Archive for 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012

What Can a Billion People Do With a Frustrated Army Chief?

When an army chief gets cross there is nothing much you can do, as the Indians are learning the hard way. In neighbouring Pakistan, like in many Arab countries in the past, things might have been simpler. All General B K Singh had to do if he wasn’t happy with the government was to declare a coup.

If in the chaotic and non decisive India no one seems to know what to do, it’s because the saga of the Army General B K Singh, who is about to retire is a complex one.

First there was this issue regarding his real age arising out of two different dates entered in the military records. Unbelievable it is, no one really knew or could decide how old the commander of the vast army protecting 1.3 billion Indians was until the Supreme Court turned down a case he filed against the government.

The row which did go on for the better part of last year between the General and the government which ended up in court and in a serious loss of face for both parties, gave the general impression that India was not expecting an invasion from any corners.

Then there was this ‘bomb’ of a bribe of $3.5 Million the general was offered by another retired general for favouring purchase of substandard trucks for the military. Totally out of expected conduct of an army chief, Mr Singh revealed the offer for the bribe to a national daily which promptly chose to publish it without blinking an eye.

This caused great shock inside and outside the country and an uproar and commotion in the parliament which demanded explanation as to why no action was taken by the general or the defence minister to whom the matter was promptly reported.

But what has happened today, by the leak of an official letter the general had written to the Prime Minister listing the pathetic state of lack of modern equipment and vulnerability of Indian defences has created unprecedented political upheaval and expression of anguish and strong demand for sacking of the general.

However, the Indian government, which is playing hosts to a meeting of the BRICS will be greatly embarrassed to take any action against the general right away.

Even though all three events look to be related and involving General Singh, the reality is stemming from the fall out from the 2G scam the Indians political parties chose to politicize out of proportion for partisan gains, resulting in total inaction by the government machinery, especially in the ministry of defence, which is wary of accusation of corruption.

After all General B K Singh may be doing the country a great service in bringing home the realities of dealing with defence budgets, expenditure, need for secrecy and integrity of human beings, all mutually opposing factors in real life.

Indians, who generally think they have nothing to learn from anyone else, have to learn the virtue of moderation if they need to feel secure under the protection of a great army!

Article first published as What Can a Billion People Do With a Frustrated Army Chief? on Technorati.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

Will Someone Spare Anna Hazare a Copy of “Don Quixote” by Cervantes?

Anna Hazare is playing ‘Don Quixote’ again without reading the novel. If he will care to read, perhaps he will realise the futility of his own actions in his old age.

“Many critics came to view the work as a tragedy in which Don Quixote's innate idealism and nobility are viewed by the world as insane, and are defeated and rendered useless by common reality”

There is none so blind as those who won’t see and Anna Hazare and his team won’t see that their game of “Don Quixote” is not fair on 1.3 billion Indians!

There are striking resemblances. For a starter like Alonso Quijano who adapts the name Don Quixote, Anna who is 74, must have been reading too many books on chivalry (certainly not “Don Quixote”) while all that corruption was going on under his nose for all these years. It is not clear though what has woken him up to the ‘menace’ of corruption he must save his country from, even if he has to give up his life for that!

Arvind Kejriwal, who acts as if he has been secretly offered and aspire to the post of Lokpal of India, fits very well in to the role of the illiterate and gullible Sancho Panza, the squire of Don Quixote, who was offered the post of the governor.

Kiran Bedi, the frustrated and very first woman police officer of the prestigious IPS cadre of India, fits in very well as Antonia, the niece of Don Quixote and Prasanth Bushan, the leading lawyer, as the village curate, both acting in advisory roles to Don Quixote.

There are of course several minor characters, Rocinante the skinny horse of Don Quixote and Rucio, the donkey of Sancho Panza included, in the team of Anna Hazare.

Like Don Quixote, Anna and his team, in their wild dreams pick on anything they can which don’t retaliate, to blame for the epidemic of corruption in India while the real causes and reasons lie elsewhere and beyond the combined intelligence of the whole team.

