India and Day 26 – Part 1: India’s Independence Day and Republic Day


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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There seems to be some sort of affinity between India and day 26.

On the occult side, Manmohan Singh, the 14th Prime Minister of India, from 2004 to 2014, was born on September 26, 1932. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi the new Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of Narendra Damodardas Modi, was born on August 26, 1956.

Many incidents such as India’s Independence Day, Republic Day, major earthquakes, tsunamis, internecine communal riots,  bloody terrorist attacks have taken place on day 26.

January 26, 1930 – India’s Independence Day

India gained freedom from the British rule on August 15, 1947, but patriotic Indians had celebrated their first “Independence Day” 17 years earlier, on January 26, 1930. The choice of the day was unforeseen.

In 1928, Motilal Nehru chaired a prestigious committee that drafted a “Constitution” for an Indian Dominion that would have been a secular democratic reflection of Britain’s parliamentary system.

Mohamed Ali Jinnah, founder of Paksitan (Source: kufarooq3blog.wordpress.com)

Mohamed Ali Jinnah, founder of Paksitan (Source: kufarooq3blog.wordpress.com)

Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his All-India Muslim League insisted on more “safeguards” for Muslims as their price for endorsing the Motilal Nehru Committee’s proposal.

Jawaharlal Nehru and other young radical leaders of Congress like Subhas Chandra Bose of Bengal viewed Motilal Nehru’s recommendations as too conservative.

Mahatma Gandhi remained aloof from such matters, preferring to spin his cotton, waiting to be called upon to lead the next Satyagraha.

Motilal Nehru was unable to rally the broad spectrum of Indian political parties to his constitution’s support and it was doomed to an early demise.

Flag of British India, 1858–1947

Flag of British India, 1858–1947

Home Rule movement's Flag of India  in 1917

Home Rule movement’s Flag of India in 1917

Flag of Muslim League

Flag of Muslim League

The Indian National Congress held its annual session in Lahore in December 1929. During the debates the All India Home Rule League and the All-India Muslim League favoured for a Dominion status for India within the British Empire as enjoyed by Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Newfoundland at the time. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and many others argued for a complete separation from British rule. In the end, the latter group’s view prevailed.

The Congress then promulgated the “Purna Swaraj” or “complete self-rule” declaration resolving the Congress and Indian nationalists to fight for complete independence from the British rule as opposed to a dominion status for India.

The flag adopted in 1931 and first hoisted on October 31, 1931. It was used by the Provisional Government of Free India during the subsequent years of Second World War.

The “Swaraj”  flag officially adopted by the Congress  in 1931 and first hoisted on October 31, 1931. It was used by the Provisional Government of Free India during the subsequent years of Second World War.

Jawaharlal Nehru was chosen the president of the Congress. On the midnight of December 31, 1929, he raised the first “Swaraj” flag on the banks of the Raavi river in Lahore. This flag was adopted and it was first hoisted on October 31, 1931. This flag was used by the Provisional Government of Free India during the subsequent years of Second World War.

The Congress passed a resolution fixing the last Sunday of January 1930 as India’s “Independence Day”. Coincidentally, it was January 26. It resolved to hold countrywide demonstrations in support of the goal. The day was to begin with the hoisting of the flag and reciting the “pledge of independence”. Gandhi envisaged that besides the meetings, the day would be spent,

… in doing some constructive work, whether it is spinning, or service of ‘untouchables,’ or reunion of Hindus and Mussalmans, or prohibition work, or even all these together.”

An official draft by Gandhi said:

The British government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually… Therefore, India must sever the British connection and attain ‘purna swaraj’ or ‘complete independence’.

The Congress called on the people to pledge themselves to civil disobedience and “to carry out the instructions issued from time to time” by the Congress, till India attained complete independence. Celebration of such an Independence Day was envisioned to stoke nationalistic fervour among Indian citizens, and to force the British government to consider granting independence.

An Autobiography” also known as “Toward Freedom” published in 1936 by The Bodley Head, is an autobiographical book written by Jawaharlal Nehru while he was in prison. It ran nine editions in the first year alone. In this book, Jawaharlal Nehru described the observances of “Independence Day” on January 26 as peaceful, solemn, and “without any speeches or exhortation”:

From then on, the Congress members and supporters celebrated January 26 as the Independence Day till 1947, regardless of whether the actual transfer of power had taken place.

August 15, 1947 – India gains Independence 

Following the peaceful, civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance, led by the Indian National Congress for independence, the British government agreed to accord freedom to India on August 15, 1947.

Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)

Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammad Ali Jinnah prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)

Eleven days before August 15, 1947, Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru representing the Indian National Congress and Mohammad Ali Jinnah representing the Muslim League, which demanded a separate sovereign state for Muslims, prepared for the transfer of power from the British Crown.

During these deliberations, an abstract picture of a divided nation comprising India and Pakistan came into being as distinct from the agglomeration of princely states and provinces administered by the British Raj.

On August 14, 1947, the dominion of Pakistan which then included East Pakistan, declared independence from the British Crown.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

On the eve of India’s Independence, towards midnight on August 14, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, in his inaugural address to the Indian Parliament heralded India’s tryst with destiny.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity. …

November 26, 1949 – Adoption of the Indian Constitution

After gaining independence, India, still owing formal allegiance to the British Crown, did not have its own Constitution and so it depended entirely on the amended colonial Government of India Act, 1935.

As a first step to evolve a sovereign republic, a constituent assembly of elected members of the provincial assemblies was set up to frame a new Constitution for the Republic of India. It included Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee and Nalini Ranjan Ghosh. There were jurists like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer and K.M. Munshi.

Dr. Ambedkar was asked to lead the drafting committee of the Constitution. The committee met for 166 days over two years, 11 months and 18 days.

On November 26, 1949, the final document of the Constitution that enshrined 345 Articles and eight Schedules was adopted by the Constituent Assembly, replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India.

The original text of the Preamble, before the 42nd Amendment) of the Constitution.

The original text of the Preamble, before the 42nd Amendment) of the Constitution of India.

January 26, 1950 – India’s Republic Day

The Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, and India officially became a Sovereign Democratic Republic.

January 26 was selected as the Republic Day because the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress on this day in 1930.

The people of India honour this day as their Republic Day.

On January 26, 1950, the Republic Day ceremonies began in Delhi.

