Solar Shirts in India by Sam Kligman

Santipada GonChaudhury is a specialist in photovoltaic design and is working in Kolkata to see if he can create a solar shirt that will “keep the wearer cool during hot days.” If he is successful, I imagine this will be a great boon to much of India where the heat can become almost unbearable. Moreover, since he plans to sell them for roughly Rs 1,600 (a little over the average cost of a tee there), I see the business as having the potential for being a commercial success.

If the technology works, I imagine it will revolutionize clothing design. However, for the business to be a success, great care and attention to detail need to be taken with regard to its design in order to garner consumer demand. Furthermore, if the company succeeds in becoming financially successful, I believe it will act as a leader for clothing manufacturers (most of which have not been integrating technology into their products) until integrated technology in clothing becomes ubiquitous. Fortunately, one of the companies we will visit is a textile and garment manufacturer so we will be able to ask first hand if this is something they plan on investing in and get a true pulse on the integrated tech industry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vegetarian India by Sam Kligman

In this article the founder of People of Animals, Manek Gandhi, makes the point that vegetarianism is the “only way to save the planet.” She argues that “even athletes turn vegetarians some five to six days before a tournament.”

It is well documented that there are great advantages to being vegetarian such as longer average life span, lower cholesterol, better attention span, and less environmental footprint. However, she goes on to say that it is not a, “coincidence that [people who are] are so well educated and affluent.”

Being a vegetarian myself, I agree with her that the diet has many health and mental benefits but the idea of vegetarianism as causal to success seems silly. Still, I suppose I wouldn’t mind if it were.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

India: The Nearly-Power by Sam Kligman

This article describes why India, while usually considered among the great countries of the world, is not as powerful as it could be. It illuminates some positive features of India such as how it “shares many Western values” and is “culturally rich” but states that it remains a modest power, primarily because it does not “go looking for trouble” when it comes to military leadership.

This initially stuck me as surprising because one would expect a country that is surrounded by so many enemies to have a very solid strategic military foundation and without such might not exist. Moreover, since India has a vast and well respected navy, this also had me take aback. However, the article pointed out that India’s “bureaucrats show little interest in grand strategy” and have wisely kept its generals out of the political sphere in order to avoid dictatorial regimes. Moreover, it suggested that India’s creed of semi-pacifism and “non-alignment” makes this less of a possibility.

While I agree with the author’s advice that the country should build a bigger foreign service and take more bold stances, I don’t think it should give up its philosophies of non-alignment at the risk of irritating China. Non-alignment goes hand in hand with its people’s beliefs of pacifism. To drop this entirely would be to say to hell with thousands of years of culture which frankly, is essentially impossible.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hinduism vs. Buddhism in India by Aliya Zarate

Religion has been an important part of the culture in any country around the world. Some of the world’s major religious traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were born in India. In this article I would like to focus on Hinduism and Buddhism simply because I personally did not have much knowledge about them and wanted to learn the main principles as well as the differences between the two religions. All around the world Indian religions have influenced countries. There are so many Indian concepts that became so popular in the Western countries, such as Yoga, Karma, Meditation, that I wanted to learn of their origins, especially that I’m about to discover India for myself this summer.

The majority of Indian population is Hindu people, practicing Hinduism. They account for more than 80% of the total population. Hinduism is considered to be the oldest religion in the world. The religious rituals, songs and traditions were all recorded in the books called the Vedas. The Vedas were written in Sanskrit and were divided between the?ruti (“what is heard”) andsm?ti (“what is remembered”).  Center to the beliefs of Hinduism is the idea of reincarnation. Reincarnation is a belief in that when you die, your spirit is reborn again into another life form. A person’s goal is to be reborn into a highest caste system than the life before. The higher you are in the caste system, the closer you are to Moksha – the liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Hinduism is polytheistic, which means that Hindi believe in many gods and goddesses. There are five primary forms of God: Shiva “The Destroyer”, Vishnu “The Preserver”, Devi “The Great Goddess”, Surya “The chief of solar deity”, and Ganesha “The Remover of Obstacles”, who are all seen as equal reflections of the oneBrahman “The Creator”.

