many even before their young ODI side assembled in Colombo ultimately worked just fine. Defeat in the final Test at the P Sara Stadium was so comprehensive that it was difficult to see where the one-day recruits would turn for solace as they landed for five matches against Ajantha Mendis and Co. Now, after beating the hosts by 46 runs, India have sealed their first series win in Sri Lanka. And central to their success has been their captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

From the day he landed in Colombo, Dhoni stressed the past should be left alone and the focus should be on the task facing his side. He admitted Ajantha Mendis would be a threat but said it was up to the individual to handle him. He stressed on the importance of the batsmen to back themselves to score briskly, despite the setbacks. India’s recent record in the subcontinent included losses in the finals of the Kitply and Asia Cup, which Dhoni termed as “crucial games”, and he hoped to rectify that trend. This match was a final in itself, and India held their nerve to win it.

He is a very important cog in this wheel, and for the second game running he was at the centre for India, overcoming health issues – he had a a fever yesterday and evidently hadn’t recovered fully. Dhoni and Suresh Raina showed how it should be done, scoring runs at a good clip after Sri Lanka left India 81 for 3 in the 18th over. He led the way in proving Mendis could be thwarted, even as he struggled to remain on his feet towards the end of his innings. Overall, Dhoni has top scored in the series with 192 runs at a strike-rate of 79.33, won four tosses in a row, made the right selection choices, and been proactive in the field.

Under lights, with Sanath Jayasuriya in a punishing mood, Dhoni tossed the ball to Harbhajan Singh in the 18th over. With pace taken off the ball, Jayasuriya edged the third ball to a smartly-placed wide slip. After that Dhoni added an extra cover, who was sharp to deny runs. Attempting to work Yuvraj Singh off his pads, Chamara Kapugedera was trapped lbw. These are minor moves Dhoni makes, but they often have a resounding resonance. Dhoni opted for four specialist bowlers in the last two games and he was rewarded with wickets from Yuvraj. Dhoni also won four successive tosses: some call that luck; with Dhoni, it’s all part of the package.

In his book, What Sport Tells Us About Life, Ed Smith writes of the 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle, who believed the bravery of heroes and leaders derived from their inspired and resourceful force. “The history of the world,” Carlyle argued, “is but the biography of great men.” Dhoni is no great, yet, but he has this amazing knack to inspire. And, since becoming captain and changing his approach to batting, he has played key roles with the bat. He averages 57.17 when in charge, with ten fifties and one century.

Many had criticised Dhoni’s decision to skip the Test series, forgetting that he had to endure such a gruelling schedule this last 18 months (14 Tests, 56 ODIs, eight Twenty20 internationals, and the IPL). In the Test side Dhoni has yet to cement his place, as one century in 31 matches suggests; in fact, he was dispensable at the time he announced he was opting out. Dhoni is the most important member of a young one-day side and he realised that for the better.

Numerous television chat shows slammed Dhoni for the loss in the series opener and for reportedly influencing the selectors to pick young talent instead of ageing, vastly experienced heroes. Now Dhoni has led this group, with their struggles and pressures, to win a series few expected them to even contest.

The line-up India fielded resembled virtually that of the dismal Asia Cup final but, led by Dhoni and his sheer bullishness in believing Mendis could be overridden, they overcame the odds. Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones, seems to be Dhoni’s mantra

Unlike in the second and third matches, where Zaheer and Dhoni were virtually one-man shows, this was a collective victory. “Contributive efforts are better because you are not relying on one individual,” Dhoni said after the last game. “You will get individual performances brilliantly, but it’s always better to win through a team effort. Everyone can enjoy it that way.”

Consecutive fifties from Raina and Dhoni, Virat Kohli’s maiden half-century to papered over the failures of Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj, Munaf’s two-wicket burst, Zaheer Khan’s accuracy, wickets for the spinners. This match had it all, and that will give Dhoni immense satisfaction.

Critics can argue that India were helped by a complete batting failure by the hosts, and off-key series for Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan. Dhoni will tell you that his bowlers got the measure of the batsmen, and there is no denying how Dhoni and S Badrinath’s approach towards the spinners in game two sparked a revival. Sri Lanka were poor in this series, very poor, but India were good.

This isn’t in the same league as the ICC World Twenty20 or the CB Series, but it should be toasted. It came after Mendis – he who mauled India in the Asia Cup final – and Muttiah Muralitharan made a mockery of the best middle order in Test cricket. The line-up India fielded resembled virtually that of the dismal Asia Cup final but, led by Dhoni and his sheer bullishness in believing Mendis could be overridden, they overcame the odds. Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones, seems to be Dhoni’s mantra.

Baseball, poets say, cannot be scripted. Neither can cricket. After the barrage of questions they faced before this series, Dhoni and his bunch of upstarts can sit back and smile. They’ve defied the odds and deserved to win, and Carlyle would certainly have toasted their success.

By Arunava Das

Are they life savers or killers?

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Yesterday while watching TV I was shocked by hearing a news, 49 babies died during clinical trials at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.

The drugs used where zinc tablets for treating zinc deficiency, olmesartan and valsartan for treating blood pressure-related problems, rituximab for treating chronic focal encephalitis and gene-activated human glucocerebrosidase for treating Gaucher’s disease, which affects the liver. And the most important point is that these drugs were meant only for the adults. Why do our doctors do it then? Are they life savers or killers?

India has become the top destination in Asia for clinical trials of foreign drugs. Trials here cost around 20%-60% less than that in industrialized countries. Is this mean that our babies doesn’t have right to live? Were these children made guinea pigs because they were from poor families?

Why do Indians face these problems from the best medical college and public hospital in the country? Do our government doesn’t feel that our babies are the pillars for the developing nation? Do we accept this crime if that has happened to our babies? I urge our younger population to stand with that poor parents and shout against this so that even a single baby in India is lost due to clinical trials. Our babies are precious!!!

Dhanya.

I Felt The Pinch For The First Time In My Life

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Though I have come across news articles on how people find it indispensable, consider it as an extension of themselves, how they couldn’t live without it; I have never felt anything like that, towards it. I still don’t even now. That’s the reason why I probably felt the pinch for the first time in my life.

For 24 years I resisted it. I did not want it. I felt free, no responsibilities. People around me couldn’t fathom why. They probably felt that I was missing out on the revolution, which I rather dismissed it as “Mass Hysteria”. They took it upon themselves to hammer the advantages of owning one into my head. I won. They gave up.

I have seen it all. The anxiety of not receiving a message, checking every other minute to see if any near or dear ones have messaged them. Some even couldn’t resist the urge to take it out every now and then to check the remaining balance. One probably felt that in order to look and feel important, one had to own one of those, taking it out of their pockets and follow the rituals mentioned above. I never understood, nor did I try.

But it happened. I was coerced into buying one, and people around me, with a wry smile acknowledged that I had finally entered into the world of “Mobile Phones.”

They looked at me as if I had been lost for a long time and finally made it back to the civilization. Does Rip Wan Winkle ring any bells? Some even chastised me for resisting the urge to buy the so called “god sent gift” to humanity. Some even took it upon themselves to educate me on the modalities, etiquettes, and what not…of owning a mobile phone. I listened, with my ears and not my mind. I hated it and I still do.

But I was slowly getting sucked into the quicksand, and weirdly I did not resist. What is that these little things possess? Slowly I felt enchanted by them. The bug had bitten me for good this time. So with the change in job and a higher salary beckoned me to satisfy the urge to own a classy, sexy high end model.

What the hell, I went ahead and blew my first two months salary on a Motorola Razr 2 V8. It cost me 15 grand. I had no regrets.

Eight months down the line, yesterday I had lost it. It was stolen. My colleagues surrounded me, trying to figure it out, how, who and all that. Time and again, they looked at me and somehow I got the feeling that they were trying to convey their sympathies at losing something precious, something that was an irreplaceable part of my life.

I tried to tell them that I felt all right. Its just a cell phone. But I could not. I felt the pinch for the first time in my life and even now I am not able to put that into words.

This was the first time in my life that I have been a victim of a robbery. This was the first time that I had been careless.

Though I could buy myself another one, probably a better one; I wish I could turn back time and get my Moto back. This was also the first time that I was happy to pay a bribe of 200 rupees to the cop, who registered my complaint, hoping that it would make the cops to do their duty promptly and that I would get my phone back. The cops also ensured that I got an earful from them on how careless people are and how the rising incidents of Mobile Phone thefts have made their life a living hell.

A familiar feeling which I had felt a long time ago coursed through me. It was the feeling of Freedom. I felt that I was free again.

Here’s to freedom, from mobile phones!

