January 2007

Bal Thackeray cartoon Manas Maisnam

Bal Thackeray is a funny man. Way back in 1996, in one of his fleeting revealatory moments, he actually said Muslims in India should be considered as Indian citizens.

“..Where will they go? Pakistan is not ready to accept them. Other Muslim nations do not want them. In fact, they are not even treated properly there. They are citizens of Hindustan. We must look after them and treat them as part of us, as long as they are loyal to the nation, to the Constitution of Hindustan. ”

A decade later, whatever remained of his apathy seems to have disappeared. Giving company to the ethnic-cleanser turned investment-friendly-entrepreneur Narendra Modi, describing him as a ‘staunch Hindu’, Mr.Thackeray now wants Hindus in India to unite and fight against Islam. In his 30-minute speech in Shivaji Park, Mr. Thackeray also accused the Congress of ‘creating rifts based on caste’  and justified the Godhra riots.

Reports of several media houses contemplating on moving his speeches to humour/entertainment sections could not be verified.

Illustration by Manas Maisnam.


Bollywood merchandise dolls toys

Bollywood is finally waking up to the lucrative market of movie merchandise.

Last year on September 14th, in Harrods London, our very own Hrithik Roshan and Kajol arrived in a horse-drawn carriage for the launch of ‘Hollywood Legends’ – an exclusive series of dolls based on top Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra apart from themselves. This marked a successful end to the efforts of London-based entrepreneur Shameen Jivraj, who came to India four years ago with the concept and was favourably received by the stars. The series of dolls was created by Funskool India and is being marketed in UK by Spin Master. Though the Hrithik doll looks a bit like an airbrushed Alec Baldwin and Kajol carrying a ‘Simran look’ according to the marketers, apparently there is enough demand for the toys priced at £14.99 (Rs. 1300) each.

Attempts to sell film merchandise is not entirely new in India, with Krrish masks (marketed by Pantaloon India) and Ram Gopal Verma’s Bhoot Dolls doing a fairly good job. With a booming retail industry in the horizon and its forays into adventure/action and children’s movies genre offering a myriad possibilities, nothing seems to stop the Bollywood merchandise industry. Not even the Amitabh Bachan Classic Thongs, available for $18.

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Indian Barbies and Kens

Miital laughing and CSN breathing while tata is worried

Mittal is saying “Don’t worry, i will buy you guys later”
Corus employees, investors & CSN chief Benjamin are smiling all the way to the bank.
Tata is feeling the pinch. Ouch, it hurts. I thought it will be simple tooth decay, but turned out to be root canal.

I really wanted the title of the post to be “Tata won the battle of nerves”.
On the surface Tata did win the battle, but looking at the books, it is a big loss. The general perception was that Tata was going to make the Corus acquisition little harder and force CSN to pay a huge premium. At the end it turns out to be that CSN strategically withdrew from race forcing Tata to bite the nail. Ouch it hurts.

So the news is Tata buys steel giant Corus at $11.3 Billion. If one has to go by Indian media, this is a major international victory for India Inc and is the first expensive overseas acquisition by the Indian company. Only time can prove, if this was a victory or just an irrational exhuberance.

Corus was on the verge of bankruptcy just 4 years ago and was trading around 10 pence. The CEO steered it clear of Bankruptcy and sold money loosing operations and saved the company from shutting down. It has 40,000 employees and is expected to help Tata in serving the Western market.

Critics argue that Corus makes lot of sense to CSN rather than to Tata. However, Tata entered the scene first and was reluctant to withdraw after seeing CSN counter bid its offer.  There were also rumours that Tata and Corus combined were going to make a bid on CSN once Tata completed its acquisition/merger of Corus. However, CSN surprised Tata and Corus by entering the fray and started counter bidding.

Tata now becomes Fifth largest Steel producer in the world with Corus acquisition. However, with surge in steel supply from China, global steel prices are going to come down in coming years. Overpaying Corus when global prices of steel are expected to come down would hurt Tata steel investors. It is my guess that Tata steel investors would run away awashing the recent gains made in the Tata steel stock.

Mittal is laughing, Benjamin is smiling and Tata is worried.
Will CSN bid for Tata and Corus few years from now? Or
Will Mittal eat all of them together? It will be interesting to watch.

It will be surprising if Tata went into takeover panel to win Corus. If yes, the Tata’s must definitely have something up their sleeves. If not, then it is anybody’s guess about Tata Steel’s future. Hope it remains a steel.

With Indian Bloggers at 3.5 million ( Windows Live Spaces Survey) it is not surprising that the Indibloggies, the Indian awards for the best Indian Bloggers are thriving. They are here again, this time asking for nominations for the best blogs of 2006. This is  how to nominate and you can check out who the jury is.

There are 16 categories in all and the nominations which started on on 26th of January are to end in less than a week – on the 5th of February. The jury will evaluate the nominations and then finally a public poll is to be held in February.

