Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nandan Nilekani on The Daily Show

One would imagine that a visit to the CNBC studios would have been an obvious port of call on Nandan Nilekani's US book tour. But after the events of last week, I guess Jon Stewart is suddenly more important to the potential readers of NN's book!

In case you're on a slow connection, and can't see the video below, the funniest parts are 1) When NN mentions a million electronic voting machines and Stewart asks him whether we call someone in the US when they break down and 2) When NN mentions that Tom Friedman's 'World Is Flat" was inspired by a conversation in his office and Stewart wonders why NN didn't walk across the flat world and kick TF on his a** for some royalties!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Nandan Nilekani
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Too Good To Be True?

After MTNL's ridiculously overpriced 3G rates were announced, it looked like affordable broadband would continue to be a mirage in India.

But BSNL has (soft) launched its 3G service in Chennai today and the rates are up on the site. The big news is that there is an UNLIMITED data plan (unlike MTNL) and at 3000 bucks a month it's VERY competitively priced. Even the 1000 buck plan looks better than anything MTNL has on offer since the first 5 gigs are free after which its 2048 bucks per gig (Rs 2/MB).

The rollout is going to be state by state so I'm hoping Delhi/Haryana/UP are next after the pilot project in Ambala! BSNL service is a bit of an enigma though. I recently applied for a landline in Gurgaon and they took my form and 500 bucks registration without providing any receipt or tracking/service number. They said they'd come in a day or two but there was no sign of them till more than a week later. They also landed up without any warning/phone call which means I was just lucky that someone was at home to receive them. I have a feeling that GETTING the 3G connection will be a pain but once it's up, hopefully the service will be tolerable.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Value Systems, Satyam, Rape & Terror

Do we, as a society have a weird sense of "values"? A couple of articles in different publications caught my attention over this past week as they seemed to link into each other.

This column in Mint seemed to suggest that the Satyam scandal was a manifestation of market induced greed affecting values: "The tragedy of the Raju brothers is that they are also victims of our society’s evolving value system, as we worship the gods of material success.

But from this piece in the ToI about a rally being planned in support of disgraced Satyam boss Ramalinga Raju, you get the sense that our value system is willing to forgive robbery if it's of the Robin Hood variety: "The populace of the district still assert that Ramalinga is an enterprising and highly educated entrepreneur with a sense of social responsibility and that his aberration to tamper with balance sheets could be ‘ignored’... they are willing to condone his manipulation of accounts as part of business strategy ..."

The fact that Raju's clan is willing to stand by him and overlook his crimes is similar to the noted sociologist Dipankar Gupta's analysis of 'bhaichara' (Gupta incidentally is the author of a book on corporate ethics in the Indian context written while he was a KPMG fellow): "Rapes are just for a hoot, and after all, boys will be boys. Listen to their mothers, and this is what comes through. As long as they do not offend clan morals, nothing else really matters."

It looks like we've decided to adopt the worst of both worlds as far as our value systems go ie. the greed of the Wall Street types mixed with the disdain for law outside of the clan. I still remember being fairly disgusted with the rampant cheating during examinations that would take place even in a so-called prestigious institution like St. Xavier's College, even as some of my friends studying overseas were taking tests with the honour system.

Well, in the end it all comes around. The same value system ensures that corrupt customs guys will let RDX be smuggled onto our shores, or passport officers will sanction fake IDs which terrorists will eventually use or that the coastal police will let any boat that pays up go through. A society with this kind of value system probably deserves its fate!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tech versus Terror: e-security PIL in Mumbai High Court

Noted techie Vijay Mukhi and lawyer Anand Desai have filed a PIL in the Mumbai high court on behalf of Sarla S Parikh who lost her son and daughter-in-law in the 26/11 terror attack.

"This is the first PIL that we know off that outlines a specific 12 point plan that would cost the Government Rs 50 crore. We need to use large doses of technology not only to gather intelligence but also to collect evidence that can be used in courts to convict the terrorists and also convince the world of the country that they come from. We would encourage others to file PIL’s that specify specific steps that the Government should take which are doable and practical."

I have published a copy of the PIL here.

Do get in touch with Vijay if you have some inputs/suggestions or would like to help in taking this initiative forward.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Was This An Indian Army Conspiracy Too?

Indus TV News reporter, Mr Chand Nawab was obviously having a rough time at Karachi railway station while filing this report. A 'PTC' or 'Piece to Camera' can sometimes be tough to do in one take, but Mr Nawab is not one to be deterred.

I had mentioned in a previous post that this channel iTV, with its bizarre conspiracy theories would be an ideal partner for our very own India TV. I stand corrected! Even India TV would struggle to match this. (Though they try very hard...)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Smug Alert!

Both the Mumbai-related Op-Ed pieces in today's New York Times seem to be mirroring my thoughts in the last two posts so am wondering whether to feel vindicated or guilty for (allegedly) being a bleeding-heart liberal in these tense times. I think i'll settle for smug!

Tom Friedman calls out to moderate Pakistanis, some of whom I pointed to in the previous post, while guest columnist Amitav Ghosh warns about reacting to Mumbai in a similar fashion to 9-11 which is on the lines of my argument earlier.