July 27, 2008

life in general: politics of hate & politics of religion

Serial bomb blasts yesterday (26 July '08) in Ahmedabad and day before yesterday (25 July '08) have brought forth the tragic consequences of the politics of hate and the politics of religion.

Politicians of India will now use these events to further divide the people more on the lines of religion (Hindus vs Muslims) and the citizens of India, could again let their minds be manipulated.

Both the above blasts, as per what I have read from the details out so far, appear to me the handiwork of a Muslim militant group who misleadingly think they are avenging the horrors committed on Muslims in Gujarat in February-March 2002. But a recent development (last 3-4 years), which the Indian media has criminally neglected to probe and report on, is the rise of similar Hindu groups. I wrote about this in the last two paras of my blog post two months back.

Two things strike my mind when I try to make sense of the violence in India that occurs through the bomb blasts and the state-sponsored pogroms of minorities. The horridness of the violence of a private small militant group committed under the watch of a large state machinery is less than the horridness of the violence of the state itself (seen in the state use of militant Hindu groups, the communalised police force or the anti-tribal/anti-poor administrative bureaucracy) on various sections of the population. Then, there is the skewness of the Indian justice system (the police and the courts). More often that not, on the one hand, it tilts towards protecting the perpetrators of the state-sponsored violence from being bought to justice, and on the other hand, not only does it leave any stone unturned in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the private small militant groups but also commits serious transgression of some innocent people's rights in the process (through torture of suspects and abusing their family members' dignity).

I pray for peace to prevail in people's minds and for the purging of all thoughts of mis-directed revenge.

July 14, 2008

life in general: korean street food in seoul

I was in Seoul in South Korea for two days last month (3-5 June '08) and on the night of 4 June went alone to a textile market area named 'Gwangjang' late in the night. The 24-second video that I share below is of the food stall in a bylane inside the market where I had my dinner. I went here because this place was among the few whose food reviews I read on the internet and it was the closest to the hotel where I was staying.

I also wrote something on Korean street food in the magazine I work for. Here is what I wrote:

Korean street food

Can you imagine a Gujjubhai liking any food other than the typical Indian fare? Hard to believe but food from South Korea is liked by some Gujaratis who happen to travel there for work or sight-seeing. "I am a strict vegetarian but when I visit my maternal grandparents I do not feel restricted on the food front because the choices are decent and suits our taste buds," says Pratik Yogi, 20-year old son of a Gujarati father and a Korean mother who live in Bombay.

Korean food is not about Kimchi as many travel guides might have you believe. For a country that is less than half of India's size, the variety of food – veg or non-veg, steamed or fried, spicy or non-spicy – is just amazing.

The street food in Seoul is representative of this similar to Indian cities' street food. If you are in Seoul do not miss the numerous food stalls on the streets and bylanes cutting across two textile markets near Cheonggycheon stream, Gwangjang and Dongdaemun. Here, you get everything.

"My favourite snack food of all is Dduck-bbocki (dduck means rice cake, and bbocki means fried)," says Yujin Whang, a young Korean woman who works as an independent professional translator for companies. These are long cylindrical rice cake pieces cooked in thick red gravy by adding chilli paste, brown sugar and other condiments. "It's like a national obsession especially for young women in Korea and very cheap too," says Yujin. "It's full of carbs but I don't care."

Like Indians, Koreans are spoilt for fried snacks as well and these are made well such that they are not easy to resist just like you can't resist an Indian alu tikki served on Delhi's mean streets. In non-veg dishes you can splurge on daksanjeok that are boneless chicken fillets skewered (like kebabs in India) with a vegetable (such as leek) and marinated with a sauce that is both sweet and spicy at the same time. Fish paste sausages and bacon sausages are also skewered and served.

For vegetarians, there is the mung bean pancake and bungeo pang that is a carp cake crispy on the outside and with red beans filling inside. There is also the corn cobs, available steamed or grilled.

Small eateries are a great feature of Korean city life. You can have a bowl of rice with almost any side dish, veg or non-veg. Ask Dyland, a Malaysian-Chinese, currently based in Hong Kong and who worked in Seoul from 2003 to 2005 and blogged on http://fatman-seoul.blogspot.com. "I enjoy a good jae-yuk boggeum bap, which is spicy stir-fried pork," he told BW in an email. "There is also soon-dubu jiggae (spicy tofu stew) and dwenjang jiggae (spicy fermented soy bean paste stew) and I love all of these and more."

Do we say any more?

July 09, 2008

life in financial markets: trading in electricity

Conventional wire-based transmission of electricity requires intensive co-ordination between energy producers, energy suppliers and energy buyers. An organised electronic exchange can help in bringing efficiencies in the process.

Here is something connected to this I wrote for the magazine I work for:

Power-full potential

Electricity producers and users are keenly watching the impact of the operationalising of the two spot power exchanges in the country—Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) and Power Exchange of India (PXI).
IEX, promoted by Financial Technologies (India) and PTC India, was set up last year and got approval from Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) to commence operations on 9 June and trading started on 28 June. Between 10 mega watts per hour (MWh) and 50 MWh for an electricity supply period of around 2-3 hours have got intermittently traded per day in the first few days of trading on IEX.
PXI, promoted by National Stock Exchange and National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange, got in-principal approval from CERC last month. It has commenced membership subscription and is likely to go live in about three months.
Liquidity is unlikely to be high initially on both exchanges. "In the interim, liquidity would most likely be added by surpluses held by captives and the power exchanges will have a significant role to play in unlocking the same," says Rupa Devi Singh, CEO of PXI. "Capacity additions, removal of transmission constraints and distribution reforms can lead to multi-buyer multi-seller market."
Interesting times lie ahead for the power sector.