So are these awards any good? Well, that’s for you to judge. There are some decent prizes in store.  And recognition ofcourse. But whether you are a Blogger who thinks of an Award as encouragement or recognition or thinks of awards in a dimissive manner, the fact is that such awards are here to stay. Though the Indibloggies have had some controversies in the past, they seem to be the best around.
The Indian Blogging scene could well explode in the next couple of years and in that case Indibloggies are on to something lucrative. However, even if the survey’s findings are not entirely entirely reliable and Indian bloggers do not number more than a million as some people believe…the survey is still a good indicator of the growing population of Indian bloggers. After all, Windows Live Spaces is a blogging site part of the MSN network, and the statistics that they have quoted are based on visitors to the MSN portal.

It was interesting to read this blogger’s take on the Indibloggies:

I respect the Indibloggies and I don’t mean to disrespect the awards in any way. Infact, I’m more at odds with the bloggers who are not satisfied with the nominations or awards. Sit back and enjoy the awards, people. Stop trying to grab attention. If it comes your way, it just means you are that good. If not, it just means that you aren’t good enough and maybe use that as motivation to try and get better, instead of whining. Of course, another option would be to shut up and delete your blog.

Heh heh.


Education is a topic that is very dear to me. I have always wanted to do something in this area. Something Big! Don’t know when I will be able to do that but till then I will continue to dream of that. In the meantime I have come accross this organization called Schools For India. They seem to have taken the first step in that direction.

The objectives of the trust are admirable. I always thought that something like this will be needed to bring rural India in the mainstream.

To design, construct, establish, run and maintain educational schools in various
districts in India.

To apply the Trust Fund or any part thereof for the general purposes of
designing, constructing, establishing, running and maintaining of schools and in
payment of all rents, rates, taxes, cost of insurance, repairs and other
outgoings payable from time to time in respect of the schools or any property
on which schools are constructed.

They have plans to setup schools in all parts of rural India. And they have big plans.

6000 schools across the country have been planned. Each of the schools will
have the capacity to teach 945 students, including up to 15 special children from
Primary to secondary school.

This is an amazing effort and I think it has huge potential. If done right they can achieve the objective of opening 6000 schools by 2020. It is a huge task and in that they will need every help they can get. They are doing some right things like roping in the corporations to sponsor one or more cluster for a period of 15 years. This willgive a chance to the corporations to discharge their corporate responsibilities to some extent. A similar model will be followed for celebrities.

In addition to this I think they would do good to focus on the revenue model of the schools. The schools should not be run entirely on donations. Donations should be used for the initial setup of school infrastructure and to get it off the ground but the daily maintenance and running of the school should come from a continuing source. In this case it will be fees. It is a very important point to consider.

Another thing that I think they can do is open one good school in urban area where they can get more success and use the profit from there to run a couple of schools in the rural areas. If they see success here then the model can be repeated. It is important to have a revenue source for plans like these to succeed and depending solely on charity can prove detrimental.

On the whole it is a very commendable effort and I wish them well. I, for one, definitely want them to succeed.


cross posted here

While many of us associate serial killers more with characters in a James Patterson novel than to our country, the Noida killings has put the focus back on to these dangerous breed – on why this brand of killers are overlooked when our nation has seen many of the world’s most prolific serial killers.

Thug Behram
Number of victims: 931
Method of Killing: Strangulation with a ceremonial peice of cloth.
Motive: Robbery/Religious fanaticism.
Thug Behram was a member of the notorious Thuggee cult which spread terror in India during the 17th-19th century period until they were eliminated during the British rule. This secret fraternity often befriended unsuspecting travellers before killing them, presumably to rob their belongings. You now know where the English word ‘thug’ came from.

931 seems to be a wildly exaggerated figure even considering his long 40-year old(1790-1830) career, though it is possible that he was present during as many killings with his gang members.

Status: Dead. Confessed to his crimes and provided information about the gang to the British authorities.

Charles Sobhraj

Number of victims: 12
Method of killing: Strangulation, poisoning.
Motive: Personal gains
Charles Sobhraj india bikini killer serial killer
Perhaps the most high profile criminal from India, because of his constant quest for adventure and high-society lifestyle. Served a rather comfortable if not luxurious jail term in the notoriously corrupt Tihar jail . Also known as ‘Bikini killer’ as few of his victims were found killed wearing a bikini

Status: He had the audacity to go to Nepal seeking for attention, where he is serving a life imprisonment term as of now.

Dandupalya Krishna
Dandu Palya Krishna Indian serial killer karanataka andhra

Number of victims: 42 (Unofficial figures cited as more than 100)
Method of Killing: Attacks with crowbar and other weapons.
Motive: Necrophilia/Bestiality/Sodomy/Robbery

Leader of the dreaded Dandupalya gang which operated across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh from August 1995 to October 1999.

