Unthinkable?


Last weekend I saw this movie called Unthinkable. It apparently didn’t receive any theatrical release, perhaps because of the controversial subject it deals with – Torture of suspects.

The storyline provides both sides of the argument – for and against. It seems to support the torture all thru, but the message is subtle – In the end it shows that the torture doesn’t pay.

Movie was gripping and makes one think where one stands on the subject. Human rights and civil liberties are important ideas. But, where does one draw the line? Do we need to compromise? Can people who don’t have respect for any law, be treated humanely? Can a persons close relatives be used as part of interrogation tactics?

We live in a country where justice rolls very slowly – and most of the time doesn’t work effectively. How can an efficient law enforcement be done, if the police and prosecutions can’t keep crooks behind bars?

On the other hand, we also live in a country where police brutality and corruption knows no bounds – how do we limit the police power to avoid unscrupulous policemen from trampling over citizens?

I suspect this is one subject on which I can’t arrive at a definitive conclusion.

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BBC Gandhi


BBC just concluded an excellent trilogy on Mahatma Gandhi. Nicely done and trys to take a balanced look at the man.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n7sf1

AFAIK, it hasn’t been broadcast in India yet, but you could download it from the web. Certainly worth a watch.

EVM tampering?


I wonder is it really possible to tamper with EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) on a big scale and steal an election.

Being an IT professional, I have no doubt it is possible to tamper with the votes, from an electronics/software point of you.

However the question really is about the logistics of it all. The country uses over 1.2million EVMs. That is 1,200,000 machines!

Each EVM will need to be seperately labeled each time to reflect the candidates. The votes will be tallied on the basis of the number associated with the candidate.

For example:

1. K Candidate
2. B Candidate
3. Z candidate

Note that there is no pre-fixed format for such allocation and to reprogram the EVM to rig the voting pattern a person will have to know the exact number in which he appears, and go to each and every machine to reprogram it.

It is a herculean task that’s impossible to manage by a small bunch of people. It’ll need at least one person per voting station, if it is going to be done on the day of the poll. When so many people are involved it can’t be done with any degree of secrecy.

So, the only other alternative is for people at the Election C omission to be involved. Or the people whom the C omission contracts this work to be involved. This is a more likely scenario.

I am not aware of how EC manages the programming of EVM. It would indeed be interesting to know the exact process. If this process is handled by a small bunch of people, then it is indeed possible for these EVMs to be rigged at a election stealing level. If this reprogramming (Or vote counting mechanism) is left to constituency levels, then to steal such an election will be worthy of a large espionage agency!!

All EC has to make sure is all parties are shown this process to be fair (not individual EVMs), and involve them in the process of programming or Tallying of the votes.

That shouldn’t be too difficult to do, and we will be spared of going back to the dark ages of ballots.

Water Blues & Rainwater harvesting.


Water is a perennial problem in most Indian cities. This year it has been even more acute with the monsoon not being so good. It is a big wonder why this should be such a big problem, considering the amount of rainfall most cities get in India.

Calculations will make it much clearer. In India, an average urban dweller needs about 200liters of water for drinking + sanitation. This amounts to 73,000 liters of water per year.

Annual rainfall in Bangalore ranges between 850-900mm.   sq.meter x rainfall (in mm) can give us total annual water received for a given area.  1sq.meter = 10.72 sq.ft. So,  (1/10.72 * 850 ) will give us the amount of water a square foot received in a year in Bangalore. That amounts to close to 80 liters of water per square foot.

A person in Bangalore needs about 73,000/80 sq.ft of cachment area. That is about 913 sq.ft of area per person.

Bangalore is estimated to have a population density of about 7500 people / sq. km. Since one sq.km is about 10,763,910 sq. ft –  per person land availability is about 1,435sq.ft. in the city limits. Clearly, enough rainwater is received within the city for human consumption and some more for upkeep of the city’s gardens. In addition, Bangalore is close to larger catchment area of Cauvery. So,all it needs is an efficient way of storing and distributing this rain water.

