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Sunday, November 30, 2008

War against terror in Mumbai

Terror struck Mumbai again on the night of 26th November 2008 and lasted for 60 hours before the last of the terrorists were killed in fierce gun battle. 200 people killed and more than 300 injured. These counts are certainly bound to go up once the places are sanitised and the final figure comes out.

It is not as if Mumbai has not witnessed terrorist attacks before. The 1993 attack and the serial blasts in trains in 2006 are still fresh in the minds of people. The earlier attacks were all blasts set of by remote control. However, this time the terrorists had come by sea in boats and then spreading to different places like the Taj Hotel, Hotel Oberoi and Nariman House in the thickly populated Colaba area. Mumbai was in siege and was a battle ground.

The Taj is 105 years old and is a heritage hotel. Those who have been to Mumbai would know the majestic presence of the Taj Hotel alongside the Arabian sea and right in front of the “Gateway of India” arch. On the 26th November 2008, this symbolic arch became the “Gateway of terror”.

The terrorists had opened fire indiscriminately inside the hotel killing innumerable guests and also had taken people as hostages. The collateral damage that could be caused to the hostages was the main reason why the operation took so long. The Army, National security guards, police and firemen had done a superlative job and in some cases sacrificing their lives in the process to save others. The Nation salutes them and their heroics. The heart bleeds for all the families who have lost their near and dear ones..

India has faced the brunt of so many terrorist attacks. After every attack, the politicians talk big using rhetoric and clich├ęs saying that they will crush terrorism and punish the guilty and then it’s all forgotten. “Enough is enough”. Stop talking and start acting. It is high time the Government and politicians become accountable and answer the citizens. Providing security to the people is the paramount responsibility of the Government. Let’s act and evolve concrete steps to put an end to this terror.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There goes "free market trade"

The last blog I wrote was on the last day of 2007.So many things and events have happened since then that has turned the world on its head. The most noticeable is the Global financial crisis and for the first time the election of an African- American to the White House.

The financial crisis seen now has never been felt before in this enormity the world over. The great Depression of the 1930’s was severe only in America. The world was not that integrated then nor was it seamless and hence the storm was net felt throughout the world. Now with no trade barriers, the shock wave spread right through the world. Like the Iraqi war fiasco, the credit for this global turmoil should be taken by the U.S.A.

The last eight years has seen such a shoddy administration in Washington that a lot of people would be happy to see the back of Bush. Greed coupled with no financial regulation is a sure recipe for doom. This is exactly what happened when the interest rates were brought down and held to such a low level by Greenspan and property prices shot up.

The so called whiz kids in financial management assumed that individual’s income would keep going up and hence repayment of loans would become easier, the Real estate bubble will never burst and the economy will never collapse. Fancy financial instruments like collateralized debt obligation (CDO) were evolved and traded putting more pressure on banks and Mortgage houses to extend loans without verifying the financial standing of the borrower. The so called Ninja loans (no income-no job and asset) became a routine thing. When the borrowers failed to repay the loans, the chain snapped and the bubble burst turning all the CDO’s to worthless papers. From a state of “irrational exuberance” in October 2007, the world has now come to a state of “chaotic pessimism”.

U.S.A, the great free market champion, was in panic mode. A $700 billion bailout plan which included buying Bank’s equity was put in place. This virtually amounts to part Nationalization of Banks and insurance companies like A.I.G. When South east Asia went through a financial crisis in 1997, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is the financial mouthpiece of U.S.A, laid conditions to South Korea and Indonesia that loans would be given only if the Government doesn’t bail out banks which are inefficient and should allow them to die. When it happens to the “so called free market country”, the rules are different.

Free market trade or free market capitalism is good provided it is done with proper regulation and supervision.It is high time countries understand that a “watch dog” regulator is essential. Financial checks and balances should be put in place so that speculation of this magnitude doesn’t recur. Judicious regulation in place is a must for trouble-free financial transactions.

Let this be an eye opener to all and especially to the powers that be in the Washington corridor