The very notion that corruption is the biggest problem the nation is facing and getting rid of it must be the priority and there is only one way by entrusting a super cop who has the life and death power over 1.3 billion people to do it, all ideas propped up by Anna Hazare and his team, show how close Anna’s hallucinations are to those of Don Quixote.

For one thing, ‘corruption’ is in the vein of Asian culture which is based on spirituality and in pleasing gods by offerings to get along in life. It is in the blood of Indians. An honestly conducted survey among 1.3 billion Indians to find someone who has never been part of a corrupt act in life is likely to draw a blank. But then again honesty is not easy to find.

In fact corruption in India has numerous manifestations. Bribery rampant among public servants, capitation fees in education, baksheesh for services, horse trading in politics, and favouritism in government, only to name a few, each with its own causes and remedies if any.

Many of these are natural and unavoidable in a vast nation like India, which remained a closed economy insulated from the rest of the world till the nineties when near national bankruptcy forced the government to open the country’s economy to influx of foreign investment.

In reality, while the bribes were considered an ‘acceptable means’ to make up for the measly income in the public sector, the recent surge of foreign funds has aggravated the problems in urban life, exploding the difference between  the haves and have-nots.  This is different from the commercialisation of education, medical and other services. The corporate corruption involving the government is of different nature as well.

In effect, all these can be contained by a Lokpal is not logical. The recent actions by the supreme court sending central ministers to Jail also prove that nothing more than the existing system is required if the government and everyone empowered is willing to act conscientiously without interference or intimidation.

What then is the justification of blaming and picking on a ‘minority’ coalition government, which has tried to give the cleanest governance India has ever seen, for the windmill Don Quixote was trying to tilt?

Kejrival’s naming of 14 ministers, based on mere media reports, as corrupt and Anna Harare’s demand that they be sent to jail by August smacks of accusation, trial and punishment all by mere imagination and shows the dangers of an all powerful Lokpal which cannot be acceptable in any democracy.

It is interesting that the ‘real’ politicians who have managed to sabotage the Lokpal bill like Mamta Banerjee or strong men like Mulayam Singh Yadav whose newly elected government has appointed members with criminal background has not been challenged by the new Don Quixote of Indian politics.

Anyone who has listened to Anna Harare’s recent speech also can’t miss the lack of sound reasoning and racist overtones of his backers with a political agenda.

Like Don Quixote, Anna always chooses a nice sunny weekend for his pursuits. It is not surprising that young girls who like the fragrance of the candles looking for a chance to light some are always out to watch and applause the escapades. But it looks like Mumbaikars are busy running their lives and have no time for such madness!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

Now the Indians Want to Send their Prime Minister to The Tihar Jail.

The Indian education system has miserably failed to create a new generation of ‘thinking’ and discerning minds to control the finger tips on the keyboards which deliver a variety of services to the rest of the world.

Instead millions of Indian youth, with ready access to the cyber world, whip up thoughtless and highly damaging frenzy, like the twitter trend ‘#coalgate’ created yesterday on a leaked report alleging Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh of presiding over a scam of $ 211 Billion involving sale of Indian coal mines to private companies.

What is more mind boggling than the penchant of the CAG ( Comptroller and Auditor General ) of India to project assumed losses of astronomical sums to the government on account of corruption, is the willingness of millions of ‘educated’ Indians, on whom the west happily outsource everything, to jump in to ridiculous conclusions and create a frenzy like 'coalgate'.

1.3 billion Indians who live in India are a species apart on the surface of this earth which can’t see where the petrol is coming from because it refuses to see what happens worldwide in the supply of petrol. The average Indian believes government subsidy is the birth right of every Indian. If you are generous, you can attribute this to a lack of education which gives an overview of the world they live in and share with others.

But for millions of educated Indians, who share the information revolution and the cyberspace with the rest of the world, there is no excuse to realise and accept that there is nothing called a free meal.

