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December 2008 - January 2009

Political News

From Far & Near

by Bhupendra Gandhi

India over the Moon?

While all India is rejoicing at the success of India’s Moon Mission, appropriately named “Chandrayaan-1” which simply means Moon Vehicle in Sanskrit, the Western media in their well established pattern, bias and jealousy is eager to question whether this expenditure is justified in view of apparent poverty of the masses. There is nothing new in such propaganda, meere frustration of the representatives of ex-colonial power which is in dire trouble and the European space programme is dead and buried long time ago.

The British media should better concentrate on our government’s huge war chest, money wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan that brings nothing but misery to these people, at a time when our economy is crumbling fast and our cherished financial establishments and the pound is on the verge of collapse.

Moon has fascinated mankind since time immemorial. It holds a pride of place in our culture, religion and every day life. Even our calendars are based on the Moon cycle rather than on Sun.

Understanding Moon, our nearest celestial neighbour would provide a pathway to unravel the early space evolution. Moon evolves curiosity, love, fascination and is affectionately called Chandamama, uncle Moon by children.

It is worth noting that India’s space programme operates on a shoe string budget and such a mission costs a fraction, no more than 5% of what it would cost America to send such a spacecraft to Moon. Moreover there is a huge commercial benefit, as India can launch commercial satellites and capture the market in space exploration, especially from China.

The ultimate aim of Chandrayaan-1 which carries a record number of sixteen scientific instruments from various space exploring nations, is to go into orbit just 100 km from the surface of the Moon and as Moon has only one fifth of Earth’s gravity that makes it possible to go so close without being pulled down by the Moon’s gravity.

If every manoeuvre succeeds that demands great dexterity, then the satellite will orbit the Moon for two years, will chart the moon surface, using state of the art spectrometer, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (MMM) will try to find water that may be trapped underground at the poles and look for deposits of minerals, natural resources that may help to build a Moon colony by the year 2020 as detailed in my article “Can US colonize the Moon? (India Link June-July 2007 issue) Planting Indian flag on the Moon’s surface will be a bonus.

The Indian technology is simple, basic yet efficient and indeed very much cost effective. Even China could not match this cost efficiency.

The foundation of India’s rocketry science was laid by none other than the noble, distinguished and loyal son of Bharat, the former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

The Chandrayaan-1 has put India in the exclusive club of six nations who have achieved such a feat. It is noteworthy that three of these nations are Asian countries, India, China and Japan.

I look forward to 8th November which is the D Day when the final manoeuvre will complete the task and the world can gauge the success of the Moon Mission.

Our feeble Charlie Chaplin politicians

This country may be blessed in many ways but when it comes to clever, patriotic, dynamic and far-sighted politicians with vision and courage, we are bottom of the league. Our cupboards are bare and the barrel is full of rotten apples, at least since the end of the Second World War when Sir Winston Churchill led the nation with pride, courage and foresight.

It was the biggest surprise when Churchill lost the election just after winning the war. That is politics where even a week is a long time. But in Labour, the nation had the cream of the politicians, the towering figures like Clement Atlee, Bevan ……… and many more who transformed the British politics and the lives of the common people dby giving us NHS.

The period in between was politically lean time until Lady Thatcher came on the scene. It was Lady Thatcher who set in motion the wheels of denationalization, gleefully pursued by every politician without realising the consequences, the so called liberation of our industries and utilities from the clutches of the greedy trade unionists who had decimated our once mighty industrial base.

While we were busy dismantling, closing down our factories, Japan, South Korea, France and Germany were busy rebuilding theirs, investing heavily in their industrial base.

Today German, Japanese and French cars, consumer electrical goods and heavy machineries are in great demand, creating a balance of payment deficit for Britain of some eight billion pounds every month and budget deficit that requires borrowing of some 70 to 100 billion pounds annually.

Having closed down our productive high grade coal mines, out of spite rather than valid economic reasons and our North Sea oil running out and most of our utilities owned by German, French, Spanish and other European companies. We are at the mercy of these foreigners for our energy, water and other life sustaining essentials. Britain is unique, the only country in Europe not to own its own utilities. This is unbelievable stupidity and short-sightedness. Yet our politicians are in slumber, in deep sleep.