On January 26, 1950, the 34th and last Governor-General of India Chakravarti Rajagopalachari read out a proclamation announcing the birth of the Republic of India. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)

On January 26, 1950, the 34th and last Governor-General of India Chakravarti Rajagopalachari read out a proclamation announcing the birth of the Republic of India. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)

On January 26, 1950, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the 34th and last Governor-General of India, read out a proclamation announcing the birth of the Republic of India. The Constitution of India came into effect, declaring India as a sovereign, democratic and secular state.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad,  the first President of the Republic of India.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the Republic of India.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office as India’s first president, replacing the King as the head of the state, at the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (residence of the president of India). He addressed the crowd, first in Hindi and then in English. After the swearing in ceremony, the new president of India drove through the streets in his state coach to the Irwin Stadium (now renamed as the Dhyan Chand Stadium) and hoisted the national flag.

The government declared a two-day national holiday to a jubilant nation.

India displaying Agni 5 ICBM at Republic day parade of India at New Delhi.

India displaying Agni 5 ICBM at Republic day parade of India at New Delhi.

Currently, the Republic Day celebrations begin in India on January 26 with a grand parade held in the capital, New Delhi, from the Raisina Hill near the Rashtrapati Bhavan , along the Rajpath, past India Gate.

Republic Day Beating Retreat ceremony, New Delhi, India. (Source - indiascanner.com)

Republic Day Beating Retreat ceremony, New Delhi, India. (Source – indiascanner.com)

The Republic Day festivities end officially with the Beating Retreat ceremony conducted on the evening of January 29, the third day after the Republic Day.

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Next  India and Day 26 – Part 2: Turmoil in Gujarat

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The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Postlude


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A giant sculpture of a hand reaching out of the sand at Punta del Este, Uruguay (Source: thetextbiz.com)

A giant sculpture of a hand reaching out of the sand at Punta del Este, Uruguay (Source: thetextbiz.com)

On March 5, 2010, Juan Maria Bordaberry was sentenced to 30 years in prison (the maximum allowed under Uruguayan law) for murder. He was the second former Uruguayan dictator sentenced to a long prison term.

On July 17, 2011, Bordaberry died, aged 83, at his home. He had been suffering from respiratory problems and other illnesses. His remains are buried at Parque Martinelli de Carrasco.

José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay adopts a ruling style closer to center-left administrations of Lula in Brazil and Bachelet in Chile, unlike the harder-left leaders such as the late Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, former president of Venezuela .

In 2012, José Mujica was lauded for a speech at the United Nations’ Rio+20 global sustainability conference in which he called for a fight against the hyper-consumption that is destroying the environment:

The cause is the model of civilization that we have created. And the thing we have to re-examine is our way of life.

Again in 2012, Mujica announced that the presidential palace would be included among the state shelters for the homeless.

In 2013 Mujica’s government pushed the world’s most progressive cannabis legalization bill through the Uruguayan Congress. He says:

This is not about being free and open. It’s a logical step. We want to take users away from clandestine business.

Guerilla warfare of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara inspired the Tupamaros in Uruguay. Other Guerrilla outfits around the world while being inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, emulated the Tupamaros of Uruguay.

To a certain extent, the Tupamaros of Uruguay became the role model for urban guerrillas in India and in Sri Lanka.

In India the various Naxalite groups that are mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Kashmiri ultras funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, and many other worldwide terror outfits have been inspired by the Tupamaros of Uruguay.

In Sri Lanka, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil insurgent outfits such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), considered the Tupamaros as their role model.

The Naxalites of India

The Spreading Naxalite Threat (Source: vinay.howtolivewiki.com)

(Source: vinay.howtolivewiki.com)

In India, various Communist guerrilla groups, under the generic term “Naxalites”, were influenced by the Uruguayan Tupamaros.

Kanu Sanyal

Kanu Sanyal (1932 – March 23, 2010)

The first Naxal movement led by Kanu Sanyal, an Indian communist politician, originated in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967.

On May 18, 1967, Jangal Santhal, president of the Siliguri Kishan Sabha declared his support for the movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal. The members of the Sabha readily consented to adopt armed struggle for redistribution of land to the landless.

Through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Kanu Sanyal’s Naxalite ideology spread to less developed regions of rural eastern and southern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Today it has the following of displaced tribal people fighting against exploitation of their land by major Indian corporations and corrupt local officials.

During the 1970s, the original Naxal movement got fragmented into various factions due to internal conflicts among their leaders. In 1980, about 30 Naxalite groups were active in India, with a combined membership of 30,000 cadres.

Terrorists of Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, two terrorist groups involved in guerilla warfare against the governments were very much influenced by the Cuban revolutionists and the Uruguayan Tupamaros.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) of Sri Lanka

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna logo

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front) (JVP), a Marxist-Leninist communist political party was led by Rohana Wijeweera (born Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera).

Rohana Wijeweera

Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera (14 July 1943 – 13 November 1989)

The JVP involved in two armed insurrections against the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) government in 1971 and against the United National Party (UNP) government in 1987-89.

After 1989, the JVP entered the mainstream of democratic politics. They became popular to a certain extent and participated in the 1994 parliamentary election.

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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka

LTTE Logo

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was a separatist militant organization based in northern Sri Lanka formed in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Velupillai Prabhakaran (November 26, 1954 – May 18, 2009)

Velupillai Prabhakaran (November 26, 1954 – May 18, 2009)

The LTTE waged a secessionist nationalist campaign to create an independent and autonomous country for the Tamil people in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Their pursuit to create a mono ethnic Tamil Eelam evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009).

The LTTE had a well-developed militia and were the first militant group to acquire air power. They carried out many high-profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. The LTTE was the only militant group to assassinate two world leaders: former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993.

The LTTE movement is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including India. However, it had and still has the support amongst many Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu in India.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, the founder of the LTTE, was killed on May 18, 2009, by the Sri Lankan army.

Eventually, the LTTE militants were defeated by the Sri Lankan Military in 2009.

Though the Tupamaros movement in Uruguay, the JVP and LTTE movements in Sri Lanka were annihilated by outright military action in both countries, they all have set a standard for an intelligent violence unequaled in modern times. Though there is no doubt about the flair, bravery and genius of those insurgents, there lingers doubts about their politics. The German strategist, Von Clausewitz, much admired by Lenin, wrote:

War is only the violent extension of politics; if the politics are wrong to start with, the war will probably go the same way.”

 

 Previous – Part 9:  Restoration of Democracy in Uruguay

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Wooden Cars


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Morgan Aero 8 (Source: Brian Snelson/flickr)

Morgan Aero 8 (Source: Brian Snelson/flickr)

I came across the following on BBC TopGear’s front page:

Morgan

Morgan

An antidote for anyone who despairs at the loss of innocence. How sweet it is to think that there’s a shed in the Malvern hills in which a dedicated bunch of artisans is hard at work hand-building sports cars with wooden chassis. What’s more, with the Aero 8 and forthcoming hybrid LifeCar, it looks like they’re here to stay.

