Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Is India a country of rapists?

This was a hot topic a couple of years back right after the much publicized horrific incident of the Delhi rape.

Rape is one of the worst crimes. Full stop. If you ask me, there is no excuse that I have for such crimes and we as Indians should make it go away 100%. I am ashamed if even 1 rape happens per year in our population.

That said, the way our country got projected as a country of rapists was in my view not fair. It went to such an extent that a German professor declined admission to a student from India because she thought we harbored rapists. I don't think we deserve this image for sure.

To say that India is a country of rapists as there are so many rapes happening is the same as arguing that India is a country of smokers as there are so many people smoking or say to say India is a country of sick people as so many people fall sick every year.

In such a huge country obviously these numbers will be more, but you always have to contextualize it in terms of % of the population, the local law enforcement capacity, number reported vs. actual and so on.

If you look at the actual statistics per 100,000 we fare much better than most countries and are waaaaaay down at the bottom rank of 94 out of about 120 countries which means there are 93 countries that actually have more rapes reported per 100,000 people. Even developed countries like Sweden and US have way more reported incidents than in India. Of course in India far less incidents are reported. However, I do not think India is unsafe for women in comparison to several of these other countries. 

For instance, while travelling in South Africa, my brother was appointed a body guard and was told never to step out after 6 PM. Whereas, my cousin sister who grew up in Mumbai always tells me she feels fairly safe even late in the night and she has never faced an issue.

Yes, bad things happen in India and so do they everywhere else, but it is very unfair to brand an entire country a country of rapists. This image is a malicious portrayal of my country by western medias ignoramuses.

Here is my take
1) Indian men are actually fairly shy. I encourage a westerner to talk to an Indian and find out for themselves
2) There is a character in Big Bang Theory (called Raj) who actually has difficulty hitting it off with women and can only speak to women if he is drunk. Although he is a bit of an exaggeration - I tend to agree that we are in general a shy lot

Now, coming to the core issue. Why is there so much of talk about rape in India

1) Firstly it is a good thing that we talk about it because that is how it can be stopped. More rapes are reported in India now than before, which is good and it should always go up (i.e. the number of reported should match the number of incidents). 
2) Media is very active in India and reports every single incident and they do it because they need the TRPs. This however, gets carried away by the western media for a very malicious portrayal. I was watching a news in Canada about a rape in India when in fact, as per statistics, Canada has a much larger incidence of rape than does India. Canadas entire population is less than that of Mumbai and Delhi put together and hence obviously more incidents will happen in India. I love Canada by the way and I think crime rates are one of the lowest here and I really enjoy the hospitality of Canadian people (one of the least racist in my view). However, I was very surprised their media chose to cover a rape in India vs. the several ones that happen locally. This is all I am trying to point toward.
3) More women are now coming forward and this is a very good trend
4) I somehow feel our public service departments (police, judiciary) etc. are very stretched and we need to have more capacity created in all of these to solve this problem quickly
5) Contrary to popular belief India actually has a pretty high conviction rate for rape. We had an impressive 24.2% in 2012 compared to say UK which had like 7% and Sweden (one of the most developed nations) at 10%
6) In how many countries have you witnessed the kind of uproar and protesting in the streets as you saw in India? There were candle light marches, social media outrage and all over the country people came to the streets. I think that is a very positive thing to have happened. How many countries that are worse than us (in rape %) can boast of such a vibrant population?

So to sum up.

Yes, we have a long way to go. But we certainly are NOT a country of rapists or one that encourages this practice. 

Pasting this article from my other blog

Tejas - our first fighter aircraft

The HAL/ADA Light Combat Aircraft or Tejas is a brilliant achievement by Indians and is perhaps one of the most significant achievements of Indian inventors. It is a largely indigenous, about 73% as per the CAG report of 2012 (except for the engine, radar, the ejection seat and some missiles)

Is the project delayed?
Firstly, I have seen so much bad press about the delay of this project (such as this one). Some points to note here are
1) The first time money was actually spent to initiate a proof of concept was in 1993
2) The first flight actually happened by 2001

This makes it a 8-9 year from money given to showing a functional model which is about the time that almost any company/country takes 

From 1993 to 2016 is a 33 year time frame, yes, but 33 years is not a "delay". A delay happens after you commit to a time and then you do not deliver in that time. There were several challenges to completing this project in time such as changing requirements, Kargil, Pokhran blasts resulting in an Embargo, so on and so forth.

Is it fully indigenous?

Second, the common negative that is pointed out is that it is not fully indigenous as some parts are imported. Here I want to break up this argument in multiple parts
1) Indigenous actually means it is designed and manufactured in India which it is. So it is indigenous. Period.
2) Even if you want a model where there are no parts of the aircraft that are imported, there are two arguments. Worldwide some of the parts are pretty much used as a standard and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. For instance refer the article here "A few other important items of equipment (such as the Martin-Baker ejection seat) have been imported. But the Martin-Baker ejection seat is virtually a universal standard and virtually there are no aircraft systems around the world that manage without their technology." Second, across the world, there are many successful aircrafts that import parts. For instance F16 imports 60% of its parts. Gripen uses more than 50% of imported parts. 
3) There was an attempt to create an indigenous Kaveri engine. I have heard that we were not successful in completing it for the payload requirements. However, I am optimistic at some stage we will get there. 

