Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Typically Mizo

Some pictures that i took during my summer vacation, Zawlpui is a flat area where the rice bowl of serchhip it's where they grow their rice. 134 Families till the land in 115.9 hectare here.














































Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Indian learnings from Chinese Success


A lot has been said about the growing development of India and China and nothing could be more different. India & China during the 70’s were both at the same stage of development, if not, India was more developed but somewhere along the way the way the Chinese Hare has overtaken the Indian turtle. What ails India, what can India learn from the economic development of China.
Similarities:
I would like to first state the similarities between India and China in general, both are countries with a large land mass - China 9.6 million sq km; India: 2.97 million sq km and large population - : China 1.3 billion; India 1.1 billion, the growth rate for China and India are China 0.59% (death rate 0.697%, birth rate 1.325%); India 1.38% (death rate 0.818%, birth rate 2.201%)
The Parameters on which I’m going to judge their development:
Government:
Even though modern China was founded my Mao Zedong, the present government has evolved on to become highly professional based upon confuscian principles where meritocracy is given it’s due credit. If you notice, most of the leadership of china are graduate of Tsinghua (harvard or IIM of China) where the best and brightest are trained for leadership in the government. This could hardly be more contrasting with India where Polticians are not only criminals but also can contest elections behind bars.
It’s sometimes ironic that developing countries like India just ape the Westminster style of Parliament as well as government without taking notice of ground realities. I think it’s more important to tailor a type of Institutional Government more suited to local needs. For instance having a democratic institution where most of the voters are illiterate could lead to more exploitation and chaos. Even though the Chinese Government claims to be a communist country, it’s not strictly a communist government in the sense that that private enterprises have been allowed to flourish since the time of Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese have combined elements of both Socialistic and Capitalistic characteristics into their government. With more people being lifted out of poverty and getting into a middle class, I’m sure it will evolve on to a more Liberal Society.
People:
Indians are a diverse mix of very different communities of very different religions & economic conditions which is made more complex with the different caste systems. Even though invisible in modern society, underneath, the caste system still exist within India. Some people are expected to be members of a low caste community and are expected to do only low paying jobs by virtue of their lowly birth. The upper caste also try to guard their own domain to maintain their own exclusiveness. The Chinese in contrast are almost 100% literate and most of them speak the same language with no caste system and have more homogeneity than India.
It’s sad that the Western Media are trumpeting about the Indian Economic success despite people living in poverty & condemning china despite it's economic progress. Let me mention some of the sad facts about India. The Suicide by Farmers because of lack of ecological conservation as well as because of neglect, the marriage of underage girls being sold around because of the very lopsided sex ratio. Because of the high price that has to be paid for dowry, many Indian families prefer to have abortion rather than have a daughter, which is having a very adverse effect on the Indian society, as a result of which many sexually frustrated men frequently commit violent acts against illiterate underage girls as well as go to prostitutes which only aids in spreading of AIDS.
The Chinese Government has lifted the most number of people out of poverty in history whereas in India the rich keep on getting richer and the poor keep on dying. The streets of metro’s like Mumbai & Kolkota are a living hell where people live on the roadside with no water, sanitation or food and drink water from the drainage, defecate on the roadside & eat what’s leftover from garbage cans and live in tin sheds barely fitting a person, with huge families. The street children's are dirty & hungry and can only hope for food to steal, with no family planning, people are uncared for and live alongside palatial mansions and Maybach Limousines, such a paradox & difference in living standards will only lead to more revolts, insurgencies & naxalites. It’s not a surprise that India never wins a medal in the Olympics where the proportion of underweights & malnutrition children in India is 47.5%. There’s also hardly the feeling of being an Indian or a sense of community or pride in India as people in India hardly have any achievement to be proud of in sports besides cricket(played by just a dozen countries), lack of any major achievement except the success of billionaires whose riches hardly trickle down to the downtrodden. Indians identify themselves more along the lines of their language or caste, so if you’re from an upper caste, you’re taken care of but if you’re from a lower caste where people belonging to your community are just as economically backwards, you’re left to fend of yourself.
Some quick human development figures here for your information
Infant mortality rate in India 5.43%, China 2.31%
Life Expectancy at birth in India 64.71%, China 72.81%
Malnutrition India 57 Million China 7 Million
Infrastructure
The difference in attitude between the Indian and Chinese bureaucrats couldn’t be more different. Corruption in the government in India is something that’s taken for granted and expected from the lowest level of hierarchy onwards. The bureaucrats at the most try to make the process of setting up a business or dealing with them the most difficult and would only allow you a smooth process only if you’re willing to pay them bribes, but the chinese in contrast are open and are more than happy to have you establish your business in their country, city or district because the mayor or politician over there is judged by the confuscian principles of meritocracy, hence the amount of development work and investment he has brought to that region is a very important part of his evaluation for promotion to a higher job.
The chinese also in a way also have less stumbling blocks in matter of building up infrastructure – for instance to build an expressway which has to cross some private land, they government can just do it and the people cannot fight it in court due to their limited rights. The chinese also can build up large infrastructural projects like the three gorges dam – the largest dam in the world which would not doubt generate a large amount of electricity as well as do a lot of ecological damage. Nevertheless, the chinese are concentrating on privatizing loss making government industries as well as promote technology and innovation by investing a lot of money in Universities. The Chinese are now not only planning to put a man on the moon in the coming decade but are working on super fast bullet trains, building their own Jet Aircrat, having their own car Industry, the same with mobile phones, Fridge and television all made possible through the educated working population which produce low priced goods at good quality which is giving many of them a living standard that their ancestors could only dream of.
Some figures of Chinese success in Infrastructure.
GDP : China $ 2.25 Trillion India $700 Billion
Iron & Steel: China 349 million tons India 43 million tons
TV China 94 million India 32 million
Mobile phone China 437 million India 127 million
Internet China 111 million India 27.7 million
Expressway China 42,000 km India 4885 km
Electricity China 590,000 megawatts India 130,000 megawatts
Railroad China 74,000 km India 55,000 km
Airline passenger China 138 million India 52.12 million
Insurance premium China $60 billion India $ 23 billion
Patents China 2452 India 648
China may have to improve on giving it’s citizen more rights but India has a longer path to tread to keep up with it’s neighbor. Two big countries with huge population on the same continent, one developing faster than the other, it would do good for India to learn from it’s neighbor and continue to strive giving a better life to it’s cititizen.
Reference:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Seperation of Church & State in Mizoram