Buddhism is actually based on Hinduism. Buddhists represent less than 1% of Indian population. Even though Buddhism was born in India, it is the most popular religion in countries like Japan, Thailand, China, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

The religion began with Hindu Prince Siddhartha Gauthama. He made it mission in life to figure out the way to end human suffering which he eventually did through intense meditation. He was enlightened and given the title of Buddha. He determined that there were four truths in this world that would help people end their sufferings in life:

1.     Suffering exists in the world

2.     Suffering is caused by desire

3.     To eliminate suffering, you must first eliminate desire

4.     To eliminate desire you must follow the Eightfold path.

Eightfold path is simply having the right understanding, speech, livelihood, concentration, mindfulness, effort, action, and intention. A common symbol in

There are many similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism. The first major similarity is the belief in Dharma, which is the teaching of your religion. The second similarity is Karma, which refers to your actions. Good action will earn you good Karma, bad actions will earn you bad Karma. The third similarity is the belief in reincarnation, which is mostly affected by your Karma. The better your Karma, the better your next life would be.  Both religions have the common ultimate spiritual goal. Hindus have Moksha which I mentioned above. Buddhists believe in Nirvana, which means becoming one with the Universe.  Finally both belief systems have a strong respect for life and it is against both religions to damage, or hurt, or kill any living being.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Feed the Iron Lady” by Joshua Bingham

The Economist:

Northeastern India is an area looked down upon by many “mainland” Indians; one could think of it as the country’s ugly, redheaded stepchild. It is connected to the rest of India by a small strip of land that is surrounded by the countries of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China. The area has experienced a lot of insurgent activity over the past couple of decades; separatists seek to break away from mainland India. Indian soldiers are garrisoned throughout the area to keep the insurgent groups at bay. However, the Indians who call the northeast home despise the presence and actions of these soldiers. A government mandate, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, protects the soldiers from normal laws. Accusations of rape, abduction, murder, and torture have been pointed at the soldiers stationed there. One woman from the northeastern Manipur province has been on a hunger strike since 2000. The only way she remains alive is through a forced-feeding tube. Irom Sharmila, “The Iron Lady of Manipur,” began her strike after hearing of ten civilians being murdered at a bus stop by soldiers in Manipur. She wants the government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act immediately, or else she will not give up her mission.

This northeastern section of India is home to 46 million people and is very backwards, even compared to the rest of India. Large numbers of the population have been fleeing the area for some time now. They are tired of the lack of opportunities and the violence among the separatists and soldiers. Cash sent by the government to this area is supposed to go towards helping the population, yet most of the funds end up in the hands of corrupt officials. According to some experts, there have been signs of hope. Recent elections in a few of the provinces were successful and insurgent activity seems to be on the wane, meaning soldiers stay in their barracks. Thousands of residents continue to leave however.

A number of solutions to the problems in the northeast have been proposed. Opening up trade between Myanmar and the northeast has been put forth as a way to increase the opportunities in the region. The hope is to decrease insurgent activity by improving the economic situation. This sounds like a good idea, but even more needs to be done. First, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act needs to be repealed. That will at least get some real food down the Iron Lady’s throat and lessen the fears of millions of north-easterners. Second, there must be a massive build-out of infrastructure projects. Third, education and trade schools must be improved; without education the people living in these regions will forever be dependent on the central government and insurgent activity will continue to flourish. Lastly, the central government in Delhi must stop sending large amounts of money to the area. It does not go to the people in need. It goes towards lining the pockets of corrupt officials. The money must be put directly in the hands of the people. They are the ones who know what it needs to be put towards. The government must give them the tools to help themselves; only then will you improve the lives of those millions of people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Will the Caste System Destroy Itself?” by Joshua Bingham