“I liked to hear the last sounds of life draining away. It excited me to hear the gurgling sound that emerges from the throat after I slit it,” Krishna said, without a hint of remorse after he was captured by the police.

Status: All members of the gang convicted and sentenced to death in 1999 with a fine of Rs.30,000 each.

Auto Shankar
Number of victims: 9
Method of Killing: Uknown
Motive: Sex, Money

During a period of six months in 1988, Auto Shankar abducted and murdered 9 teenage girls in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. Though, initially he blamed on the influence of cinema for the crimes, a month before his execution, he confessed to committing the murders for some politicians who had raped the abducted teenage girls.

Status: Auto Shankar and his accomplices were hanged to death in 1995 while his other accomplices including his brother Auto Mohan was sentenced to life imprisonment. No inquiries were ordered to examine the links of politicians.

Raman Raghav
Number of victims: 42
Method of Killing: Bludgeoning to death with an iron bar with a sharp edge which he designed named as ‘Kanpatti’.
Motive: Robbery, schizophrenia

During the mid 1960’s Raman Raghav created so much panic in Mumbai, that people were afraid to go to sleep in the night. Even the subsequent events following his arrest was never short of drama. Though he was convicted of his crimes, his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment after his mental illness was certified.

Status: Died of kidney trouble while undergoing treatment for his mental illness.

The Stoneman
Number of victims: 13 (not established)
Method of Killing: Bludgeoning to death with a heavy stone
Motive: Unknown

15 years after Raman Raghav’s brutal murders, during 1985-’87 a series of murders of beggars and street dwellers were reported in North Mumbai. Despite the best efforts of the police, the identity of the killer was never established nor they came across any clues. By 1987, the murder spree stopped and the Stoneman never reappeared.

The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit is an annual event conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute, India (TERI) in the capital of India, New Delhi. This year it was held on January 22-24. It is mainly concerned with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and how it can be achieved. Slowly it is becoming a bigger force in the world with the setting up of the WSDF (World Sustainable Development Forum) to conduct similar events in different parts of the world.

The background:

Commenced in 2001, the DSDS (Delhi Sustainable Development Summit), an annual event organized by TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), has emerged as the most credible platform for international deliberation and dialogue on issues of long-term sustainable development. Each year, discussions among participants from the corporate sector, governments, international agencies, and institutes result in a comprehensive framework for practical and workable strategies to take the sustainable development agenda forward.

This year the theme is “Meeting the MDGs: Exploring the Natural Resource Dimensions”.

India faces a unique challenge. It needs to continue its existing economic growth of 8%+ into the future so that it has a chance to better the lives of more than 350 million Indians who live in poverty earning less than $1 a day. At the same time the increasing problems of a high carbon based economy is evident all around the world.

The Keynote address of DSDS 07 concentrated on the business role in sustainable development and concluded the following:

The session concluded with the consensus that the corporate sector needs to look at sustainable development challenges not as a component of corporate social responsibility practices, but as a business opportunity. Like in all business opportunities, first movers will hold the advantage in the coming business model in which social and environmental sustainability are integral to the bottom line.

Rajendra K Pachauri is the director-general of TERI. He is the main person behind DSDS. In an interview with Financial Express he shares his views on the issues facing India.

But MDG’s does not focus on all the major environmental issues. So, why are you linking up with MDGs this year?

All the MDGs are constrained by the damage that we are doing to our natural resources. An essential prerequisite for poverty elimination is that you got to enrich your natural resource base. You can’t plunder the soil, ruin your water streams, overexploit groundwater potential and yet be able to meet the MDGs.

You are able to get some of the world’s best thought leaders year after year. How do you manage it?

I think there are two reasons. Firstly, the idea of a get together where one comes to grips with the concept of sustainable development and the challenges associated with it is appealing. It’s also an opportunity to exchange experiences by those, who are involved in its pursuit.

Secondly, it has also to do with concerns worldwide about what the emerging economies are going to do. Are they going to pursue the same paths that the developed countries did? If so, then the world obviously has to wake up.

Indian government’s stated position is more in favour of economic development than sustainable development. Is it the right stance?

We want economic development, but the question is do we want dirty economic development. But the fact remains that we are not focussed on some of these issues. It’s important to do it at this stage. Otherwise it will be much too late. You can’t turn the clock back.

I have not known Pachauri’s work before. He talks the right kind of balance which India and other emerging countries need to achieve a low-carbon, high resource productive, minimal waste generating, greater well-being, lower cost, low poverty, economy of the future.

The website of DSDS provides only small summaries of the various keynotes and discussion sessions. It would have been highly valuable if like Davos 07 the technologies available could be used to webcast, podcast, blogs and full-length summaries of various presentations were available to the general public.

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