Random Thoughts

Limits to Gullibility; Highway to Bankruptcy

Limits to Gullibility
Washing Dirty Linen
Highway to Bankruptcy
Starting the Day in Dubai
Times that are A-changing
Heard of Fairphone?
Think it Through

Limits to Gullibility

In the real world of international affairs, you’re too sure that the list of your friends as you retire for the day will be the same when you get up. It all depends on how long-lasting is your self-interest in your friends and how deep your distrust, in your adversaries. I’m sure the State Department must be running over its list of friends and foes at least once a day.

None can beat the Americans when it comes to overdoing things. While briefing the journalists on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US, the Obama administration placed its bets on a strategic relationship with India, declaring that it “will carry over into the next century.” That is still over good eight decades away. Treat it a gem of American superlatives. There would indeed be innumerable turns and twists – and many a somersault – in the years to come. Naively gullible will be those of us who take the routine welcome seriously. There is a Latin phrase addito salis grano (“add a grain of salt”) which gives us the cautionary warning to take official versions of things with a grain of salt. Salis also mean wit. And it demands that we take things, where necessary, with several grains of skepticism.

There aren’t only just wrinkles in Indo-American ties to be ironed out. There are contentious issues to be resolved. These include US National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on Indian missions and differences over the nuclear liability law. The Prime Minister should better leave these to the next Government after his exit that no one will lament. Let the present visit remain confined to State dinners and Gursharan Kaur’s tea with Michelle Obama.

Washing Dirty Linen

There isn’t, I believe, a household that doesn’t generate its quota of dirty linen. But the discreet ones don’t wash it in public nor hang it in public thoroughfares to dry. They do all this discreetly within the four walls of their premises.

Everyone who has ever cared to think for himself knows that all organizations, like all the Governments of day, survive doing things they publicly deny.

So the alleged misuse of the funds of top secret Technical Support Division (TSD) during General VK Sing’s tenure as Army Chief should surprise only the purblind. Everyone knows that since the days of Sheikh Abdullah, each and every politician in Kashmir Valley is on the payroll of several munificent bodies: Government of India, ISI in Pakistan and, last but not least, that great philanthropic American entity called the CIA. So what’s so shocking coming from the ex-Army Chief?

Yet for purposes of public record we have to say that General VK Singh’s statement that the army has been routinely paying off politicians in Jammu and Kashmir has caused “enormous damage”. The General said what he is expected to leave unsaid.

Nonetheless, I disagree with all that the General has done. Army generals never retire; they just fade away. I don’t know why the former Army chief has denied that comfort to himself. Perhaps the reason is that he hung up his boots in May last year on a bitter note after both the government and the Supreme Court rejected his claim about his date of birth. And here there seems to be more than what meets the eye. The issue of his date of birth appears to be the tip of an iceberg, about 10 % of what is visible while good 90% is below the water line. So let’s not be swayed by the tip.

Highway to Bankruptcy

The Congress Party has started its 2014 election campaign on by announcing the setting up of the seventh Central Pay Commission paving the way for wage revision of millions of central government employees. Whom would the babus vote for? Of course the party that has already assured a bigger pay-packet to the country’s already pampered lot?

Sonia Gandhi has literally left no stone unturned to ensure the bankruptcy of the country. The process started with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, trumpeted as the world’s largest welfare program, enacted in August 2005. The prefix “Mahatma Gandhi” was added as a fig leaf on 2 October 2009, Gandhi’s birth anniversary. I’m sure if the old man was around he would have vehemently opposed it. In 2010-11 it had an outlay Rs. 4000 billion. Don’t ask me how much of it landed in the copious pockets of Party functionaries and how much of it reached those whom it was meant for?

Next came the Indian National Food Security Bill, 2013 (also called Right to Food), signed into law in September 2013. It aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of Indians. Its costs and scope of embezzlement are mind-boggling.

To seal the remote possibility of staving off bankruptcy, now comes the proposal of another Pay Commission.

Starting the Day in Dubai

Next time you land by an early morning flight at Dubai, before checking in a hotel head straight for the just-opened café which is offering ‘22-carat gold’ tea, at a price of just fifty-five Dirham ( about a thousand rupees) a cup. It is claimed that it is beneficial to health. And you know which sort of health you need more than any other when you’re in Dubai? So, start your day with a good cup of gold tea available at Mocca Art Cafe.

The proprietor of the cafe claims they use gold-plated tea leaves that are edible and duly approved by the local health inspectorate. However, the tea leaves are not from one of the Darjeeling valley plantations but an exotic variety from Sri Lanka. Gold plating isn’t done locally but by experts in Deutschland. Thereafter it is specially treated in Morocco. Now you know why Casablanca is so famous?

Times that are A-changing

Pope Francis, I read, has assured atheists: “You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.” How different is His Holiness from his dyed-in-the-wool conservative predecessor and how reassuring for an agnostic like me to hear that.

Responding to a list of questions published in a non-Roman Catholic newspaper Pope Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to Him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”

And that’s not all. Earlier in the year the new Pope signaled a more progressive attitude – hold your breath! – on sexuality, asking: “If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him?”

His Holiness talking of gays and lesbians is a sure sign that matters ecclesiastical are a-changing. Whither shall old pious souls turn to for salvation?

Heard of Fairphone?

Smartphone makers, especially Apple and Samsung have been criticized for failing to reveal that their products were made from materials mined in conflict zones of the world and manufactured in the far eastern factories where labor practices have been called into question. Most of the rare earths used in electronic equipments emanate from trouble spots where mining is largely controlled by local mafia. Industry however is strictly neutral in such matters.

That’s why conscientious souls like me have been avoiding all persuasive techniques in the book to make me buy a smartphone so far. My days of waiting, it seems, are nearly over. The world’s first fair-trade smartphone has been unveiled to the public in London, marking a leap forward in ethical technology. The Dutch firm manufacturing the phone said it had worked closely with pressure groups to ensure the smartphone, called Fairphone, was the most ethically sourced product available.

The new handset, with a screen size of 4.3 inches (10.9cm), half-way between the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III, will be available in the market from the next year.

A number of minerals used in smartphones often come from conflict zones, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The three Ts – tantalum, tin and tungsten in particular, are extracted from mines in the region and armed groups controlling them are alleged to benefit, with profits fuelling the continuing fighting.

Fairphone’s tin and tantalum are extracted from conflict-free mines – those where profits aren’t used for the purchase of arms.

In contrast to Apple’s sealed devices, the Fairphone handset, I’m told, can be opened by consumers and is easy to repair, extending its lifespan. It runs a custom version of Google’s Android operating system. So, at long last I will buy my Fairphone to access your non-ethical instrument.

Think it Through

“No one tests the depths of a river with both feet.” – Ashanti saying

As it is, proverbs embody the collective wisdom of a people – in this case the Ashnti tribe of Ghana. It isn’t just to avoid wetting both your feet, but also – perhaps more importantly – to test waters before jumping in.

How do you react to our version of a nearly similar proverb: Don’t dangle your feet in two boats?


More by :  Sakshi

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