This is an interesting article on India’s caste system during the 21st century. The author comes from an upper-caste family who had a dalit, or untouchable, service them for over 35 years. I do not know much about the caste system in India, but this has definitely made some things clearer to me. To begin with, I was never sure whether or not the caste system was an official or unofficial practice. According to the author of this article, that is one of the most interesting aspects of the practice, there is no legal mandate. “[The] caste system is an informal, self-perpetuating institution that has resisted half-a-century worth of (ham-handed) government efforts to eradicate it.” This flows into the second point of interest, the author’s family never actually obtained a dalit to service them; rather she was thrust upon them, in a way. Maya, the dalit in the article, obtained the right to service ten homes during her marriage, the author’s being one of the ten. There are no legal documents clarifying these rights, nor are they enforceable. However, no other dalit would ever question Maya’s right to those homes; that would be considered theft among the dalit community and would lead to ostracization for the perpetrator.

Maya, and other dalits, perform household duties that Indians of higher castes feel are below them. These duties include the cleaning of bathrooms, the removal of trash, yard work, etc. Even more interesting is the power the dalits seem to hold over the families they service. Because the upper caste Indians do not want to do the work, they are wise not to anger the ones who do. The author uses the example of Maya and her scrubbing. The author’s mother was never truly satisfied with Maya’s work when it came to this chore and would occasionally lose her temper. When this happened Maya simply left the home and would not return without an apology. The author’s mother would eventually relent as the trash began piling up and the cleaning went undone. Thinking of the caste system, one would never guess that this was the case. I have always had this image in my head of docile servants who do all the dirty work and are at the family’s beck and call.

As the 21st century moves forward, the Indian economy continues to grow with more of its population entering the middle class. More modern devices and services are being introduced in the country. Trash collection has apparently never been very organized. According to the author, in the past it was a task undertaken by the dalits. However, some of the municipalities have begun trash collection services using vehicles and paid workers. This development has angered the dalits as they see it as an encroachment into their territory. But it is clear that no one will be able to stop progress. The caste system is an archaic practice that is perpetuated by some of the very people it keeps down. For many dalits, the life is all they know. For me, that is the most surprising truth of the caste system. Who would want to remain at the lowest level of society? Then again, change is hard. It will be interesting to see what happens to the caste system as India continues to grow. It will more than likely be destroyed, but not without a fight from the people who would, it seems, benefit the most from its destruction.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“We May Still Be Developing…But We’re Not Stupid” by Joshua Bingham

The Wall Street Journal:

Italy must have forgotten that there are a lot of smart people living and working in India. Last year, two Italian Marines were aboard an Italian commercial ship and mistook two Indian fishermen as pirates. The two Marines fired on the men and fatally wounded them. The incident took place off the coast of the Indian state of Kerala. Recently, the two Marines were allowed to go home during a four-week period to vote in Italy’s elections; they have yet to return and probably never will. This was not the first time they had been allowed to return home by Indian authorities; they were able to visit their families over the Christmas holidays, and returned. The major issue between the two countries is where the crime supposedly happened. Following the incident, the two men were detained by Indian authorities. The Indian Supreme Court announced in January that the two men would face trial in a special Indian court. However, Italian authorities claim that the incident took place in international waters and that they should be tried in Rome. During their most recent visit home, the Italian government sent a statement to the Indian government that the two Marines would not be sent back to India for trial. Italy also accused India of violating international maritime laws.

Needless to say, this has created a firestorm within the Indian government and among the Indian people. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that if the two men are not returned to India for trial, there will be consequences in the relationship between the two countries. Other officials have called for the dismissal of Italy’s Ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini, who personally guaranteed that the two Marines would return.

