Saturday, November 14, 2015


Most westerners know that Islamist extremists would love to strike a blow at its heart. But few are so tantalising a target as Paris.


The answer is that France is fighting jihadists all over the world; and has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe – and arguably the most divided society. It also has a steady stream of guns pouring in from across continental Europe's porous borders. It is a potent, explosive mix – as shown by the Charlie Hebdo attacks of January, and now the Paris shootings.

"This is for Syria," one of the Paris attackers reportedly said. But he could have said it was for Mali, or Libya, or Iraq.

Indeed, France takes pride in its proactive stance against Islamists worldwide, especially in the face of what is frequently seen as British and American retreat. Over 10,000 French troops are currently deployed abroad – over 3,000 in Western Africa, 2,000 in Central, and 3,200 in Iraq.

French intervention in Mali, against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in 2013 was seen as pivotal in the weakening of the jihadi group. A fortnight ago a leader of an AQIM affiliate urged his followers to attack France in retaliation for their presence in the region.

And last week President Francois Hollande announced that France will deploy an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to assist the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq the Levant (Isil), setting him on a collision course with the Islamist leaders.

A key problem, however, is internal.

The feelings of isolation and exclusion can be overwhelming, with few high profile Muslim role models in business or politics. France's stridently secular state, the banning of the burka and the power of the Front National have not helped to ease tensions between communities.

Mohamed Merah, the Toulouse shooter of 2012, grew up in a tough suburb of paris, began as a small-time delinquent, was sent to prison, and emerged a hardened jihadi with "meaning" in life.

Mehdi Nemouche, author of the May 2014 murder of four people in Brussels, was also radicalised in prison – travelling to Syria when he was freed and then coming back to attack the Jewish museum.

Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly both followed a similar trajectory of lack of opportunity, descent into criminality, prison and radicalisation.

Inside France's prisons, 70 per cent of the inmates are estimated to be Muslims – by law, France cannot ask a person to state their religion, so official data is unavailable. In England and Wales, by comparison, Muslims account for 14 per cent of the prison population, according to Home Office statistics, and five per cent of the population nationwide.

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks The Telegraph reported how France was struggling with radicalisation inside its prisons, and unlike Britain had very few Imams to enter the cells, and limited de-radicalisation programmes. In April Rachida Dati, the former justice minister and now a special rapporteur on radicalisation, told this paper that France was not doing enough to fight the power of Islamist radicals behind bars.

And another constant source of concern for the French authorities is the ease with which weapons can be trafficked into France.

Belgium has long struggled with illegal arms; it is believed the Charlie Hebdo attackers sourced their weapons there. The Balkans are also favoured shopping destinations; the years of conflict there during the Balkan Wars have left the region awash with cheap, nondescript weapons.

The result is a powder keg atmosphere. And French were not completely unaware of the fact.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Diwali & Delhi: Pollution Woes

Cool or uncool the capital will not stop indulging in the extreme means to show offs. More so, on Diwali night when many households vie for the loudest and the longest running fire-shows. Oh—who cares for fumes, which are the most hazardous by-products along with high decibels. This year too the air quality in the Capital deteriorated alarmingly on Diwali night as pollution levels spiked as much as 23 times higher than normal in areas.

Delhi Pollution Control Committee while monitoring found out that the Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), which directly affects breathing, has gone up by over 23 times from the national ambiance air quality standard at Anand Vihar. At 11pm, PM10 was recorded at

2,308 microgram per cubic meter (mpcm) while the prescribed standard is 100mpcm. PM2.5, for which the prescribed standard is 60mpcm, also touched an alarming high at 619mpcm at midnight in this heavily polluted area in East Delhi. Rest of the capital was a little better in terms of extreme readings.

Every year, the pollution figures start to increase around 6 pm on the day of Diwali, tend to peak between 10 pm & midnight and remain unhealthy till about 6 am the next day. Experts say these particulate matters which are way above the permissible limit are extremely dangerous for people suffering from asthma and other respiratory and cardiac problems, and also for children and the elderly.

