Monday, June 30, 2008

Spain rules Europe

Spain defeated Germany 1-0 in the EURO 2008 final to lift the trophy after a drought of 44 years. Well I am a happy man, as they were my favorites from the lot. I saw their first match against Russia (which they won 4-1) and became an instant fan. They were so confident and their passing were just awesome. They repeated their magic game again against Russia in the semi-finals. Well towards the end of the semi-final game, they were just been casual, and having fun. That was their skill level.

I was expecting Spain to perform good in the finals, but Germany's performance was disappointing though. I expected it to be a closer fight than what it turned out to be. If Spain had not missed the chances they created, we could have seen the real score (may be 3-0, 3-1).

So all the other non European teams, watch out for them in the world cup 2010. They have a young team which will be completely available until then, fully prepared for the World Show.

India Corruption Study 2007, an eye opener...

This is the third, in a series of surveys which Transparency International India (TII) has done to measure the extent of petty corruption. The niche about this study was its focus on below poverty line (BPL) households.

The scope of the study is not only limited to perceptions about corruption in general, but perception in specific context of a service and, more importantly, actual experience of paying bribe by BPL households in availing one or more of the 11 selected public services. Depending on frequency of interaction, the eleven services are divided broadly into “basic services” (PDS, Hospital Service, School Education (up to 12th), Electricity Service and Water Supply Service) and “need based services” (Land Records / Registration, Housing Service, Forest, NREGS, Banking Service and Police Service (traffic and crime)). The study does not include operational irregularities in the system and even corruption that does not involve citizens directly.
Estimation of bribe: The total bribe amount involved in a year in BPL households availing the eleven services covered in this study is estimated as Rs. 8,830 million.

Services ranked: School education is least corrupt service. Police stood number one corroborates the general impression. The Land Records / Registration and House/Plot, which are specially tailored for BPL households, stand at two and three in the rank is a matter of concern.


Relative position of states on Corruption: No state is anywhere near "zero corruption" level. States are grouped into four levels to explain the extent/level of corruption based on a weightage scheme – Moderate, High, Very High and Alarming.

First thing I noticed was Assam, the state I belong to, is at the top of the list in terms of corruption. It feels bad, but this can be seen as an opportunity by the state government to improve their processes and governance focussed on the BPL households. Himachal has done good (being moderate) in all the 11 services. One common thing that I can see from it is, in general the states which are doing good economically also have lower level of corruption. Something that is not surprising. I hope the state governments take this report seriously and don't just throw it as a junk report.

Other highlights can be found at the report at the following location:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

When I played with the Indian Cricket team...

Our office have corporate booking in the badminton courts at Chinnaswamy stadium over the weekends. Every Saturday I make it a point to utilize this facility and join my friends to play badminton. We always go over and have some fun out there.

This weekend was no different and I met my office colleagues at the stadium. We were playing our regular game and suddenly we were out for surprise. We saw two strangers walking in. I suddenly realized they weren't any strangers and looked like very familiar faces to me. It was Bhajji and Dinesh Kartik from the Indian cricket team. At that time courts were occupied by us and they were looking for one. We vacated one court for them and enjoyed seeing them playing singles with each other.

(From L-R: Me, Ramesh Powar, Bhajji, Dinesh Karthik, company friends)

Finally they (Bhajji and Kartik) teamed up and we played couple of doubles games with them. My colleagues won the first match. In between Ramesh Powar also showed up. Me and Kumar teamed up to play the next match against Bhajji and Kartik. It started off well with both giving good fight. Finally we lost the match. It was fun challenging them, and firing some good smashes at them :-)

It was their time to leave and we requested for autographs. We also requested for a photograph and they happily obliged for both.

After I walked out of the indoor stadium towards my bike, I saw some of the other members from the Indian cricket team, Zaheer Khan, Laxman, Ashish Nehra, Wasim Zafar. There is a camp happening for the test team and that was the reason I saw all these Indian team players in Chinnaswamy stadium.

Pleasant surprises....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw passes away

Former Army Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw passed away at Military Hospital in Wellington.

Field Marshal is the highest possible rank in the military of India. Only two Army appointments have been made by the Government of India since independence in 1947. The rank of Field Marshal though, existed in the old Indian Army.

