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Political News

From Far & Near: Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi

Ratan Tata unveils world’s cheapest car. Can Nano become another Beetle?

Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Motors Ltd, unveiled the world’s cheapest car on Thursday 17th January 2008, taking his competitors by surprise. Several of his competitors were in the race to give India and the world the cheapest car that would cost Rs: 100,000, approximately $2500 or £1400 respectively.

The world has not seen such a keen interest in the launch of a new small and cheap car model since Hitler launched Volkswagen car with a distinctive beetle shape in Germany in 1938, calling it a People’s Car, costing less than £100 and promised that every German family will have at least one car per family.

The Beetle went on to become an all time great car, out selling any other model, with an estimated sale of more than 30 million. It is still in production in South America and imported into Europe for the dedicated Beetle fans. Even today the Beetle Car Mania is as intense as the Beetle Music mania.

The Tata car is named Nano and if it is even one fifth as successful as VW Beetle, then it will go down in history as the most successful Indian car. Mercifully it will never be within the reach of 70% of the Indian families, otherwise the whole of India would become a giant car park with polluted, un-breathable air.

But it is not out of bound for the enterprising Indian inventers, engineers to produce a model that may perhaps run on pollution free hydro-electric power. If they can produce such a model, then Nano could indeed become a world beater, even out selling VW Beetle.,

Other car manufacturers are not behind in announcing their own new cheap model. The Bajaj Auto hitherto has only been associated with three wheelers has promised to put their own model on the road in two years time, perhaps in association with Renault of France.

Ford has their own well established production line in Chennai and would be unveiling their own model in 2010. When Tata first announced the concept of such a car a few years back, it was laughed off. Tata now has this People’s Car which will go well with his other luxurious brand name like Jaguar and Land Rover that Tata is bidding for.

Nano has caught people’s imagination. The Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said that it will help the common men to shift from a two wheel scooter to a four wheel safer mode of transport. But unfortunately the car arrives at a time when the barrel of oil has reached $100 mark.

With China’s oil consumption is expanding at tremendous rate and now India joining in; it will be race against time to find an alternate source of energy before the black gold runs out and brings the transport system to a halt.

Whatever oil reserves left underground are beneath the polar ice, in no man’s land and difficult to explore with today’s technology. This may also create environment disaster if the exploration goes wrong in such a hostile environment.

Let us hope that the Indian ingenuity will come up with a cheaper and environmentally friendly fuel to power millions of new Nanos that is bound to flood China and India in the next decade.

Modi’s charm offensives captivates NRI Indians

Is Modi rekindling pre-independence political romantism?

There was a time, especially just after independence when Overseas Congress used to rule the hearts and minds of Indians residing in the British colonies of East, South and Central Africa, the Caribbean, the Far East and a few in the Western world, mainly in Britain. America and Canada.

Then India was virtually a one party state with the Congress ruling the roost with personalities like Gandhi, Sardar, Nehru, Tilak, C. Rajgopalachary, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Krishna Menon and Maulana A.K. Azad, a few amongst many household names associated with the freedom struggle.

With the passage of time and passing away of these noble intellectuals Congress, the overseas Indians cut themselves away from motherland Bharat, that is until early nineties when Bharatiya Janata party, popularly known as BJP replaced Congress as the main political party with charismatic leaders like Atalji, L.K. Advani. BJP attracted mainly Hindu voters who were disenchanted by the pseudo-secular policies of the Congress.

After the Godhra train carnage, NRIs found a new hero in Narendra Modi, a brave politician with a rare foresight whose aim is to provide Gujarat with a corruption free administration and his Mantra is economic development. He gave Gujarat Narmada dam, which was on the drawing board since 1948 but only became a reality under BJP administration.

The Congress influence amongst NRIs has practically melted away to the horrors of Sonia Gandhi who sent in a delegation to find out the reasons for the immense popularity of BJP amongst overseas Indians.

The stunning victory of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the recent State elections and BJP’s success in Himachal Pradesh eagerly watched by every NRI sent a wave of delirious joy and excitement. Celebrations were held in most Western capitals, especially in London and in New Jersey in America.

As usual, American celebration was sh, grand and impressive, attended by more than 1500 Indian Americans from all over the country and their overseas guests from UK, Canada and mainland Europe.

This was indeed a historic occasion addressed by leading BJP politicians, chiefly by Narendra Modi from his official residence in Gandhinagar, via video conference. The event was carried live in USA and Canada by Dish Network and in India by TV9 Gujarat. This was the first time ever that such an event was shown live in all these countries.

The prestigious hall was packed by jubilant Modi supporters who were eagerly waiting to hear Modi and they were not let down in any way. Modi spoke eloquently for 45 minutes, concentrating solely on the progress, economic development Gujarat has achieved under BJP, turning the state into an efficient and best administered state in the Indian Union with a non-stop yearly growth of well over 9%, beyond the capacity of any State with the notable exception of one party state China.

Gujarat has built more roads, motorways, schools, hospitals and dug canals, distributing more water and electricity in the last ten years than ever before. “Gujarat has the ability and the potential to change the fate of the country” beamed Modi, basking in the glory of the over whelming support from US NRIs.

Modi, with emotion pouring out with every word, urged them to participate actively in the economic development of Gujarat, the state with whom they have strong social, cultural and economic bonds, a state with whom they are tied with the umbilical cord. Modi stressed that he represents all 55 million Gujaratis, irrespective of their caste, culture or religious affiliation. The best way to bring people together and create harmony is to educate them and to raise their living standard.

When the press asked the audience what they found encouraging in Modi’s speech, the response was universal in praise of Modi, that he came out as a humble, simple and devoted politician with a vision to match his personality, a type of politician they have not seen since the heydays of “Quit India Movement” in pre-independent India.

