With due respect Mr. Amartya Sen…

Without doubt Mr. Amartya Sen is one of the most respected economists in the world.  The noble prize is testimony to his contribution in the field of Economics.

Unfortunately Mr. Sen has not chosen to comment on his field of expertise but on politics, which is not his domain. Any body can speak anything he/she likes but it is for others to decide which utterances should be taken seriously and which of those should be ignored. BJP has certainly helped to blow this issue out of proportion. They should have just ignored it knowing the extent of influence of Mr. Sen’s comments on Indian voters.

It is not known if Mr. Sen who is based abroad but still carries his Indian citizenship, has ever offered his enormous expertise in the area of economics to the ruling UPA government and helped his country in formulating suitable economic policies. If he has done so, either it has not helped or his services were ignored by Indian government for some reasons. Only Mr. Sen will know the answer.

We certainly do not want to take back ‘Bharat Ratna’ award from Mr. Sen. This was given to him for certain reasons and qualities which have still not changed.

No doubt Mr. Sen denounces the growth model of Gujarat, as his work is basically in the area of welfare economics. However he himself lives in and enjoys benefits of western countries which follow capitalistic growth models. Does it mean that the concepts which Mr. Sen believes in work only in theory and not practice?

 It is not necessary for the BJP to react to each and every comment of every individual. It is obvious that most such issues are fueled by media which is in constant need of controversies to keep on their 24/7 chatter. BJP should learn to ignore all such irrelevant issues and even irrelevant people like Mr. Digvijay Singh and Ms. Renuka Chouwdhary, whose only purpose is to talk nonsense, keep media interest alive and continue to have nuisance value for their party.

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Mini Trek to Mubra Devi Hill Temple

It has been raining cats and dogs for past 3 days. With 3 soaking days of rain, we are experiencing a rare cool climate, perfect for a hot cup of masala chai and plates of bhajias but only after a refreshing trek…in the torrential rain. I am planning a proper trek next month, so today with such an inviting climate I started for a mini trek to Mumbra Devi Hill temple. It is a small hill about 425 meters high which can be reached by climbing lots and lots (about 900+) of steps. In the true sense it is not a trek but it still gives the pleasure of monsoon mountain climbing with lots of greenery all around and numerous waterfalls on the way. Another reason is, it is close by place to Thane and a to and fro from Thane can be completed in about 3/4 hours.

The temple can be seen from Mumbra station itself and the hill climb starts right from the station doorstep. Apparently a part of foot of the hill has been used for Mumbra township and the station. The real hill climb starts after we cross the highway and then it is all the way up by steps made from rough stones. The temple is at the top of the hill.  The top also gives a great panoramic view of Mumbra town and beyond. The climb takes about an hour but return is a bit faster.

Here are some of the photographs I shot today. Although there were many great photo opportunities, because of incessant rain it was difficult to shoot without risking the camera. All in all it was a great morning spent with good exercise and nice refreshing experience.

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Costly medicines? You can still save money.

Ever wondered why your doctor prescribes medicine of a specific brand when similar Imagemedicine from other brands is available at a much lesser price?

There are a couple of reasons.

One, most doctors are bonded to specific medical companies and their brands through various free give- aways they receive from these companies which include free samples, gifts, foreign trips, sponsorships to seminars etc. Further medical representatives keep a tab on the way doctors prescribe through the neighborhood medical shops. So doctors do not want to prescribe other brands for the fear of loosing various sops.

Other reason is that today doctors are less concerned about wholesome benefit for their patients, which includes not only their physical health but financial health also. Instead of doing some research about low cost but effective medication, they take the easy way out as finally it the patient who is at the receiving end.

I do not imply at all doctors act in this fashion but many do. I salute those doctors who still treat their patients as a human and act with real care and compassion.