This aroused my curiosity about wooden cars.

The Morgan Motor Company, is a family owned British motor car manufacturing firm founded in 1909 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan that specializes in hand-assembled cars. The company, based in the Malvern hills, an area of Malvern, Worcestershire, England to the north and east of Great Malvern employs around 163 people. In 2007, Morgan produced 640 hand-assembled cars.

In their FAQs page to the question “Is it still made with a Wooden chassis?” they answer:

“The Morgan car has always been built around an ash-frame , and a steel chassis. The new Aero 8 also has an ash frame. This gives unique strength, flexibility and surprisingly, research showed that the frame made the car safer on impact tests.”

A year ago, in May 2013, I came across a news item in the media about Istvan Puskas, a 51-year-old Hungarian farmer. He lives in Tiszaörs, a village in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county, in the Northern Great Plain region of central Hungary.

Istvan Puskas

Istvan Puskas

Farmer Istvan Puskas, is also skilled in woodcraft. He loves to create unique articles with wood that would interest people.

A year earlier, in 2012, he created a unique motorcycle entirely of wood. a one-of-a-kind chopper made almost exclusively out of wood.

In 2013, Puskas created a unique wooden vehicle powered by a Polish-made Fiat 126 engine. The vehicle resembles a tractor.

Though a steering wheel salvaged from an old Mercedes-Benz came in handy, he made the frame, wheels, axles, suspension and gearbox out of wood. He used an old beer barrel for the fuel tank. His object was to use as much wood as possible.

It took him four months to finish building his vehicle.

Even though the current Hungarian laws make it impossible for Istvan Puskas to officially register and drive his unique wooden vehicle on the road, the local policemen impressed with his efforts allow him to drive it on the local lanes in his village. So far, touch wood, he has not run into any accidents.

Since Istvan had no garage to park his wooden vehicle, he had plans to put his creation on the market, as a collector’s item, or as a vehicle for someone who prefers to drive slow. He said that he intends to use the proceeds to fund his next project – a three-wheeled vehicle.

Recently, I came across the following video on YouTube of an amazing, beautiful custom-built 2009 wooden car Uploaded on October 13, 2010 by mrantisocialguy.

This custom hand-built wooden car mounted on a 1986 Toyota truck frame is powered by a Chrysler 318 engine. Driven by an automatic transmission it had 1,800 miles registered on its speedometer at the time of shooting this video.

The following video titled “wooden car Amazing Invention – HD” uploaded by Mohammed Rashed Ul Haq on Jan 13, 2011 is a four-minute long documentary on the manufacture of a wooden car.

Today, I read an article in the Deccan Chronicle, Chennai edition, titled “Wooden car awaits licence“.

Appar Lakshmanan, a hereditary master wood craftsman belonging to the Viswakarma community, has built a wooden car, which is probably the first eco-friendly vehicle made in the state of Tamilnadu, India.

Like Istvan Puskas in Hungary, Appar Lakshmanan too finds it difficult to meet the high criteria set by the Regional Transport Officer (RTO), Chennai.

Appar Lakshmanan drives the car he made almost entirely with wood (Source: DC)

Appar Lakshmanan drives the car he made almost entirely with wood (Source: DC)

The writer of the article J.V. Siva Prasanna Kumar quotes Appar Lakshmanan as saying:

“If its strength of materials and ability to withstand combustion in the event of an accident or collision, then test my car and see the results… The officials seem to raise several questions, including how the wooden frames were fixed together. My father used bamboo pegs as rivets and they stood the test of time. Would anyone believe that?”

Appar Lakshmanan says the wood he used to make the car was not inflammable. Nevertheless, his efforts to convince the RTO authorities and obtain a licence did not yield the desired results. The one among his woes is that he could not get an engine or chassis number for his wooden car. A real paradox indeed!

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The Travails of Traveling Abroad on a Sri Lankan Passport


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 Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ― Blaise PascalPensées

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On April 28, 2014, I wrote an article titled “Is a Passport Necessary for the Queen of England, US President, and the Pope to Travel Abroad?”  After reading it, my friend Joe Croos, a constant reader of my posts, now living in Germantown, Maryland, USA, forwarded me the following hilarious piece of writing sent to him by his friend Tony Rajanayagam.

Neither Tony nor Joe knows who the original author of this article is. Obviously he must be a Sri Lankan.

I enjoyed reading every word of this sarcastic, thought-provoking dissertation, and wish to share it with you.

I have used my editorial discretion, to strike out two phrases in the first paragraph which, though hilarious might seem objectionable to a few. Also, I have added images to spruce up the presentation.

Sri Lanka Passport (Source:  elankanews.com)

Sri Lankan Passport (Source: elankanews.com)

There are three things in the world that are of no use to anyone, viz. a xxx’x xxxxxxt, a xxxxxx’x xxxxx, and a Sri Lankan passport. The uselessness of the third item becomes absolutely clear when one tries to apply for a visa to go abroad.

Today, international travel for a bona fide traveler from Sri Lanka is fraught with unbelievable red-tape, undesirable paperwork and unforeseeable pitfalls. It is, for example, much easier for the proverbial camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an honest Sri Lankan passport holder to enter the United Kingdom. Everything in life has a price.

Ironically, these days, it is relatively easy for a Sri Lankan illegal immigrant to enter any western country of his choice and claim asylum, become a citizen and sponsor his kith and kin. This way, entire villages from Jaffna peninsula have been uprooted and are now relocated to Scarborough in Toronto, Canada.

A Sri Lankan passport is not unique. Israeli passport is the next most useless document as it is not recognized by 23 countries in the Middle East and also by North Korea and Cuba. Presenting an Israeli passport to an immigration officer in a Muslim country would be the equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull in Spain.

Although the Sri Lankan passport clearly states that “The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka requests and requires all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary” the document is more often than not treated with total disdain while its possessor is regarded with suspicion by almost all countries including Bangladesh, Benin and Bulgaria.

Although the purpose of the Sri Lankan passport is to promote and facilitate international travel, the way in which its owners are treated at foreign embassies makes one wonder if it was instead designed to dissuade and restrict international travel as much as possible.

Applying for a visa to a western country in Sri Lanka has become such a complex, confusing and complicated activity that some people, especially old men and women, come down with the condition known as “visaitis“. This is a relatively new disease which emerged in Sri Lanka at the end of July 1983.