I can not help but wonder how much, how fast economic progress India would achieve if every State in the Indian Union has a Chief Minister in the mould of Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister extraordinary?

How to turn mythological tale into money trail?

I distinctly remember the hostile tone of a Sri Lankan guide, who was accompanying us on our luxurious mini bus when we took a very long two day excursion from the beach resort of Kalutara village, just under two hours drive from the airport, to the interior of Sri Lanka.

Our desire was to see as much of Sri Lanka as possible, especially the beautiful town of Kandy, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka and the home of the famous Temple of Tooth, the tooth belonging to none other than Lord Buddha .Although Lord Buddha was born in Nepal, he spent all his adult life in Bharat. He attained Moxa, Nirvana and Wisdom at a place called Gaya (Buddhaguya) now in present day Bihar.

This was a long and historic excursion, stretching over two nights and three days of constant travelling. It would take in Nuwara Eilya, the best known hill station where we would spend the night in the comfort of the cool, English type climate, Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage watching some one hundred orphaned elephants being cared for, bathing in the nearby river.

The Sigiriya rock fortress dating from 5th century AD was built by King Kashyapa and near the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa one can see the ruins and Buddha’s image carved out of solid rocks.

Then there is Tea Estate, a Nature Reserve and wildlife sanctuary to observe and savour the greenery, the atmosphere and the nature at its best. We were provided with a guide who was supposed to be knowledgeable in every aspect of tourism but proved to be an ignorant idiot with hatred for Hindus, as it was the height of civil war between predominantly Buddhist Sri Lankan government and mainly Hindu Tamil Tigers for a homeland for Tamils.

When I asked him about Ashok Vadika, the Garden of Eden where Lady Sita was kept prisoner by the demon king Ravan and about the Ram Setu or Adam’s Bridge, he dismissed it as mythological tales without any truth, that the island has no link with Lord Rama and there are no such historic places in Sri Lanka.

So the recent announcement by the Sri Lankan government of a package tourism that will include some of the best known places associated with the epic tale of Ramayana is a welcome change, an admission that the island is indeed the same place once ruled by Ravan and where Sitaji was kept a prisoner.

This will also give credentials that a bridge popularly known as Ram Sethu was indeed built by the army of Lord Rama, from Rameswaram or Dhanushkodi in India to Mannar in Sri Lanka.

The existence of this bridge, a man made structure dating back thousands of years has been proved to be true, the foundation, the huge boulders sunk on the ocean floor to hold the floating bridge have been photographed from the space by the American, NASA satellite which clearly shows the path, the layout of the structure between two points, Rameswaram in India and Mannar in Sri Lanka.

Although the sea, the Gulf of Mannar is a shallow sea even today, it was thought to be even shallower at the time that enabled Lord Rama to build the bridge with primitive technology.

According to NASA scientists the Ram Setu Bridge is much older than what is believed by most historians and archaeologists who date the Rama period as some five to seven thousand years BC. Then again, no one is able to date Rama and Krishna period with any accuracy.

Any civilization dating back more than three thousand years old is in quandary especially when it comes to putting a date.

The Sri Lankan tourism department has identified some fifty sites associated with Hindu epic and holy book of Ramayana that may attract not only Hindu tourists from India but the vast and relatively prosperous Hindus living in the West.

To make this project popular, a real money spinner, the Sri Lankan government will have to bring this long drawn out civil war with the Hindu Tamils to an end, perhaps by granting Tamils a semi autonomous homeland within the framework of an united Sri Lanka, adopting a similar continuation to that of USA and India, thus letting all the people, including ethnic minorities to enjoy the best of both the worlds.

It should be obvious to every one, including Tamil Tigers that a military solution could never be achieved and the civil war is only draining the community of the best brains who leave the island to settle in the West. In the age of information technology that is reducing the world to a global village, when countries are uniting in Europe to form United State of Europe, it would be futile to divide such a tiny island.

The tour, “Follow the Trail of Ramayana” is supposed to have been based on the extensive research that have unearthed these sites linked with Lord Rama, Sita who was held a prisoner in the Garden of Eden and the unconquerable demon king Ravan, a great disciple of Lord Shiva who gave him the supposedly immortality. The unveiling of this ambitious thematic programme attracted much interest and attention from the global Hindu population.

Although these sites have been identified and that include names like Seethaeliya, Ram Bodha, Ussangoda, Roomassala, Ashok Vadika, Kelani Ganga but many more sites that are in the North, near Mannar and Jaffna, some in the territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers are not included in this blazing trail. But all these sites lack the facilities that the Western tourists demand and are accustomed to. Such a package could become even more attractive if it included natural beauty spots, wildlife sanctuary and hill stations with a difference.

This Sri Lankan pilgrimage tourism comes on the hills of the Buddhist circuit that the Indian Tourist Board has put together an attractive package that include Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Rajgir, Kashi (Varansai) and Lumbini, to attract pilgrims from the wealthy but predominantly Buddhist countries of Japan, China, South Korea andThailand.

Why the Indian Tourist Board has not put together such a package for Hindus? Bharat is the land of the oldest civilization, culture and tradition. The various Hindu temples in the South to Amarnath in the North, not forgetting the Maan Sarover in Tibet that are held in high esteem in the hearts of most Hindus.

One can add temples on Mount Abu, Mount Pavagadh and recently built temples by the Swaminarayan Sect (SHM) that are fast becoming popular tourist attraction.The recently opened temple, Akshardham in Delhi is now attracting more visitors than the famous Taj Mahal. So why is Indian government holding back? Let us hope and pray that this latest scheme may even bring Tamils and Sinhalese communities together and signal the end of one of the most brutal civil war that is ruining this paradise island that has so much to offer to the world.

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