Ironical it is when National Green Tribunal is working overtime to ensure clean air supply to our lungs, we will keep on feeling the aftereffects of such frenzy show-offs for few days to come. I will not be surprised if next time around the tribunal orders ban on crackers in Delhi. On second thought, whole country needs clean air. LET US BAN FIRECRACKER PRODUCTION ALL-TOGETHER

Till then those with heart and lung diseases, it is better to stay indoors.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ludhiana School, Live Cartridges Haul may not be Punjab Terror Revival

Call it the Independence Day effect or the beefing up of security operations, 265 live cartridges found next to a Ludhiana school will raise many eyebrows. Especially when the school happens to be the Kundav Vidya Mandir in the city’s high security area of civil lines.

Security agencies have become alert ever since the news broke and are doing their share of investigations. The suspicious bag left by the side of the school bag contained bullets meant to be used in a wide variety of weapons including AK 47. Surely this kind of cache recovered days before the nation celebrates its independence day needs to be taken seriously.

This also has an added significance as it comes about a fortnight from Gurdaspur attack by terrorists from Pakistan. On July 27 2015, 3 gunmen dressed in army uniforms took siege in Dinanagar police station after spreading terror in nearby areas. 3 civilians and 4 policemen including superintendent of police lost their lives in on that day. All gunmen were killed after a day-long operations and the area was sanitised subsequently.

A few days later a similar kind of scare was revisited when local villagers near Pathankot reportedly saw gunmen moving around in suspicious manner. Search operations followed without any fruits.

The questions are many and so would be the reasons and arbitrary logics. Firstly is Punjab going back to the days of terror? In my opinion not probably… as in Dinanagar attack was a very peculiar one. If one goes by the clues out in the news, the place terrorists crossed border was one of the easiest routes across to India. The crossing point is equidistant from Jammu and Dinanagar. Recent trends indicates heightened terror activities in and around Jammu region. Though remote, there is a possibility that despite GPS assistance, the 3 Pakistani gunmen strayed eastwards touching Gurdaspur Pathankot highway rather than going northwards on to the Pathankot-Jammu Highway right on to the border of J&K. The reason I say so is the fact most of us would have experienced straying off-course while relying on GPS. Even I did a terrible blunder while travelling from Abu to Jaipur, it resulted in a horrible situation in the middle of night. I ended up 20 odd kms off from the expected track about couple of years back.

As far as Pathankot goes it happens to be one of the biggest military cantonments in the area. Hailing from the same region I can vouch for similar kind of army movements, which can raise suspicion. Or it could be a genuine terrorist movement trying to entre J&K from the other side of the state via north Punjab and Himachal route. Nothing can be surely said till the time one finds real answers to this particular scare.

I call myself inherently optimistic with extreme patience, sometimes even exasperating for people and believe in giving benefit of doubt to all till proven guilty. On the same lines I attribute the Ludhiana school bullet haul as a desperate dumping of someone’s terrorism days possession amidst all the security concerns in the state fearing police action. One definite clue would be to ascertain the age of the live cartridges recovered outside Ludhiana school.

I might be proven wrong in all these cases, but this is my gut feeling and it might be true in all senses.  And if so, then there is hardly anything for Punjab to worry as such. However, for J&K it might not be a great situation, they would remain in deep shit for longer if it is so.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