July 06, 2008

life in financial markets: spy dairy

I wrote something for my magazine that pertained to a spying case on a civil rights organisation. I share it below. Spying by companies only reveals their insecurities at being put under the torchlight.

Here is my write-up:

Spy dairy

All hell might not have broken loose after the night of 12 June when a television network in Switzerland broke the story of Nestle hiring a private security firm, Securitas, to infiltrate and spy on the operations of the Swiss chapter of civil campaigns group Attac (www.suisse.attac.org). But a week later Attac filed legal complaints including a civil one with the country's Data Protection Office, and Nestle, though denying the allegations, could face prosecution and penalties.

The lady agent joined Attac, infiltrated a subgroup that was working on a book on Nestle's attitude regarding genetically modified crops and water privatisation and then passed this information to Nestle. In fact, as recent as 23 June, Nestle's CEO, Peter Brabeck was urging European policymakers to cut down their opposition to GM crops.

Nestle's official response has only been to say that it hired Securitas to protect its office and staff during the G-8 summit of world leaders on 1-3 June 2003. Attac counters this by saying the subgroup on the book started work only in autumn of 2003 and that the lady agent's surveillance continued till the summer of 2004.

Espionage is not new to corporate world and spying on civil groups is not new either. For instance, in June 2001, The Sunday Times of London had a front page top story on how BP and Shell had hired Hakluyt, a consultancy firm started by former M16 officials, to get inside details of Greenpeace's plans to take on oil giants. It was successful in thwarting.

July 01, 2008

life in general: free hawaii islands from USA's forced statehood & occupation

Not many are aware of the true histories of our own--and other--countries. While I was broadly aware of many US states not being voluntary members of the US confederation, this 30 June newsreport (given in its entirety below), brings forth to our attention the issues involved through the news of Hawaii's original tribes going on a peaceful satyagraha and proclaiming independence from US occupation.

Here then is that newsreport:


Queen of Hawaii demands independence from 'US occupiers'

Last updated: 12:26 AM BST 30/06/2008

The United States is an illegal occupying force that should hand the 132 islands of Hawaii back to the monarchy overthrown more than a century ago, according to members of a Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement.

For almost two months, the self-proclaimed Hawaiian Kingdom Government has peacefully occupied the grounds of the Iolani Palace, residence of the islands' last two monarchs, operating a shadow government from a tent erected in its stately grounds.

Her Majesty Mahealani Kahau, a descendant of Hawaii's last king who was elected "head of state" by the group, and her ministers gather each day to debate how to achieve their goal of restoring Native Hawaiian rule.

"We are here, we are real, we are in business," declares the group's website, which outlines its aim to "remove all laws, policies, rules and regulations" of the "occupying power" and "return Hawaii's independent status".

The group, which claims 1,000 followers, is demanding the dissolution of the State of Hawaii and the return of land and bank assets totalling billions of dollars.

Hawaii has about 200,000 Native Hawaiians, or kânaka maoli, out of a population of 1.3 million. The Hawaiian Kingdom Government is just one of a number of sovereignty groups, many with similar names, waging independence campaigns.

All aim to "right the wrong" inflicted on Native Hawaiians in 1893 when a small, mostly American group of sugar plantation owners and other businessmen overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy with the support of US troops sent ashore from a Navy warship.

The then monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, gave up her throne "to this superior force of the United States of America" and was imprisoned in the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, built by her brother King Kalakaua. In 1898, Hawaii was annexed by the United States and in 1959 became the 50th US state.

"The Hawaiian kingdom was unlawfully taken over by a coup d'etat and then those that took it over formed an illegal government and then ceded Hawaii to the United States," said Leon Siu, minister of foreign affairs for the Hawaiian Kingdom, another sovereignty group that shares many of the Hawaiian Kingdom Government's aims.

"There was never a lawful transfer of either jurisdiction or title, therefore what we are doing is asserting that the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists." Mr Siu said he was engaged in discussions with several countries as well as the United Nations as part of a bid to achieve "international recognition of our nation", in part by reviving treaties Hawaii had with other nations, including Britain, in the 19th century.

Sovereignty groups cite the so-called "Apology Resolution" signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 which acknowledged the 100th anniversary of the overthrow and apologised to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the US.

"The legal cause for the restoration of the kingdom is air-tight," said Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, who has been advising Hawaiian independence groups since 1992.

In addition to devising a draft constitution for one group, the Nation of Hawaii, Professor Boyle sued the US in the US Supreme Court in 1998, demanding the restoration of Hawaiian independence and reparations "for all the harm inflicted on the Kingdom of Hawaii".

He said rather than dismissing the case as "something totally frivolous" the court met several times to discuss it before determining the kingdom "was a non-recognised sovereign that does not have access to the US courts".

"Based on this experience I simply told them that we would have to wait until the Kingdom of Hawaii has achieved substantial diplomatic recognition and then I could file something in the international court of justice."

He described the occupation of Iolani Palace as "a very significant step in terms of their struggle to restore their kingdom their dignity and their land" and remains confident that Hawaii will at some stage achieve independence.

"Native Hawaiians operate in accordance with the Aloha spirit, which is similar to Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha force, and I take the position that if Gandhi can throw the mighty British Empire out of India with Satyagraha, Native Hawaiians can throw the mighty American empire out of Hawaii with Aloha."

Sovereignty groups reject as divisive and inadequate legislation being pursued by the state's Office of Hawaiian Affairs that would grant Native Hawaiians partial self -governmence akin to that of American Indian tribes.

The State of Hawaii has so far turned a blind eye to the peaceful gatherings of Hawaiian Kingdom Government. No-one has been arrested and members have been careful not to break any laws. "As long as they comply with the permit conditions, they may continue to request permits to meet," Deborah Ward, of the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources, told the Associated Press.

Story from Telegraph News: