Monday, March 30, 2009

The tale of two ladies

Two news items last week caught my eyes. One on a minister and another one on a sr manager in a software firm.

'Last time I checked my calculator-cum-clock, there was a biggish difference between ‘five minutes early’ and ‘90 minutes late’. I also know by instinct and experience that five minutes early gets me a different kind of look from my boss than the one in which I arrive 90 minutes late. It now seems that my being able to tell the difference between the two time durations is a gift. Last week I realised that there are some unfortunate people out there suffering from the debilitating side-effects of Ministerialitis — the crippling ailment that makes Ministers and
other VIPs believe that the world revolves around them. It is with this knowledge that I feel humbled by the fact that when I’m late, I know I’m late. Especially, when I’m late by a bloody hour and a half.

So my heart goes out to Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury. Being a Minister makes most mortals — especially those whose Ministerial functions involve social development and much radiant smiling — extra-susceptible to believing that they are popular enough to be forgiven for any sort of transgression.'-Indranil Hazra

The second story is about getting duped by a tantrik.The woman, a computer engineer and employed as manager in a city-based software company is also daughter of a retired assistant commissioner of police.The tantrik operating his black magic business from multiple locations in the city had placed advertisements about his ‘powers’ in newspapers including a vernacular daily stating that performing a certain puja would solve all problems. After noticing the advertisement, the victim had approached him. However, he had convinced her into believing that he was capable of fulfilling all her wishes and duped her into believing that sacrificing a rhinoceros would remove all obstacles and help her find a match within a week and also promised the victim that he would go to Uttar Pradesh to catch a rhino.The lady is said to have paid Rs 2.95 lakh to perform the puja.

The victim paid another visit to Shah a week later but he was not traceable. She then lodged a complaint with the police and the police caught the scamster obviously because of her father's connections.But what of the woman? How could she believe that a rhino sacrifice would help her find a man?

What puzzles me with this case, as with any other case pertaining to tantriks and babas fooling innocent victims, is what exactly was the crime here ?
If it is sweet-talking a victim into parting with cash, then every advertisement, sales and marketing gimmick does exactly that.
If it was giving false promises without any logical reasoning, then every puja that is done has no guarantee anyway.
If it is the fact that she did not get married after doing this, then there would be more than billion cases against gods and goddesses in India; and a few millions against self-proclaimed godmen and sadhus.
If it is the fact that he killed a rhino, then it looks like he didn’t take the pains to go to UP and kill a rhino after all. So he comes clean on that account.
If the amount of Rs. 2.95 lakhs is the issue, then is Rs. 100 okay ? Rs. 1000 ? Rs. 100000 ? What is the cutoff before it is booked under IPC section 420 ?
All I feel is that the law shouldn’t be a cushion for human stupidity; and if this tantrik is a criminal under the law, so are all the above people.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hope you’re having a wholesome breakfast today, Mr Prime Minister.

I have been reading for some time the excesses of government in this country on common man. I intend to search for such articles and put them here. I read an article by Indrajit Hazra in Hindustan times on a true non violent struggle by Irom Sharmila Chanu who hails from Manipur.

"If you’re really serious about fasting, there can be no better motivator than the Government of India. Our good old national institution has worked wonders by pushing someone to forego a proper meal since November 2000.
Irom Sharmila Chanu is the kind of person who usually makes me deeply suspicious of human goodness. I mean, what kind of person would go on a hunger-strike for eight years, demanding the repeal of something as abstract-sounding as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)?
Irom Sharmila’s story is as much about one Manipuri woman’s battle against the worst possible adversary — irrelevance — as it is about practising the lost and powerful art of satyagraha, non-violent protest, against the very people who make a huge reverential show of this invention by another Indian political activist. Irom wants the AFSPA to be repealed from her home state, Manipur.
So what is this thing that goes by the acronym-resisting name of AFSPA? It’s a law that was enacted in August 1958 that grants the military extraordinary powers to arrest without a warrant, give out shoot-to-kill orders and destroy property in ‘disturbed areas’. Most magically, it protects military personnel from prosecution against any crimes. Passed as a short-term measure to take on separatists, it became a protective cloak for extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and ‘disappearances’.
On November 2, 2000, ten people standing at a bus stand were shot dead at Malom, Manipur, by members of the Assam Rifles in retaliation to a bombing by insurgents. Irom Sharmila saw the pictures of the dead in the next day’s newspapers and lost her appetite. Since then, she has been trying to get the AFSPA scrapped in Manipur by the only way she thinks will get the attention of the powers-that-be in Never-Neverland Delhi: by going on a fast.
Well, she’s been dead wrong, hasn’t she?
Arrested and released and re-arrested over the last eight years on charges of attempted suicide, Irom has managed practically nothing, even as she has been force-fed a liquid diet through her nose all these years.
In 2004, after the custodial killing of Manorama Devi (remember those naked Manipuri women with the banner carrying those ‘inviting’ words, ‘Indian Army Rape Us’, outside the Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal?), the tremendously decent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up the Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Committee to look into the act. The committee presented its report to the PM a year later in which it stated that the AFSPA “should be repealed... The Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”
Apart from lifting the Act from municipal areas in Manipur, the AFSPA firmly remains in place in the state (even as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah stated last month in the state assembly that he would repeal the AFSPA in J&K “if the situation continued to improve”).
Irom Sharmila was released last Saturday, the day before International Women’s Day. She was re-arrested for attempted suicide on Monday, the day Jayalalithaa didn’t eat a morsel. Yesterday, Irom Sharmila turned 37 in prison.
Hope you’re having a wholesome breakfast today, Mr Prime Minister."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Politicians and horse trade is passe, politics and horse races are in

Read an excellent article by Manas Roy in hindustan times.
With the polls around the corner, questions about the unholy nexus among money, criminals and elections are once again being raised. One way to clean up the process could be the State funding of elections. But while that may level the playing field and help a few deserving candidates, the problem is where will the state get the money? Nobody wants to raise taxes. We like clean elections, but we don’t want to pay for them.
Thankfully, I have a simple scheme that will not only solve the whole problem of election funding but will also ensure that we have a 100 per cent voter turnout.
How can the public be persuaded to part with money to set up a fund for fighting elections? Obviously they will only cough up the cash if they can get something in return. Why, for instance, do hordes of people turn up at the race course every weekend and part with large sums of money? Because they believe they have a sporting chance of getting a return on their investment.
And in the process, they also contribute to the upkeep of the race course. I know, because I used to donate a substantial part of my salary to the Royal Calcutta Turf Club in my heydays. So all that we have to do is to replicate the race course business model for elections and voila, the election funding issue is solved.
One of the ways you can bet at the races is on the tote — short for totalisator. Here’s how it works. Suppose there are five horses in a race. Let’s say you bet Rs 100 on Horse Number 3, because you know its owner has come to the races wearing a three-piece suit, which means he wants to be photographed with the winning horse and the trophy. The horse is also running in the third lane, which, combined with the fact that it is running in the third race, makes winning almost a sure thing.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the math. Say 99 other savvy punters also bet Rs 100 each on Horse Number 3. Let’s assume that the total money bet is Rs 1 lakh. If Horse Number 3 wins, this total amount could be divided as follows: 30 per cent or Rs 30,000 to the government for taxes, 10 per cent or Rs 10,000 to the race course authorities and 60 per cent or Rs 60,000 to the 100 winning tickets. So you get Rs 600 for your Rs 100 bet.
Now extend this model to the elections. Every constituency could put up a list of candidates and ask the voters to bet on them. The Election Commission can then set aside a small percentage, say 10 per cent of the total kitty for an election fund, while the remaining 90 per cent will be paid out to those who bet on the winning candidate. Betting tickets could be sold from every post office and bank in the country. The amount of bets on each candidate could be broadcast daily on TV, allowing voters to judge the odds.
Apart from bets on the winning horse… er… candidate, we could also have bets on the runner-up. We could even have a jackpot, where voters correctly predict the winners in five contests. Bets could be for the largest party, the winning alliance, the choice of prime minister — the possibilities are endless. Forget election funding, the money could easily cover the entire fiscal deficit.
That’s not all. People will start taking a keen interest in the political process, attending every political meeting zealously, weighing the chances of the rival candidates, studying their form and attempting to sway others to vote for the candidate of their choice.
On election day, there will be long queues of voters, all of them eager to put their votes where their money is. Indian democracy will not only be truly participatory, it will also be great fun. In fact, it’s likely to be such a big hit we’ll be clamouring for elections every quarter.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Functional testing for Web applications Using Selenium, Windmill, and twill to test Google App Engine applications
Use XQuery for the presentation layer Separate concerns without being tied to a particular language