Recently we sold to government owned French company all our nuclear plants that provide some 30% of our electricity. France is leading the world in building nuclear reactors where 85% of France’s electricity is provided by nuclear power stations, with the ability of providing clean, efficient and bottomless supply.

No wonder our gas and electricity prices are going through the roof, putting some five million people in energy poverty, so that these foreign firms can cushion their countrymen in France and Germany. According to many experts, this scenario will only get worse. The country could be crippled by energy shortages if we are hit by an extreme cold spell.

It is time for the British people to demand that our feeble, naïve, gutless and selfish politicians without vision should wake up and renationalize utilities, taking a majority 51% share, at least until there is a level playing field, so that our gas and electricity can not be diverted to France and Germany at our expense, in our hour of need.

I could not see such courage and patriotism in the current bunch of politicians who enjoy gassy delight and that include PM Gordon Brown, David Miliband, David Cameron, George Osborne or Nick Clegg, a collection of sanctimonious dimwits. The only politician I respect and admire is LibDem Deputy Leader Vince Cable. All others have political skill of Dalek.

PM Brown has always boasted that under Labour, the period of boom and bust is over, once and for all. Yet he is presiding over the worse financial crisis since the great depression of the thirties. There is a need of soberiety in this national time of anxiety.

Gordon Brown can not blame others or the high oil price, as most national newspapers had warned for some time that we are living on borrowed time, borrowed money, beyond our means, with the highest personal debt in the world, on the back of unsustainable house price rises. It was a criminal negligence, a fraud to give 130% mortgage, even without checking the income of the borrower.

Yet these fat cats will escape without a scratch and we, the ordinary tax payer will pay a heavy price for the blunder of our politicians. Can any one realise that we have committed economic suicide?

Triumphs of Indo-Canadians in Parliamentary Elections

In the recently held Canadian Parliamentary elections, eight Indo-Canadians, including seven sitting MPs were triumphant to the joy and delight of the Indian Diaspora. The Conservative party of Canada won the election, although it failed to gain an overall majority, thus depending on the fringe parties and independent candidates to form the government.

The newcomer Tim Uppal won from Alberta Province who will join other MPs of Indian origin who are Deepak Obhrai, Ujjal Dosanji, Ruby Dhalla, Navdeep Bains, Gurbax Singh Malhi, Nina Grewal and Ratan Singh. They are all well experienced politicians of long standing and some are popular household names.

During the 2006 elections, ten Indo-Canadians were elected. This time two sitting MPs, Wajid Khan and Rahim Jaffar missed out. It is interesting to note that while South East Asians comprise just 3.1 per cent of the Canadian population, they captured 3.3 per cent of the 308 seats in Canadian House of Commons where Punjabi language is the fourth most widely spoken language, dominated by English, French and Italian!

There are also three Arabs and five Chinese who form the largest ethnic minority in Canada, with some 4.9 per cent Chinese, mainly on the West Coast, in and around city of Vancouver.

It is time we the British Indians learn from our Canadian counterparts, as we, especially the Gujaratis are vastly under represented in our Parliament, in HOC. It is also time our main political parties follow the Canadian pattern and give us party tickets in winnable seats.

There is no shortage of good, capable, highly motivated candidates who would be excellent MPs and be a good addition to our HOC. The names that readily comes to my mind are Cllr. Navin Shah AM, Cllr. Harshadbhai Patel, entrepreneur Rami Ranger, dynamic young lawyer Manoj Ladwa, Ex-MEP Bashir Khanbhai and among ladies Cllr. Ansuya Sodha, Cllr. Anjana Patel.

Gir Lions Visit Markets?

The management of Gir Forest and the wildlife on the slopes of historic and romantic Mount Girnar is so efficient that the population of Gir lions, the only place in Asia where lions could still be found in the wild, is increasing by leaps and bounds, thus putting the flora, fauna and other wildlife in danger of extinction.