The symptoms include a certain dryness of the mouth, dizziness, and mild dementia. Patients afflicted with this disease also suffer from outrageously watery diarrhea and are in the habit of passing urine frequently, and in rare cases, may be subject to catatonic schizophrenia. They can be nervous, irritable and immune to therapy. The mere thought of going to a western Embassy or High Commission in Sri Lanka is so traumatic that one or two people have in fact died of a broken heart, following the mandatory medical check-up.

There is a particular Hindu place of worship known affectionately as the “Visa Pillayar Temple” (VPT) in Colombo where people go to break a coconut and offer a silent prayer to ensure success prior to their interview (or interrogation) for a visa at the Embassy. Visa aspirants from places as far away as Valluvettithurai (VVT) in the north come to VPT to collect the vipoothi (holy ash), which when applied on the forehead is supposed to confer divine protection during the inquisition at the Embassy.

The insults start at the gate of an Embassy where you experience the taste of what is in store for you in the country you plan to spend your hard-earned money.

French Tricolor Flag - 1803

At the French Embassy in Colombo, rated 9.5 in the “Richter Scale of Rude Shocks,” it is the illiterate gatekeeper who functions as Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to Hades, to whom one must give the sop to slip into the Embassy.

Japanese Flag

At the Japanese Embassy in Colombo, you cannot see the visa officer through the one-way opaque glass window when you submit your application. He can see you, but you cannot see him. The experience can be quite unnerving. It is a bit like speaking to an Oracle in Greece.

Canadian flag

The application for a Canadian tourist visa is 10 pages long and has more than 60 questions, including the names, places and dates of birth of yourself, your wife, your siblings, parents, grandparents, your wife’s relatives, your in-laws and outlaws! All these details have to be submitted first electronically before you are given a date for the interview.

Bangladesh flag

Once I went to the Bangladesh Embassy in Colombo to apply for a visa. The Embassy looked more like a tuck shop and I was the only applicant. Even then that bored consular officer rudely told me that it would take five working days to issue a visa!

Indian Tri-Colour flag

In the Indian Embassy, one would witness the death of common sense. However, much you gather the required documents you need to substantiate your application for a visa, the officer will ask for the one that you forgot to bring.

US flag

By contrast, the US Embassy in Colombo offers one of the best services in the world. The US staff are extremely kind, helpful and patient and they genuinely try to assist the potential visa applicant to the best of their ability. The US evaluation process is very fair, thorough and proper. If you are a genuine visitor to the USA, you need not worry. You will get a fair hearing. All the US immigration officers are trained well to be civil and polite to the visitor. They would often engage you in small talk just to find out if you were a genuine visitor or not to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Today, many embassies have subcontracted the TT Services to deal with the initial stages of processing the visa.

New Zealand flag

More recently, on arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand (the Land of the Long White Cloud), the immigration officer asked me, very politely and with a pleasant smile, what the purpose of my visit was? When I told him that I had come to deliver a talk on elephants at the University of Canterbury, the bewildered officer exclaimed, “But we do not have elephants!” and stamped my passport and wished me a pleasant stay. It spoke so well about the country of just 4.5 million people and 60 million sheep.

WWF

Once when I worked for WWF-International, I was a member of a small working committee planning the next International Theriological (= Mammal) Congress. Two countries, Australia and Colombia, were interested in hosting the event. The Australian delegate was interested in moving the Congress to Sydney, but cautioned us that the only requirement for the visa was that none of the foreign participants had any criminal record. On hearing this, the Colombian delegate jumped up in sheer joy and informed us that on the contrary, his Government would welcome delegates with a criminal record! The Congress was held in Sydney.

In the unlikely event of a visa being issued, it does not automatically guarantee that you’d be allowed to enter the country at the other end. That depends on the mood and the maturity of the immigration officer.

United Kingdom flag

One of the most traumatic experiences one could have on arrival is at the Heathrow airport in London. You had been travelling 16 hours from Colombo and the flight lands at 9 am. It is supposed to be summer, but the sun is nowhere to be seen in the Land of Ceaseless Fog and Drizzle. Thus, even before the plane comes to a complete stop, you would get an idea of the weather that awaits you on arrival. Sometimes it appears that the plane had been taxiing through ginger beer or syrup. That’s the colour of the atmosphere outside.

Heathrow airport inside

On arrival I have to join the cattle class and then go to the queue reserved for aliens. No wonder I am often treated as if I am an extraterrestrial phenomenon!

Almost all British immigration officers are most unfriendly to non-Caucasian visitors, and often act like tinpot Hitlers. They are as hard as nails and bored as the people who serve you at McDonalds. They look miserable knowing they are stuck in dead end jobs.

Welcome at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Welcome at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Right behind his shoulder you can read in letters big, bright and bold, the banner that reads, “Welcome to Heathrow”. The welcome you receive is frostier than the weather outside.

The first question the bored and grumpy immigration officer with a smirk on his face asks the hapless visitor is: “When are you getting back?”

If you ask for a three-month stay in England, you are more likely to be given just a month. On the other hand, if you were to request for only a week, just to attend a conference and get back home, you may be granted a stay for six months. More disturbing is the recent news from the UK that in the future, visitors to Britain from ‘high risk’ countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana coming to Britain on a six-month visit visa will have to put up a 3,000 pound (equivalent to Rs. 594,000 in Sri Lankan currency) bond as security, according to the Home Secretary Theresa May.

Australian flag

Sometimes things can go wrong. During my first visit to Australia in 1990, I flew into Sydney from Jakarta. Before the plane landed, we were given immigration forms to be filled. There was an additional yellow card that had to be filled as well, and one of the questions on it was: “Are you carrying live semen?” to which I promptly ticked the yes box, given that I had already fathered two kids.

As I cleared the immigration and moved to the customs, I was stopped and taken to a small room where I was interrogated by a big, bespectacled, Wagnerian white woman with a pair of enormous Bristols and a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. She waved a yellow card at me and exploded, “Is this a joke?”

I was genuinely clueless as to why she blew her top and asked her what was it all about, to which she pointed the box I had ticked off to say that I was indeed carrying live semen. I told her that I believed so, to which the human volcano erupted once more and thundered in no uncertain terms that it referred to livestock and warned me not to make a joke of it ever again! It was literally a seminal experience for me. The yellow card is no longer issued.

Sri Lanka flag

In the 1960s, we had a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) member from the United States who became friends with us while we were doing research on wildlife in Wilpattu national park with Dr. John F. Eisenberg from the Smithsonian Institution and his assistant Melvyn Lockhart. The VSO chap was a hippie who loved smoking ganja (marijuana). In his lucid moments he managed to learn a few words in Sinhala which Melvyn taught. 

