Rathodics

Call it Rathodics, Rathodology, Rathod-gineering, or Rathodistry; chances are high that you will find lot of useless things on this blog. Nevertheless, I thank you for visiting my blogsite, and hope you spend sometime reading the blogs and commenting on them. Further, you can visit me at http://www.unm.edu/~srathod

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Protest-Vote

I don't know whether it is a matter of coincidence or whether Niket knew about this, but just two weeks ago, while talking with Niket, we discussed about having a no-vote, also called as protest vote, option during elections. And, today, I read that the upcoming local elections in Maharashtra on April 10, will allow voters to register a protest vote. However, the Supreme court has still not passed a judgment on a petition demanding an additional facility on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) to log no-votes. It is a different matter that the reasons guiding this decision, in case of the Maharastra election commission, is not exactly the same reason as I would want a protest vote.

I felt convinced about this idea of protest-vote, when there were elections in the local student body here. Nominations were solicited for various posts. However, since only one nomination was received for each post, the candidates won the elections un-contested. My point is that after hearing the agenda of these candidates, if I am not satisfied, then I should be able to say that I feel that the candidate can't perform the duties of the post in concern, and I would not vote for this candidate, even though he or she is the only candidate. Unfortunately, the elections, or should I say, non-elections due to lack of more than one candidates, were already over by the time I came across this revelation.

Now, getting back to the Maharashtra local elections, I feel that this is a great step towards registering the citizens opinion for candidates in his/her constituency. It gives a solution to the age-old question that elections is a process of choosing between better of the two evils (my sincerest apologies to those candidates who are, indeed, honest). If it turns out that I don't like either of the candidates standing in the election, then I should have a right to ask the parties to field in candidates who I believe will serve the constituency. It puts the ball in the court of these political parties, who seem to be under the notion, though false, that the idealogies of their party and its members are the most altruistic and in congruence.

However, now the problem lies in the fact, that if protest-vote gets a majority, then what should be done. One of the solutions would be to ask the parties to field a different person as its candidate, and conduct elections again. Though logical, given the amount of planning, money and human resources involved, this seems to be a difficult solution to implement, without substantial burden on the exchequer. I would be interested in knowing what the election commission and the Supreme Court thinks about this dilemma.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Generic drug king in this patented drug market?

The Swiss pharmaceutical, Novartis AG, became the world's largest generic drug maker by agreeing to buy 100% of the German firm Hexal and 67.7% of Eon Labs, a US generic drugs company with strategic partnership with the German firm. This follows the acquisition of Slovenia's Lek in 2002 and Canada's Sabex last year by Novartis.

This seems to be a highly calculated move on part of Novartis, when most of the big pharmaceuticals are directing their products towards high margin drugs. Not to say that Novartis plans to abandon this highly profitable patented drugs market, but it seems that Novartis has found a tremendous potential on these off-patent drugs. Novartis aims to capture 10% of this currently $58 billion generic drugs market by 2010, which will be $93 billion by then.

Only time will tell, whether this gamble will pay off or not.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The shuttling of the MLAs in Goa by BJP to Jaipur and then to Udaipur seems to suggest that these MLAs will not miss a chance to shift to the Congress camp in the face of the trust vote in the assembly. This is not the first time that a political party has taken such steps from getting their MLAs poached by the rival party. Congress MLAs dissenting against Shankersinh Vaghela were taken to Khajuraho. 34 Nationalist Congress Party MLAs were forced to a mandatory vacation in Indore, when the Congress chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's coalition government was under pressure from the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition.

The point to be raised is that what good is an MLA, who can defect to the opposing party on just being promised a berth in the government. Such a person lacks the will to stick to the idealogies of the political party itself; how can he or she serve the common man then? Wouldn't a party be better off without such members? Defection just before and during the time of decisions involving change of guard in the government, viz. vote of no confidence, should be barred. This would prevent such power-grabbers.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Kyoto Protocol

Finally, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol came into effect on Wednesday, requiring the participating countries to cut back emissions by 2012 to 5.2% of the 1990 levels. Many of the European Union nations have been reducing industrial emissions by employing better methods, even before the treaty came into effect a couple of days ago.

However, notable mention in the treaty is the refusal of the US and Australia to ratify the treaty. It should be observed that US produces more than 25% of the world's greenhouse gases. China comes a distant second. One of the reasons which US and Australia give is that the cutback clause did not apply to India and China. India and China account for less than 12% of the world's greenhouse gases emissions. In such a situation, it would be worthwhile to note what the editorial in the Thursday issue of TOI says:

"...It is facile to lay the blame for global climate change entirely on smokeemitting choolas and methane-expelling animal-waste fuels in the Indo-Gangetic plain, which are at any rate more environment-friendly than energy-guzzling electric appliances and heavy industry..."

According to US, the long-term benefit from the Kyoto climate treaty won't be worth the immediate economic cost. Wouldn't it be a good idea, if even companies started thinking this way? Make hay while the sun shines. Who cares about long-term prospects of the companies? Make money, even though that would imply short-term success, but long-term failure. Is that what they teach at Harvard and Yale? It says that signing the treaty would slow down their economic growth. It implies that the US agrees that its economic engine is based on employing trade practices, which involves, among other things, polluting the environment. I am not against capitalism, but this is capitalism at its worst.

