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August - September 2008
From Far & Near: Topics of Interest
China’s Military Might
With the demise of Soviet Union as a super power to rival America, it was taken for granted by the West; in particular by USA that they wwould now rule the sky, space and the ocean waves for a foreseeable time in the future.
So it came as a great surprise, not to mention the discomfort and the loss of face to America, when China carried out a successful launch of a missile to shoot down a satellite in orbit, a first for any nation, the venture where America had a limited success. Since this achievement, China has demonstrated her might, scientific, military and economic advancement on many fronts.
America, with its advanced technology and superior military might is still struggling to develop a Star War technology that can shoot down an encroaching missile fired from what America calls a nuclear rogue state like Iran and North Korea.
To rub salt to the wound, China is developing her naval task force at an alarming speed with state of the art technology that took America by surprise, comparing it with the completely unexpected launch of the first sputnik by Soviet Union way back in 1957 that started the space race and enabled America to land a man on the moon in 1969.
The Kitty Hawk is an American unsinkable battleship, like German battleship Bismarck that was the pride and joy of the Third Reich. The Reich lasted albeit for a short time, from 1933 to 1945 but did immense damage to Europe and the world at large.
When such prestigious ships are involved in a naval exercise, they are guarded like Fort Knox, with dozens of warships and submarines surrounding the flagship, monitoring every vessel within the exercise zone and beyond.
Yet a Chinese Song Class submarine penetrated American naval defences and surfaced near the Kitty Hawk. The red faced and dumbstruck American and NATO naval chiefs were at a loss to explain the presence of a Chinese submarine in the middle of their well guarded exercise area, off bound to all foreign ships.
The lone Chinese vessel, running on electronic motors must have been extremely quiet, making it difficult to detect on sonar. China also has nuclear powered submarines capable of firing nuclear warheads.
America lodged a strong complaint but the bemused Chinese government played the innocent card and described the incident as fluke and pointed out that after all America was carrying out the naval exercise in China Sea, not too far from the Chinese territorial waters? So what does it expect!
China’s ambition to put a satellite in orbit round the moon is dated and is now expected to land a man on the moon by 2012 and build a colony by 2020, perhaps ahead of America who has similar aspirations but lacks financial resources with dwindling economy and mounting debts.
In this game of War Chess, China has outclassed every other nation. While the old Soviet Union focused on military parity if not superiority with the West, ignoring basic economic development, civil infrastructure and consumerism, China has wisely taken the opposite route that guarantees a long term funding for their ambitious space programme.
In sharp contrast American economy is in a freefall. America has to borrow at least $20 billion every week to balance the book, to pay for the huge import from none other than China. In a sadistic way, America and EU is financing Chinese military might and her space research.
We may be clamouring about the Indian economic growth of 8% a year and outsourcing of jobs that go to India. But compared to China, India is moving at a snail’s pace, as so often democracy proves to be an obstacle rather than a boon for economic development.
While it takes less than a year to plan, approve and build an economic complex, a six lane motorway or a skyscraper in China, this process drags on for more than ten years in India, as courts are involved at every stage of the development. It is also ten times more expensive due to bureaucracy and corruption.
China is free from such political and foreign intervention. It would be foolish to bet against China to be the first country to establish a moon colony and land a man on Mars, our nearest planet. The balance is certainly shifting from the West to the East, from Europe to Asia. What do the learned readers of this prestigious magazine think?
Shri Ashok Bhatt: Our Valued Guest
We are fortunate to welcome many guests from Gujarat but only a few are in the same league as Shri Ashok Bhatt who is the current Speaker of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. He has the personality and aura that only a few politicians can muster.
Ashokbhai was first elected to the Gujarat Assembly in 1975, representing Khadia constituency of Ahmedabad, a mixed constituency with 30% Muslim constituents. So Ashokbhai gets support from all constituents, regardless of religious, social and political divide.
Ashokbhai has been the Assembly member since 1975, holding various Ministerial Posts and was unanimously elected Speaker on 18th January 2008, the 12th Gujarat Legislative Assembly, supported by all the Assembly members, including the Congress party members.
