Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wrong Focus

If there is any organisation or working without any focus, it is Indian Government. In the rare instance when it has one, the focus is not where it should be.

The anti-AIDS campaign is one such activity. There are several ways in which AIDS spreads, like during blood transfusion. But for some strange reason, the focus is only on sex. The 'sub-focus', if you can call it - is only on men. As if only men go astray.

Now, a study, by Royal Society of Medicine, has said India is making "perilous mistakes" in its fight against AIDS. Here is a report:

India flawed by focus on sex in campaign against AIDS: study

Paris, Oct 27 (AFP) India is making perilous mistakes in its fight against AIDS by assuming the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is being spread overwhelmingly by sex and especially by prostitutes, a study warns.
India is considered by many specialists to be an easy target for AIDS, despite the health authorities’ insistence that they are making headway against the disease.
In May, the Geneva-based agency UNAIDS said India had 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS - the highest figure in the world, ahead of South Africa where the figure stands at 5.5 million. The government says the tally is 5.2 million.
The new study, published by Britain’s prestigious Royal Society of Medicine, does not wade into the row over these figures, but instead lashes India’s assumption that sex, especially with prostitutes, is the main driver for new infections.
‘‘It is inconsistent with evidence and very likely wrong,’’ is the blunt verdict delivered by US researchers David Gisselquist and Mariette Corea in the society’s International Journal of STD and AIDS.
According to India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), 86 percent of HIV infections are from sexual transmission, and according to three studies that have helped underpin the country’s AIDS strategies, prostitutes account for 27 per cent of the total.
But Gisselquist and Corea - who did extensive field research in India - say these calculations are terribly wide of the mark.
The total estimate of infections comes from hospital staff, who assess and report routes of transmission for patients admitted with AIDS.
But many personnel routinely assign cases to the category of sexual acquisition without asking if the patient may have been exposed to infection through blood, the authors say.
And they argue the official tally of prostitutes in India, their number of clients and the frequency of clients’ visits are probably huge overestimates.
In addition, there is evidence that commercial sex workers are far likelier to use condoms and less likely to have HIV than health officials believe, the study says.
Its best estimate is that prostitutes account for just two per cent of HIV infections - and a high estimate would be 13 per cent, less than half that of NACO’s figure.
This means that India is ignoring threats from other sources, in particular the re-use of unsterile instruments in hospitals, cosmetic services, dental surgeries and tattoo parlours.
In one incident, commercial sex workers reported they had stood in line for tattoos that were administered without changing needles or inkpot between customers.
And the researchers found a common mistaken belief among the general public as well as the medical profession that HIV survives no more than seconds or a few minutes outside the body. ‘‘The official sexualisation of the HIV epidemic has blinded just about everybody to considering (and protecting against) non-sexual routes of transmission,’’ the journal said in an editorial.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The pictures speak for themselves. These are pictures that tell the story of the sorry state of most MTC (Metropolitan Transport Corporation) buses in Chennai.
On the left is what is left of a bus seat, and on the right is what the poor bus drivers have to put up with. The heat and engine noise near the driver's seat was unbearable. There is no point in blaming the drivers if they have to work in such conditions.
One wonders why the transport corporation still put these tin boxes on the road.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Everything changes, say the Communists. Though I am not a Communist, I have decided to change (the blog, not myself).
Why the change? No great reason. But my vision of life has been undergoing changes as my thinking becomes more mature (no, please don't laugh).
My friend Pradeep Nair said (long ago) that one day I will change my views on Hindutva. I don't think even he remembers it. It is happening, but in a different way.
I have veered more to the views of J.Krishnamurti and Osho from hardcore Hindutva. The way I look at religion has also changed drastically over the years.
So has the blog.
The blog will discuss everything under the sun. No restrictions. And there will also be more pictures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Danger in waiting

The bus stop at Guindy in Chennai has a useless and rusted iron board with sharp edges which is used only for sticking bills. May be the sadistic bloke who put up the board at such a low height wanted to ensure that whoever uses the pavement will be in danger of hurting himself. The civic body too seems to be blissfully unaware of the danger. May be as usual, it is waiting for someone to get injured seriously before taking action.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Celebrating treason

Chandan Mitra (Pioneer)

With no logic, no legal figment and no public support at their command, the NGO brigade has descended to wringing out every drop of emotion, with the help of a misguided section of the media. They have spun out a tear-jerker that could be a Bollywood scriptwriter's envy. The leading light of the India-baiting jholawala brigade, one Nandita Haksar, was in her element on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan last Thursday. Caressing seven-year-old Ghalib, son of death merchant Afzal Guru, she claimed that the (tutored) child told President Kalam that his life's ambition to become a doctor would remain unfulfilled if his father's life were snatched away. The boy cutely stood, suitably melancholic, under Haksar's ample protection while his mother and grandmother recounted their interaction with a sympathetic President. Split TV screens, meanwhile, kept zooming in on that blabbering classes' icon Arundhati Roy who can be guaranteed to cheerlead any gathering that aims to berate India's pride, rule of law, or economic progress.