The critical aspect is that we have designed it and are manufacturing it in India.

It is still a generation behind and not advanced enough

Obviously it will not be. Humans did not build the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Tanjore or the Great Pyramid before they built a hut to stay. 

We will get there. 

The important thing to note here is that all of the critical elements of having a R&D centre, a simulation lab, a training place, an infrastructure that supports prototyping, a large number of people who possess the knowledge and skills needed for a program of this kind, several patents in this area etc. are all now in place.

It took a lot of time for humans to invent a computer, but once we did, see how it has exploded the world in a few short years. Same is the case with the first model. Once you have that in place, the rest is not going to be so tough.

Does this mean we have done extremely well?

No. I do not mean to say that we have delivered a world class product in a very short time and there is nothing we could have done better. I know how Indian PSUs work, and how much bureaucracy there would have been etc. I am pretty sure there were unwarranted delays. All I am saying is, all said and done, I am proud and it is still a commendable achievement. We have not caused a delay that say any other country would not have had to go through to develop their indigenous aircraft and our aircraft is no less superior to any other aircraft of its class. So definitely a pat in the back.

Am posting my post in my other blog here as well

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why did Hanuman carry a mountain when the logical/easier thing to do was to carry Lakshmana and the medic to the mountain?

This was a question that was asked by Shri Tarek Fatah in a recent video that I was watching of him.

I found this question to be fairly logical and from a mechanical point of view a much simpler thing to do and it bugged me that Hanuman would choose to act the way he did.

After pondering over this question for some time I think I finally know the answer

1) First of all, if someone in our house falls sick, our first natural response is go to the shop and buy the medicine and bring it home and not carry the person themselves to the medical shop
2) Second, we do not know if Lakshmana was in a very serious condition (which is fairly possible) and he may not have withstood the tough journey through the skies and may end up dying mid way in the journey because of the stress of journey
3) Third, the medics may be trying to keep him alive (for instance, even today if you are in a hospital, they think multiple times before they pull you out of life support to transport you). Some of the life supporting activities may not have been possible while doing the journey at the same time
4) Lastly, it is easy to say on hindsight that he could have carried Lakshmana. When he started the journey he never imagined that he would be carrying a mountain back. He only thought it was going to be a few herbs

I hope this answers the question. I am convinced logically that Lakshmana would not have withstood the journey and I am sure this would have been discussed at the time.

Hope this answers the question that Shri Tarek Fatah had.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

My predictions for oil and the Middle-east region in the near future (by 2020)

Oil price has historically gone up and down and that has never been a major problem for the world. Usually in about 2-3 years time it rebounds.

However, what is different this time, is that there are several forces that are going to keep it down. 

They are
1) The shale boom - The discovery of shale and its economical extraction at $50-60 price range per barrel has created a new so called "regulator"/"moderator" that is  never going to allow oil to go above this price range. 
2) Iran - A new supplier into the world market has been added who has a potential for 500,000 to 1,000,000 barrels of crude a day
3) Market forces prevent production cut - history has taught Saudi and other OPEC countries that ceding the market position is a very dangerous play. Hence they will not cut production for fear of losing market share. This market is based on long term contracts and if you lose market share, you will have a very tough time getting it back. The other problem is cutting production will only result in the US taking advantage of the shale boom. All these countries realize that it is only a matter of time before oil is no longer used in the world and people switch to alternate forms of energy. Hence these countries are making an attempt at "making hay while the sun shines". In the long term who knows if there will be takers for the oil. 
4) World demand is slowing - Rise in alternate energy sources, most countries going through economic slowdown, world population slowly reaching a plateau and hence the demand is bound to follow that curve to some extent (it is expected that population growth in the world will stop by 2050 by some studies based on current trends)
5) Supply glut - US storage in Cushing and several other places are almost full, most countries have filled up their reservoirs, UAE is in fact agreeing to supply oil free of cost to India if it allows them to store oil and later recover 1/3 of it (2/3 will be free). It will take several months of demand exceeding the supply for these reservoirs to start getting empty
6) Technology - Rapid improvements in technology are making shale and other remotely available oil sources economically viable at the $50-60 mark
8) Geo politics - A low price is advantageous to US and Saudi from a political standpoint as it keeps Russia in check. Russia will not cut production for fear of losing market. Venezuela is under 60% inflation and cutting oil will only worsen this situation. A low price is also going to keep the ISIS coffers lower which is good for several countries. Low price is always an advantage for oil consuming nations and hence they would "let things be" and not interfere. A low price is good for OPEC as it prevents US and other countries from extracting oil via shale. From a political standpoint it has reached a stalemate where everyone has something to gain from this situation and the only loser being oil itself. 