'OK Kanmani': Mani Ratnam's timely reflection of our society

'OK Kanmani' is in every way a love letter to the audience. It's a love story sans superficiality or exaggeration. Mani Ratnam is a filmmaker who believes in picking the right actors for his films. By zeroing in on Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen, the master class director wins the battle.
'OK Kanmani' joins the two leaves of modernness in Indian society and the necessity to stay away from aberration. Aadi (Dulquer) and Tara (Nithya) fall in love just like that... maybe lesser than the time it takes to practice the art of snapping your fingers. But the real story is in their understanding of each other. Of the space they give each other. Of what they expect and extract from each other.
They live together (which will be frowned upon if you suggest the idea to your parents) for a short period only to realize that there's more to their relationship than the immediacy of their planned romantic stay. While Nithya brings in her fears, doubts, and cuteness to her role, Dulquer on the other hand, brings in everyman's attitude to his Aadi.
The portions where the young couple learns the meaning of togetherness from the older couple (Prakash Raj and Leela Samson) through an opening in the doorway is definitely the itch that holds two people close. Leela Samson is excellent in the shoes of a person with Alzheimer's and Prakash Raj as usual is neat on the screen.
What's fascinating about the film is how A. R. Rahman and Mani Ratnam have worked together along with P. C. Sreeram to present this wonder named 'OK Kanmani'. When I first heard the track "Maula Wa Sallim" I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Now I sit agape with admiration. It seamlessly blends into the narrative. Also, P. C. does a fine job. He takes the film a step higher by giving it a flawless touch. A. R. Rahman's faithfulness to his mentor is great. There is not an emotion left unwarranted.
We can squabble over the climax but that's also the point Ratnam makes. This is where the boundary is drawn in India for most of us now. Maybe the climax, for future films and us, will stand as a mirror to the cultural shift some decades down the line. But I still can't wrap my head around the fact that‪ 'OK Kanmani' is given a UA certificate. A terrific love story with a senseless certificate attached to it. Mani Ratnam's timely reflection of our society is the one you shouldn't miss.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This Baisakhi – A Ray of Hope for Kidney Patients.

Vaisakhi, also known as Baisakhi, is a harvest festival celebrated in the Punjab region. The festival also celebrated as new year in few regions of the country has come with a hope for those looking for kidney donors to save their lives. As the crops are getting spoilt due to rains and government compensation as royal as 63 rupees, trend indicates that many farmers might be forced to take drastic steps including ending their lives.

Two years back a group of farmers sought permissions from the government to sell their organs(read kidney) to settle their debts. According to reports protest leader Gurnam Singh, from the Bharat Kisan Union then said, "It has become increasingly difficult for us to live and the only way out is by selling our kidneys and other organs. The land belongs to our ancestors and is like our mother so we will never sell it. At least selling our organs would enable us to repay debt and live for a few more years and feed our families."

In January this year, Ramesh Khamankar, a cotton farmer in Maharashtra's Yavatmal district walked to his ruined fields and drank from a bottle of pesticide. He died a few hours later. He was 57. His death was not the only case in the country.

According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, 270,940 farmers have taken their lives since 1995.This occurred at an annual average rate of 14,462 deaths between 1995 and 2000. Critics have pointed out that the numbers may be even higher because the figures are understated by the government. They say that several deaths are not reported as suicides and due to social prejudices, women farmer deaths are not registered as farmer suicides.

More than 60% of people in India rely on agriculture for their income, but the recent spate of unseasonable rainfall has damaged standing crops in 14 states and may lead to a big loss in the wheat harvest. Rains at the end of February and March damaged crops in 11 million hectares (ha) spread over Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab, according to a 26 March ministry estimate.

An estimated 6 million ha of wheat crop, nearly one-fifth of the sown area, has been damaged. There has been more showers and hailstorms since the data was released, even as major wheat-growing states began harvesting the crop.

Many districts across the country received excess rainfall compared to normal rainfall during march. Though the rains were wide spread from North to South, states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, few districts of Sikkim, UP, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, received high intense rainfall with more than 50 mm. In other states, the quantum of rainfall received was less than 50 mm over the week.

The unseasonable rainfall impacted the horticultural crops such as Mango, Pomegranate, Apple, Grapes which are at different stages of flowering, fruit ripening and harvesting. The intense storms caused flower drop, damage to fruits and may cause pest and disease problems due to the conducive moisture conditions. Crops which are harvested and left in the fields for collection suffered extensive damage. The seasonal crops, early sown ones, experienced lodging and water-logging problems. Parts of North East states received less rainfall than normal causing moisture stress to the standing crops

The government has announced a package for aid comes as an insult in may areas. Rain-hit farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad district, reeling under severe debt due to crop loss following unseasonable rains and hailstorm, are being handed paltry sums of Rs 63 and Rs 100 as compensation.