For example, conceding that corrupt practices were resorted to in execution, the Prime Minister had already explained why and how the 2G spectrum was liberally distributed, as a Government policy, to encourage the telecom Industry.

This has seen India’s subscriber population exploding to a massive 700 million in a few years, who enjoy the lowest of rates anywhere in the world, thanks to the $39 billion it didn’t amass as licence fees, which would have been passed on to the consumers.

In fact what the Indian consumer has benefited from is an indirect and unspoken subsidy of call charges equivalent to the same amount, if they were to be compared with the rest of the world. Whether the western investors would have rushed to India to invest that kind of money in licence fees is a different matter.

The new report of the CAG with accusation of loss of $211 billion to the government, which has been leaked and subsequently refuted by the CAG, arises from a government action indented to stimulate the mining Industry.

The government and several Industry leaders have already pointed out why the CAG’s conclusions are baseless.

"Many of the blocks are uneconomic, you have to share between two or three parties and most of these blocks have hardly been explored at all. So remember, you would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in exploration, development and infrastructure to exploit them," he said. "I think it will be forgotten quickly."

With the furore created over the issue, with heads of almost every leading Indian corporate from TATA to Arcelor Mittal as well as the Prime Minister himself likely to get a summons from the supreme court and possibly a term inside the infamous Tihar Jail already hosting a few ministers, the Indian’s can forget not only the development of the coal industry but any reform which should secure India’s legitimate position among developed nations.

With the two corporate heads of the $ 17 Billion Essar group already summoned by the Court in the fallout of the 2G scam, similar action cannot be ruled out and the dust is not going to settle despite any government attempt to brush away the aspersion cast by the leaked report.

If that happens, only the senseless politicians and thoughtless youth of India are to be blamed.

Article first published as Now The Indians Want To Send Their Prime Minister To The Tihar Jail. on Technorati.

Why Should The US Worry If India’s Mamta Has Gone Mad?

India is the biggest working democracy and just one person’s sanity keeps it going. And that is Mamata Banerjee, the predictably mercurial Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal and the leader of  the Thrinamool Congress Party, whose 19 members of parliament keep the stability of the Indian Government.

If Mamta goes mad, India can go mad and it looks like Mamta has gone mad. It is not clear if she has gone really bonkers, but it seems she is really mad at her party colleague and the central minister for the Railways, Trivedi.
Mamta Banerjee decided to sack him on the very day he has presented to the parliament the crucial budget for Indian Railways. Thrivedi's crime is making small and nominal increase in the ridiculously low Indian rail fares  which no one is seriously complaining about, after 8 long years during which there was no hike.

That is really what makes every Indian really mad! Mamta is the leader of the Thrinamool congress, the biggest alliance partner in the ruling coalition who runs the Indian Railways and who has presented the Railway budget in the parliament today, announcing the over due hike to cover huge budget deficits. By evening, Mamta has already declared she won’t let the price rise proposed by her own party to be implemented. What does she take the 1,3 billion Indian’s for?

If ordinary Indians are just baffled by this incredulous behaviour of Mamta Banerjee, she had been driving her cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh nuts in recent months by objecting and obstructing almost every reform measures the government wants to and has tried to introduce to ensure the growth rate of India.

Like the flip flops she famously walks around in, her declared position towards the government had been one of vacillation on every issue, leaving everyone guessing what she will or won’t do in practice.

Coalition democracy everywhere is maddening. But no where has it such debilitating and disastrous effects as in the Indian politics, sabotaging any chances millions of poor people have to get basic amenities like food, water, housing education and health care ever in their lifetime.

The main factor, a lack of real internal democracy within political parties, which breeds arrogance and whimsical behaviour of leaders, especially female leaders, is to blame for the sad plight of millions of Indians.