Independent India's first, and only active Field Marshal (appointed when in service), was the then Chief of Army Staff Gen. Sam Manekshaw. A much admired and decorated World War 2 officer he was conferred the rank in 1973 by the Indira Gandhi-led government, largely in recognition of his sterling leadership during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. He is seen as being principally responsible, in a military sense, for an Indian victory in that war, and for the subsequent split of Pakistan.

May his soul rest in peace. He will be the inspiration for tons of young army officers and jawans for years to come.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Assam tea and its GI status

Most peoples do know that Assam is famous for its tea. Assam tea by itself is a huge brand and it even received Geographical Indication status.

A geographical indication (sometimes abbreviated to GI) is a name or sign used on certain products or which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (eg. a town, region, or country). The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Orthodox tea is the second Assam product to bag the GI label after muga silk. The GI label is exclusive to only a handful of generically identifiable products such as Swiss watches, Czech crystals, champagne, Mysore sandalwood oil and Kancheepuram silk.

There are certain requirements that the product has to fulfill before getting the GI status. The products should have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are special to that particular state or place of origin to qualify for the GI status.

The GI status is going to be hugely beneficial for Assam tea as it would now prevent replication in other parts.

For additional information on GI visit

Match fixing: No games are Isolated?

Match fixing controversies have always haunted the sports fraternity. Some of them have even brought an end to big sporting careers.

Match fixing controversy created a huge flutter in Indian media when the names of Indian cricket starts was revealed as being involved in match fixing scandals. Well it ended the career of Indian players like Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja. Hanse Conje (one of my favorite player) was banned from all forms of cricket due to match fixing.

Some of the recent match fixing news are coming from unexpected places:
- India-Malaysia Azlan Shah tie was fixed: report (PTI News)
Were Wimbledon matches fixed? (TOI News)

Looks like none of the games remains isolated from match fixing scandals.

I guess I will end up watching The Great Khali in WWE, because I already know the matches are fixed :-)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Do Asia cup cricket need more then three teams?

If you are tracking the Asia cup cricket in this Wimbledon and EURO soccer season, you might be disappointed to see the initial results. The big guns of Asia are winning by huge margins.

I wonder do we need to have six teams in Asia Cup just for the sake of making it bigger. Hongkong, UAE and should I add Bangladesh has come up with some awful performances. The initial scores say it all (Pak defeat Hongkong by 155 runs, India defeat Hongkong by 256 runs, Sri Lanka defeat Bangladesh by 131 runs). These are by no means competitive cricket. The three big guns India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the real deserving candidates to participate in this level of competition.

We can expect some good records to be made in this competition. I wonder if anybody are watching these matches.

India in FIFA world cup

With the EURO 2008 fever at complete high, we were discussing in office about India's chances of ever making it to the FIFA world cup? Well looking at the current situation, it looks impossible to me.

But most of us might not know that India did qualified for the FIFA world cup in 1950.

From wikipedia:

"India qualified by default for the 1950 FIFA World Cup as a result of the withdrawal of all of their scheduled opponents. However, they did not take up their place in the competition because FIFA demanded all players at the World Cup finals should wear football boots. A number of the Indian players refused to abide by this rule and the team was forced to withdraw. The team has never since come close to qualifying for the World Cup.

India also finished 4th in the football tournament at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and won the 1962 Asian Games Gold medal, and reached the semi-finals in the next two Asian Games tournaments in what became known as the golden era of Indian football."

The great rhino conservation success story

Something I thought worth sharing

*Information collected from the web, wikipedia

Here is a comment from the WWF website:

"The Indian, or greater one-horned, rhino is a conservation success story. Thanks to strict protection measures, its population increased from 600 in 1975 to 2,400 in 2002. But it is still an endangered animal that faces the ever-present danger of poaching for its horn."

The Indian Rhinoceros or the Great One-horned Rhinoceros or the Asian One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is a large mammal found in Nepal and in Assam, India. It is confined to the tall grasslands and forests in the foothills of the Himalayas.

In Assam, rhinos are found in the Kaziranga National Park where it is under conservation.
Kaziranga National Park has been granted maximum protection under the Indian law for wildlife conservation. Various laws, which include the Assam Forest Regulation of 1891 and the Biodiversity Conservation Act of 2002 have been enacted for protection of wildlife in the park.