Recently when faced with a similar situation I spoke with my doctor about the low cost (normally called ‘generic medicine’) medicine. While his response was on predictive lines, my take away from this interaction is as follows:

1. Doctors assume that big pharmaceutical companies, which mostly are MNCs (well advertised brands) will have better quality medicines as compared to Indian companies even if Indian companies are also large in size and are operating for a long time in the country.
2. Doctors do not want to experiment with low cost medicines.. There is no incentive for them for doing so.
3. Even when your doctor is unwilling to prescribe a low cost medicine, you can still go for such medicine if the manufacturer is well know. Just for example Pfizer versus Ajanta Pharma or Dr. Reddy’s Lab.

If your doctor is not willing to change the brand and you are ready to take a calculated risk then you can go for lower cost drugs manufactured by known companies and try them out for a reasonable period. If they work it is good for you but if they don’t (there is hardly any reason for this happening), you still have the option to switch to the costlier brand.  This approach should work well for those on long term medication for the so called life style deceases like BP, Cholesterol control and Diabetes. The underlying assumption is that just because a company is Indian and not a MNC, it does not cast any shadow on drug quality. In fact, India today is considered as world’s pharmacy and is one of the leading low cost drug providers to the world.

Here I recollect the example of ‘Cipla’ which slashed their cancer drug prices by as much as 75% forcing other drug companies to follow suit and reduce their astronomical profits.

There are a large no. of pharmaceutical companies in India who spend less on marketing, produce quality drugs which are out of patent and hence can sell them at a much lower price. If one is interested here is a web site (http://www.medguideindia.com) which provides a lot of information about drugs, their manufactures and prices.

Homeopathy for layman ……..by layman

If you are interested in trying out homeopathy, I recommend the following remedies as a Imagegood start. The 30c potency is a good general purpose potency and doze will be 4/5 pills 3 times a day. Avoid taking any food or drink within one hour of taking the medicine for best effects.

This part will cover some Homeopathic remedies to be kept in the home First Aid Kit.

First Aid Remedies

  • Arnica – For accidents, shock, injuries and bruising. Also useful to heal a sour body after a long travel and jet lag.
  • Calendula – Also available as a cream for healing wounds. It quickly seals the wounds and should be applied after the wound is completely cleaned.
  • Hypericum – A good remedy for injuries to nerve rich and sensitive areas like fingers, toes and genitals when pain is sharp and shooting.
  • Apis Mel – Very effective for bites and stings especially when they are accompanied with redness, pain and swelling.
  • Ledum – Good remedy for puncture wounds. Works well when pain is better from cold application and worse from heat.
  • Aconite – Extremely useful for treating ailments from cold winds and chills. Stops cold in it’s track if  taken at the first hint of illness.
  • Cantharis – Remedy for intense pain of burns. Great remedy when the skin is blistered, hot, burning and very painful.
  • Mag Phos – Remedy for cramps, convulsions and spasms. If is effective if tablets are crushed and placed in cup of warm water and sipped.
  • Nux Vomica – Great remedy for ailments from over indulgence of food, alcohol, tobacco and resulting digestive complaints.
  • Rhus Tox – A great remedy for overexertion, strains and over-lifting. For muscle, tendon and connective tissue injuries. Works better in cases when a pain becomes better after movement.

The spying game

Edward snowden created a storm by revealing how US spies on other countries, friends Imageand foes alike. When this country does not spare it’s own citizens, what can one expect from it about others. It only proves that all the talk about 4th amendment and privacy of US citizens is just a humbug and US government be it Republican or Democrat does not give any importance to it other than paying some lip service. After 911 American psych has also changed and people appear to be more tolerant about government snooping into their private affairs.

While Europe has expressed it’s indignation, although they can hardly do anything about it, Indian reaction is peculiar. Rather than being angry about being spied upon, Indian government seemed to be supporting US on this issue and our foreign minister was heard playing around with words like ‘it is not spying but pattern analysis’ etc. He almost sounded like a US spokes person defending US position on spying.

While I agree that expressing indignation and anger will not change the situation as these are only impotent gestures, I felt sorry that our government took a stand which appears to support US actions.

