Archive for the ‘Social’ Category

Go Indian girls!

April 7, 2006

Ethnic Indian girls (native-born or otherwise) stand out among the winners of the 2006 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. At least, FOUR names in the list of 19 winners of the $10,000 per person scholarship are very Indian. Among the 28 names of "highly qualified finalists" who were each awarded $1000, SIX are obviously Indian names. That is, over 20% – one in five – girls are Indians in both lists!

From the Official Google Blog on This year's Anita Borg Scholarship winners (Indian names have been bolded by Right Indian):

We're awarding 19 $10,000 scholarships to these outstanding young women — graduate and undergraduate students who are completing degrees in computer science and related fields — with our congratulations:

  • Brianna Bethel, University of Colorado – Boulder
  • G. Ayorkor Mills – Tettey, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Gillian Rachael Hayes, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Himabindu Pucha, Purdue University
  • Karen Fullam, University of Texas at Austin
  • Kristen Walcott, University of Virginia
  • Kristina Chodorow, New York University
  • Laura Rouse, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Marta Magdalena Luczynska, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Megan Olsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Michele Banko, University of Washington
  • Neven Abou Gazala, University of Pittsburgh
  • Parisa Michelle Tabriz, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Rebecca Nancy Nesson, Harvard University
  • Shana Kay Watters, University of Minnesota
  • Sharmishtaa Seshamani, Johns Hopkins University
  • Soumi Sinha, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Tracy Westeyn, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Vinithra Varadharajan, Carnegie Mellon University

And we also recognize these 28 highly qualified finalists, who will receive $1,000 awards from us:

  • Alicia Avelon Permell, Michigan Tech University
  • Anagha Mudigonda, Polytechnic University New York
  • Anna Tikhonova, University of California, Davis
  • Annie (Hsin-Wen) Liu, University of Washington
  • Ashima Kapur, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cindy Rubio Gonzalez, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Delphine Nain, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Divya Arora, Princeton University
  • Emily Grace Christiansen, University of Minnesota-Morris
  • Emily Shen, Stanford University
  • Erika Chin, University of Virginia
  • Eva Mok, University of California, Berkeley
  • Evelyn Mintarno, Stanford University
  • Gina Upperman, Rice University
  • Hayley Nicole Iben, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jiayue He, Princeton University
  • Jing Chen, University of Pennsylvania
  • Laureen Lam, San Jose State University
  • Lingyun Zhang, University of California, San Diego
  • Lu Xiao, Pennsylvania State University
  • Meeta Sharma Gupta, Harvard University
  • Moushumi Sharmin, Marquette University
  • Neha Rungta, Brigham Young University
  • Rachel Weinstein, Stanford University
  • Sunny Consolvo, University of Washington
  • Tanya Lee Ann Crenshaw, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Valerie Hajdik, Texas A&M University
  • Xiaonan Zhao, Northwestern University

Also, check out the number of names in that list which seem to be Asian (including Indian). The future of American industry is definitely in the hands of ethnic Asians.

Policemen earn better than IIM graduates

March 23, 2006

Apparently, March is the month when salaries of fresh IIM graduates is hotly discussed. This year, the police and IIM graduate salaries have appeared in the same context more than once!

An authentic Indian police man has received the highest domestic salary offer among all IIM graduates, more than doubling last year’s higher domestic offer for IIM graduates and more than 11 times his current legal (heh-heh!) pay as a Deputy Inspector General of Police. The Economic Times reports that the IIM tag helps this DIG move up in life:

Surya Prasad (42) laughs when you ask him about his Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) experience. “It was quite an experience studying with 20-year-old students some of who were not even born when I started work. That’s the charm of studying at the business school,’’ says the Chennai-based deputy inspector general of police, who graduated from the IIM-A this year.

Prasad is hero of the IIM-A with highest domestic salary offer of Rs 34 lakh per annum, beating last year’s Rs 14.5 lakh. Prasad, a 1988 batch officer of Tamil Nadu cadre drawing Rs 25,000 per month, says, “My promotion was due soon.”

Tangential question: I thought the IIMs had an age-limit which is a decade or more below Prasad’s youthful 42 years, for full time students? Has that changed? Or have companies started offering spectacular salaries to part-time IIM graduates also?

Meanwhile, the New India Press had an entirely different spin on policemen and IIM graduates when it advised us to forget IIM. A police job pays better:

A salary of one lakh ninety-three thousand dollars for a campus-recruited IIM graduate! That’s about eight lakhs rupees a month. Sounds big. But in fact it is chickenfeed.