Overseas Friends of BJP held a reception on 15th June in his honour, at Sangam Centre in Edgware, in the presence of Lord Navnit Dholakia, Cllr. Navin Shah, recently elected member of London Assembly, C.B. Patel and leading members of the Indian, Gujarati community and that included Councillors Anjana Patel, Vina Mithani, Rekha Shah, Jagitsingh Grewal and community leaders and journalists Shri Sudarshan Bhatia and Uday Mahurkar, a few amongst many present in the hall.
Although all speakers, especially Lord Dholakia spoke eloquently and before I concentrate on what Ashokbhai spoke, I would like to quote a few sentences from Lord Dholakia’s speech.
“Gujaratis are a widely scattered community, found in every corner of the world. For a Gujarati, the home is where his heart is, where he can settle down, put his roots. When my soninlaw, an Englishman wanted to track some 500 miles on the most inhospitable land on earth, to reach the North Pole, his first port of call was Anchorage in Alaska, a remote place by any stretch of imagination. When he was introduced to the Mayor of the city, he could not believe that the Mayor was a Gujarati Patel! Now that is what I would call a coincidence!”
He started his speech by paying homage to the leaders of preindependent India who had made London their second home, their headquarters to fight for the independence, to liberate Bharat from the clutches of the British Raj. Even before Gandhi, Sardar and Nehru became prominent in the struggle for independence, Madam Cama, Shyam Krishna Varma, Sardar Singh and Veer Savarkar had taken up the mantle to liberate Bharat from the clutches of British Raj, a jewel in Britain’s crown.
While these heroes fought for political independence, the duty, the goal for the present day leaders is to provide good governance and Gujarat takes the lead, is number one State in the Indian Union when it comes to law and order, economic development and improving infrastructure, building hospitals, schools and colleges.
Our independence will have no meaning unless we develop economically, provide health and education and above all remove poverty. That is and should be the goal of every state within the Indian Union and the world at large.
Gujarat is fast becoming the Centre of Excellence for medical treatment and people from all over the world are gracing Gujarat when they need medical attention. Gujarat leads Asia if not the world when it comes to treating heart, kidney and liver abnormalities. We would like to turn Gujarat into a number one state for Health Tourism. We already have the world’s best specialists for the above mentioned health problems. Now we need to provide hospitals and associated infrastructure to compete with the best in the West, at a fraction of the cost that Westerners have to pay in their own countries.
The ancient Bharat gave the world the Ayurvedic Medical Science and today Gujarat is turning the modern medical science into a life saving art. Vegetarianism is another gift that Gujarat can give the world, as there are more vegetarians in Gujarat than anywhere else in the world.
He described NRIs as Bharat’s ambassadors, peace missionaries in the mould of ambassadors of love, peace and harmony that Emperor Ashok sent throughout Asia and gave the continent the tenets of Buddhism.
Gujarat will soon be celebrating the Golden jubilee of its foundation and Ashokbhai invited every one to participate wholeheartedly to make it a success, an event to remember as long as we live.
Is it ethical for MPs to have families on their payroll?
In the wake of Derek Conway affair, the Government appointed a commission to look into the expenses claimed by MPs, appointing the Speaker Mr. Michael Martin to oversee MPs’ expenses.
Many MPs went to court to block publication of the details of their expenses claim. It has now emerged thanks to the Freedom of Information Act that Mr. Martin has claimed £1:7 million on home improvement which may make it awkward for him to chair the commission that would overhaul this muddle that is giving the hard working and low paid MPs a bad name.
The Derek Conway affair has opened a can of worms that may not only affect many MPs but perhaps it may even change the rule of employment when it comes to payroll families. In a way it would be a regrettable step, if taken to the extreme, as by far the most MPs are honest to the core and do a wonderful job with scant financial reward. But in politics, as in Police, even one rotten apple is one too many. Even a minor misdemeanour can tarnish the reputation of a politician.
Our politicians are one of the lowest paid in European Union and compared to CEOS in industry, their pay is minimal that may lead many MPs to have an outside interest, to be on the board of companies with conflicting loyalties.