Mamta Banerjee has a populist agenda. However like many a housewife in India she doesn’t bother where the money will come from. Mamta Banerjee may not be intelligent enough to grasp the intricacies of economics, but as a leader of millions of people who trust her to deliver on her promise to improve the quality of their lives; she has a responsibility to listen to those who know. For now her behavior in public give serious concern about her state of mind.

For the west and the US especially, who consider India as the place to be in for growth and business from multi billion dollar deals to create jobs back home, this mad embrace of populism by ultra sensitive female leaders of India must be a serious concern and a factor not to be missed in whatever projections they make.

Article first published as Why Should The US Worry If India’s Mamta Has Gone Mad? on Technorati
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

If You Hit Someone On The Indian Cost It Is Better To Switch Off Lights And Run

The Italians learned it the hard way and too late that the law does not always work the same way in India. It works in a sneaky speedy way if you are an Italian and not Sonia Gandhi and the usual ‘get no where’ way if you are a true patriotic Indian.
The recent events in the India Ocean on the western coastline of India infested by Somali pirates show that everyone from the pope to the Prime ministers can get caught up in the political net of Indian hypocrisy and the double standards of its people and politicians.
A bizarre incident which took place off the coast of Kerala, fondly called the Gods Own Country in which two Indian fishermen were somehow mistaken for pirates and shot dead by Italian guards of Enrica Lexie  has quietly flared up in to a sensitive geopolitical saga, resulting in imprisonment of the Italian guards in a Kerala jail and anti Indian demonstrations in Rome by the far right.
Accusations have been made by the church, political parties in both countries especially the “last” communists of Kerala which have lead up to several visits of Italian ministers to India, direct communication between the Prime ministers Monti of Italy and Singh of India, diplomats of the European union and the even the UN to resolve the issue.
"Any Indian position that is not fully in line with international law risks creating a dangerous precedent regarding international peace missions and the fight against piracy," Monti told Singh in the phone call, according to a statement from the Italian premier's office.
The main reason for all of this is the sensitive coalition politics of India for which Italy could have been the role model judging from its own history and the imminent regional elections which were due when the incident happened, giving politicians an issue to capitalize on and very little elbow room to act sensibly and equitably to dissolve the issue.

Since the story began to unravel, another unfortunate incident in which a fishing boat was hit and sunk by an Indian ship, killing 6 fishermen have cased panic and raised the temper among the fishing community of Kerala.

However, this time the ship involved flies an Indian flag and its crew has behaved in the  shameful and underhanded way only the Indians can be expected to behave;  by switching off lights and fleeing the site without stopping for any rescue of their own countrymen or informing the authorities.

The local government and the politicians who are in no hurry to resolve the Italian issue until after a very sensitive local election due on the 17th of March are in even less of a hurry to bring the Indian ship Prabhu Daya and its crew and owners to book.

If you are in a sea going vessel and near the Indian coast, keep your curtains down and be ready to change course even if you will run in to some Somalian pirates, which is a safer option.

Do You Think Lady Gaga is Changing the Face of Celebrity Culture?

Can Lady Gaga make a difference and change the world for a better place when celebrities of our times from Lady Diana to Whitney Houston have been down the road, without much success? Perhaps, with the power of the social web behind them, Lady Gaga and other young celebrities can make a difference.

First sign that they may be able to make any positive change, is in this recognition by the establishment that it is time the enormous clout of social web, supported by modern technology, is reckoned with.

There is no other plausible reason to explain the acceptance of the top most educational institution of the world to act as the spring board for the Born This Way Foundation of Lady Gaga, named after her 2011 album and hit song, which promotes self-empowerment and has become an anthem for gay pride.

With 20 million followers on Twitter and sophisticated web technology enabling her to feel the pulse of her followers, Lady Gaga who had her own bitter experience and the support of other celebrities like Oprah Winery, could persuade Harvard to lent its name and backing to her cause and thereby gaining strong conviction among her millions of followers

Lady Gaga's new foundation is aimed at empowering young people to fight bullying

by promoting tolerance and acceptance and will be working with a new media agency to create a social media environment that fosters the foundation's goals.

Gaga spoke to more than 1,100 students from several states, faculty and invited guests at Harvard, urging the young audience to "challenge meanness and cruelty."

"I believe that if you have revolutionary potential, you must make the world a better place and use it," she said.

She reminded them that there is no law to make people be kind to one another and added: "I wish there was because, you know, I'd be chained naked to a fence somewhere trying to pass it."

Not surprisingly, the ideas of Lady Gaga resonate with more mature thinking and trends elsewhere like the acceptance of vulnerability in addressing the social issues, giving much hope that they are likely to strike a chord with the youth of the world.

For instance, Brené Brown, a research professor at the University Of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work, who spent years studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame addresses empowerment by posing the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough - that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

For the Harvard University, the ultimate custodian of propriety, the enormous popularity alone is no reason to recognise and welcome a pop singer like Lady Gaga; the event has attracted criticism as a marriage of strangest of bed fellows.

But the willingness of the prestigious university to get involved with Lady Gaga has to with being in line with a new trend of including the phenomenon of the social web in to the knowledge base and accepting its social engineering clout, more than the brownie points it can add to its collection by associating with a very noble cause.

The invitation of another young artist to share his viral marketing success on the web with its faculty and students of another top notch business school, the IIM of Ahmedabad, where leading corporations of the world queue up to recruit the best business brains, is indicative of the trend and an example of the new found clout celebrities are acquiring from the social web.

With such active interest being taken by such leading institutions on the social engineering potentials of the social web and the support they are willing to lent to a new generation of coconscious achievers in the arts and sports, who are willing to extend a helping hand, there is hope that the celebrity culture, which revels in narcissistic and destructive escapades, will have a newer and kinder face.

There is evidence that as the notion and adulation of celebrities and the celebrity culture spread beyond the Oscars, Grammys and Hollywood in to the world outside, so do the new trends and values.

This has been demonstrated by Vidya Balan, a film actor from Bollywood who won the National award for the best actress of the year but chose to celebrate her success by visiting and addressing an unfortunate group of women who are victims of human trafficking.

Lady Gaga deserves to be applauded to be the one to show the way by putting her clout on the social web to promote her profession and a good cause.

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Monday, March 12, 2012
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

Why Election 2012 Make Vladimir Putin Cry In Victory And Rahul Gandhi Smile In Defeat?

Putin's tears, which appeared as he announced hiselection victory as the new president of Russia, have become the but of several jokes. They have not certainly softened the cobble stones of the red square though they must have made his long gone mentor Lenin turn in his nearby mausoleum.
Honestly, Putin shouldn't have cried like a baby. Ex KGB agents do not shed tears after winning an election especially when it was rigged. The result of the Russian Presidential election was a foregone conclusion, and didn't matter for the rest of theworld, as evident from the reaction of world leaders and the poor coverage and attention it received as a non event. Around the world, Putin's tears are seen as nothing but crocodile tears.

Quick Poll

Do you think Putin's Tears Were For Real?

No one really knows why Putin burst in to tears and chocked for his words. There are several theories in circulation. But if they were indeed tears of national pride of the self appointed President of Russia, the fact that free and fair elections were held in a third world country should have brought a few drops of shame in the eyes of every patriotic and freedom loving Russian.
Well, if it is no longer politically correct to call India a third world country, it is all the more shameful for Russia to be democratically compared to another BRIC nation and placed in poor esteem.
Putin and other leaders who hate a free and fair democratic process have something to learn from Rahul Gandhi, the young leader of India, who has constantly shunned away from power his 160 year Congress party, which ruled India for most of the time after its Independence, wants him to take on.
If the election 2012 in Russia made Putin weep, despite his lack of intention to give up his iron grip on the lives of millions of Russians, the recent democratic elections in the largest state of India, Uttar Pradesh with a population of over 200 Million, brought smiles on the faces of millions of Indians proud about their democracy, especially of Rahul Gandhi, as he addressed a press conference to concede defeat and accept his share of responsibility.
In fact it should be Rahul Gandhi, who must be crying for the 'apparent' defeat and loss to his party in the recent elections! Though no one has a plausible explanation to the tears of Vladimir Putin, other than perhaps psychiatric explanations, there are plenty of reasons why Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party shouldn't be depressed at the outcome of the elections.
The hype and expectations built up around his campaign by the Indian media gave the impression that he is to be "blamed" for a loss he hasn't caused because in absolute terms he has managed to increase his party's vote share by 40%.