Real money is made by fellows who make not 8,00,000 a month but 16,000 a month. That’s the starting salary of a police inspector.

That kind of start was enough for Krishnappa, a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Bangalore, to be found with Rs.23.5 lakhs in his house besides property worth Rs.15 crores. To collect that cash component alone an IIM genius will have to slog for three months.

Yet, Krishnappa himself was peanuts compared to Shamiur Rehman, a Crime Branch police inspector. He had only Rs.4 lakhs in small change, but his assets included 45 housing sites (yes, 45) and added up to Rs.20 crores. In the Crime Branch, crime pays.

Raiding only five police officers’ premises, the Karnataka Lok Ayukta found unaccounted assets worth 60 crores. At that rate what would be the combined take of the 754 police inspectors in the state plus sub-inspectors, and other hordes, and excluding the few simple souls who have old style notions of honesty? Whatever the figure, it would be enough to fund the Bangalore Metro.

I know that is almost 50% of the article reproduced, but I just could not leave out any of the above lines. Each of them make a very relevant and poignant point. The fact the most of the very highly-paid IIM graduates work, live and earn in foreign countries (where their pay may or may not actually be as high as it seems in India), where as these corrupt policmen are amassing their huge wealth in India indicates that these policemen are spectacularly wealthier. The right analogy for the IIM graduate’s salary in comparison, might actually be chicken-shit, and not chickenfeed!

The rest of the article is more depressing:

Amassing of money is practised as an art form by government officials because the Government provides a network of procedures which facilitate bribe-taking.

Even the well publicised raids of the Lok Ayukta eventually yield nothing.

What does happen is that those who are caught are suspended as a matter of routine. Under government rules, after six months they resume office as a matter of routine.

Don’t forget, most other states are worse off than Karnataka.

The most depressing fact is that the examples cited in this article are not rare one-off incidents. This is the typical story across the length and breadth of India among a large number of government officials. Dark and depressing, indeed!

Delhi Govt Tourism Agency in Liquor Business!

February 28, 2006

Did you know that the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) is actively engaged in the liquor trade, with over half its employees working in said line of business? You don’t believe me? Go ahead and click on the link to the department’s home page. Right at the bottom of the home page is an “Application Form (Liquor Shops)” link in no small print! The header of the application form states that it is an “Application form for hiring of premises for IMFL/Beer/Country Liquor shop (free of Cost)“. (Bolded by Right Indian)

Yeah, my eyes popped out when I saw the “free of Cost” phrase I interpreted it to mean that the esteemed tourism department is serving free liquor to Delhi tourists at some special premises. Perusing the application form in more detail shed no additional light on what it means, although it did become clear that there is no free serving of liquor! But I digress.

This interesting fact was brought to my notice by the chapter on Department of Tourism in the Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003 published by the Centre for Civil Society (of India). From the chapter:

DTTDC runs 38 country liquor and 93 Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) vends in Delhi. Of the 1,035 employees in the Corporation, 550 work in these vends. In 2002-03, it made a profit of Rs 2.5 crore from country liquor sales (this amount was spent on building flyovers) and Rs 6 crore from IMFL sales.

Apparently, the latest (second) edition of the handbook has more of such interesting information. From a guest column by Sunil Jain:

Spending Rs 228,381 to hire a graduate!

February 27, 2006

Rs 228,381 a job?  No, that’s not the starting salary of a graduate these days, it’s the cost of placement for a graduate- over the last five years, the Delhi government spent Rs 20.6 crore (Rs 206 million) to get 902 people jobs out of a total of 539,734 registered at 20 employment exchanges across the capital, at Rs 2,28,381 a piece.

This, among a host of others, is a finding from Parth J Shah’s Centre for Civil Society’s second Delhi Citizen Handbook, a primer on various departments in the capital’s government, what they’re supposed to deliver and what they actually do.

The CCS, for those not familiar with it, is run on a shoestring budget out of a modest flat in Hauz Khas in south Delhi, and the studies are done by kids in, or just about out of, college – the team for the second handbook was primarily from the Rai Foundation’s College of Media and Communications in New Delhi.

The first Delhi handbook revealed facts that few Delhiites were familiar with, and this one does the same.