With the prevailing situation in Mizoram, I have always wanted to write something about seperation of church and state and analyze it.

The Church’s View Point

The propogaters for involvement of the Church in the business of the state feel that it’s their duty to guide the morality of the people in matter of crime, treatment of convicts, gambling, child labor, immigration, prostitution, poverty, marriage, spousal abuse, adultery, abortion, ethics, drug addiction, labor practices & inequalities of wealth. The church itself often find it hard to distinguish the overlap between the church and the state. The Church often finds it necessary to involve itself in matters of the state so that the State does not legislate & legalize sinful things like abortion, gay rights, gambling, Prostitution & drinking of alcohol.

Biblical Perspective

The bible is basically a political history of the Jews and there’s no denying that the church was equally involved in matters of the state during that time. During the time of Jesus, the Jewish priests and Scribes were not just religious leaders but were also involved in the day to day management of local affairs like collecting taxes, building roads etc. But on the question of paying taxes he had said “render unto ceaser what is ceaser’s showing his position with separation of the church & state.

Double standards of the Church in Mizoram

There’s a lot of religious pomp and show on Sunday in Mizoram, the streets are deserted with no vehicles plying the road, people dress up on their Sunday best to listen to sermons preached from the pulpit with pomp & show but the irony is that the Elder of the Church preaching about meekness of Jesus & way of salvation in the Church is robbing the common man the whole week by diverting funds meant for the public for his own purposes. The same men who kill a poor drunkard in the streets of the city do not find anything wrong with attending church & finding themselves pious. They are also totally against alcohol whereas they also do not see any harm in smoking at home. The clergy also do not question lay men who give in a lot of offering to the church not questioning it’s source, weather it’s money stolen from the public, rather they elevate such layment to positions of importance in the church. I just hope that the church is not being used as a way of feeling good and covering up the barbaric crimes against the poor people, the drug addict & the alcoholic. Ironically the Church is being used as the last refuge of the hypocritical corrupt people.