While at city level things may not happen or may take a long time, at personal level  people can certainly do something about this. One simple thing people are doing is rainwater harvesting. One can calculate how much rainwater a residential property can generate.

A 2,400sq.ft area can receive more than 150,000liters of rain water per year. Storing this efficiently can provide enough wanter for 2 people throughout the year! Or enough water for a family of 4 for more than half year.

I believe all future housing projects should be forced to have a mechanism to store all the rainwater they receive. It isn’t too difficult.  For example – to store 150,000liters of water, about 6,000 cubic feet of storage area is needed. That’s 1000sq.ft area * 6 feet deep.With efficient, non-concrete storage, that only gets filtered water and no sun rays, won’t permit growth of Algae and other organic stuff.

Doing this efficiently can easily bring down water requirements from the rivers by half. In future, if we can also adopt good water recycling mechanism, cities like Bangalore can be self sufficient in water.

Matter of Left & Matter of Right


Immediately after french revolution, a National assembly was created to manage the state. In the chamber were the members of the religious clergy, Nobles(Conservative in thought,  with feudal outlook) and  also the new revolutionaries (labourers/wage earners who more liberal, less religious). They were known as First Estate (Clergy), second Estate (Nobles) and third Estate (Revolutionaries) estates respectively.
They were seated such that Nobles and Clergy were on the right side and the  revolutionaries on the left side.

Even to-date parties with religious/feudal & conservative outlook are called as rightist parties, and the ones that are less religious and more representing workers & peasants as Leftists.

The events of past week have been fascinating. Congress has been given an mandate to have a decisive rule for next 5 years. I feel this again reinforces the Indian voters general centrist thinking, which doesn’t want extreme leftism or extreme rightism in polity. The only time when BJP could come to power was when Vajpayee projected a more centrist views. The only time Left smelled power (other than the blackmailing they did in past 5 years) is when Harkishen singh surjeet and Jyoti basu were more pragmatic and were willing to tow a centrist approach.
Mr. Karat and Mr. Advani made a huge errors when they thought their ideological extreme would enthuse Indian voters. As a traditional BJP voter, I keep hearing murmurs within BJP that it should go back to its roots (that is to say – more religiousity and more RSS). I always felt that would be a mistke as BJP only became an acceptable ruling party when it shed the hardline Hindutva. BJP won’t get anywhere near all India power, if it backs (even implicitly) the ‘crazies’ like Mutalik or Varun gandhi.

Similarly, Congress will loose heavily if it tries to move away from centrist line and leans towards Muslim Appeasement. Its hard days began immediately after the Sha-bano episode, and led to the gain of then more centrist BJP.

People keep berating Urban Middle-class for not voting, thus yielding the political initiative to rural India. But, amazingly Indian electorate (Urban or rural), seem to vote more and more for same issues. Development, Peace and Stability. Atleast in past half dozen years, election after election, the Leftist and Rightist moorings are finding less takers.
India will continue to be a centrist, secular nation. Hope BJP realizes that and bounces back, because India certainly needs a right of center party to balance the left-of-center Congress.
The left parties will not be able to survive for long with their Ideology. If they dump their extreme ideology, there will be no difference between them and dozen other parties in India. Soon, someone else will take over their voters. Tough choice indeed.

A Linux Virus isn't a Myth


I have had many arguments in past decade about why it is possible and is a matter of time before viruses appear to bother Linux users. My argument has always been that any niche OS or platform will not have widespread viral attacks as they aren’t a lucrative platform for people to write viruses. The other reason why niche platforms have less of viral problems is because, the users of niche platform tend to be more educated about them or use them in a restricted way.

The moment a platform will breakout and have substantial adaption, and permits execution of user installed programs, viral incidences will be a natural follow-up. Mac or Linux won’t be an exception to this.
Found this nice article on this subject :http://www.geekzone.co.nz/foobar/6229#compact

I know a lot of people won’t be convinced and there won’t be a way to prove them wrong, unless Linux (as a general user configurable system) gains a market share of more than 30-40%. But, I guess that’ll happen sometime in future.