It would be a great idea to publish the book on the Internet. I went looking for the book on the Net, after reading the column, and came across the CCS’s website (very busy homepage with too much information, badly needs a redesign!) and the webpage of the Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003 (first edition). The site has the first edition’s table of contents, summary of chapters and a few full chapters. There is no mention of the new edition, that I could find easily. I wish I could see more up-to-date information and a better presentation.

As per the column, CCS has published a similar handbook on Jharkhand state. This is a great idea. I hope to see such publication on all states in India (with more and better web publishing, of course). This is an excellent example of responsible activism by independent citizens. Of course, this is something the journalistic media should be doing on a daily basis. But let us not expect too much from them!

Tailpiece: CCS has a frequently-updated blog called Spontaneous Order. It has a lot of interesting and relevant information about Indian current affairs. Worth a look! My only compaint about the blog is that it does not have a web feed I can subscribe to!

Religion and the Value of life

February 24, 2006

Rajeev Srinivasan, the columnist, often talks about how Hindu life is devalued in India (and elsewhere). If there were any doubts about that, they should be laid to rest by this Reuters report of thousands of Kashmiris protesting youth killings:

Kashmir Youth Killed

Kashmiris gather around the bodies of nine-year-old Aamir Akbar (front) and eight-year-old Shakir Ahmad (rear). (Pic from the Reuters report).

Thousands of people in Indian Kashmir staged protests against the army on Thursday, a day after four youths were killed in a shooting incident, police and witnesses said.

Police on Wednesday said the four, aged between 8 and 18, were killed when gunmen and soldiers exchanged fire in Doodipora village, near Handwara town, 80 km (50 miles) north of Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state.

But protesters and villagers blamed the army for the killings.

The Indian army denied it was to blame, and said militants were responsible for the killings, which it says happened during a search operation for rebel fighters.

A separatist insurgency has raged in the region since 1989, killing tens of thousands of people.

An army statement said that two of the dead, who it added were both aged 20, were targeted by militants.

“Terrorists specifically targeted Samad Mir, a known worker of (militant group) Lashkar-e-Taiba … along with Shaikh Alam presuming that these two would provide information to the army about the location of the hiding terrorists,” an army statement said.

I don’t intend to disrespect the deaths of these kids. But, how many Hindu kids have been killed by terrorists in Kashmir since 1989? Have we seen anyone in Kashmir protest against that? Utter a word against that?

Murdered deer gets justice; murdered humans are denied

February 24, 2006

This month in India, we witnessed a curious spectacle of a murdered deer getting some justice (however minor), while a murdered human being was denied the same!

In Oct 1998, actor Salman Khan and a few others were arrested for poaching an endangered species of black bucks in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. It took seven-and-half years for the Indian judicial system to sentence him as reported in Radio Sargam:

Poaching case about to conclude  

Bollywood actor Salman Khan was sentenced to one year imprisonment and fined Rs 5,000 by Jodhpur court in Black Buck Case. Seven other accused in the case including actors Saif Ali Khan, Satish Shah, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari were acquitted in the case by Chief Judicial Magistrate B K Jain.

Salman was charged with hunting chinkaras – a deer species, during the night of September 26-27, 1998 when he was in Jodhpur for the shooting of filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’. He and his co-stars of the film were booked by the Rajasthan Forest Department on charges of poaching of endangered animals.

40-year-old Salman was present when the judgment was pronounced in the packed court room. He was convicted under the Wildlife Protection Act. The sentence will come into effect after one month. The court suspended the sentence for a month on a petition filed by Salman’s counsel Hasitmal Sarswat to enable him to move the sessions court for an appeal.

So, although he is sentenced, justice is not entirely served. The culprit (he can be called that, for he has been sentenced) is given an opportunity to play the system and keep on stalling, as he has done for over seven years.

Apparently, this is not the only case in which Salman Khan has been hoodwinking justice. The same Radio Sargam article says:

It (Right Indian: the black buck case) was one of the four cases filed against the actor for poaching endangered animals.

The next hearing in another Ghoda farmhouse (Jodhpur district) poaching case would take place on February 27 in the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court here during which the defence council would argue. The third case of chinkara poaching under the Wildlife Protection Act and Arms Act is pending with the District Munsif and Judicial Magistrate court for which the next hearing is slated for February 20, according to the public prosecutor.

Meanwhile, Ravindra Patil, an eyewitness in the hit-and-run case (another one involving Salman Khan) failed to turn up on Thursday in the trial court, Mumbai, which deferred the matter to March two for further hearing. The court has taken a serious view of the absence of the witness and warned him to appear at the next hearing. In this case Salman Khan is charged with killing a person and injuring four by ramming his car into a bakery in suburban Bandra on September 28, 2002.