When he left Colombo, he was in fact carrying some ganja with him, and given his long hair and hippie demeanor, he was promptly stopped by a vigilant customs officer who wanted to see the contents of his handbag. In a flash of brilliance, despite the perspiration which had commenced its journey down his spine, he began to engage the customs officer in small talk, and told him that he had lived in Ceylon for a month and that he could even speak the local language a bit. 

When the customs officer asked him to say something in Sinhala, he promptly remembered what Melvyn had taught him, and blurted out in a loud voice “මගේ පුක්කෙ මයිල් නෑ” (Transliterated: “Magey pukkay mayil naa“) meaning “my arse has no hair” in his native Texan drawl.

All the customs officers who heard him burst out in uncontrollable laughter and began to dance (a few even had tears of joy streaming down their cheeks). They complimented him on his language skill and wished him “bon voyage“. It was the hippie who had the last laugh.

Melvyn later received a “Thank you” note from Amarillo, TX.

As a Sri Lankan, I feel that we are treated abroad as if we do not matter, despite our education, ancient culture and proud heritage. We may be short on geography, but we are long on history. We deserve better treatment in the western countries. Unlike the ASEAN countries where citizens of the member states enjoy a 14-day visa free entry to each other’s country, we who belong to the SAARC cannot go to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, or Bhutan even for a short stay without a visa!

In the final analysis, given the limitations of our Sri Lankan passport, it is far better for us to enjoy a local holiday than be subject to untold indignities and interrogations at the hands of immigration officers. As Blaise Pascal once remarked, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

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A contemporary ordinary Sri Lankan passport (Author - Chamath237)

A contemporary ordinary Sri Lankan passport (Author: Chamath237)

 

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A Shortcut to Learn French


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Learn French

THE COMMONEST WORDS IN FRENCH

In 1958, I opted for French as second language for my Bachelors degree, at St. Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu, India.

Rev. Fr. Moumas, S.J. (Photo taken in 1979 by T.V. Antony Raj)

Rev. Fr. Moumas, S.J. (Photo taken in 1979 by T.V. Antony Raj)

It was the late Rev. Fr. Moumas S.J., a saintly jovial Jesuit priest from Gascony, who taught me French.

Learning the language was never an easy task. I used to spend a lot of time reading French novels borrowed from the well-stocked college library. In the 1960s and 70s, after graduating, while being employed in Sri Lanka, I used to visit the Library at the Alliance Française in Colombo often, trying to brush up and augment the French I learned in college. During this time, I took down notes and found an easy method to learn French.

Recently, while browsing through my old papers and books, I came across four pages of French words I had picked about 50 years ago. Since I feel that this list would provide a shortcut to you and your children to learn French, I have presented them below. Please pass it on to your friends and their children.

The words in the list occur most frequently in ordinary French, as determined by a word count of 400,000 running words of French prose. The figures after each word indicate its average number of occurrences per 1,000 words. It will be seen that the total is 446.1; in other words, learn these,  and you will know 44.6% of the words of French.

LEARN THEM NOW.

The meanings given are the common English translations.  Others are possible.

à , au, aux, à l’ = to, at, in, to, the, at the, in the, to the = 21.4
aller (v.) = to go = 2.1
autre = other = 1.7
avec = with = 3.4
1avoir (v.) = to have = 13.7
bien (adv.) = well, very = 2.8
bon = good = 1.2
ce, cet, cette, ces = this, that, these, those = 12.0
comme = as, like = 2.5
dans = in, within = 6.7
de, du, de l’, de la, des = of, from, of the, from the = 54.9
deux = two = 1.8
dire = to say, tell = 4.2
1donner (v.) = to give = 1.4
elle; elles = she, it, her; they, them = 8.0
en (prep.) = in, while = 6.3
en (pron.) = of it, of them, some, in the matter = 2.6
enfant = child = 1.1
et = and = 19.1
1etre (v.) = to be = 20.6
1faire (v.) = to make, do, have (something done) = 4.5
femme = woman, wife = 1.2
grand = tall, big = 2.0
homme = man, husband = 2.4
il; ils = he, it, him; they them = 13.7
jour = day = 1.2
le, la, l’, les (art.) = the = 69.4
le, la, l’, les (pron.) = him, her, it them
leur (pron.) = to them, them = 2.6
leur, leurs (adj.) = their
lui (pron.) = (to) him, her, it = 3.8
mais = but = 3.7
2je = I = 15.0
2me = me, to me
2moi = me, I
mon, ma, mes (adj.) = my = 4.5
ne … pas = not = 10.5
notre, nos = our = 1.2
nous = we, us, to us = 4.1
on = one, they, we = 3.9
ou = or = 1.9
Ou … ou,  soit … soit = either …. or
= where = 1.1
par = by = 3.7
pas (neg. adv.) = not, no = 5.6
petit = little, small, insignificant, petty = 1.7
plus (adv.) = more = 4.3
pour = for, in order to = 3.2
1pouvoir (v.) = to be able, can = 1.9
1prendre (v.) = to take = 1.2
que (conj.) = as, than = 12.8
que? (interr.) = what? = 3.0
que (rel. pron.) = who, whom, which, that
qui? (interr.) = who? = 7.6
qui (rel. pron.) = who, whom, which, that
sans = without = 1.8
1savoir (v.) = to know = 1.4
se = himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves, each other = 8.7
si = If, even, if so = 2.5
son, sa, ses = his, her, its = 8.9
sur (prep.) = on, atop, about, in, on top, over = 3.4
tout = all, every = 6.1
tu, te, toi = you = 1.8
un, une (art.) = a, an = 18.5
un (num.) = one
1venir (v.) = to come =

1.3

1voir (v.) = to see =

2.1

votre, vos = your =

1.3

1vouloir (v.) = to want, wish =

1.5

vous = you, to you =

5.2

y = To it, to them, in it, in them, there =

2.4

Total

=

446.1

 

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Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – Hypothetical Theories


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

From the day the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared many theories such as hijacking, disintegration in midair, missile attack, and so on, are being elucidated by pundits and amateurs for the possible disappearance of the flight that took off on Saturday, March 8, 2014, at 00:41 MST from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 239 people, including 12 crew members.

Since the international search for the missing aircraft has not yielded any result and the hope of finding it is waning as the days dawn on, implausible and whimsical theories are now circulating in regular and online social media.

A meteor strike?