Secularist Perspective

Over the years, history has shown us that Theocracy (Government by God) in reality means government by God’s surrogates who sometimes administer policies for furthering their own interest. People like Thomas Jefferson, an architect of the American constitution believed that separation of the Church and state was necessary because of the millions who had died in the hands of the Church in Europe (Roman Catholic Church) because of a movement towards uniformity. It’s sad to see now the dominant Church in Mizoram, the Synod prohibiting establishment of churches in some villages as well as prohibiting business on Sunday, a day of worship for them.

As a kind of conclusion, I would like to say that looking behind at the history behind us, when the clergy unite with the government, they have usually resulted in suppression of civil and religious rights of people as they try to propagate a uniform religion. Religion should be a matter between man and God and no one else, that the Government should not legislate any law for the establishment of a particular religon or prohibit the exercise of the other. Uniformity in religion may be unattainable but unity in respect for each other’s right in the boundary of the law should be everyone’s right.

Reference:

http://JesusWouldBeFurious.Org /christianconservatism.html.

www.nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm

www.zoram.com

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mizoram Road Trip to Biate & Cherhlun

The pic here is taken on the road from Biate to Serchhip. Lovely hazy blue mountains.








River tiau with Hills of Burma on the other end











Cherhlun Khua (Village)











Bird's eye view from Biate Town









Musicale program @ Auroville

Went for a weekend to auroville, listened to musicale - Phantom of the Opera, Cats & West Side story. The choir sang really well, specialy liked the songs - Phantom of the opera & Macavity the mystery Cat.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Adventist Training School Near Jowai, Meghalaya



Principal's house - cozy house - stayed here from 1984-1986. I love the lawn and the pear tree in the backyard.









Left Hand Drive Willys Jeep, It was still there in 1986.




The backside of the School with the School Chapel in View
















Took this picture with tall pine trees on both sides of the road



Beautiful rolling hills full of pine trees




The hills here lazily roll around with lakes and rivers in between. Clean air free of pollution, green grass, lots of wild life & herbs in the forest.



An Old Army Truck - Shaktiman used for carrying coal from mines, it's quite powerful being a 4 wheel drive vehicle.



The Joining River Dam, which is no longer there now.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Roadside Prayer Signboards

This one's in Pondicherry near an Auto Stand - They're pretty broad minded i'd say - worshiping all the gods, a good insurance against hell I guess ;-)










And in Mizoram, when we go for travelling on long distance journey, it's a custom to stop on the outskirts of the town or city to have a prayer for peaceful journey. the boards put up here are by government & different protestant denominations of Mizoram.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Auroville - Pondicherry




The Spiritual Center - Matri Mandir right in the middle of Auroville




Inside view of the Matri Mandir - a place of spiritual meditation




A typical road in auroville - unpaved, with lots of green trees, a few years back when this was started, it was all barren land.



A round curved shaped house - looks like something straight out of an Asterix Comics book, one reason i like about this place is that all the blaring noise, ugly advertisements, the competition for more money or greed is more inconspicuous here



A stone house - it has a small pond around the house with a rock garden, very beautiful.




The Pyramid of Giza - well almost looks like it, another of the beautiful buildings




The Bamboo huts near the beach





The Waves beating on the sandy shores of Pondy

for more info about auroville you can check out their site at auroville.org

Insurance – Basic concepts as I understand

*Brief History*

Insurance has been around for a long time tracing back to 2^nd and 3^rd
BC by the chinese and babylonians, it has been basically used to hedge
the potential of financial loss. So with this concept in mind, Insurance
was usually started by pooling resources to mitigate losses, in fact in
the US, The Presbyterian Synods in Philadelphia and
New York were the first to create the Corporation for Relief of Poor and Distressed Widows and
Children of Presbyterian Ministers in 1759 Episcopalian priests organized a similar
fund in 1769.

Life Insurance in India started in 1818 with the creation of the
Oriental life Insurance company. At present there are more than 10 life
Insurance companies in India.

insurance business can be divided into two broad categories, Life and
Non – Life. Life Insurance is concerned with making provision for a
specific event happening to the individual, such as death whereas Non -
Life (or General Insurance) is more commonly concerned with the
provision for a specific event that affects a property (Building, Ship,
Hull, Cargo, Motor Car etc), such as fire, flood, theft etc.