Valentine day and Various Senas


For the past few years, a huge business is being run in the name of Indian Culture and Hindu Culture . Their representations on Indian/Hindu culture is both absurd and annoying.These sene’s consider Valentine day celebration to be against Hindu belief, thus against India’s ethos, as if India is only about Hindus! Valentine’s day on Feb 14th is part of a Christian belief system, of celebrating one of their saints St. Valentine. And Christianity is certainly one of the main Indian religions. Indians do Celebrate Christmas, and we do have a holiday on that day – don’t we? So much for Valentine’s day not being part of Indian culture.

So, their argument will come down to – couples courting each other before marriage is not part of Hindu Culture.  This argument too does not stand the test of reason, when we look at our heritage from the prism of literature.

The native name of India is Bharata. This nation is named after its founder King Bharata, who started the Bharata dynasty of Mahabharat. Bharata in Sanskrit means “one who is engaged in search for knowledge” or someone who gains and maintains knowledge.He was born to Dushyanta and Shakuntala, out of a wed lock (What was then called a Gandharva Vivaha – an approximate equivalent of eloped – Love Marriage). They did not seek the blessings of their parents, neither inform anyone else. They had a brief courtship, accepted each other and went and had the baby, and Dushyanta returned to his palace – forgot about Shakuntala (due to a curse) and refused to accept Bharata as his son! Finally, everything is sorted out, Dushyanta accepts Bharata and Bharata went on to become a great emperor who founded the Country now called India.Here is the Family tree of Bharata.

Family tree of Bharata

Family tree of Bharata

There is a parallel line of the Great Rishi (sage) Vasista, which has a interplay with the family line of Bharata. It starts with Rishi Parashar, who is Grandson of Vasista.

Satyavati, who before her marriage to Shantanu (Great Grad son of Bharata), used to help her foster dad, who was a boatman, who made a living ferrying people across the river Yamuna. Once Parashar was being ferried by Satyavati across Yamuna. Parashar fell to the charms of Satyavati, and wanted to make love to her. Parashara told her that she was destined to give birth to a very great person from this liaison. After some pursuation and agreeing to the conditions Satyavati put, they did unite (Without even the pretext of Gandharva Vivaha) , and a son was born of that union. He was named Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharat and some texts even credit Vedas to him! Whichever way you want to turn the argument, Vyasa will be an illegitimate child born out of a relation that doesn’t have a name, but that is not how Hindu’s treat him. He is accepted as a great scholar and Saint.

Let us understand the concept of “Gandharva Vivaha”, which is what led to the birth of Bharata. It is nothing but a union of two adults by their own consent, without anyone elses blessings! It was an accepted form of Marriage in Indian Customs more than 3500 years ago!!We should be proud  of our heritage.

Hinduism is a great religion that permitted every belief system and every philosophy, because they are also part of the knowledge. For example, The Cārvāka system named after the author of Brahaspataya Sutra, is one such philosophy that’s part of Hindu Belief, where the atheism (Nastika) is an integral part. The jainism and Buddism are classified under this thought system.In a democratic republic, such as India, everyone is free to follow their religion & faith and a chosen lifestyle, as long as it does not impinge on the freedom of another individual to lead their life peacefully.

What the various Senes (Militias) around India are doing is nothing but denial of such liberty. Their fundamental claims to represent Hindu belief system doesn’t stand the test of logical reasoning (Tarka Shastra) – which is what the great revivalist of Hindu religion – Adi Shankaracharya – followed to convince his opponents of his Advaita philosophy.

The leaders of these militia’s are nothing but crude, lumpen and out of control mafias. The political parties and leaders who support them do not certainly understand or represent the Hindu Philosophy – for their reasoning doesn’t have the foundation of Logic.

Science is a Latin word for ‘Knowledge’. It can’t be a coincidence that Bharata means the one who Maintains  the ‘knowledge’.

So, quest of Science (Knowledge), which is derived out of Logic, is our true culture. It is the very meaning of our country’s name.