On the other hand USA could be right to some extent about the need to snoop on others to keep track of terror activities. Only thing other countries should understand that whatever US does is only and only in it’s self interest and profits. It is primarily a nation of merchants and looks for monetary or other gains for itself in every situation. It has no permanent friends or enemies but only relationships of convenience with other nations including EU and Britain. India has experienced it’s double speak with respect to Pakistan and China on many occasions in past. We should be under no illusion that US can ever be our true friend. It will use us for it’s benefit and we should too respond in kind without getting emotional about the relationship. This way there will no hard feelings and it will be only business all the way.

IRNSS satellite launch – another step towards self-reliance by India!

Today is a proud day for all Indians. We have taken one important step towards self-Imagereliance – to have our own GPS like satellite navigational system. Why is this so important? Read on……….

Speeding down a highway or steering through the city lanes, if you tap your smartphone or in-car navigation device to locate a fueling station, ATM, McDonald’s, or the good old dhaba, the one service you rely on is the global positioning system (GPS). Without it, flights cannot operate, communication networks won’t function, drones can’t fly, nor can bombs be dropped. In short, this dual-use technology is the global utility that the world has come to rely upon.

Globally there are 4 different navigational systems in operation. US leads the pack with 32 satellites in orbit and calls it the ‘GPS’ system. European satellite navigation programme called ‘Galileo’ is based on 24 satellites. Russian navigational system ‘Glonass’ has 23 satellites. Lastly Chinese have their own 16 satellite system which is also used by 4 other Asian countries including Pakistan.

To ease India’s dependence on America’s GPS and Russia’s Glonass, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has designed its own geo-spatial positioning system, a regional footprint service which will have 7 satellites. It is called Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). The first of these satellites was successfully launched yesterday, on 1st July 2013 and by early 2015, all seven satellites in this constellation will be up there, 35,000 km above the earth, to make the system fully operational. It will provide an all-weather absolute position over the Indian landmass and 1,500 km beyond its geo-political boundary.

It was essential for us to develop our own guidance system because when the control and navigation systems in defense projects are equipped with GPS devices, a country’s security rides on these radio signals. Presently for us these signals are controlled by either USA or Russia. It was found that during the Gulf war the U.S. had blocked GPS signals to Iraq and then inserted erroneous signals that left Saddam’s generals virtually blind as far as beyond visual range sighting and targeting was concerned. With IRNSS we will have full control on our navigational systems which has obvious advantages.

There could also be a market for military grade signals. As unlike China, India’s image is not of an aggressor and this should help to attract other countries in the region to use IRNSS. There is far less chance of India interrupting navigational signals for other countries as with other signal providers like US, European Union and China who all have global ambitions for influence and control.

TV selection….. Simplified.

A few years back a trend started in India, mainly promoted by Korean brands like LG and ImageSamsung to replace then existing CRT based bulky TV sets with slim, less power hungry LCD type TVs. Because of their slim size and lower weight the screen sizes too grew to over 30 inches against the popular size of 21 inches for CRT TVs. Now the market offers vast range of technologies for flat screen TVs so much so it confuses average buyer who is then forced to take his decision based on sales talk and marketing jargons. Recently one of my friends spoke to me on this topic and about his confusion in making a right decision to buy his new TV.

Here is a summary of choices available in market today which may help people like my friend to make informed decision about making their investment in right type of TV technology.

Plasma TV

These offer the best colors and widest viewing angles, and in fast-moving pictures, motion blur or ghosting is almost non-existent. However they consume three times as much power as LED and LCD TVs.  Also repairing such TV can get costly and problematic since they are not very common. Moreover Plasma TVs come in sizes 42 inches and higher, not very much suitable for average Indian viewing room.

Price range – Rs. 55000 to Rs. 3,50,000(approx).

Full LED/True LED/Full-Array LED

The LED TV is basically a LCD TV with LED as the source of illumination.