*Need for Insurance*

Life is full of uncertainities, Before joining Insurance, I was working
for an NGO for a while helping to rehabilitate the Tsunami affected
people of the coast of Tamil Nadu in Cuddallore and Nagapattinam. It is
well understood that no one can measure the value of life but we can
certainly measure the earning potential of individual, many parents died
leaving their children orphaned without any care taker, or left many
women without their husband becoming widows and not being able to live a
normal life, Even the surviving Fishermen were left without their Boats
and net, even without their shelter. Utlimately we're all at the mercy
of Nature which we can never predict. The only way that we can mitigate
these losses is by investing a small amount of our income as insurance.


1. All individuals have Tangible assets like:

1. Houses: which are on the hillside, which can move down the
mountain if there's a landslide.

2. Car : Lots of us have vehicles which are not insured, with out
very narrow roads and steep mountains, it may sometimes make more
ecnonomic sense to leave the vehicles where they are then retrieve
it.

We can also insure Intangible assets like:

1.Voice of a singer: Reading Magazines, we can know that many people
earn their living by Singing. It would make lots of sense if Spi ,
Michael Sailo or Vanlalsailova Insured their voice so that they
would still earn even when they get a throat cancer.

2. Leg of a footballer: I guess Mama of East Bengal is quite famous
among us, even he could make us of insuring his legs when Jennifer
Lopez can Insure her buttocks.

3. Hand of an author: Many of our famous Authors also could make us
of this in the even of an accident.

*Uses of Life Insurance : *

Life insurance is a useful tool for a number of situations, including:

1. Temporary need or threats: With a majority of the population involved
in Agricultural farming, which in turn depends upon the rain, sometimes
incomes are not sure which can be mitigated by insuring for losses in
case of bad crop.

2. Investment: It's very hard to save money just by saving but by saving
and investing we can get better returns as just saving money may not
keep up with inflation.

3. Retirement: With our culture becoming more westernized day by day,
one has to plan wisely for old age so that they can live in dignity in
old age and to maintain their lifestyle and live in dignity and not go
around begging. It would also make lot of sense to plan for retirement
specially for those not employed in organized Sectors

*Advantages*

It is superior to a traditional saving vehicle

1. Along with providing a secure vehicle to build up savings etc., it
provides peace of mind to the policyholder. In the event of untimely
death, of say the main earner in the family, the policy will pay out the
guaranteed sum assured or amount he is supposed to recieve, which is
likely to be significantly more than the total premiums paid.

With more traditional savings vehicles, such as fixed deposits, the only
return would be the amount invested plus any interest accrued which
would be much lower than a unit linked life Insurance plan.

2. It also encourages saving and forces thrift. Once an insurance
contract has been entered into, the insured has an obligation to
continue paying premiums until the end of the term of the policy,
failing which the policy will lapse and the policy may no longer be
valid. In other words, it pressurizes the insured to save regularly and
spend wisely.

In contrast savings held in a deposit account can be accessed or stopped
easily.



3. It provides easy settlement and protection against creditors

Once a person is appointed for receiving the benefits (nomination) or a
transfer of rights is made (assignment), a claim under the Life
Insurance contract can be settled easily. In addition, creditors have no
rights to any money paid out by the insurer, where the policy is written
under trust.

4. It helps to achieve the purpose of the Life Assured

If someone receives a large sum of money, it is possible that they may
spend the money unwisely or in a speculative way. To overcome this, the
person taking the policy can instruct the insurer that the claim amount
is given in installments.

For Example, if the total amount to be received by the dependents is Rs.
2,00,000.

Say Rs. 50,000 can be taken out as a lump sum and the balance paid out
in smaller installments, say Rs. 5,000 per month.

5. It can be encashed and facilitates quick borrowing

Some contracts may allow the policy to be withdrawn for a cash amount,
if a policyholder is not in a position to pay the premium. A loan, from
certain policies, can be taken for a temporary period to tide over the
difficulty. Some lending institutions will accept a Life Insurance
policy as collateral for a personal or commercial loan.



*Life Insurance Products: *

There are baiscally two types of Life Insurance Products:

1. Term Assurance Contract is one where the sum assured is payable on
the happening of the event during the term.

2. Pure Endowment Contract is one where the sum assured is payable on
survival up to the end of the term.

All plans of Life Insurance are either Term Assurance or Pure Endowment
or a combination of the two in different and varied proportions.

Namely, there are four basic classes of life insurance contracts.

They are:

1. Term Insurance

2. Whole Life Insurance

3. Endowment

4. Annuities

5. Unitlinked

Term Insurance Plan provides cover for a specified period or term only,
and may also be described as Temporary Insurance. The policy is
applicalbe only when the person dies during the term period or when the
policy is valid at the time of death of the individual. The premiums
under this plan are payable from the date of commencement to the date of
the death of the life assured, and the sum assured is payable by the
insurer on death. There are, however, minor variations of this product
where insurers accept premium only up to age 80 or 85 .

Annuities start where Life Insurance ends. It is called the 'Reverse of
Life Insurance'. In annuity contracts, a person agrees to pay to the
insurer a specified capital amount in lump sum or in installments in
return for a promise from the insurer to make a series of payments to
him so long as he lives.

*Unitlnked*

Another interesting aspect of Insurance these days is Unitlinked
products which are directly linked to the value of the fund. This kind
of unitlnked products yield a better return specially as a buffer
against inflation. For Instance, the sum assured considered adequate
today would have a much lower value maybe 20 to 25 years down the line.
Depending upon one's appetite for risk, one can choose different plans.
These funds are further invested into Blue Chip Companies or other
Mutual funds.
A common objection to life insurance is that the returns are not good.
Although life insurance is not an investment and the criterion of return
or yield is inappropriate, the concern is real, particularly in the
context of inflation. The sum assured, considered adequate today, may
have a much lower value on maturity, after say 20 or 25 years. Just
consider the dowry price for bride in Mizoram, about 50 years ago, Rs
300 could have brought you a cow or a buffalo, which was a considerable
amount of money but just think of it now, with inflation that has gone
up in the past, we would not be able to buy things of the same value 50
years ago with the Same amount again. To solve these kinds of problems
and lessen some burden of insurer in terms of risk and interest rate,
insurers have developed *Unit Linked Plans*. The value of the plan (the
amount paid on death or maturity) is directly linked to the value of the
fund. Again there are different funds to choose from depending upon the
appetite of risk that an individual may have. A unit could be defined as
a function of the fund, which the unit holder joins. It has a face
value, say of Rs. 10 per unit. Another feauture of Unitlinked policies
is that Unlike Mutual Funds, which have a maturity period of say 10
years, the Sum Assured can be realized on death of LA with immediate
effect.

*Underwriting:*

The process by which the level of risk are evaluated is called
Underwriting. The Underwriting process is an important one in the life
insurance office. If the risk is wrongly assessed, the premium charged
would not be appropriate. A lower premium affects the solvency of the
fund. The cost of the additional risk, not recovered from the proposer
would have to be borne by the rest of the policyholders. The Physical
Hazards vary according to age, sex and build



*Financial Underwriting*

One of the indicators of moral hazard is the size of the insurance
proposed compared to the income.

The extent of insurable interest of a person in his own life is
unlimited. It is not limited to his current levels of income, because it
is assumed that these levels can go up any time. The need for insurance
has to be related to current situations and not to a desirable situation
of the future. Making a judgment on these financial aspects is called
Financial Underwriting.

Claim is a natural culmination of promise made by the company at the
time of entering into contract. The promise was to pay the stipulated
sum assured on the happening of an insured contingency (event). Under
Term Insurance/Whole Life policies, the insured contingency would be
death. Under Endowment policies it would be maturity or death. When this
contingency takes place, the insurance company can redeem its promise by
paying out the claim amount.The efficiency of any life insurance company
is measured by how effectively it handles the last of its service - i.e.
settlement of claim.

*Social Security: *

Life Insurance can also becoming a vehicle for carrying forward social
security to the people of INdia, in particular to the Farmers and
economically weaker sections of the society. We have to learn that the
Institution of Insurance has to be proved to be a reliable as well as a
vialble means of carry forward the benefits of social security.