President Bush says that the harmful effects of carbon dioxide pollutant are yet to be scientifically proved. So, articles in Science and Nature are wrong. And, chances are that such a research won't be completed in US, since all the money goes for defence-related projects.

US says that it is planting trees and preserving forests as carbon sinks. I don't know about the rest of the US, but this is totally contradictory to what I have been observing in my neighbourhood. I have uploaded, on my photolog, two snaps of a street which runs just behind my apartment. One of them was taken 4 years ago, and the other one was taken today. The old one shows the road-divider lined with trees, whereas the new one shows all the trees cut down. Is that the trees plantation drive we are talking about?

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, argues in the same issue of TOI, when asked about US staying out of the protocol:


"...If we see the developments in American states, from California to New England, if we see the growing commitment of companies for a technology-oriented push, we see it is not a monolithic block. We see it also in the administration..."

Mr. Toepfer, is that the reason, why California did away with a rule to have 100% Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) by 2004? Or, was it just plain old lobbying from this same companies with technology-oriented push? The above example contradicts your statement that the administration is pushing for cleaner technologies.

Ian Campbell, the Environment Minister of Australia, says that Australia is on track to cut emissions by 30%. Then, why not sign the protocol? It isn't asking for anything different. Aha, easier said than done. It's time you practice what you preach.

The plain truth is that these two countries don't benefit anything from signing this treaty, and hence their refusal.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sign NPT? No way..

An article on Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in TOI provides a better picture about India's reluctance to sign this treaty. Even though the basic idea of NPT is noble, I find the discriminatory regulations of the treaty repulsive. Further, as far as nuclear weapons research is concerned, India is at a cross-road from where it can't turn back just because such a partisan treaty, as NPT is, says so. If India signs the treaty, then it would call for destroying all of India's nuclear arsenal, since India would have to sign it as a Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS). However, the 5 Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) have every right in this universe to not to destroy their nuclear weapons, simply because they tested their weapons before January 1967. Further, the presence of loopholes in such treaties makes it worthless to follow. Iran and North Korea seem to be taking advantage of these loopholes. As a matter of fact, US, one of the 5 NWS, itself, has backed away from a number of elements of the treaty on grounds of security reasons. Reports of China, one of the 5 NWS, aiding Pakistan in developing nuclear weapons are aplenty. Such a pact is nothing, but another so-called legal way for the developed nations to have an upper-hand on the developing and the under-developed nations.

Friday, February 11, 2005

All the President's Men...

The cover page of the recent issue of Time magazine sports the image of Dr. A.Q.Khan, the erstwhile chief of the Pakistan's nuclear ambitions. Aptly titled The Merchant of the Menace, this issue gives an account on the nefarious activities of the scientist, who has made himself a big name in the nuclear weapons trafficking market, by doing business with regimes in Libya, Iran and North Korea, while being head of Pakistan's nuclear program.

The Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, pardoned Khan the next day after he confessed to running the nuclear arsenal smuggling ring during an appearance on national television. Though he is under house arrest, such a punishment seems to be a far cry from what would have been expected of such a person, at a time, when mere mercenaries fighting for Taliban are languishing in jails under unhumane conditions. Considering the charges levelled against him, it would be naive to assume that he can go scot-free. Unfortunately, that exactly seems to be the case. The reluctance on behalf of the Pakistani president to investigate his network backed by the fear that several members of the Pakistani government will be in the dock, and the reluctance on behalf of US to pressurize the Pakistani government to investigate Khan, backed by the fear of losing Pakistan as a critical ally on the 'war on terror' seems to be important reasons behind Khan being still living lavishly. According to the magazine, the network is still present, and the hardware is still available. Musharraf is afraid that Khan will spill the beans regarding the complicity of the senior members of the Pakistani military and security services... who knows, his own complicity too.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

HIV/AIDS vaccine tests

It is notable that India is one of the few countries willing to undertake human clinical trials for the preventive HIV/AIDS vaccine.

One of the issues, pointed out in an article in TOI, is how would the researchers know whether such a vaccine, indeed, prevents getting infected by HIV. In the words of the author, "...the paradox is that researchers would not know the vaccine's results until some of the volunteers take behaviour risks and get infected..." Irrespective of the amount of support provided to such volunteers, such as adequate guarantee that specialized tests would be available to them free of cost for as long as they live, etc., I feel that, on part of the volunteers, it is very noble of them, that they are willing to go through the enormous stress and trauma for the benefit of the society.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Basic Education and Economic Development in India.

With reference to Atanu Dey's post on A review of Education Related Posts Here and the subsequent referral by Niket's post on Education: A Prerequisite for Development, I agree on what Atanu has summarized "...My claim is that basic education (not higher education) is a necessary (not sufficient) condition for economic development (not growth)...".