Three-and-half years after killing a human, Salman Khan lives a normal life, being free to go anywhere and enjoy life however he chooses. And then, he gets to escape trial because one eyewitness did not turn up! Incidentally, the only eye witness in the black buck poaching case, the driver of the vehicle used in the hunt, has been absconding for over two years. What are the chances of the witness in the hit-and-run case heeding the court’s “serious view” and turning up?

Jessica LalJessica Lal, publicly shot and murdered in a crowded restaurant, at point-blank range! (Click on the pic to view in bigger size).

Meanwhile, hostile witnesses enabled the nine accused in the famous Jessica Lal murder case of April 1999, to go scot-free. The Times of India reports about Justice on Trial:

The acquittal of all the nine accused in the Jessica Lal murder case is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice. If the police can’t nail a killer who shot his victim at point-blank range before several eyewitnesses, there is a serious need for a rethink on our investigative and judicial apparatus.

The case against the prime accused Manu Sharma, son of a Haryana minister for shooting Jessica on April 29, 1999 collapsed on three grounds.

First, three key eyewitnesses turned hostile;second, while the prosecution maintained that two bullets found at the murder site were fired from a single weapon, the state’s forensic agency said the bullets were fired from different weapons; and finally, the murder weapon was never recovered.

The case is a telling comment on investigating skills of the police. By depending heavily on eyewitness accounts, the police failed to marshal other forensic evidence to back their case.

The mismatch between police claims and forensic evidence points to sheer inefficiency or tampering of evidence, both of which are serious lapses.

Another reason for failure to prosecute is the inordinate delay between the crime and delivery of justice. The verdict in Jessica Lal’s case took nearly seven years.

The long gap means there is that much more scope to mess around with evidence and to exert pressure on eyewitnesses. The Jessica Lal case is an abortion of justice. If steps are not taken to remedy this situation, the nation’s police and courts will have little credibility.

Even without considering Jessica Lal’s murder case, do the “nation’s police and courts” have any credibility at all? Indira Jaising, “a distinguished Supreme Court lawyer”, frankly admits to the Indian legal system lacking credibility when she writes the following in guest column:

This was not a hit and run case, or a case where the killers were anonymous or unknown. This was not a riot situation where murders are committed by faceless people. This was murder at close range, in a crowded restaurant, where everyone knew everyone else.

One of the main problems of criminal trials — that is proving the identity of the accused — could not have been an issue at all. Indeed the accused were from among the rich and powerful elite of the country. And that is where the problems of the legal system begin.

A Supreme Court lawyer admits that “the rich and the powerful elite of the country” are a problem to the legal system! The rest of Indira Jaising’s column is equally damning of the police and the courts:

The acquittal illustrates all that ails the criminal justice system, not only for Jessica Lal but for many others. There can be no doubt that the police did not do a proper investigation. Not to recover the murder weapon is asking for trouble. Then, the forensic report does not support the theory that only one weapon was used.

Our institutions have such low credibility that it is difficult to come to any conclusion if the reports are manipulated.

If they were not manipulated, and if indeed the shots were fired from two different weapons, then that is a huge failure of investigation for which the police must take full responsibility.

But let us look at the more devastating aspects of the case — witnesses turning hostile. This is now the preferred method of seeking acquittals for the rich and the powerful. Turning hostile, basically means buying silence. Silence can be bought for many reasons, for a price, or for fear of reprisals.

When the accused are powerful, it could be a combination of both.

But the question still remains — was there no other outcome possible? What ails the legal system, when times without number, it comes up with acquittals, especially when the accused are powerful?

Strangely enough, Jessica Lal’s sister hit the nail on the head when she said that there is too much reliance on eyewitness evidence in our system and not enough reliance on circumstantial evidence.

Methods of crime investigation have not improved; indeed there is no desire to investigate in a scientific manner. Witnesses will and do turn hostile. But investigations must proceed independently of eyewitnesses to draw conclusions based on a chain of circumstances that led only to one conclusion.

A very major question that begs an answer is why was Manu Sharma (Right Indian: the main person accused of shooting Jessica Lal, son of former Union minister Vinod Sharma) granted bail? This is what enables witnesses to turn hostile, the opportunity provided to the accused to access witnesses.