This is a sticky situation for the two countries to be in. It would appear that Italy is trying to ignore India’s presence on the world stage. One would think that the Italians do not regard India as a legitimate enough power to warrant going along with their demands. Now that the two Marines are back in their home country, it is highly unlikely that they will ever return to India to face trial. There must have been a better way to go about this than not returning from their approved leave. Indian officials have been kind enough to let them leave on two separate occasions. The Italians completely destroyed the trust Indian officials placed on them and this could very well damage future diplomatic relations between the two.

What do you think? The two men claim that they fired on the fishermen because they thought they were pirates; both fishermen were killed. In addition, they may or may not have been in international waters during the time of the incident. So where should they be tried? I think the two men should be tried in India. They did kill two Indian citizens. However, I can also see the Italian argument that they were in international waters and were simply doing their duty to protect a commercial ship, which they perceived to be in danger of a pirate attack. The way that Italy has gone about it, however, is all wrong. The two men should return and take responsibility.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Praying to Allah for Change” by Joshua Bingham

The Economist:

In 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a study to be performed that ascertained the situation of Muslims in his country. The report, known as the Sachar report, found that the majority of Muslims were stuck at the bottom of nearly “every economic or social heap.” The big question posed by the article cited above is whether or not, after 7 years and rapid economic growth, the Muslim population in the country is better off. Some private studies estimate that the Muslim population numbers around 177 million people, or 14.6% of the current population. In addition, another private group estimates over the next two decades that number will increase to 236 million Muslims. That is larger than the current Muslim population in Indonesia, the largest such group anywhere in the world. The fertility rate among Muslim women is very high. Some point to the fact that many Muslim women do not work outside of the home and contraception is not regularly used. What is more revealing is that fertility rates normally fall only when the poverty rate falls. With such dramatic growth over the next few decades, the Muslim situation in India does not appear very hopeful.

According to the original Sachar report, a majority of the Muslim population is urban. However they are not well represented in public jobs, schools or universities, or politics. “They earned less than other groups, were more excluded from banks and other finance, spent fewer years in school and had lower literacy rates. Pitifully few entered the army or the police force.” Since the report, some experts claim that education among Muslims has increased significantly; the article cites the growth of schools in the slums of east New Delhi. Other experts claim that this is simply due to circumstances. As traditional craft jobs decline (weaving, leather, and metal-working), Muslims are forced to find new means of survival. Increasing the attendance of Muslim children in schools will provide more opportunities for them; which will also help to decrease the poverty rate.

What will be interesting to see is whether or not Indian political parties realize the power that the Muslim population possesses in the country. The current ruling Congress Party has, in the past, relied on rural votes, as well as votes from the Muslim minority. Yet, over the past couple of years, the Congress Party has neglected their Muslim constituents, which could lead them to find more productive political representation. I think that the Indian government needs to put a lot of focus on the position of Muslims within their country. As their numbers continue to rise, they will gain more and more power. Any politician who ignores the Muslim minority will certainly experience some headwinds. Also, where are all the entrepreneurs? With such a large numbers, one would think that there are plenty of opportunities for businesses to make money while at the same time helping to improve the situation.

What do you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Ore My God! Jindal Steel and Power Ltd.” by Joshua Bingham

Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., is a powerhouse in the Indian economy. The article cited above details the incredible expansion the company is undertaking to increase its resource capacities in order to double its steel production and triple its electricity generation by 2015. Analysts estimate that demand for both steel and electricity will grow 9% annually over the next five years. Why is that? The Indian government, recognizing the countries horrible infrastructure (which is ranked below Kazakhstan and Guatemala), is embarking on a massive building spree. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is hoping to bring in over $1 trillion dollars of investment in order to fund all of the infrastructure development.

Reading the article, you can’t help but be impressed by the power and breadth of the Jindal company. It is positioned perfectly to reap huge benefits from these massive federal projects. But it is even more impressive when reading about all the positions it has outside of India. For example, the company is looking to spend $2 billion dollars in Botswana on a 600 megawatt coal power plant. The company is also acquiring iron ore mines in Africa, Ukraine, Australia, and Indonesia. The list goes on and on. Within India, it is currently building a 2,400 megawatt plant in Chhattisgarh and a steel plant in the Angul district of Odisha state.