Need anyone say anymore !!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mika - A Spoilt Brat

Popular singer Mika Singh slapped a doctor at an event held in New Delhi on April 11.
The Mika Singh Live-in-concert was co-ordinated by the Delhi Ophthalmological Society as a part of the three-day conference. The evening was adorned with songs like ‘Tu Mera Hero’, ‘Saawan Mein Lag Gayi Aag’ and ‘Jumme Ki Raat’ among others.
While Mika Singh was all praises for Delhi, it’s people and the doctors, who he called “padhey likhey doctor” he asked all the males to gather at the sides – left and rightand the womenfolk at the centre all through his performance.
Towards the end of the show, while most of the doctors were having dinner at the buffet, the music stopped and one could hear Mika asking the bouncers to get adoctor from among the audience onto the stage.
With ‘Mauja Hi Mauja’ from ‘Jab We Met’ still to come from his armour (as was told), Mika ran inside the green-room. There were cries and shouts allover – ‘Kisi band baaje waale ko bulaao, aur woh aapko thhappad maar de? Aise chalta hai kya?”
It so happened that one of the male doctors, aged around 30, didn’t listen to his “staying on the sides” orders and kept on coming and dancing where the female population was standing. Quite annoyed with this doctor, Mika called him onto the stage and slapped him hard.
The doctors have shown unity, time and again. Here too, the doctors united to fight against Mika Singh.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Delhi - A City of Dead Men.

Anybody from Delhi would know what Turkman Gate looks like. It is one of the gates to the walled city, an arched entrance to what many refer to as ‘Old Delhi’ as well. Above all the place is always buzzing like a bee-nest. During day time one of the main entrances sees tremendous rush of people and during night till wee hours of morning there are many rickshawalahs, handcart pullers and many such means are busy moving in the supplies and goods to the old city. The crux remains that the entrance is always full of people.

Now picture this – a few meters from there a man is beaten so badly that he is destined to his death. A small road rage case and someone loses his life! We all know how short tempered Delhi has become following the rat-race to existence. But, no one coming for
help looks like reenactments of 16th December 2012, when many saw but no one came forward to help. Now police says they will take help of CCTVs to trace down the culprits.

Police too has a presence round the clock as the zone falls under sensitive area of Delhi. God only knows what they were upto at that point in time. Later when the tensioned prevailed columns came marching to thwart any attempt to communalise the issue.

Such has sadly become the face of Delhi, which many rightly say has become un-livable. Probably it is time to rewrite the Darwin’s theory once again—Survival of the Fittest should now become Only Killers can Survive.

But before adapting to the New Darwin’s Theory, I would suggest reading Nazir Akbarabadi’s Aadmi-Naama

दुनिया मैं बादशाह है सो है वोह भी आदमी

और मुफलिस ओ गदा है सो है वोह भी आदमी
जार दर बे नवा है सो है वोह भी आदमी
नेमत जो खा रहा है सो है वोह भी आदमी
टुकड़े जो मांगता है सो है वोह भी आदमी

अब्दाल ओ कुतब ओ घुस ओ वाली आदमी हुई
मुनकर भी आदमी हुए और कुफ्र से भरे
क्या क्या करिश्मे कश्फ़ ओ करामत के किये
हद ता के अपने जोर ओ रियाज़त के जोर पे
खालिक से जा मिला है सो है वोह भी आदमी

फिर'औं ने किया था जो दावा खुदाई का
शाद्दाद भी बहिश्त बना कर हुआ खुदा
नमरूद भी खुदा ही कहाता था बार माला
यह बात है समझने की आगे कहूं मैं क्या
यां तक जो हूँ चूका है सो है वोह भी आदमी

यां आदमी ही नार है और आदमी ही नूर
यां आदमी ही पास है और आदमी ही दूर
कुल आदमी का हुस्न ओ काबा मिएँ है यान ज़हूर
शैतान भी आदमी है जो करता है मकर ओ जोर
और हादी, रहनुमा है सो है वोह भी आदमी

मस्जिद भी आदमी ने बने है यां मियां
बनते हैं आदमी ही इमाम और खुतबा ख्वान
पढ़ते हैं आदमी ही नमाज़ और कुरान यां
और आदमी ही उन की चुराते हैं जूतियाँ
उनको जो ताड़ता है सो है वोह भी आदमी

यां आदमी पे जान को वारे है आदमी
और आदमी ही तेग से मारे है आदमी
पगड़ी भी आदमी की उतारे है आदमी
चिल्ला के आदमी को पुकारे है आदमी
और सुन के दौड़ता है सो है वोह भी आदमी!