Some have suggested that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could have been struck by a powerful meteor that shattered it to smithereens, and the bits might have fallen into the sea.

Interception by aliens?

On the ForbiddenKnowledgeTV.com, a conspiracy theory site, Alexandra Bruce has interpreted the unusual data on Flightradar24.com on the date of the disappearance.  He suggests that a UFO might have intercepted the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The radar playback from Flightradar24.com website

The radar playback from Flightradar24.com website. Click image to view video.

Seeing the radar playback of the moments leading up to the plane’s disappearance, one may forgive Malaysia Airlines for not being more forward, in this case – because the radar playback is not only baffling, it shows two distinct anomalies, as pointed out by Intrepid citizen-reporter and YouTube popstar, DAHBOO7.

The radar playback depicts dozens of planes in flight over the region at the time. The first peculiarity is seen in the lower left of the screen. A round object appears in the vicinity of Flight 370 (and amid several others), which the radar does not automatically “read” as airplane. Suddenly, this round object take the form of a “plane” on the radar screen and accelerates at a rate of speed that must be at least five times the speed of the surrounding planes, heading eastward, over the South China Sea – and just as suddenly the object stops and appears to hover in place.

During this same time, there is some evidence that shortly after crossing the Malaysian Peninsula, Flight 370 was in trouble. The radar playback shows that the plane took three sharp turns: right, left, right at an altitude of 35,000 feet and at a speed of 473 knots – just before the radar readings instantly go from 35,000 feet to 0, with the plane still traveling at that speed for a few moments more, at 0 feet altitude before it vanishes from the screen. As of this writing, this plane remains missing, even though the sea is relatively shallow in the area where the lane went missing.

As for the other object described here, it disappears as well. There have been no reports about this object – or plane, or what have you; whether it was a commercial airliner, like the many others in flight during the final moments preceding the disappearance of Flight 370 – but the object in question certainly didn’t behave like a commercial airliner.

Regardless of whether or not this mystery object had anything to do with the demise of of Flight 370 – what IS evident is that the radar readings shown in this clip captured signals from what for now, can only be termed a UFO.

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Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – If Hijacked, Where Did It Go?


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.Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, a week after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters:

“Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.”

This statement implies the Aircraft has been hijacked. It has raised questions about the person or people with deep experience at the controls in the cockpit of the aircraft when it disappeared.

Now, the investigators have started scrutinizing the background of the crew and passengers on board the aircraft more fervently. They are trying to find whether anyone on board other than Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah (53) and First Officer Fariq Abdul Hamid (27) had training in aircraft navigation and deliberately or under coercion diverted the plane from its scheduled route after communication was lost.

Security on cockpit doors has been reinforced on all passenger aircraft after the terrorist attacks of September 11 in New York. Hence, forced entry into the cockpit would not be possible and the pilots would have had enough time to send a warning signal to the ground air traffic controllers.

The aircraft’s transponder in the cockpit was switched off just before the plane passed from Malaysian to the Ho Chi Minh Area air traffic control space – the optimum moment, when the aircraft was not controlled by air traffic controllers in Malaysia or Vietnam. Later, authorities in Thailand and China informed their Malaysian counterparts that the aircraft had not entered their airspace.

Controls in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-200ER (Source: flyawaysimulation.com)

Controls in the cockpit of a Boeing 777-200ER (Source: flyawaysimulation.com)

The Boeing 777-200ER is a large aircraft and relatively new. So, someone who has flown smaller passenger planes, or even smaller Boeings, could not have shut down the aircraft’s communications. The timing of turning off the transponder could be done only by someone who knew this aircraft well, knew the route, and knew how to avoid air traffic control without attracting attention. This certainly points to the involvement of the pilot, the first mate or one or more crew members, willing or unwilling.

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, a US official said during his brief on the search that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 sent signals to a satellite orbiting 22,250 miles over the middle of the Indian Ocean for four hours after the aircraft went missing. This indicates the missing aircraft was still flying for hundreds of miles or more after it was last contacted by ground controllers.

This map released by Malaysian officials shows two red lines representing the possible locations from which Flight 370 sent its last hourly transmission to a satellite at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, more than seven hours after it took off from Kuala Lumpur's airport, and when the plane would most likely have been running low on fuel. Credit Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Satellite contact map released by Malaysian officials shows two red lines representing the possible locations from which Flight 370 sent its last hourly transmissions. (Credit Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia)

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Satellite contact map by SERGIO PEÇANHA, ARCHIE TSE and TIM WALLACE (Source: Malaysian government)

Satellite contact map by SERGIO PEÇANHA, ARCHIE TSE and TIM WALLACE (Source: Malaysian government)

The above two maps released by officials of the Malaysian government and posted in The New York Times show the signals from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 came from somewhere along one of the two arcs shows in red. The northern arc runs from the southern border of Kazakhstan in central Asia to northern Thailand and the southern arc runs from a location near Jakarta to the Indian Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles off the west coast of Australia.

The land area the northern arc passes through encompasses portentous arenas of insurgency and highly militarized zones from Kazakhstan in central Asia to northern Thailand. The beginning of the arc lies close to northern Iran. It then passes through Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, northern India, the Himalayas and Myanmar.

If  Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370  had flown on that arc, it would have to pass through air defense networks in India and Pakistan, whose mutual long border is heavily militarized, as well as Afghanistan, where the United States and other NATO countries have operational air bases for more than a decade.

If hijacked, where did the airplane go? Did it land on firm terrain or crash into the deep Indian Ocean?

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Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – Was the Aircraft Hijacked?


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.Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

Theories such as hijacking, disintegration in midair, missile attack, and so on, are being expounded by pundits and amateurs for the plausible disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that took off on Saturday, March 8, 2014, at 00:41 MST from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with 239 people, including 12 crew members, on a scheduled six-hour flight to Beijing. About two hours later, the aircraft was last seen on Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar at 02:40 MST. After that the aircraft ceased all communications, and the transponder signal was lost.

Was the Aircraft Hijacked?

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, a week after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters:

“Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.”

The Prime Minister further said:

 “Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.”

I have reproduced below the full text of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement on the investigation into the missing Malaysia Airlines plane,  as provided by the Prime Minister’s office. I have used the two diagrams  from the very informative article published in the The New York Times titled “Search for Malaysian Jet Becomes Criminal Inquiry” authored by Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley.

Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia. (Source: .abc.net.au)

Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia. (Source: .abc.net.au)

Seven days ago Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared. We realize this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board. No words can describe the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them.