There is no witness protection programme in the country. A law commission report gathers dust. Petitions files in the Supreme Court over the Gujarat killings asking for witness protection programmes also gather dust. There is a lethargy over the questions, a dangerous lethargy which will cause people to settle their scores outside court.

This is not just an imaginary scenario. It has happened in Nagpur, when women walked into a courtroom and killed a person accused of rape inside the courtroom out of anger, knowing that he would be let off, yet again, by the police and the courts.

Street justice seems to be the swiftest and most effective method. Imagine what you would do if you were Jessica Lal’s parent, sibling, lover or friend, and you had to see her killer and those who protected him walk away, just because they are rich and powerful!

51-Crore-Rupee Business & the Hindu time bomb

February 23, 2006

Contract killing is now a Rs 51 crores per deal public business in India! Two such contracts have been publicly announced just this month!

The Indian Express reports that a minister from the Uttar Pradesh state has announced Rs 51-crore reward for Danish cartoonist’s head:

The Minister for Minority Welfare and Haj in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, Haji Yaqoob Qureishi, has announced a cash reward of Rs 51 crore for anyone who beheads the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Mohammad.

Even in a country like India whose politicians are revealed to be scoundrels on a regular basis, such a public call by a minister for the killing of someone is shocking! What is more shocking is the reaction of the government as reported in the same article:

While the state government has defended the Minister’s remark as the “voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt,” a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has slammed it calling the reward “anti-Islamic and anti-humanity.”

When contacted, UP Principal Secretary, Home, Alok Sinha told The Indian Express: “The minister’s reaction was the voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt. Moreover, since the reference was to a person who is far off, there is no question of an FIR being lodged against the minister.”

That is indeed dangerous and irresponsible behavior on the part of the government! Meanwhile, the minister-in-the-limelight justifies himself as follows:

Speaking to The Indian Express, Qureishi defended his announcement saying it was a “concerted decision” and the killing of a person who blasphemed Islam was “justified.”

What else does the man support and promote that is mentioned in the Quran? What is the bet that the man also thinks the acts of Islamic terrorists across the world, and particularly in India, are justified? What is the bet that the man would enthusiastically support the activities of such terrorists? Given a choice between supporting the well-being of India and supporting the cause of Islamic terrorists, what would this man choose? And he is a minister in a state government of India!

Surprisingly, in this case, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board does not seem to be supporting this “justified” Ismalic call:

However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board member and Naib Imam of Aishbagh Idgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, criticised the Minister’s call for the killing of the cartoonist.

“The Minister’s statement is anti-Shariat, anti-Islam and anti-humanity,” Mahali said. “The western media is already up against Islam, the minister’s statement will only add fuel to the fire.” The Prophet believed in pardoning others for “sins committed by them,” the Maulana said, “Who are we to issue such irresponsible statements?”

Glad to see the AIMPLB showing some maturity. However, it does not appear that everyone is so mature. reports that the Hindu Law Board offers Rs 51 cr for killing M F Hussain:

The Hindu Personal Law Board on Wednesday announced a Rs 51 crore reward for eliminating artist M F Hussain. Meanwhile, a Congress minority cell leader offered Rs 11 lakh to any ‘patriot’ to chop off the painter’s hands for hurting Hindu sentiments.

“Anyone who kills Hussain for making obscene paintings of goddess Sarswati and Bharat Mata, the Danish cartoonist, those in the German company printing pictures of Ram and Krishna on tissue paper and the French filmmaker desecrating Lord Shiva will be given Rs 51 crore in cash,” Ashok Pandey, board president, said in a statement in Lucknow.

The first question that came to my mind was, “What the hell is this Hindu Personal Law Board”? I had never heard of such a board, and I am sure that is true of almost all Hindus, the world over. So, I searched Googled and came up with this Deccan Herald report from Sept 22, 2005, about the setup of the Hindu Personal Law Board:

A Hindu Personal Law Board was constituted over the weekend to mixed reactions. Set up by a group of Hindu lawyers led by Ashok Pandey, the board is to work towards the protection of the symbols of the Hindu rashtra.

What has been christened the Hindu Personal Law Board, proposes to set up 500 courts, on the line of the Sharaiat Courts known as Darul Qaza, first in UP and then throughout the country to resolve disputes among Hindus. The target is 5 lakh courts in the next five years.

Although cagey about the number of lawyers who are with him, Pandey is emphatic that the board will evolve to acquire a status similar to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

This is a classic case-study in public reactions. A Hindu law board is setup as a reaction to a Muslim law board. A Muslim call to kill a Danish cartoonist, who offended Muslim sentiments, results in a reactionary Hindu call to kill a Muslim artist, who has offended Hindu sentiments on many occasions. What next?