Though many observers agree that the hard work and efforts of Rahul Gandhi exposed and ousted the corrupt and inefficient government of Chief Minister Mayavati, the hard political reality on ground failed to turn the voter's discontent in to votes for his party.
Rahul Gandhi has been criticised, as an outsider campaigning in the state of UP couldn't effectively relate to the voters and couldn't be seen as one who is there to deliver on the promises.
Most of all, the Congress party, like its opponent BJP, failed to present a viable leadership and party structure to form a new state government the electorate could vote for, while a well established and regional Party, despite several corrupt and failed stints before, attracted a mass of negative votes.
However the main take away from the elections indicate that the conclusions from the electoral verdict were all logical, proving that the Indian electorate certainly has a mind and can apply it in casting its franchise.

- The dynamics of elections to the national parliament and the state assemblies are no longer the same and need to be played up on separately to gain election success.
- Much like the European Union, India is in fact a union of "federal" states, each with its own sense of independence, issues and politics of casts, religion and other factors of electoral balances.
- Diminished external threats and higher economic growth of the recent past has made "national" parties and their leadership less relevant to the state politics. 
- The "national" parties have failed to build the party structure and leadership to substitutes for the prominent leaders who migrated to a national leadership.
- Measures of the central government imposing quota for women in local governance has increased the active participation of women in politics and their influence in elections over issues which matter to them like corruption.

All of the above are indeed lessons, the largest democracy can be proud of and learn from and certainly make young leaders like Rahul Gandhi to deliberate on for evolving new strategies.
If Putin indeed believes he has the support he claims which brought tears to his eyes, he should be willing to hold a re-election free and fair for all to see. He can take a few lessons in real democracy from his BRIC partner.

Article first published as Why Did Election 2012 Make Vladimir Putin Cry In Victory and Rahul Gandhi Smile In Defeat? on Technorati.
Friday, March 09, 2012
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

Please, For God’s Sake Don’t Call Engelbert Humperdinck Engelbert Hyperlink!

Mobile phones may have a problem in predicatively suggesting the name of Engelbert Humperdinck in text messages, but for millions who will miss Whitney Houston and her music, the name Engelbert spells magic and nostalgia.

The BBC has announced this morning that 75 year old Engelbert Humperdinck, once the heart throb of women around the world, will represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision song contest, to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May. Engelbert has stated that

"It's an absolute honour to be representing my country for this year's Eurovision Song Contest." "When the BBC approached me, it just felt right for me to be a part of an institution like Eurovision. I'm excited and raring to go and want the nation to get behind me!"

Engelbert Humperdinck, dubbed the "King of Romance", is best known for his 1967 hit Release Me, which kept The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever off the number one spot.

For those who haven’t herd of this legendary singer who became famous for his crooning, Engelbert Humperdinck has received four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe for Entertainer of the Year and is one of only a handful of artists with a star on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Las Vegas Walk of Fame.

"Release Me", his 1967 smash hit version of the 1950s country song was the one that started it all for Engelbert. "Release Me" was succeeded by two more hit ballads, "There Goes My Everything" and "The Last Waltz," earning him a reputation as a crooner.

As per the BBC, the song Humperdinck will perform for the Eurovision contest is yet to be announced but will be recorded in London, Los Angeles and Nashville.