However, I feel that the basic education in it's current form in India cannot support economic development. What good is an education which just teaches you to read and write and fiddle around with numbers? Economic development of a democratic nation depends, finally, on the citizens of that country. Just making them read and write won't necessarily impart critical thinking on behalf of the citizens. Without any such thought process, the country will slide towards ruins, specifically, if a corrupt official is a constituent in the governing body. A person needs to decide what is right and what is wrong, when it comes to judging the steps taken towards economic development. For a country like India, this process of keeping the authorities under check starts right from the villagers of the smallest village keeping its governing body under a constant vigil, and rises up to the national government. The knowledge imparted by textbooks, and the teachers, seriously lacks the 'dark' side of the, otherwise culturally and historically rich, India. It fails to address, in sufficient depth, social issues such as, among others, poverty, population, corruption, dowry, and domestic violence. At least, an introduction, to such topics would start the thinking process of a student. I would support for a revamping of the curriculum to include such topics, which ultimately, is going to direct a citizen's thinking.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Take Nepal's issue to UN; I don't think so.

Tuesday's editorial in Times of India says that India should take up Nepal's issue to the UN, unlike our neighbours, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan, who insist that it is Nepal's internal matter. The reason, the editor says that New Delhi should internationalize the lack of a democratic government in Nepal, is that such a move would put these neighbouring un-democratic governments in a spot of bother, when it comes to their turn to explain their so-called democratic governments.

I tend to disagree with this view. The reason, maybe you can call me a pessimist, is that India has been voicing concerns over the form of the government in our neighbouring countries, ever since they came into being. However, our voice was always drowned down by the lack of interest on part of the world community. Such a pressure on Pakistan would only backfire on the 'super-powers', given it's 'support' on the 'war on terror'. China is too strong and 'important' to take on right now; maybe, during the era of Soviet Union, they could have; but not anymore. Bangladesh, let's see, what reason can we give? Yes, maybe, Bangladesh doesn't have enough oil under it's soil, that such an effort would be a waste of time and money.

I get a feeling that as far as Nepal is concerned, India will have to go alone.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Activism by the common man.

It is a relief to hear that Kisalay Kaushal is back home. The 14-year old student was kidnapped near his residence in Patna when he was going to board the school bus on January 19.

The protests by schoolchildren against the kidnapping and lack of any headway in the rescue of Kisalay was one of the most important aspects of this case. Inspite of this, Lalu Prasad Yadav decided not to meet the students of the DPS school when they tried meeting him at the Patna airport, and was ultimately, forced to meet them. The students intensified their protest by engaging in a chain fast and refusing to take their tiffins to school. Their efforts were partly rewarded, when parents and teachers joined the agitation. Increase in pressure made the authorities to intensify their operation to find the abducted student, finally, meeting with success. It shows that activism on behalf of the common man can make the society a much better place.

Involvement of the general public in forcing the authorities to take stronger measures is a welcome sight. Such an involvement by the citizens was lacking upto some extent since we received freedom from the British. Probably, we were getting complacent in our new-found independence. But, this recent participation in this kidnapping issue suggests that many of us are realizing that it is our duty to keep the government under check, whenever they falter. Incidently, people's movement is a part of the developmental process of India. Recent years have shed more light on such movements. There are groups working on re-educating the citizens about their duties, which doesn't stop after casting their ballots as far as electing a government is concerned. Such activism on their part is commendable.

On a side note, now that the student has been rescued, the kidnapping issue has turned out to be a big election issue in Bihar with mudslinging from both the political parties, which is unfortunate, considering that the politicians themselves were initially hesistant to talk about the kidnapping.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Government, too...

Recent reports suggest that the state government in Maharastra would like the country liquor shops to open at 6 AM, 4 hours earlier than the current timing of 10 AM. The reason, as cited in the report, seems to be the higher revenues to the cash-starved government. Due to the recent crackdown on illicit liquor joints, the revenues of the country liquor bars has increased by almost 50%. Presumably, the state government has gotten greedy to avail more revenues by increasing the number of hours of operations of such joints.

Considering that many domestic abuse cases arise due to liquor problems, such a law will just aggravate this situation. The government seems to have forgotten its moral obligation towards the society. On one hand, it took action against illicit liquor joints (which is, indeed, good, if it persists in its drive againsts such places), and on the other hand, it wants to increase access to legal country bars. I guess, the axiom usually reserved for corporations, 'Profit before people', seems to apply even to governments nowadays.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Setback to Democracy.

Taking Niket's blog on The Kashmir Municipal Elections a step further, his statement that elections are just a beginning can't be more true. It can be exemplified by the recent ongoings in Nepal, where Nepal's King Gyanendra has dismissed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's coalition government. At the same time, the king has declared a state of emergency and ruled that he is taking over the country for the next three years.

Democracy means the government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is the sole right of the citizens of the country to keep the government under check. The suspension of all fundamental rights of the citizens can aptly be characterized as monarchy. Some analysts mention that this is not the first time democracy has been trampled upon, citing the example of Pakistan with President Musharraf taking over the country in recent years.

However, I doubt whether Nepal will get such an expansive coverage as Iraq got, simply because of vested interests in Iraq.