The leaders of the Muslim community and the leaders of the state governments and the national government in India, especially those who insist on pandering to Muslim vote-banks, should be asking themselves this “what next?” question. In these days of fast and far-reaching media and communications, they can’t expect to get away with anything, without there being reactions. Their actions and their absurdities are noticed and reported. Despite the Indian English language media being largely sympathetic and partial to them, news does spread. And the Hindu reaction is like a time bomb just waiting for the right trigger. Unfortunately, neither the Muslim leaders nor the governments seem to be wise enough to understand this.

When the Hindu time bomb bursts, there will be no point blaming the Hindus. After all, hasn’t it been demonstrated by the Prophet Mohammed cartoons controversy that the media and the governments all over the world show respect and consideration to the sentiments of only those who resort to street violence? It has been shown that violent tantrums produce the desired results. So, we can expect more of the same.

An Appeal to Google Books for Sanskrit Literature

February 20, 2006

Google Books has set its sights on India. reports that Google woos Indian publishers:

Google has turned on the charm at the book fair in Delhi. “Books are written to be discovered, and that’s the challenge we’re helping publishers solve with Google Book Search,” gushes Gautam Anand, strategic partner development manager, Google Inc; “it’s a great discovery tool.”

And, get this: Hindi books are to be digitised too, as part of Google’s brand mission to “organise all the world’s information and make it universally accessible”.

In this context, I have an earnest appeal to Google: Make all known Sanskrit literature available online.

There is an immense treasure trove of ancient wisdom available in Sanskrit covering almost all important topics of human interest including spirituality, health, fiction, poetry, mythology, astrology, statecraft, sexuality, etc. So far, this invaluable treasure has been accessible only to a very small minority of Indians and non-Indians. It would be of immense benefit to the whole world, if this could be digitized and made available online to anyone, anywhere with Internet access.

For a long time now, I have dreamt of an online Sanskrit repository with the following features:

  1. Digital copy of all available Sanskrit texts in the original Devanagari script.
  2. English translations of the Sanskrit texts by respected and authoritative scholars. Where possible, multiple translations by different scholars, multiple languages, word-for-word translations.
  3. A special “comment” section where users and readers can record their own interpretations and commentaries on specific portions of the above texts.

I lack the time and resources to make such a repository possible. However, this is something that Google can achieve quite easily. Google has the resources. Google has the reach. I request Google to help create a repository like the one I have described above.

An immense volume of ancient information is locked in old Sanskrit texts, many of which are in rare or unavailable print editions. There are countless people all over the world who are interested in this information, but it is not easily available to them. Printed copies of the books are only available from specialized publishing houses, in specific stores. The few online resources are very inadequate and unreliable. Some of these ancient texts are in danger of being lost forever because publishers are not reprinting them. Organizing and making this invaluable wisdom universally accessible would be a special jewel, shining in Google’s crown forever. If this is not done, Google would have missed an important step in its mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.

I am sending a copy of the above appeal to Google Books. If you, dear reader, see value in an online repository of Sanskrit texts like the one I have described above, please send an email to Be sure to refer to this blog post in your email so that Google knows we are talking about the same thing. Hopefully, we will see this become a reality soon.

Update on Feb 28th, 2006: After I emailed Google Books, I got an automated email acknowledgement immediately. The next day, I received the following email. The contents of the email are rather generic, even if it was sent by a human. Here it is for what it is worth:

From: Google Book Search Support (
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 3:11 PM
To: Right Indian
Subject: Re: [#47394347] An Appeal to Google Books for Sanskrit Literature

Thank you for your email.

We appreciate your taking the time to offer us this feedback and encourage you to continue to let us know how we can improve Google Book Search. As this is still a young program, new features are under consideration and your feedback is very helpful.


The Google Book Search Team

To access the Google Books Partner Program home page or to log in to your account, please visit:

Original Message Follows:
From: Right Indian
Subject: An Appeal to Google Books for Sanskrit Literature
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 11:58:17 -0800 (PST)

  I have an earnest appeal to Google Books: Make all known Sanskrit literature available online…

Compulsory marriage registration – Is Supreme Court being the law-breaker?

February 17, 2006

The Times of India reports that the Supreme Court makes marriage registration compulsory:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that all marriages, irrespective of their religion, be compulsorily registered and directed the Centre and state governments to frame and notify rules for this within three months.