It will be written by Grammy award-winning producer Martin Terefe and Ivor Novello winner Sacha Skarbek, who co-wrote James Blunt hit You’re Beautiful.

Arnold Dorsey who was born in Chennai, India to a British army officer, took his stage name Engelbert Humperdinck from a German composer best known for his opera Hansel and Gretel.

"I have such wonderful childhood memories of Madras. I like the sun, and my 10 siblings and I went from a big home in India to relatively modest surroundings in England, which can be so cold and grey. Life in England was tough initially, but then we settled down."

Engelbert is equally popular in India and a generation of Indians have reciprocal feelings about him. Engelbert was worshipped to the extent that the Konkani singers, Alfred and Rita Rose, named an offspring after him.

No Goan and Parsi event was complete without Engelbert's music. It was perfectly in sync for our weddings, dances, village socials and Sunday morning hops for the waltz, fox trot or dancing.

There is no doubt that even the “digital” generation around the world, especially in India will be thrilled to hear the “King of Romance” croon again even if they can’t get his name right!

Article first published as Please, For God’s Sake Don’t Call Engelbert Humperdinck Engelbert Hyperlink! on Technorati.

Why Are Italian Captains, Like Costa Cruise, Not The Flavour Of The Month?

The New Year so far had not been a lucky one for the Italian sea faring lot, especially the captains of the Italian vessels. First there was the Costa Concordia disaster, resulting in the death of several people which, many believe, could have been avoided by timely action of its captain Francesco Schettino and the Costa Cruise Company. In fact the scandalous behavior of the captain has gone in to the history books with his arrest on charges of his having caused the shipwreck
"owing to ... imprudence, negligence and incompetence" resulting in deaths, having abandoned about 300 people "unable to fend for themselves", and "not having been the last to leave" a shipwreck”
Even before the dust from the biggest disaster of the year so far has settled and the agony and pain from the disaster, with seven people still unaccounted, lingering for several families and their relatives, another Italian vessel, its captain and marines employed for its protection are embroiled in a International row on account of two unarmed fishermen from Kerala, a southern Indian State, who were shot dead on the high seas.
If the circumstances which lead to the Costa Concordia disaster were unbelievably insane, given the safety standard one would take for granted in the 21st century maritime life, the events which lead to the death of the two fishermen and the arrest of the Italian marines by the local police of an Indian state are right out of an exotic thriller.
Apparently the unbelievable incidence of shooting from a bobbing ship, killing precisely two unarmed persons in a bobbing and approaching boat, took place in broad daylight, in Indian waters at the orders of its captain!
The Italians claim that the ship and the pirates they shot at with warning shots away from targets, eventually thwarting the pirates and their boat from approaching the ship, were different from the boat and the fishermen who were killed.
Once again, an Italian Captain is in the centre of a controversy for lack of clarity and straight forward explanation of an in incident which has blown out of all proportions and grown in to a major international and diplomatic row between India and Italy.
So far, Italian ministers who have flown to India were unable to dissolve the issue which has become a maddeningly sensitive enough to upset the results of a local election, vital for the ruling congress party with stakes in the state and central government.
The incidence has also brought up severe lack of clarity as to the onus among the ship owners, the Italian navy and the Italian government regarding culpability of shooting and murdering innocent unarmed foreign nationals from Italian owned vessels in international waters.
To add further to the pain and lack of trust of the people of coastal Kerala , which look at the whole incidence with suspicion, another boat has been sunk in a collision with a ship, which has gone without reporting the incidence, killing two fishermen with three others missing.
When you consider the fate of the latest Costa Cruise vessel Costa Allegra, which went out of power supply and had to be towed from high seas, leaving its passengers with out food and other necessities for three days, it looks like the maritime diversions from life are certainly jinxed, at least for the Italian sea men!
Article first published as Why Are Italian Captains, Like Costa Cruise, Not The Flavour Of The Month? on Technorati.

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