With Banks being the only means of investment in our state, we have to
change our mindset and see Insurrance just beyond “Risk Covers but also
a long term investment. With Bank rates of deposit coming down,
Insurance now a days has become more of a financial saving tool with the
person Insuring in the right place.

Won't it be great if an individual could go upon his work or duties
without worry about future marriage cost, premature death to the main
income provider or just thinking that there would be regular income
after retirement. This would also certainly helped in the economical
growth of the country.

We may wonder now, where those all the premium paid to the Insurance
company go?? The truth is that these money are invested into various
business enterprises, Government bonds, loans to public and private
projects including infrastructure and socially orientated projects. Thus
the insurance premium provides the much - needed funds for the
development of the nation's economy. Let's remember that to compete in
the world economy, we still have a long way to go as we need better
infrastructure like bridges, roads as well as social development like
good quality education for the masses which are going to be a major
driver of economic growth. Insurance also prevents Inflation too which
is causes when too much money is chasing very few goods, which tends to
increase price of goods. Insurance provides the continuity in trade and
commerce, by covering the risks that could retard the economy and
thereby indirectly helps the economy to grow.

As a matter of fact, most of the money of funds collected from the
public are invested in Government, though The IRDA Act has made it
compulsory that a Life Insurance company has to invest at least 15% of
its controlled fund in the infrastructure and social sector of the
country. In this way, an Insurance company strengthens the fund in the
infrastructure and social sector of the country and thus strengthens the
economy in a direct way.

An Insurance company by purchasing stocks in the share market can raise
the price of shares, and similarly a constant flow of funds from the
Insurance companies have a sober effect on the market and controls the
volatile nature of the market . People who are below the poverty line
need the benefits of insurance more and they cannot afford to pay
premium for individual policy. In the event of early death of the
earning member in the family, the family is in great distress. The
problem gets magnified if the deceased has outstanding loans taken for
the purpose of his work or for personal requirements. Hence, we should
learn to prepare for the future by saving as well as securing ourselves,
at the same time help the nation but using our reserve money to build a
brighter future.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Best Weekend - Jangeera











A ladder of friends
















Looking down at you :-)

















Inside of the Fort in Jangeera

Angelina Jolie

News on my fav actress

Before Angelina Jolie's mother Marcheline Bertrand died ,she requested her to marry boyfriend Brad Pitt. Bertrand, 56, reportedly adored Pitt.
Jolie was by her mother's side at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre on January 27 when the former actress faced the final hours of her seven-year battle with ovarian cancer.Pitt and Jolie's brother, actor James Haven, were also there.
"Bertrand was heavily medicated but she was conscious for a lot of time. She asked Pitt to take care of Angelina and the kids (their adopted children Maddox, 5, Zahara, 2, and biological daughter Shiloh, 8 months). And she made a similar plea to her headstrong daughter," reports hollywood.tv.
"She spent the most time with Jolie and her dying wish was for her to marry Pitt. Even during her darkest days over the past months, Bertrand had urged Jolie to marry him. Bertrand adored Pitt and believed he was an angel sent into their lives to take care of her daughter," the portal added.
It seems that despite her publicly vowing that she and Pitt would not marry, the actress may walk down the altar to fulfill her mother's last wish.

Gwen wants her son to marry Angelina's Shiloh
Gwen Stefani wants her son Kingston to marry Angelina Jolie's daughter Shiloh when they grow up ;).
She is good friends with the Tomb Raider actress and their children have been on several playdates together - sparking hopes of a future romance.
Gwen told Elle magazine: "Kingston and Shiloh play together. They were like two little blobs when they met. Maybe they'll get married when they grow up? That'd be cute!"
The 37-year-old pop star gave birth to Kingston, her son with British rocker husband Gavin Rossdale, in May last year.
The 'Hollaback Girl' singer also revealed she competed against Angelina when they auditioned for the same role in Mr and Mrs Smith, the movie where Angelina fell for Shiloh's dad Brad Pitt.
Gwen said: "I don't know if I almost got it, but I certainly put a lot of effort in. They were clearly looking for a certain girl, and you couldn't get more opposite than me and Angelina."
reference:www.nzherald.co.nz
www.hindustantimes.com

Sangi