These are the different commercial terms used by different manufactures to describe LED TVs than have rows and rows (array) of LEDs arranged at the back of the display panel. Compared to edge LED they show consistent brightness throughout the entire display. But the real advantage of full array backlighting comes from the feature called ‘localized dimming’  where individual LEDs or group of LEDs can be dimmed as per picture requirement to provide deeper blacks and much higher contrast ration as against ‘global dimming’ where the entire array brightens or dims together. These technologies however come at a price.

Price range – Rs. 1,50,000 to Rs. 2,50,000(approx)

Edge LED TV

These are LCD TVs that have LED light sources only in the four edges of the display screen. Though inferior to full-array LED TVs in terms of picture quality, they are much sleeker and most power efficient. Edge-lit displays can be prone to minor brightness “hot-spotting,” which results in some non-uniform light intensity on really bright images, or patchy, un-even blacks on dark movies scenes. Still, these drawbacks are minor, and in practical use they’re seldom noticeable. However if looks are not the prime decision maker for you, then their picture quality is not enough to  warrant the additional monies they demand.

Price range –  Rs. 25000 to Rs. 1,50,000(approx).

LCD TV

These are the cheapest flat-panel television sets you will find in the market. They have fluorescent lamp as their illuminating source. They consume a little more power than LED based TVs and are prone to ghosting especially while watching sports or playing games.

Price range – Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 70,000(approx)

Other TV technologies

Full HD and HD

HD stands for ‘high definition’ which in turn means the ability of the TV to display a sharp picture with fine details. While full HD is definitely superior, the question is whether you will need it or even notice the difference.

For most viewers, HD (or 720p) is perfect if all they watch revolves around serials and sport or watch movies on DVD players. But if you are a gamer or plan to buy Playstation3 or Xbox360 in future you must have full HD (1080p or1080i). Also it is required to watch full HD movies.

Smart TV

A smart TV is one that can be connected to the Internet to access content like streaming video, music, and entertainment apps. They have built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, which let you access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or browse the Web on your big screen. However it can be hard to navigate with the regular remote controller. Basically Smart TVs aren’t good enough to be your primary PC yet. Also be aware that  some devices have only Ethernet port and no wireless capabilities.

3D TV

There are two variant of 3D TVs: Active 3D and Passive 3D. Active TV is better of the two and it is usually recommended for videophiles and gamers due to lack of motion blur. On the other hand this technology is rather expensive and requires viewing glasses that use batteries. If you are going to watch sports or movies in large groups, passive 3D TVs are better because the glasses are lighter, they require no batteries and are definitely cheaper. It should also be noted that 3D TVs are not recommended for those who suffer from chronic migraines, epilepsy, eye disorders or even pregnant women.

OLED TV and Ultra HD TV

These technologies provide far better picture quality but are still under development stage. There still issues like low life and high cost of OLED display, super high cost of UHD technology are still to be resolved.

Lastly a quick guide on selection:

  • Size – A simple formula to calculate the right TV size for your room. Measure the distance your usual watching position to the TV location and devide it by 2.  That is good size to go with. So if you sit 5 feet away from your TV, then a 30 inch is a good TV size. Of course a few inches either way is not going to be much of a difference. If a slightly bigger TV is going to fit in your budget, go for it.
  • Plasmas tend to look best for darkened, theater-like rooms; LCD displays perform better in bright rooms.
  • When it comes to energy efficiency, LCD TVs (and particularly LED-lit LCD TVs) typically outperform plasmas.
  • Full-array backlit LED TVs use local dimming to achieve better contrast levels and have very good picture quality, but usually come in at the top of the price range.
  • Edge-lit LED TVs have thinnest form factor possible, but don’t look quite as good as full-array models.
  • Plasma displays don’t get any smaller than 42 inches, LCD TVs are available in almost any size.
  • There is hardly any noticeable difference in picture quality of edge LED and LCD TVs
  • There is no noticable difference in picture quality of DVD movies and digitally broadcasted content viewed in HD (720p) and full HD (1080) modes.

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