Writing the judgment for the Bench in a matter that was an offshoot of a matrimonial case, Justice Pasayat directed the Centre and the state governments to incorporate “consequences of non-registration of marriages” in the rules, which should be formalised after inviting public response and considering them.

The court said the rules so framed would continue to operate till the respective governments framed proper legislations for compulsory registration of marriages.

Giving no room for appeasement or dilution of the objective to be achieved through such legislations, Justice Pasayat said all new laws to be framed by the governments have to be placed for scrutiny before the apex court.

Now, wait a minute! Is this possible? Can the Supreme Court (SC) do something like this? All I can remember from my basic Civics classes in school was that the Judiciary’s function was to ensure legal compliance. What is happening here is beyond simple compliance assurance. The SC appears to be laying down the law. Isn’t that the job of the Legislative (and perhaps also the Executive) branch of the government?

Judging by the above report, the SC seems to be quite powerful. It directs the state and central governments to frame rules, gives a deadline of three months and even asks the government to incorporate “consequences of non-registration of marriage” (in effect, making non-registration a punishable offence)! Is it power or is it naivete of the SC that makes it expect all state governments and the central government to come up with the rules in three months, including specific punishments!

Worse, the SC itself directs the governments to make such rules operable before they could be properly framed into laws. What the heck does this mean? Any government can come up with arbitrary rules and enforce them before they can be properly tabled, discussed and voted into laws in the national Parliament and/or state legislative assemblies? The SC encourages governments to act in such less-than-legal ways?

On top of all this, the SC also takes on the role of the reviewer of the law, asking the government to submit the laws to the court’s scrutiny. Does the SC review all the legislations which are passed into laws? If yes, this was another important function of the judiciary which was either not taught in my school Civics lessons or I was not paying enough attention!

What is the role of the citizens of the country in all this? Isn’t Democracy supposed to be the rule “of the people, by the people, for the people”? Shouldn’t the people (or their elected representative) be the ones to initiate such a far-reaching law which would affect almost every citizen of the country? Is the Supreme Court’s directive legally kosher?

Tricky legal questions, eh? Actually the legal questions are the easy part of this whole issue. The implementation of such a law will be the worse nightmare!

Even in today’s India, most transactions involving the government offices are some of the worst experiences a person can go through. The rules and the process are never clear. The officials and the clerks use this lack of clarity to their maximum advantage. They treat the general public with scant respect and act as if they are lords doing a special favor for you. Things never happen on time. Corruption is rampant. You have to pay bribes to get anything done. It is far too easy to imagine the following scenarios:

  1. Expect the whole process to be complex and hard to understand in its original legislated form. Expect the implementation of the process in the marriage bureau offices country to be even more complex and inconsistent. Expect the clerks, officers, various middle-men, agents and touts to take full advantage of this.
  2. Expect to have a bunch of additional paperwork, apart from filling the marriage application form. You will have to submit your proof of identity, proof of age, proof of residence, may be even proof of gender in original notarized certificates as well as triple notarized copies.
  3. Extra expenses in the form of official government fees plus bribes to the peon at the office door, the clerk who processes your marriage application, the officer who facilitates your marriage registration (assuming he is different from the clerk).
  4. Long queues at every step of the way from getting the application form to submitting it to having it processed to actually signing the marriage register.
  5. Long queues mean you probably can’t get married on the day and time of your choice! This would not be acceptable to the majority of Indians who are very particular about getting married on the auspicious day and time chosen by the elders and astrologers.
  6. In big cities, where there are a lot of people, there will be uncertainty at every step of the way. The long wait list of people wanting to get married will not only mean that you can’t get married on the day of your choice, you will probably not even know on what date you will get married. You will submit the application and then wait indefinitely and anxiously for the government letter which will tell you the date of your wedding. Or it will tell you that there was something wrong with all the paperwork you submitted, you will have to resubmit the whole thing as per point 2 above and you will be bumped back to the beginning of the waiting list.
  7. There will be especially long queues on auspicious days. Expect long wait times. Expect the very real possibility that you will wait all day and still don’t get married because it is closing time for the registration bureau office.
  8. Expect dirty, overcrowded marriage bureau offices with a lot of prospective couples, their friends and relatives. You will be shouted at and herded around like animals by the rude and irritable peons. You can expect a rules and limits stipulating exactly who and how many people can accompany you to the registrar office. (Probably nobody other than you, your fiance and the witnesses who will sign the register)
  9. Expect to deal with middle-men, touts and agents who can get you ahead of the line, who can get you time-slots on special days and times.
  10. Decide all of a sudden to elope and get married in a hurry? Forget about it!

I am sure there are lot more complications and difficulties I am not able to think of right now. Indian marriages involve a thousand complexities in the best of circumstances. The last thing Indian marriages need is a bunch of more government-induced complexities.

Granted that registered marriages is the way of life in many countries around the world. But those are countries where the culture of registration has been around for centuries. They have a system in place. Agreed that the kind of Western processes we are following in everything including legal processes, property laws, travel (think international travel and visa applications) actually necessitates registered marriages. So, having universal marriage registration in India would actually be helpful. I don’t disput or deny that.

However, the manner in which the SC has sought to initiate this is not right. The timing is not right either. And what’s with the three-month deadline? There are better ways of legislating and implementing this type of far-reaching laws. But none of it will work until the functioning in government offices is made easier, cleaner, better in every aspect.

Clearly, India is not ready for this right now. There are better things that the Indian governments can concentrate on at the national and state levels.

End note: People’s reactions to the SC directive: Many welcome, few oppose

Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons disappear in America media!

February 10, 2006

It is not just the BBC that is shaking in its boots and not showing any of the controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. All over the world, most of the media companies have chosen not to reprint / display the cartoons. The media companies which have chosen to display the cartoons are a small minority.

Even in the US, the land of free speech and liberty, Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons have been conspicuously absent in popular media, although there is no dearth of newsbytes regarding the issue. Journalist-blogger Michelle Malkin writes about the Cowardly American Media, taking to task CNN and NBC, two of the biggest media houses in the US.

Meanwhile, The Politicker of the New York Observer writes that the entire editorial staff of the New York Press quit in protest when they were prevented from printing the cartoons of the Prophet:

The editorial staff of the alternative weekly New York Press walked out today, en masse, after the paper’s publishers backed down from printing the Danish cartoons that have become the center of a global free-speech fight.

Editor-in-Chief Harry Siegel emails, on behalf of the editorial staff:

New York Press, like so many other publications, has suborned its own professed principles. For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization. Having been ordered at the 11th hour to pull the now-infamous Danish cartoons from an issue dedicated to them, the editorial group—consisting of myself, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editorJonathan Leaf and one-man city hall bureau Azi Paybarah, chose instead to resign our positions.

We have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we’d criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding. Editors have already been forced to leave papers in Jordan and France for having run these cartoons. We have no illusions about the power of the Press (NY Press, we mean), but even on the far margins of the world-historical stage, we are not willing to side with the enemies of the values we hold dear, a free press not least among them.

This deserves high praise. This is a rare example of a principled stand by mediapersons in an era in which we are forced to wonder if even Google, “the organizer and presenter of the world’s information”, is censoring these cartoons!


Google Censors in USA??

February 9, 2006

Do a Google image search for “Prophet Mohammed Cartoon.

6 pages worth of results containing 1,110 pictures are returned as of today. NOT ONE of those pictures are actually the cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed! Repeating the search with different spellings of Mohammed or Mohammad does not give any better results.

One can’t help but wonder if Google is suppressing the display of these images everywhere, including in the US of A! It is hard to believe that Google image search results do not show any cartoons simply because most of the media companies have chosen not to reprint/display the cartoons! There are enough websites out there (including this blog) which are carrying the images in all their funny, silly, satirical glory! Surely, the richest and most popular search engine in the world should not find it so difficult to index and display these images? 

Repeating the search including omitted results barely helps. One or two cartoons seem to have sneaked in here and there.

If Google has indeed deliberately suppressed displaying the cartoons, this would be a huge blow to Google’s reliability. On the other hand, if Google has not deliberately suppressed the cartoons, this is still a big blow to Google’s reliability because its search engine is not displaying one of the hottest items in international news these days!

Anyway, we shall do for you what Google couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do!

Update on Feb 15th, 2006: I am glad to report that Google does not seem to have censored its results after all. At the time of originally publishing this post, some of the cartoons appeared in Google image search results only when repeating the search including omitted results. They did not appear in normal search. Now these same cartoons appear in the top 20 results of the normal search. End of Update.

We shall show you the holy cartoons published in The Jyllands-Posten newspaper of Denmark:

Prophet Mohammed Cartoons