Here is the rhino population chart (from wikipedia).

Awesome isn't it??

There are still issues with poaching in Kaziranga.

Join the rhino conservation effort with

We're toast if we don't get on different path: NASA scientist

An real eye opener for the skeptics not agreeing to global warming.

"Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world's only hope is drastic action.

James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the ''dangerous level'' for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth's atmosphere can stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises."

Click on the link below to read the story

For the latest news from India, visit

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Extremes of Geographical Ignorance

The first time I went to US was for a training. It was a week long training with participants from all parts of the globe (Europe, Asia and Americas).

One day I saw my friend rushing to me at an angry mood. Surprised I asked, “Hey buddy, what happened?” He said, “You know John (name changed) from my team, he asked me where I am from. When I said India, he was asking if it was close to Indonesia. What crap, don’t he have this simple geographical knowledge.” I was definitely amused…

To be honest, this is not the first time I am hearing this. This is nothing to complain about, it happens in all the places, at different scales though.

In India, I have seen that happening to my NE friends, the peoples from the seven sisters. First off all they are confused to be not part of India. I remember on of my friend from Tripura being asked, “Is Tripura part of Guwahati?” Funny huh…

I do not complain again, because, if someone tells me he is from Lesotho, I would ask him where does it belong?

For your information:
Lesotho, officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave — entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Formerly Basutoland, it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho roughly translates into "the land of the people who speak Sesotho."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Roger Federer, are we seeing the end of an era?

The end of an era?

That’s what I keep hearing from people and media around me. But as a hard-core fan of FedEX, I don’t want to digest it so easily.

The voice of the skeptics got stronger after the recent demolition of Federer by his archrival Rafael Nadal (Rafa) in the recent French Open final. So the most favorite topic in the tennis circuit gained momentum, Rafa-FedEX rivalry.

Federer has been my favorite player in recent time, mostly because of the versatility of his style. I have been fan of many previous stars (Sampras, Becker, Agassi). I loved the powerful serve of Sampras and his volleys, Becker’s volleys and fighting attitude by trying for all the points he can reach into was mind boggling, Agassi for his great baseline play and the way he makes the ball hit baseline all the time. I was amazed when I saw all the qualities in a single player, Federer. I became an instant fan of him.

He soon started demolishing his opponents and quickly moved on to become world number one. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. The player of his caliber deserved it. He has been dominating men’s tennis since then. Well, it sometimes becomes monotonous, but with a player of his class, I am never bored of seeing him.

This year 2008 has been different. Federer has struggled to match his own class and lost many matches (statistically speaking, 8 which is quite a bit for him), two of them in the majors (Djokovic in Aus open and Nadal in French). So the question obviously comes, is this the end of the king, FedEx?

I have a different take on this whole issue. I believe only way to beat a classy player like Federer is by sheer power. Federer has been in the international arena for quite some time now, and the younger guns are catching up with him, not to match his class but to exceed his power. This is evident from his failures in the slower surfaces (like clay) where his opponents nullify all his awesome shots. So I would partly agree of peoples catching up with him, but matching his class would take some more time for the kids in the block.

So fellas, do not get bogged down looking at the statistics you see in the news and media, the king is here to stay. I think he will silence his critics by winning the title in his favorite hunting ground, Wimbledon.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Is the fuel price hike justified? What is the real fuel price?

On 4th of June 08, the Indian government declared an increase in petrol (Rs. 5/litre) and diesel (Rs. 3/litre) prices because of the mounting losses of the oil companies. The global crude oil prices have been hovering at ~ 130 $/barrel for quite some time now and the oil companies were loosing money in crores on a daily basis. The Indian prime minister even came out to the address the nation saying that this the minimal hike that was possible looking at the current scenario.

This made me to wonder, what is the real price of fuel? Who makes all the money and who carries the losses.

I started doing some basic calculations and started hunting for data in the web. Well, first let do a straightforward calculation, what is the crude oil price (in INR)? Taking a recent crude oil price of $130/barrel and using a conversion rate of Rs.40/USD, the crude oil price becomes ~ Rs.32.71/litre. Petroleum price after the current price rise will be Rs.55/litre (average nationwide). So we are talking about a petrol price which is ~170% of the crude oil price. So somebody must be making money (and not lossi), as it’s hard to believe that refining cost would be that high. I do not have any refining cost data, so the next step would be to hunt for that information. (What’s still in back of my mind is, oil companies are making losses in crores)

I came across a gasoline price breakdown report from “California Energy Commission” website ( They showed the split of all the costs starting from crude oil price to retail price, separately showing the refining cost and also taxes charged by the federal and the state governments. I believe the cost breakdown structure will be similar in India, excluding the tax structure. Looking at the May month’s data, the refinery cost along with the profits accounts for 7.5% of the crude oil price.

Taking this scenario in India, where the retail price is 170% of the crude oil price, and refining expense (with profits) is only 7.5%. The rest of the amount must go away in taxes and other components, which is retained by the central and state governments in India. As a layman what I understand is governments do not want to loose their own share of the money, and they are trying to nail down the oil companies out of their profits, and finally they transferred part of the financial burden to the consumers.

The government should not risk loosing the stream of their revenues, as this might affect the other developmental activities as well as the fiscal deficit might climb up. But looking at the developed economy like the United States, their retail price is ~ 135% of the crude price. Thus the US consumers are paying less then what we pay in India, even after subsidies? Something hard for me to comprehend… May be I needed to go back and check my economics.

Here are excerpts from what the petroleum minister told the Rajya Sabha (pretty old data, 2005) which gives some insight:

Giving a break-up in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, the Petroleum Minister said the cost of production of petrol was only Rs 19.58 per litre, whereas the Customs duty, excise duty and sales tax take the retail price to Rs 43.49 a litre (in Delhi). The tax component is almost 55%.

For diesel, the tax component in the retail price is almost 34%, with customs duty of 6% (Rs 1.81), excise duty of 17% (Rs 5.07) and sales tax of 11 per cent (Rs 3.39). This takes the retail price to Rs 30.45 a litre in Delhi, while the basic cost of production of diesel is only Rs 20.18 a litre. As for cooking gas, while the production cost of one cylinder of LPG is Rs 261.97, local sales tax of Rs 32.75 takes the selling price to Rs 294.75. For kerosene, the per-litre cost is Rs 8.70, while the selling price is Rs 9.05.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Who feel's the Inflation?

There are talks of Inflation everywhere in India now (or should I say everywhere in the globe). Prices of food grains have skyrocketed, and oil prices keeps rising every other day. But how much are we each Indians affected by inflation?

The impact of inflation depends on the % of your income spent on food and essential items. This is the kind of expenses you cannot avoid, and qualifies as something we call a basic necessity of life. If this is very small percentage of ones monthly income, people do not really care about it. Inflation hit’s the poorest section of the society the hardest, as most of his/her daily income goes in fulfilling their basic necessities. Even a small increase in the food price makes these basic necessity less accessible to them, and with the current trends, the poor might have been choking!!

I wonder will any one of the richer sections of the society keep track of the prices of food grains. The price of sunflower oil has crossed Rs. 100/Litre. Rice is not available below Rs. 20/-, vegetable prices increasing beyond what someone might call logical. But I guess nobody cares until it starts hitting his or her pockets hard.

To give a personal example, I really won’t care if matchboxes start costing rs.2 in place of 1, even though the price has doubled. I won’t think twice before buying it. This can be similar to vegetables/rice or other commodities for someone else. So everyone has to ask for himself, do I feel the inflation?

Inflationary effect becomes severe when there exists a huge difference in affordability within the consumers. As for food grains, everyone in the world is a consumer. Nobody would disagree that western world has very high purchasing power as compared to the African nations. So, I believe the western nations are least affected by the rising food prices (as compared to their African counterparts). This holds true for ultra rich and the poor in India too. The section of the society who can afford it all sucks up most of the essential resources, at any cost.

Inflation has culprits in the supply side too, and also an increasing affordability of a vast population of the developing nation. But nobody can deny the fact that inflation does not affect all sections of the society equally. It hits hard the section of the society who can’t afford to compete for the same “limited” resources with the ones who can afford much more...

So step back and ask to yourself, are you affected by the Inflation? Are you choking for your basic necessity?

The best we can do is use these resources in a more sensible way, & don’t waste…