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Climate Change Can Triggers Wars, Warns Expert

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Climate Change Can Triggers Wars, Warns Expert

An expert from the Washington State Intelligence department has warned that Climate change-induced damage to global ecosystems and resulting competition for natural resources may trigger wars and conflicts among nations in the future.

Jurgen Scheffran, a scientist at the University of Illinois, reviewing recently published research, concluded that ‘the impact of climate change on human and global security could extend far beyond the limited scope the world has seen thus far.’

Scheffran is working with the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security and the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research at the university. ‘The associated socio-economic and political stress can undermine the functioning of communities, the effectiveness of institutions, and the stability of societal structures. These degraded conditions could contribute to civil strife, and, worse, armed conflict,’ he wrote.

Reality Bites:

In fact, ‘large areas of Africa are suffering from scarcity of food and fresh water resources, making them more vulnerable to conflict. An example is Sudan’s Darfur province where an ongoing conflict was aggravated since droughts forced Arab herders to move into areas of African farmers.’

Other regions of the world – including the Middle East, Central Asia and South America – also are being affected, he said.

Scheffran’s review included a critical analysis of four trends identified in a report by the German Advisory Council on Global Change as among those most possibly destabilizing populations and governments.

They include degradation of freshwater resources, food insecurity, natural disasters and environmental migration.

In his analysis, Scheffran noted that the number of world regions vulnerable to drought was expected to rise. Water supplies stored in glaciers and snow cover in major mountain ranges such as the Andes and Himalayas also are expected to decrease, he said. ‘Most critical for human survival are water and food, which are sensitive to changing climatic conditions,’ Scheffran said.

The degradation of these critical resources, combined with threats to populations caused by natural disasters, disease and crumbling economic and ecosystems”, he said, “could ultimately have ‘cascading effects’.”

Response And Possible Steps In Ameliorating The Situation:

‘Although climate change bears a significant conflict potential, it can also transform the international system toward more cooperation if it is seen as a common threat that requires joint action,’ he said.

One of the more hopeful, recent signs on that front was the 2007 Bali Climate Summit that brought together more than 10,000 representatives from around the world to draft a climate plan.

In addition to global cooperation, Scheffran believes that those occupying the earth now can learn a lot about the future by studying the past. The great human civilizations began to flourish after the last ice age, and some disappeared due to droughts and other adverse shifts in the climate.

‘The so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ in the northern hemisphere a few hundred years ago was caused by an average drop in temperature of less than a degree Celsius.

‘The consequences were quite severe in parts of Europe, associated with loss of harvest and population decline,’ Scheffran said. ‘Riots and military conflicts became more likely, as a recent empirical study has suggested.’

This data point to an increasing dilemma that the world is going to face in wake of fast climate changes that are already affecting the seasonal patterns of the world leading to increased frequencies of flooding and cyclones that are rampaging different parts of the globe.

These staggering findings are a real threat to the very existence of mankind on earth and it’s high time that nations come together and try to solve this issue.

By Arunava Das, (Arunava—-Saviour of Forests, Green Peace), Media Analyst

Looking For Energy, Google Goes To Hell

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By Sowjanya Shankar

Deep underneath your feet is a hellish stone soup, kept hot by a torrent of radiation from poisonous isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium in the earth’s superheated mantle. This is the heat that helps cause volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. And it is the heat that powers a modest number of electricity generators around the world, from Iceland to Indonesia.

This energy source remains largely untapped, though, simmering either too far below the surface to reach, or isolated from water that could carry it up.

Google.org, the philanthropic arm of search giant Google, announced it would try to help spur companies to reach underground to produce clean electricity. It is investing a total of $10 million in a geothermal energy company called AltaRock Energy and a drilling company called Potter Drilling, and it is funding research and mapping efforts and a policy agenda.

It is part of Google.org’s effort to help bring about renewable energy that is cheaper than coal by investing in companies, research and policy development. The organization is focusing on three main technologies: solar thermal power, which uses the sun’s heat to generate electricity; advanced wind technology; and, now, a way of tapping geothermal energy called enhanced geothermal systems, or EGS.

In traditional geothermal energy, engineers drill near a geyser, hot spring or volcano, stick a valve and turbine on the hot water, and that’s pretty much it. With EGS, holes are drilled deep into hot rock and water is injected into the cracks. When pressure forces the water up other, nearby wells, it is hot enough to run a turbine and produce electricity. Engineers would, in a sense, be making their own geysers, and this opens up far more of the globe for geothermal energy development.