Those who have made a profession out of running India down have found a new cause celebre in the death row convict. Having tasted blood by successfully browbeating the system into exonerating Afzal's co-conspirator SAR Geelani, the India bashers are convinced they can notch up another victory by getting the pusillanimous Congress leadership to buckle under pressure. Already, a jittery Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has spoken out in their favour, warning that the Valley may erupt if the hanging happens. Although his Cabinet colleague, Jammu leader Mangat Ram Sharma, has been forced to sound a dissenting note and one of the party's few mass leaders, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh picked up courage to demand Afzal's execution, the Congress is petrified at the thought of taking a decision either way.

To begin with, I fail to see why there should be a debate at all. The matter is clear-cut. Afzal Guru was one of the terrorists who stormed Parliament House on December 13, 2001 and it was he who first opened fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died protecting the majesty of democracy and the nation's honour that fateful morning. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a POTA Court - a verdict upheld by the Supreme Court.

The same process of law failed to find sufficient evidence against his cohort SAR Geelani and acquitted him much to the chagrin of patriotic civilians as well as the security establishment.

Geelani breezed out of Tihar and held a Press conference amid the raucous applause of the 'Hate India' brigade, in which he extolled the virtues of the Indian judiciary, while slamming the political establishment.

Consequently, Geelani faced an awkward dilemma when the Hate India-wallahs started baying for the judiciary's blood in the Afzal case, claiming the convict did not get a fair trail. This was reiterated by his wife Tabassum, who falsely asserted before TV cameras that her husband did not even get the services of a lawyer - a charge she apparently conveyed to the President. The duplicity of the jholawalas who have taken control of Tabassum, in a way reminiscent of Teesta Setalvad's stranglehold over Zahira Sheikh prior to the latter's somersault, is mindboggling. If SAR Geelani got a fair trial in the same case, how come Afzal Guru did not? The bottom line of the NGO brigade's contention is that justice must conform to their likes and dislikes. So, if the Supreme Court refuses to stop construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, it shows the Indian judiciary to be contemptible; if it awards the death penalty to Afzal Guru, there's a miscarriage of justice. But if it frees Geelani, the judiciary covers itself with glory.

Unable to explain the logic behind these contradictory assertions, some professional agitators are now claiming that most terrorist outrages in India are suspect. I heard one of them tell a TV channel that the Chittisinghpora massacre (on the eve of President Bill Clinton's visit) was "staged", while the Nanded bomb blasts were the handiwork of Bajrang Dal, the attack on the RSS headquarters at Nagpur "suspect", and there were big question marks on the Malegaon incident. First, each of these claims is patently false. Second, to obliquely suggest that the attack on Parliament was "staged" by Indian agencies reveals the depravity of their minds.

To be entertained, a mercy petition by a death row convict must consider whether he is remorseful or at least regrets his action. In the present case, the death peddler is not only unrepentant, but has actually refused to sign his mercy petition. At least he is an honest jihadi who carried out the Parliament attack in the belief (howsoever misplaced) that by seeking to destabilise India he was responding to a higher call. Afzal was driven by the same conviction that motivated several well-educated, sophisticated men to hijack planes and fly them into the WTC towers on 9/11 the same year.

Like them, Afzal was ready to die in the process, just as his five Pakistani colleagues did that morning. Why then, should his life be spared? Especially when we already have the example of Azhar Masood who had to be freed in exchange for passengers on IC 814? May be it is precisely in the hope that fellow jihadis will stage yet another successful hijack and get Afzal released that the Hate India agitators have mounted their tear-jerker campaign.

After all, their sole aim is to weaken and eventually destroy the Indian state and subsequently the civilisation itself. In any self-respecting country they would have been declared Fifth Columnists and prosecuted for treason. In India, on the other hand, they are celebrities who hog large chunks of airtime and column centimetres.

However, while the agenda and modus operandi of the NGO brigade is transparent, the Congress party's surreptitious scheming needs to be deplored roundly. Afzal's hanging, like Geelani's acquittal, is not a Muslim issue. The average Indian Muslim is not batting for Afzal. Like the rest, the Muslims regard Afzal as a traitor who has been sentenced to death by the due process of law and, therefore, deserves to be hanged. But bereft of any achievement in governance, the Congress has decided to aggressively fragment Indian society on caste and communal lines hoping to reap an electoral windfall. It believes that Arjun Singh's systematic destruction of institutions of excellence will get OBCs flocking to the party while clemency for Afzal will drive Muslims in droves into the Congress kitty. If in the process India gets irreparably mauled, so be it.

The people of India have repeatedly seen through such games. Had they been stupid, VP Singh would not have been reduced to a mere jhuggi-jhopri dwellers' leader today. The same fate could well be awaiting those Congress stalwarts who are plotting against the nation in cahoots with the jholawalas.