How have Indian companies, like Jindal Power and Steel Ltd., become such powerhouses in the past couple of decades? The company is rapidly expanding overseas, buying up resources and establishing positions in foreign markets, in addition to its activities at home. With the Indian economy continuing to grow, and more people rising into the middle class, it is no wonder that home-grown companies like Jindal are profiting. Why are major foreign companies not holding a position in this rapid expansion? The answer has a lot to do with the distrust Indian’s possess towards foreign companies and foreign investment. According to Tarun Khanna, author of Billions of Entrepreneurs, distrust of these two goes back to Britain and its East India Trading Company during the colonization of India. This bitter taste of history has made many Indians wary of foreign companies trying to enter the market. (Khanna gives a great example in his book of German wholesale company Metro Cash and Carry, and the trials and tribulations it has experienced in the country.) This has allowed Indian companies like Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. and Tata Motors to really make a name for themselves.

It will be interesting to see how these massive Indian companies evolve as India’s economy continues to grow and eventually levels out. From the article, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. is clearly establishing itself outside of India in order to set itself up for success when other opportunities arise down the road. The big question, would this company ever have risen to its current level if Indian’s did not possess such distrust towards foreign companies and foreign investment?

What do you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“A Sad Case of Caste” by Joshua Bingham

December 16, 2012 is a day of regret for the 28-year old information technology specialist, who was witness to the rape of a 23-year old college graduate in New Delhi. We all heard the news when it happened. On that evening, the young couple had just seen the “Life of Pi” movie and were headed home. According to the male witness (real names have not been released due to the nature of the case), the rape victim didn’t want to hang around the theater any longer because she was tired. He eventually relented and they caught the bus that would change their lives forever. After a few minutes of driving, the male witness realized that the four other passengers were not good characters. The other men quickly pounced on the couple; beating the male witness and taking the female victim to the back of the bus where they repeatedly raped her. After the brutality, the two victims were tossed naked from the bus, like trash. Not only were native Indians horrified, but people throughout the world were saddened by these terrible events. The rape victim died from her injuries a few days later at a hospital in Singapore.

What is even sadder about these events is the relationship shared between the victim and the witness. The witness comes from a wealthy, high-caste Brahmin background. Whereas the victim came from an agrarian, lower-caste Kurmi background. The two met through a mutual friend and immediately became close, sharing everything with each other. Unfortunately, due to the differences in caste, the couple hesitated moving any further than being friends. Their fear of rejection as a married couple overrode their love for each other. In the first article by the Wall Street Journal (posted below), the male witnesses family states that if the couple had decided to pursue marriage, the family would have found a way to accept the relationship, and more importantly, the girl. Reading the article is heartbreaking. You can’t help but feel devastated for the male witness, the love of his life was taken from him, and he will never know what could have been.

As you read the story, you feel a little angry over the caste system still being practiced in India. Why did the couple not just decide to ignore it, and follow their hearts? What would have happened that night if there were no caste system? Would they have been married by that time with children? Perhaps, they wouldn’t have gone to the movies, and instead remained at home with their newborn child. We will never know. The male witness will forever be haunted by the “what-if”? The caste system in India is a practice that is holding India back from achieving its potential. It is so ingrained in the culture, even though there is no legal mandate for it, that opportunities are missed.

What will it take for India to cast off this silly practice and move forward? India and its people have so many wonderful things to offer this world; but by continuing to follow archaic practices there will be more sad events like this one where opportunities are missed. As I said in the beginning, December 16, 2012 is a night the male witness will never forget. And neither should the people of India, it should remind them of the opportunities before them and to not let anything stand in the way.

What do you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment