Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Transportation in Myanmar – Through Photos

See also Religion in Myanmar – Through Photos

My father recently visited Myanmar as a consultant of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to review the ongoing oil palm projects funded by the FAO and to give suggestions to improve production of oil palm in Myanmar. On his return he sent me tons of photos and I am planning to post those to my blog in the coming weeks.

Browsing through the photos one thing that caught my attention was the transportation system in Myanmar. Buses in Yangon reminds of you of British colonial era. See one of the transport buses plying in Yangoon.

In other parts of Myanmar trucks are used as a major mode of transport. Here are some pf the photos of the trucks. These photos were taken from the following places- Yangon, Kawthaung, Myeik, Dawei and Malwmayine and Mudon.

In the highways the traffic is very slow and it takes almost 15 hours to travel 200 miles in ordinary buses, due to the bad condition of roads especially in rural areas. In the interior places it is still worse. If you undertake a bus journey, you are not sure of the time of arrival to the destination. My father was telling me that you may be stranded anywhere due to flood or land slides in between. Here is a photo of a typical transport bus in Myanmar.

Most of the major bridges in Myanmar are constructed of wood like this one.

In between these wooden bridges my father could find a bridge that could be considered state of the art - a three km road cum railway cum pedestrian bridge, the Motama Bridge - on the way from Yangon to Malawmyine and Mudon in the Mon state. This bridge constructed over the mouth of the river Salwan and two other rivers which joins at Malawmyine before joining the sea. This engineering marvel was completed in the year 2005. Before the construction of the bridge people going to Mudon from Yangon had to embark at Motama jetty and use a ferry to travel to Mudon.

Another interesting thing about transportation in Myanmar – Motor bike taxis- this is a common form of transport in all places especially in rural areas and small towns. They take you to long distances and small interior roads. Here is a photo of a typical motor bike taxi stand.

Train is not a popular mode of transportation. My father was telling me that train lines were meter gauge and travel time is very high. Here is one train.

To transport stuff the farmers mainly use small tiller type vehicles, locally made, like this one.

Another interesting fact - Petrol bunks (gas stations) are very rare in Myanmar. Petrol is available from road side shops. Even government vehicles petrol is filled from these shops. Petrol is under rationing in Myanmar.

Will be back with more photos and interesting news about Myanmar later.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

No Fear For Life? See this Photo

A series of 16 blasts occurred Saturday evening in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, killing almost 50 people. These bombs were apparently planted in tiffin carriers and placed in cycles. It’s just the previous day that similar bomb blasts occurred in one of the southern states of India killing 2 people.

The news channel had this photo in their home page after Ahmedabad blast. The caption below the photo reads “Caution: A policeman inspects a sack near an explosion in Ahmedabad.”

Now closely observe the photo – already 16 blasts have occurred and no one knows how many more bombs are planted. They saw an unidentified sack and a formally dressed policeman with no apparent protective gear inspects the sack to find if it has an explosive or not. While he does that hundreds of people stand less than 50 feet around him curious to know what is inside that sack. For them curiosity takes precedent over their own life!

Let us argue that the police officer in this photo is fully trained for such a thing, what about the hundreds of onlookers? Suppose that was a very powerful bomb and it exploded around the same time this photo was taken, hundreds of people might have killed/injured.

I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of those people who are standing there and watching the police officer inspect the sack. Did these people ever think what would have happened to them if that were to be a powerful bomb? Why didn’t the police cordon off the area to reduce the human causalities that may probably have happened if it was an explosive?

What do all these point to? Don’t we have fear for our own life? Don’t we think and accept that each life is valuable?

This photo made me think – what could have happened if such a thing happened in US? Those who lived in US know the answer for that. Forget about series of bomb blasts. Imagine someone alerted police officers of some unidentified object that they assumed may be a bomb found in some place. The police will be there immediately and they would cordon off that area. All the local channels will be full of news about that unidentified object and no one would go anywhere near to that area. So you can imagine how different it will be if a bomb blast of the magnitude that occurred in Ahmedabad has happened anywhere in US.

Let us hope Indian people and authorities become more responsible and take more actions to root out terrorism from Indian soil.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Confidence motion in Lok Sabha – Some Good Speeches

UPA Government in India under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh just won the vote of confidence on the floor of Lok Sabha. I was watching most of the speeches live and few of the speeches really impressed me. Here are few of the speeches that were really impressive.

I am from Kerala and I have heard speeches of almost all the Kerala politicians. I have heard speeches made by Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Vajapyee, V P Singh, L K Advani and Sonia Gandhi. Last time when I went to India I accidentally had a chance to see and listen to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayavathi. While living in Chennai during the late nineties I had heard speeches of prominent politicians from Tamil Nadu like present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Karunanidhi, former chief minister Jayalalitha, former Congress leader G K Moopnar etc.

Having heard so many political speeches live if you ask me who do you admire most I have to name one person whom I never had a chance to hear live – India’s Railway Minister and former Chief Minister of Bihar. His speeches just amaze me. The way he takes the crowd in his hand is amazing. See the video below. The speaker was having a tough time controlling the members but Lalu’s speech went almost uninterrupted. Only he can do this magic in Indian politics.

Here is another of his videos. An edited version of his speech in Lok Sabha that has lot of proverbs to make fun of BJP and communists.

Another speech I like was one made by Omar Abdullah. It was a mind boggling speech in the middle of a lot of drama. To answer to all those who claim that nuclear deal is anti-Muslim listen how he started “I am an Indian and a Muslim…” He continues “Enemies of Indian Muslims is not United States. Enemies of Indian Muslims are the same enemies that all the poor people of India face – Poverty, Hunger, Unemployment, Lack of development and absence of voice.” I am hearing something that really makes sense finally. Listen to his speech.

This is the first time I am hearing Rahul Gandhi make a speech and I think it is the first time in his short political career that he is making such an important speech. Even though he was interrupted a lot by the opposition what a great speech he made. The coolness and composure shown by him during the speech in the parliament during the confidence motion will take him long way in his political career. See his speech here.

As an end note – even though I enjoyed these speeches and other speeches especially by L K Advani and P Chidambaram I was disheartened with the way the parliament session was conducted. The members were not even showing respect to the chair which is unfortunate.

One thing I missed during this confidence motion - I really missed the speeches of Pramod Mahajan, Rajesh Pilot and Madavrao Scindia. Those three where just amazing parliamentarians. It is good to see that young politicians like Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah are coming up but it is depressing to see Indian parliament being taken over by money and muscle power.
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Monday, July 14, 2008


The other day my wife and I attended a small get-together with our friends. There were around 15 of us and after a nice dinner we were sitting in a room and watching a movie. One of my friends, A, was lying on the floor and others were sitting in the floor and on the sofa. Another friend, N, casually walked on top of him and suddenly three women in the group started shouting. According to them, you are not supposed to walk over a person lying down on the floor. The reason according to them – if some one walks over a person lying down on the floor, that person’s health will be affected. In this case, A’s health will get affected. The 3 ladies shouted to my friend, N, till he walked back over A in the opposite direction. If you do that then everything is fine – according to them.

I was so pissed off seeing this. If this reaction has come from someone who is uneducated I could understand that. Here are 3 married women, well educated and having been in US for over 1 year cannot understand that these are just superstitions. I was thinking at that moment – “How can educated people be so dumb?”

I believe people often confuse with belief and superstition. A Brahmin not eating non vegetarian or a Hindu not eating cow is part of their belief and I believe no one should question that. But what about superstition?

This is not the first time I am seeing educated people who believe in these kinds of crappy superstitions. This one happened when I was a Masters student in the US. I know an Indian doctor who came to US around 25 years back. One day we had to go out together for something. When we got out of her house a black cat crossed our way. She told it is a bad sign and we should not go today. According to her, “if we go today we will face lot of hurdles in the things we plan to do”. I have heard my grand mother (who had gone to just 4th grade) talking all these and here is a doctor who is practicing in US for the last 20 odd years telling me the same thing. I told her that I don’t believe in those things and went ahead and did what I had to do without facing any hindrance. I came back and told her that even after I saw a black cat crossing my way I went ahead and did what I was planning to do and nothing happened. Even after proving to her that this is just a superstition she was not ready to accept it and still continues to believe in that same superstition.

I used to believe that education and exposure to the world could make you understand the hollowness of these age long superstitions. But I find a lot of examples to the contrary like this doctor or the three ladies.


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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Communist Parties – The Devils to Be Wiped Out From India Forever

Finally the threat has become a reality. The Communist parties have withdrawn support to the Union Government. The communist leaders claim that Union Government led by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has compromised “national interest” to America by signing the nuclear deal.
Let us just have a glimpse of how the communist party has upheld the “national interest” in the past.