I have been appraised of the ongoing search operation round the clock. At the beginning of the operation, I ordered the search area to be broadened; I instructed the Malaysian authorities to share all relevant information freely and transparently with the wider investigation team; and I requested that our friends and allies join the operation. As of today, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are involved in the search. I wish to thank all the governments for their help at such a crucial time.

Since day one, the Malaysian authorities have worked hand-in-hand with our international partners – including neighboring countries, the aviation authorities and a multinational search force – many of whom have been here on the ground since Sunday.

We have shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data. We have been working nonstop to assist the investigation. And we have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane.

It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.

We have conducted search operations over land, in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. At every stage, we acted on the basis of verified information, and we followed every credible lead. Sometimes these leads have led nowhere.

There has been intense speculation. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world. But we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated. And our primary motivation has always been to find the plane.

In the first phase of the search operation, we searched near MH370’s last known position, in the South China Sea. At the same time, it was brought to our attention by the Royal Malaysian Air Force that, based on their primary radar, an aircraft – the identity of which could not be confirmed – made a turn back. The primary radar data showed the aircraft proceeding on a flight path which took it to an area north of the Straits of Malacca.

Given this credible data, which was subsequently corroborated with the relevant international authorities, we expanded the area of search to include the Straits of Malacca and, later, to the Andaman Sea.

Early this morning I was briefed by the investigation team – which includes the F.A.A., N.T.S.B., the A.A.I.B., the Malaysian authorities and the acting minister of transport – on new information that sheds further light on what happened to MH370.

Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.

The diagram published by New York Times citing Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (search areas); flightradar24.com (dotted flight path); Malaysia Airlines as sources.

The diagram published by New York Times citing Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation (search areas); flightradar24.com (dotted flight path); Malaysia Airlines as sources.

From this point onwards, the Royal Malaysian Air Force primary radar showed that an aircraft which was believed – but not confirmed – to be MH370 did indeed turn back. It then flew in a westerly direction back over Peninsular Malaysia before turning northwest. Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

Today, based on raw satellite data that was obtained from the satellite data service provider, we can confirm that the aircraft shown in the primary radar data was flight MH370. After much forensic work and deliberation, the F.A.A., N.T.S.B., A.A.I.B. and the Malaysian authorities, working separately on the same data, concur.

According to the new data, the last confirmed communication between the plane and the satellite was at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time on Saturday 8th March. The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact. This will help us to refine the search.

Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite.

This map released by Malaysian officials shows two red lines representing the possible locations from which Flight 370 sent its last hourly transmission to a satellite at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, more than seven hours after it took off from Kuala Lumpur's airport, and when the plane would most likely have been running low on fuel. Credit Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

This map released by Malaysian officials shows two red lines representing the possible locations from which Flight 370 sent its last hourly transmission to a satellite at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, more than seven hours after it took off from Kuala Lumpur’s airport, and when the plane would most likely have been running low on fuel. Credit Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

However, based on this new data, the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. The investigation team is working to further refine the information.

In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board. Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation. We are ending our operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets. We are working with the relevant countries to request all information relevant to the search, including radar data.

As the two new corridors involve many countries, the relevant foreign embassies have been invited to a briefing on the new information today by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and the technical experts. I have also instructed the Foreign Ministry to provide a full briefing to foreign governments which had passengers on the plane. This morning, Malaysia Airlines has been informing the families of the passengers and crew of these new developments.

Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility. For the families and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.

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Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – Did the Aircraft Disappear From Radar?


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.Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 00:41 MST, with 239 people, including 12 crew members, on a scheduled six-hour flight to Beijing. About two hours later, the aircraft was last seen on Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar at 02:40 MST. After that the aircraft ceased all communications, and the transponder signal was lost just before tracking was passed off to the Ho Chi Minh Area Control Center in Vietnam. Airline authorities in Thailand and China informed their Malaysian counterparts that the aircraft had not entered their airspace.

From then on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been listed as missing. No one knows about its whereabouts. It has just vanished into thin air.

Theories such as hijacking, disintegration in midair, missile attack, and so on, are being expounded by pundits and amateurs for the plausible disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, a US official said during his brief on the search that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing. This was an indication that the missing aircraft was still flying for hundreds of miles or more after it was last contacted by ground controllers.

The Boeing Company offers a satellite service that can receive a data from an aircraft during its flight about its functioning and relay the information to the plane’s home base to help provide information before it lands on whether maintenance work or repairs are needed. Though Malaysia Airlines did not subscribe to that service, their aircraft still had the capability to connect with the satellite and was automatically sending pings to it to establish contact.

“It’s like when your cellphone is off, but it still sends out a little ‘I am here’ message to the cellphone network,” the official said. “That’s how sometimes they can triangulate your position even though you’re not calling because the phone every so often sends out a little bleep. That’s sort of what this thing was doing.”

However, there was no comment from Boeing.

Messages involving a different, more rudimentary data service also were received from the airliner for a short time after the plane’s transponder – a device used to identify the plane to radar – went silent, the official said.

A transponder is a radio transmitting device in the cockpit used to identify the aircraft to the ground radar with a four-digit identifying code known as the squawk code entered by the pilot for each flight. The transponder also helps air traffic controllers on the ground to ascertain the aircraft’s position, its altitude, speed, and direction.

There are codes for different situations: 7500 for a hijacking, 7600 for communications failure, etc.

A switch on the transponder can be moved to “ON” or “SBY” (standby) or “ALT” (altitude). Manually one can also pull the circuit breaker to turn off a transponder.

A transponder would be turned off during a normal flight if another aircraft gets closer while approaching an airport. The Air traffic controllers may then ask the pilots to switch off the transponders or to move the switch to SBY. At times the pilot might turn off the transponder if it sends faulty information. Even if the transponder is switched off the aircraft will still be visible on primary radar unless it gets below the radar’s visible range.

If the plane had disintegrated during flight or had suffered some other catastrophic failure, after the aircraft was last seen on Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar at 02:40, all signals – the pings to the satellite, the data messages and the transponder – would have stopped at the same time.

If the plane did not disintegrate during the flight and the transponders on the aircraft were disabled manually, the ground radar can still track the location of the aircraft using “passive radar systems” also known as “passive coherent location” and “passive covert radar.”

Passive radar systems

Conventional radar systems comprise an assembly of transmitter and receiver, sharing a common antenna to transmit and receive signals. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio waves or microwaves that bounce off any object in their path. The object echoes a tiny part of the wave’s energy to a dish or antenna that is usually located at the same site as the transmitter. The time taken for the pulse to travel to the object and back allows the distance of the object to be determined.