“It’s a big resource, it’s got a good cost curve, and it’s not getting enough attention,” says Dan W. Reicher, Google.org’s director of climate and energy initiatives.

Last year a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said EGS could open up an additional 100,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. by 2050, up from 2,000 MW today. That could mean 800 million megawatt-hours of more power every year, up from just 15 million megawatt-hours today. Researchers estimate the cost would start at about 9 cents a kilowatt-hour for the first EGS project and fall to as little as 4 cents, including construction, development and financing but not including any government subsidies that may be available. That would compare well with gas at 8 cents, wind at 6 cents and solar at 31 cents or more.

Because geothermal produces consistent, base-load power–it doesn’t depend on the wind blowing or the sun shining–utilities will pay up to three times more for geothermal electricity than for electricity from an intermittent source, like wind.

Geothermal heat has been a source of electricity since 1904, when steam vents in Larderello, Italy, were used to power a handful of light bulbs. That site now powers a million homes in Tuscany, turning out 5 million megawatt-hours per year. But, like Larderello, today’s geothermal electricity comes from unique geologies, where hot rocks and underground water sit together, close to the surface of the earth. Geothermal energy provides just 0.5% of the world’s electricity and 0.4% of the needs in the U.S.

EGS was first proposed by Los Alamos National Laboratories in the 1970s, but the technique was largely forgotten about when oil prices fell. High energy prices and technological breakthroughs helped resurrect the idea. And the idea is attracting some sudden attention. After recently pulling funding for geothermal energy, the U.S. Department of Energy is now offering $90 million in research money for EGS research. It is just a small start, says Alexander Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the Department of Energy.

“The government is going to lean into this issue,” he says. “This is a renaissance.”

Engineers hope to tap the earth’s heat by drilling as deep as 15,000 feet into the earth’s crust. They pump water down an injection wells (the blue well), where it is heated by the rock. Pressure forces the hot water up the production wells (the red wells). The heat from the water is transferred to a working fluid, which boils at a low temperature, which spins a turbine to create electricity.

Still, there is not a single megawatt of EGS-produced power on line yet, and, at best, it will be quite a while before it becomes a significant energy source. It takes years to fully develop a site, from surveying the geology, drilling test wells, receiving permits, drilling working wells and building generators. And it takes capital. Each well can cost $5 million to drill, double the cost of an oil or gas well, because the holes need to be twice as deep, 15,000 feet or more, and sites need at least four wells. Geologists and engineers have a lot to learn about the rock formations they will encounter.

An Australian company called Geodynamics, which is conducting the first major commercial test of EGS now, was surprised to find hot, high-pressure water in the granite it first thought was relatively dry. While that is ultimately a pleasant discovery for the company, the surprise cost it dearly: The pressurized water led to the failure of Geodynamics’ second well in 2005 and nearly bankrupted the infant company.

Geodynamics’ first 50-megawatt station will cost a staggering $250 million, says Chief Technical Officer Doone Wyborn. (That’s $5 million per megawatt; Duke Energy’s new coal-fired plant in Cliffside, N.C., will cost $2.3 million per megawatt.) But now that the company understands where, how and how deep to drill, Wyborn says costs will soon plummet, and by the time the company gets 150 megawatts online, in 2014, Geodynamics’ costs per watt will be cheaper than that of coal.

There is another major EGS test under way in Soultz, France. The first test in the U.S. is scheduled to begin this year near Reno, Nev.

Even as Google.org, Geodynamics and others try to develop EGS, traditional geothermal is experiencing its own revival. There is plenty of traditional, high-grade geothermal resources that haven’t been found yet. The University of Nevada at Reno estimates 80% of these easier-to-develop hydrothermal systems are hidden, and companies are now starting to look for them. The most recent maps showing the heat flow underneath the U.S. are based on data gathered in the 1970s. Google.org is financing a group at Southern Methodist University to update the data.

Worldwide geothermal investment was up 83% last year to $1.7 billion, according to Mark Taylor, a geothermal analyst at New Energy Finance. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had its first ever land-lease auction for geothermal resources, and it produced 57 leasing agreements. It will hold another auction this month.

Traditional geothermal could provide thousands of megawatts of electricity capacity, which would be welcome. But Google.org was attracted to EGS because it could add tens of thousands. “It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7,” says Reicher. “And be captured nearly anywhere on the planet.”

Reference:
Forbes.com

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