As a result of the above I predict that oil price will remain sub $50 for the next foreseeable future. It is likely never to cross that mark.

What this means for the Middle-East

I predict that unless there is rapid cultural, economic, skill development and political change in these countries, one or more of the following is likely to happen (and I will give my reasons why)

1) A massive political turmoil/internal strife will likely take place in most of these countries
Similar to the Arab springs, it may not be unusual to see a massive internal strife in several of these countries demanding other forms of political management (kicking theocracy/autocracy out and bringing in democracy)
2) War between countries
Some countries may even go to war with each other (Iran vs. Saudi, ISIS vs. a few others, Israel may get sucked into this, Pakistan may get sucked into this)
3) Countries breaking apart 
Where there is a significant population of Shia and Sunni followers, the region may witness split of a country in two or more parts

Why do I make these predictions

1) US - US is a monkey in the story of the monkey and the cats. It will always look out only for its best interest and it will let other countries go through a lot of suffering as long as it gains from it. This has always been the way it has operated. It will meddle in the world affairs only from a self interest perspective although the official narrative is that of being a world watchdog.

In this situation, a middle-east turmoil benefits the US (it did not do so in the past). Why?
1) US now is self sufficient and no longer needs the middle eastern oil. Earlier it was dependent on middle-east oil but now it is a competitor to them
2) US can sell arms and weapons to these countries and benefit from its sales if they go to war or if there is a strife
3) It does not matter which country wins the war/struggle in the region as that will ALWAYS benefit US because
a) It will push oil price up and hence US shale will benefit
b) It will allow US to sell weapons/arms
c) Whoever emerges the victor would still have to depend on US to supply technology for the extraction. It is a win-win situation
4) It is in direct US interest that these countries go to war with each other because otherwise the shale deposits may go unused forever (like the saying goes "the stone age did not end because the world ran out of stone", the oil age may end without shale being used)

US has been clearly hypocritical in advocating democracy, liberalism and all that crap to the world but has been supporting the theocracy and the repulsive human rights record of Saudi regime. They support Saddam as long as he stands with them. They never supported Iran and did their best to prevent Iran from being a democratic power. They foisted a false WMD story on Iraq and completely screwed it up (as Iraq was about to set up an oil exchange that would trade in non US currency)

US did all this purely from a self-interest perspective. Oil. 

Now, what has changed with the Shale boom is that the middle east now seek to become the competition to US. Hence US will slowly pull sanctions out of Iran, it will slowly withdraw from the region and will give some lame excuses for changing its stance etc. (again it will talk about liberalism, freedom, democracy and all that crap) and will drive these countries to war.

2) Cultural/Religious - There is too much bad blood between the countries of these regions over religious and cultural differences and they have historically been warring nations all through. It is not hard for them to pick up their swords and sharpen them once more. 

There are so many warring/jihadi/wahabi/ and all sorts of sects that give all sorts of religious and other reasons to go to war and keep fighting over a piece of desert sand.

3) Lack of skill development - People in these countries have historically enjoyed the benefits of oil boom and several generations of their population has led a very comfortable and cushy life. They never bothered to improve their skills. If the population does not work hard for a living and does not know how to work hard, it is only a matter of time before the country falls

These countries need oil to be at a very high value for their budgets to break even (ref. link ). Saudi needs oil at $104, Kuwait at $78, UAE at $81 etc. 

Oil is never coming back to those levels. Hence, there will be budget cuts, there will be job losses, there will be closure of oil companies and government jobs. Where will people then staff themselves if they lack skills?

Unemployment will surely rise if the countries do not have anything else to offer to themselves and to the world.

4) They have nothing else - Without oil, the best these countries can offer to the world is a desert tourism. Tourism will hardly sustain their current lifestyle. 

Countries that lack natural resources (Japan, Singapore etc.) have invested heavily in other areas such as being a technology front runner, a manufacturing hub, a financial capital etc. Small countries like Denmark own the patent for Insulin medicine and that would give them revenue. Korea and Taiwan are manufacturing hubs. Switzerland is the worlds financial capital. 

Unless the Middle-East brings something to the table for the world to benefit from, they stand isolated. They are not self-sufficient unlike countries like India or US or China that have vast agricultural and arable lands. Hence they need the world to need them or they will go dry very soon. Literally.

I hope that I can give a better prediction, but I am sad that a lot of trouble and sorrow are imminent in these regions unless something changes quickly.

If I were the leader of one of these countries, here is what I would do to prevent chaos in the future

1) I would encourage rapid skill development initiatives
2) Force austerity and cut down unnecessary spending 
3) Invest heavily in alternate technologies/initiatives
4) Put a lot of money in Wealth management funds that will invest in other countries/resources to give me sustained funding for the near future
5) Connect with people regularly and keep them informed/engaged so that they do not engage in any unlawful activities
6) Encourage emigration
7) Encourage voluntary population controls
8) Invest heavily in R&D and identify other things that my country can offer to the world

The views expressed are not intended to hurt anyone or any sentiments but more of a "Nostradamusy" urge to predict the future. I hope I am wrong.