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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another Book Tag...

This time the tag requires me to reach out for the nearest book, open page 123, grab the fifth line and add the next three lines to the blog-post.

So, I have reached out and picked up the nearest book. It is titled 'A House for Mr. Biswas' and the author is V. S. Naipaul. I have opened page 123. However, I think I shall grab the third line instead of the fifth.
"I see you have got your name in the papers," Seth said.
Mr. Biswas shrugged.
The gods swung slowly in the hammock, frowning.
As for what the book is all about, I have no idea, for I have not read it. The tag, after all, mentioned reaching out for the nearest book and nothing at all about reading it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cleaning Punjab's Polluted Waters

Over the recent past, I have been reading news-reports of the people of Punjab suffering from the ill-effects of drinking polluted water. This has not only been on account of untreated industrial effluents, but also due to unprecedented amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilisers being used and ultimately seeping down into the ground water, which is a major source of drinking water in the rural areas.

Over the long term, obviously, the solution lies in getting the industrialists to set up treatment plants, so that untreated effluents do not reach drinking water sources. Additionally, chemical pesticides and fertilisers have to be gradually replaced with biotic ones.

The problem is very real, however, and requires to be dealt with in the immediate future. After all, it is now that the people who drink the water are afflicted with all sorts of diseases and genetic malformations.

Facilities like water-works are not available in the villages and are unlikely to become available over the short- to medium-term. Therefore, it is imperative that cost-effective means for purification of water by the villagers themselves be made available.

Since the impurities are well-dissolved, processes like sedimentation, decantation and filtration are, obviously, not likely to be of much help, as these are meant for removing suspended impurities only. Reverse osmosis is not only somewhat expensive and, therefore, not accessible to every one, but may also not act effectively enough on impurities originating from insecticides, even as it can remove residues of metals like lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg). An advertisement for a leading brand that I perused, stated that the product on offer 'reduces' and does not remove completely, the impurities related to insecticides. Considering the fact that such content can be quite high in the ground-water in Punjab's rural areas, the quantities that remain even after passing it through a reverse osmosis plant may still be too high for it to be safe for drinking.

Therefore, to my mind, the best alternative that remains is fractional distillation. It is important, however, that the apparatus that is made available is portable so that the villagers can use it conveniently and is made of locally available material, as far as possible, so that it can be cost-effective. Also, it should be workable with locally available fuels derived from crop waste or animal waste.

In terms of inexpensive technology, inputs may be taken from the locally developed process for the distillation of country-made liquor. That could, I am sure, serve as a starting point, at the very least.

I fervently hope that the relevant government departments or some non-governmental organisations or local entrepreneurs or corporate philanthropists can step up to the challenge at the earliest possible.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Technology Tag

This time the tag is about technology and the difference that it has made to my life.

A little less than two years ago, I visited Pakistan along with my family. This was a unique experience, not only for me, but also for my parents and younger brother. None of us had been to that country before and, given the mercurial relationship between India and Pakistan, it is always difficult to say as to when or if at all there would be a next time.

Being Punjabis visiting the part of Punjab that lies on the other side of the border, we were glad to note that almost everything, apart from the religious faith that most people practise over there, is very similar to that in the Indian part of Punjab. There were a lot of interesting asides too, in addition to a heavy dose of nostalgia and a nice, warm kind of feeling inspired by the shared Punjabiyat.

So, when we returned home, after having spent ten days that were among the most memorable ones of our lives, enjoying the neighbours' hospitality, I wanted to share the experience with friends and family. I would have written a series of emails to them, but then I discovered blogging and it offered the prospect of not only sharing a lot of all that I had seen and heard with a lot more people, but, possibly, could also afford me the chance to make a tiny contribution towards the promotion of peace and friendship. So, here we are!

If it had been the pre-internet era, or, at least, those times when I was not too familiar with the World-Wide-Web, I would have written a series of letters to the editors of various newspapers, though it might have been rather difficult to get all of those published and there would probably have been no readers from outside of the sub-continent, which would have reduced the impact considerably.

I quote from one of the earliest comments on my blog (which was posted at another online location, where I had initially started blogging):

"Thanks for posting this, as the only time the West hears of the borders you speak of is when there's fighting. This leaves the impression that all that exists is violence. We know this not to be true, of course, but every message of peace, understanding, acceptance and tolerance counts massively."
Besides, since blogging allows for instant feedback, I have, in fact, had the privilege to interact with those from countries as far as the U.S., the U.K., the U.A.E., Belgium and Romania, aside from readers from places closer to home i.e. in India and Pakistan.

The searchable nature of information on the internet has more than once led to those whom I have written about landing up at the relevant blog-posts and posting comments.

Also, as I am the writer, editor and publisher of the weblog, all rolled into one, I have complete control over the content, which would not have been possible otherwise, unless I had the resources to bring out my own newspaper or journal.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Corruption in the Indian Private Sector

I received the following message through email recently, offering me a 'contract' that I could sign in order to recieve bribes on a consistent basis:

Dear Candidate

Greetings !

We are presenting an offer to be a part time employee of our company and
earn whatever you want. For this you need not to spend extra time, you need not
to go anywhere, just pay your attention and cooperation to our company.

Basically we are Manpower Solution Company and focusing on recruitment
consultancy and Manpower Outsourcing. With a huge Client base, we are serving
our Clients nationwide and we are very much capable to give quality staffing
services in almost all Industry and all functional areas.

What You Are Supposed To Do.

a) Introduce our Consultancy to your Concerned
b) Finish formality of singeing of our Terms and
c) Send us your Company’s staffing requirements so that
we can refer the best professional to your concerned Company for recruitment and
d) We will start working on given requirement to serve
your Company the best.
e) We will Line-up the most suitable candidates for the
f) You are supposed to be in contact throughout
selection process, give us proper feedback and suggestion to close the
g) Finally the referred candidate will have been
recruited at your company.
h) We will produce the bill for clearance to your
Concerned Company.
i) Within Ten days of bill clearance the
percentage which is your Remuneration, will be transferred in your given Bank
j) The Percentage will be given on billing
amount after reducing Service Tax. The Remuneration amount will vary on basis of
billing amount in a month. Which would be as given bellow-

(1) If Billing Amount is Less than Rs.50000 in a month, your amount
will be 10% of billing amount.
(2) If Billing Amount is more than Rs.50000 and less than Rs. 1 Lac
in a month, your amount will be 15% of billing amount.
(3) If Billing Amount is more than Rs.1 Lac and less than Rs. 2 Lac
in a month, your amount will be 25% of billing amount.
(4) If Billing Amount is more than Rs.2 Lac in a month, your amount
will be 30% of billing amount.

So start working, Send us your confirmation mail or queries along with your
Contact details.

We are waiting for a warm reply, If need arises what so ever, please feel
free to contact us.