The recent discussion of parachute payment to Councillors who lose their seats attracted a wide range of comments but regrettably did not change the status quo. It seems British people are too set in their ways, live in the past, either unable or unwilling to adopt any change that do us, our country, our economy immense harm.
Perhaps the Derek Conway affair is a shot in the arm, a timely reminder that only a decent pay will attract the right quality of people to politics; that it is time to move out of the outdated belief that politics is some kind of social service; that we can get honourable, dedicated and highly efficient politicians on the cheap and move into the 21st century without making politics a career that provide a decent living. Once politics was the preserve of the rich whose lifestyle did not depend on the political remuneration but today it is open to all, the rich, the poor and the middle class.
The speed with which all the three party leaders, especially David Cameron acted is commendable. It would take out much of the sting if names of all the staffs are put on the Register of Members’ Interest and scrutinised by the Audit Commission, thus making such employment transparent.
It would be even better if such employees are paid directly by the House of Commons. But the choice of the staffs must be left with the MPs, not having their lives micromanaged to the detriment of the constituents.
Many MPs who employ their spouses, who act as a Diary Secretary, Case Worker, Immigration Expert and so on, provide a dedicated service at fraction of a pay that they could earn outside.
Moreover they are on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It would be impossible for an MPs to receive such a support and dedication from outsiders who work five days a week, from nine to five, the normal hours most of us put in at our place of employment.
The political corruption here is no where near as bad as in other countries. But unfortunately the trend is in the wrong direction. If the corruption is allowed to ferment, then it will soon affect the whole barrel, making it full of rotten apples instead of having an occasional bad one.
If the three main party leaders fight hard to gain upper hand over their antisleaze credentials, it would not only enhance their reputation but their enthusiasm will benefit all politicians and perhaps end for good the payroll families’ sleaze which has been blown out of all proportions by the misdeeds of a few.
The latest proposal to increase MPs’ salaries by £40,000 in exchange of giving up second home and some other allowances was a step in the right direction, Alas, it has been rejected by the MPs. Back in the old groove?
Can ISKCON revolutionize European farming?
Recently Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford performed a ground breaking ceremony with panache, a Bhumi Puja reciting ancient Sanakrit Slokas dating back thousands of years.
It was a joyous, social and holy occasion, to lay the foundation stone of Europe’s largest cow protection farm. It was in the planning stage for the last ten years and had to overcome numerous planning and practical obstructions that are normally thrown at any Hindu projects in this country.
In a way the sad killing of the temple cow Gangotri a few weeks earlier did dampen the
With the shortfall and immense cruelty involved in intensive farming that leads to spread of deadly diseases like bird flu, mad cow, foot and mouth and blue tongue diseases, it is clear that materialistic approach to animal farming is fraught with not only cruelty but health hazards that may one day wipe out the significant proportion of the human population.
So the new approach in farming or rather the old age tradition practiced in India for tens of thousands of years, now revived by ISKCON movement is a timely reminder, a lesson in ethical, green, freerange and organic farming that could be the salvation of not only the farming industry but humanity at large.
On one hand the government is bending backward to recycle the waste products but on the other hand it puts obstacles in the way of ethical farming methods that organizations like ISKCON would like to introduce in this country.
The plan to build this Cow Protection Centre aptly called “New Gokul” was approved by Hertsmere Borough Council after numerous alterations, delays and a public enquiry, a typical delaying tactics when a Hindu project is involved.
In this country some three and a half million cattle are slaughtered every year, mainly for meat and all young bulls die before their third birthday. “But at New Gokul, we will demonstrate new ways of ethical, compassionate and sustainable farming.” Said Shri Gauri Das, President of Bhaktivedanta Manor and Spiritual Commissioner of Hindu Forum of Britain.
Many leaders of Hindu community told the gathering that they had written to PM Gordon Brown some six weeks ago but have failed to receive even an acknowledgement.
Fortunately we, the Hindu community have the unquestionable support of some very dedicated MPs like Barry Gardiner, Tony McNulty, Virendra Sharma and Stephen Pound.