Let us take Quit India Movement: Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders had called for Quit India Movement to wipe out British rulers from India. When all the leaders and masses who love this country were participating in Quit India Movement what were our communist friends doing? Opposing the Quit India Movement, here is an excerpt from an article written by journalist V.K Kamat:
The one party that opposed the Quit India Movement and sought to undermine it with deliberate intent was the Communist Party of India (CPI) which denounced Gandhiji and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and accused them of decadence, of all things! The CPI argument was that the Soviet Union had been invaded by Nazi Germany and it was incumbent on all Communists to rush to Moscow's rescue while Indian freedom would wait. To gain Communist support which in any event was freely forthcoming the British Government released some of the Communist leaders then in jail like S.A. Dange, B.T. Ranadive and Soli Batliwala.

The Communists turned out to be more loyal to the British than the king. `People's War', the CPI organ, ridiculed the Quit India resolution and denigrated he clarion call to Do or Die as illustrative of Congress political bankruptcy. To curry British favour, CPI leader P.C. Joshi submitted to the government a 120-page report on how the Communists had been disrupting the Quit India movement in province after province, in the most shameless manner. What is even worse, the CPI, in a thesis, proclaimed that India was not one nation, but a collection of several separate nationalities, that the demand for Pakistan was a just and democratic one and that the Congress must concede to the Muslims the right of self-determination. Between 1942 and 1947 the CPI turned out to be the most anti-national party functioning in India.

For Communist party the national interest then clearly meant national interest of Soviet Union. The same people are talking about national interest now is worse than a prostitute talking about character.

The Communist leaders says that by signing the nuclear deal, India is moving away from the policies of Jawaharlal Nehru -first prime minister of India- regarding non alignment. I don’t know from when the communists started liking Nehru and his policies. If one goes back to the history books, the party that opposed Nehru most was the communists. Let us read what Nehru himself has to say about Communists. Nehru made this comment to the visiting Communist leaders from Soviet Union in 1955.

Until this year (1955) the Communist Party was saying that Indian people were not independent; they even opposed our National Day celebrations. ... They also said that when they were in doubt about the right line of action, they had to get directions from the Soviet Union. Early in 1951-52, some principal leaders of the Communist Party went to Moscow secretly, that is without passports. They came back and said that they had got directions from Mr. Stalin. At least this is what they said. The line then laid down was one of full opposition (to the Government) and, where possible, petty insurrections.

The party that talks about national interest was neither ready to accept India’s independence nor Nehru as India’s Prime Minister even 8 years after India got independence. They got more happiness obeying to dictators like Stalin from some other country than supporting an elected Prime Minister of their own country.

If one’s country is “pushed” to a war by another country and if you have little love for your motherland whom will you support? When America went to war against terrorism and went to Afghanistan did any American supported Osama Bin Laden? But Indian communist parties supported China when India was engaged in a full blown war with China. Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia:

China-Indian relations also deteriorated, as border disputes between the two countries erupted into the Indo-China war of 1962. During the war, a faction of the Indian Communists backed the position of the Indian government, while other sections of the party claimed that it was a conflict between a socialist(China) and a capitalist state (India), and thus took a pro-Chinese position. B. T. Ranadive, P. Sundarayya, P.C. Joshi, Basavapunnaiah, Jyoti Basu, and Harkishan Singh Surjeet were among those supported China. In general, most of Bengal and Kerala Communist leaders supported China and most others supported India.

Yes Communist parties have national interest in mind – not the national interest of India but of our enemy at that time – China.

Even if we look into the distant past we can see the double standards of Communist parties. Being from Kerala I can give a long list of double standards practiced by Communists. When the Congress government of Kerala first introduced “computer” in Kerala, the communist opposed it tooth and nail claiming that computer will take away the job of the common man. It is an irony now that state secretary of CPI(M) – Pinarayi Vijayan carries a laptop all the time. The same secretary’s daughter studied in a private self financing college opened by a renowned spiritual leader from Kerala paying capitation fees. All the time when his daughter was studying in that college, father was going nuke and corner of Kerala opposing self financing colleges and mudslinging spiritual leaders.

I am sad that people from three states Kerala, Bengal and Tripura (only states communists have influence) do not understand the grave mistake they make by voting for these communists.


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