The ideal population the forest can support is some one hundred lions but during the last few decades, it has increased from less than a dozen at the lowest point to some two hundred lions today. Mount Gir is a small place, a lone, towering isolated mountain peak, not a part of any mountain chain like Himalayas or the Western Ghats that hugs the entire coastline, from Mangalore in Karnataka to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, with numerous peaks, plateaus, dense forests and lakes.

The surrounding places, just off the mountain slopes of Girnar are heavily populated with villages and towns like Junagadh, Dharaji and Jetpur on the doorstep of the mountain lions. With scarcity of food due to the high density of carnivorous animals confined in a small place and the docile, obliging people who are in constant touch with the lions, they soon realised that easy meal is only a stone throw away in these villages with cattle and other domesticated animals.

Even when I visited the Gir forest a decade ago, it was obvious that the lion population of some 120 was more than the forest could support. Lions need tall grass, dense undergrowth to hide, mate and take shelter during the day when the sun light is fierce and heat oppressive.

Moreover lions were getting too friendly with the people, coming up to our Jeep to rub their body. It was obvious that some of the tourist guides were feeding these lions so that their guests can take photographs of a pride of lions feeding on a kill! Such a practice is strictly forbidden but a bundle of rupees’ notes could work wonders in India.

Lion’s natural preys are Nilgiri deers, wild pigs and boars, mountain goats, monkeys, guinea fouls and occasionally old and weak wild buffaloes. With the over use of the forest and too many lions, these natural source of food was and still is in perpetual decline, forcing the lions to wander beyond the forest boundary in search of food.

Now lions regularly move out of the Gir sanctuary. They get bolder with each outing, ignoring people working in the fields and gathering firewood in the outskirts of these villages or looking after their livestock.

It created a sensation when a lone male lion in his prime was seen strolling down the main bazaar in the village of Khambha-Borada in the district of Amreli. Some five hundred residents of the village looked at this magnificent beast with awe and admiration, albeit from a safe distance.

Although these villagers have seen a pride of lions in their fields and semi-forested outback, this was the first incident of a lion entering the village. Normally lions, who are social animals, always move around in a group, a pride of some four to six animals, as they hunt in packs, mostly at night and at day break.

Seeing a lion outside their open air market naturally created a stir and a panic. But fortunately all the residents are vegetarians and there were no meat stalls in the market, only vegetables, clothes and pots that do not interest lions. But seeing a fully grown lion in their midst sent a chill down the spine of most adults, who hurriedly moved the children behind the locked doors.

It seemed the lion had entered the village out of curiosity rather than looking for food. After an hour of window shopping on his own, as villagers wisely kept their distance, he left the village as quietly as he entered.

Only a few days back a pride of lions consisting of three females and a male had killed a cow some twenty miles east of Junagadh, in sight of the villagers tending their field. But they were powerless to save the poor cow against the might of four lions. It was a painful sight for these village folks who worship cows.

The villagers are worried that with such frequent sightings of lions in populated areas, it is only a question of time before some one is killed by a lion. Once a lion becomes a man-eater, it does not go back to its natural prey and becomes a man-eater and must be shot.

Villagers have petitioned the district administration to fence off the area around the slopes of Mount Gir, to stop lions leaving the sanctuary. But this is not the solution, as hungry lions would always find a way to leave the sanctuary.

The best solution is to establish more such sanctuaries like Gir. In Kerala, in the mountains of Western Ghats, there is a Periyar Lake Wildlife sanctuary, a favourite tourist beauty spot, which could provide an ideal location for a wild lion sanctuary. But the Government of Gujarat seems to be unwilling to let go the distinction of being the only place in Asia where wild lions could be found roaming the forest.

This is an inter-state rivalry that may be detrimental for the good of the Indian wildlife.

There is a high plateau called Gir Hills, some two hundred kilometres from Mount Girnar, with an average elevation of 2000 feet and a peak reaching 3500 feet. Moreover this place is sparsly populated and only a stone throw away from the coast and the popular holiday destinations of Diu, Kodinar and the magnificent Somnath temple. The Gujarat Government should establish more sanctuaries and lessen the burden of over population on the tiny Gir sanctuary and safeguard the future of Asian lions. It is in Gujarat’s interest; and will be a feather in Modi’s cap and an added attraction for the Western and NRI tourists.

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