In a passive radar system, there is no dedicated transmitter. Instead, the receiver uses third-party transmitters in the environment, and measures the time difference of arrival between the signal coming directly from the transmitter and the signal arriving via reflection from the object. This allows the bistatic range of the object to be determined.

The term “bistatic range” refers to the basic measurement of distance calculated by a radar or sonar system with separated transmitter and receiver. The receiver measures separately the time for the arrival of the signal directly from the transmitter and the time for the arrival of the reflection from the target, and then measures the time difference between the two. This data defines an ellipse of constant bistatic range, called an iso-range contour, on which the target lies, with foci centred on the transmitter and receiver.

Illustration of bistatic range by Paul Howland (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Illustration of bistatic range by Paul Howland (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

If the target is at range Rrx from the receiver and range Rtx from the transmitter, and the receiver and transmitter are a distance L apart, then the bistatic range is Rrx+Rtx-L. Motion of the target causes a rate of change of bistatic range, which results in bistatic Doppler shift.

Malaysia Airlines MH370 change of course (Source: fox6now.com)

Malaysia Airlines MH370 change of course (Source: fox6now.com)

On Wednesday, March 12, 2014, the Malaysian military acknowledged that it had recorded radar signals from the location where the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was last contacted by ground controllers, hypothetically indicating the aircraft might have changed its path from its northeastward course toward Beijing towards the west.

The Military radar detected an unidentified aircraft at several points, apparently headed west across the Malaysian peninsula and out into the Indian Ocean. The last detected point was hundreds of miles to the west of where search and rescue efforts were initially focused.

On Saturday when the aircraft went missing, the military took no immediate action to investigate the unidentified blips, whose path appeared to take the aircraft near the heavily populated island of Penang.

A senior US official told CNN that Malaysian authorities believe they have several “pings” from the airliner’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), transmitted to  the satellites in the four to five hours after the last transponder signal, suggesting the plane flew to the Indian Ocean.

The Military officials then realized the significance of blips on their radar.

If Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 crashed into the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean with depths of more than 23,000 feet (7,000 meters), the task faced by searchers would be indomitable like finding a needle in a haystack.

India joined the multi-national search operations and has stepped up its search deploying three aircraft and three ships in the region around Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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The Gulabi Gang – The Fearless Women in Pink


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Sampat Pal Devi and her Gulabi Gang members  (Source: i.facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi)

Sampat Pal Devi and her Gulabi Gang members (Source: facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi)

These women dressed in pink and with laathi (bamboo stick) in their hands are fearless!

Their leader Sampat Pal Devi is a mother of five children and a former government health worker. She has a long list of criminal charges against her: unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking government employees, obstructing officers in the discharge of duty, beating a policeman for abusing her, and so on. Once she even went underground to hide from the law. However, her actions have secured notable victories for the community.

Sampat Pal Devi (Source: facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi

Sampat Pal Devi (Source: facebook.com/pages/Sampat-Pal-Devi

Sampat Pal Devi (born 1960) is a tough woman with a commanding personality. She hails from the Bundelkhand area in the state of Uttar Pradesh – one of the poorest region in India and notorious for its rebels-turned-armed bandits. Sampat is a vigilante and activist fighting for the rights of women in the villages.

She was given in marriage to an ice-cream vendor at the tender age of 12. She bore her first child, a girl, at 15.

In 2006, responding to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women, Sampat Pal Devi formed the Gulabi Gang (Hindi गुलाबी gulabī, “pink”), a group of Indian women vigilantes. Most Gulabi members dress in pink and carry laathis in their hand.

Despite being born into a traditional family and married off early, Sampat evolved into a charismatic leader who acts as judge and jury for girls and women who are being abused by outlawed patriarchal traditions and the caste system.

Sampat and her gang are constantly on the move fighting causes for the betterment of the community. They crusade against child marriages, dowry, and female illiteracy.

To demand their rights, the rebellious women gang submits petitions and verbally attacks corrupt officials, sneering policemen and complaisant bureaucrats. They visit abusive husbands and beat them up with laathis and warn them to stop abusing their wives in the future.

They usually travel by cart and tractor. At times, they undertake long journeys by bus and train, to fight for justice for women and dalits and other untouchable people.

In 2008, when her village was deprived of electricity because the officials of the department expected to extract bribes and sexual favours from the women, she and her stick-wielding Gulabi Gang stormed the premises of the electricity department, locked the concerned officials in a room until they cried for mercy. An hour after they left the premises, the power was on in their village.

In 2008, the group was reported to have 20,000 members as well as a chapter in Paris, France. Now, the Gulabi Gang has taken root in Banda, Mahoba, Chitrakot, Fatehpur, Farrukhabad, Kanpur, Allahabad, Etawah and Bijnore and has about 300,000 women members.

The Gulabi gang is the subject of the 2010 movie Pink Saris by Kim Longinotto as is the 2012 documentary Gulabi Gang by Nishtha Jain.

Initially, it was reported that the Bollywood film, Gulaab Gang, starring Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla as leads, is based on Sampat Pal’s life, but the director denied this, saying that he recognizes the work done by Sampat, but his movie is not based on her life.

Gulabi Gang's esrtwhile leader Sampat Pal (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Gulabi Gang’s esrtwhile leader Sampat Pal (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in)

Now, the all-women Gulabi Gang is heading for a split as there is a tussle in leadership. On Sunday, March 2, 2014, six years after its inception, the group’s founder commander Sampat Pal Devi was dethroned by the Maharashtra based national convener of Gulabi gang Jayprakash Shivhare at a meeting in Banda following allegations of financial irregularities – “taking money for resolving the problems of poor and suffering women,” and “involvement in self promotion” at the cost of the organization’s mission.

The national convener of Gulabi Gang, Jayprakash Shivhare said:

“There is huge resentment in the organization against Pal. She had been playing in the hands of the Congress party… She had stopped holding meetings of the group and used to take decisions autocratically. She contested Assembly elections on
Congress ticket without taking any suggestion from other members of the group… Later, she decided to visit Rae Bareli along with other members and campaign in support of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and against Aam Aadmi Party.”

“She also went to TV reality show Bigg Boss without consulting the working committee of the group. She had gradually become extremely selfish and minting money at the cost of the organization… Removing her from all posts was the only option left with us. Since she has been defying decisions of the group, it was decided that she would no longer be its primary member.”

Suman Singh Chauhan, commander of Mahoba unit has been appointed as interim commander of the group and a seven-member committee has been constituted to run the organization as of now. A meeting of the group has been convened on March 23 to elect a full-time commander.

However, Sampat Pal Devi, asserted her authority saying she was still the leader of the Gulabi Gang.

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