Friday, 21 March 2014

Politics of Polarization - India 2014

The current political scenario in India is baffling and astonishing. This is the first time, likely around the World, that almost everyone, who is not a part of the main opposition party, despite the so called strong 10 year long anti-incumbancy wave, that everyone from the ruling party to supporters to new and old political outfits, media, Indian and foreign and many of their supporters are working day and night to ensure that the principle opposition does not come to power. It is really baffling that this feeling is further pronounced after declaration of Mr. Narendra Modi as the opposition’s Prime Ministerial Candidate. Polarizing figure he is, for sure, but he has polarized all the politicians more than the public.

The question is why? What is the reason, and I have no answers to this. That’s why I am astonished and fascinated, mostly in favour of Mr. Modi…

To Mr. Modi’s bad luck, he is showered with umpteen attempts to portray him in the bad light by targeting him single handedly for the Riots that took place in Gujarat in 2002. So much so that one of the major news channels, NDTV which is also fighting a case of money laundering, together with the current Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram always, and without exception, nearly always in all media reports online adds a paragraph, when Mr. Modi is mentioned, as a kind of disclaimer that his detractors hold him responsible for not doing enough to prevent the Gujarat Riots. Those who have faced riots, would know, that like acts of terrorism, rioters too have no religion, because acts against humanity is not taught in any religion.

Lets go back to the timeline then, I intend to only outlay the events without adding my comments or adding comments from hearsay in this chronology, no why and how, because that is what I leave to everyone’s personal interpretation.

Born on 17September 1950, he was the third of six children. Worked through tea stalls and canteens to become a RSS pracharak. The RSS assigned Modi to the BJP in 1985. While Shankar Singh Vaghela and Keshubhai Patel were the established names in the Gujarat BJP at that time, Modi is said to have risen to prominence after organising Murli Manohar Joshi's Ekta yatra. His electoral strategy is said to have been central to BJP's victory in the 1995 state elections.

Modi became the General Secretary of the BJP and was transferred to New Delhi where he was assigned responsibility for the party's activities in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Vaghela, who had threatened to break away from BJP in 1995, defected from the BJP after he lost the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, Modi was promoted to the post of National Secretary of the BJP in 1998. While selecting candidates for the 1998 state elections in Gujarat, it is said that Modi favoured loyal people to Patel over those loyal to Vaghela, helping to put an end to the factional divisions within the party. His strategies were credited as being key to winning the 1998 elections.

Narendra Modi himself took oath of office, as the CM of Gujarat on the 07th October 2001, after being away from Gujarat for nearly 6 years, as a part of politics to keep him out of Gujarat, for whatever reasons, some people felt he was becoming too powerful, he ended up spending time in Chandigarh & Gujarat. A lot had changed, Mr. Vaghela had aligned with Congress to form a short time Government and Mr. Patel was replaced by him after loosing a series of local body elections for BJP. How and why he happened to be the CM is all hearsay, depending upon which perspective you want to understand, but I see it only that it is very likely that he had ambition and I feel there is nothing wrong in having one.

The timing of this oath-taking was very close to the WTC bombings, by coincidence, and the World had suddenly woken up to defining and going overboard on terrorism. Al Qaeda and supporting terrorist groups across the World suddenly found mention across the political tables of the World and Secularism was over-defined on either visualizing all terrorists as Muslims (even though everyone acknowledges that in practice a terrorist does not subscribe to any religion) or the people who became sudden protectors of Muslims, mostly in the name of votes. Same day US dropped bombs in Afghanistan, killing plenty, but no one accused them for mass murders.

On 27th February 2002, about 8 AM a train, with several hundred passengers, largely said to be Hindus returning to Gujarat were burnt to death near Godhra. or

27th February 2002, 0945 AM, Gujarat administration orders “shoot at sight” orders in Godhra and imposes curfew. Same day, GJ Government requested Central Forces

Frequent cases of violence were reported across Gujarat right on the 27th February, due to which Gujarat Government had the entire police on High Alert across the state. VHP called for Bandh.

On 28th February 2002 the riots had started, primarily against Muslims across Gujarat, some smaller ones with feelings of hatred, across the country. In all about 30-40 deaths in police firing in Ahmedabad alone.

On 28th February by 06:30 PM Gujarat government / Modi formally requested for Army.
On 01st of March 2002 11:30 Army was staging a flag march in Ahmedabad. (For those who may be slow to catch up, February in 2002 had only 28 days).

And to add, all this, Modi became villain for everyone. Please do read this two page report from India Today of March 2002.

I would suggest people, who claim Modi’s favouritism to a few Industrial houses should know, why Mr. Bajaj and Mr. Godrej even today is not comfortable with Mr. Modi, because this is what he told them in 2003 at a CII meeting, where these people insulted him on stage after inviting him as a guest :

“You and your pseudo-secular friends,” Modi roared at the leaders of Indian industry, “can come to Gujarat if you want an answer. Talk to my people. Gujarat is the most peaceful state in the country.” Tension filled the room. Modi continued, turning to Godrej and Bajaj: “Others have vested interest in maligning Gujarat. What is your interest?”

The mobs who ran wild in the streets of Gujarat did not confine their rage to local Muslims: more than 1,000 trucks were set afire, and the torching of a shipment of Opel Astra cars from a General Motors factory made international headlines. One estimate suggested that industry in Gujarat had lost R20 billion ($409 million) in the riots. The spectre of communal violence made international investors jittery—new foreign direct investment inflows had all but dried up by September 2002—while Indian industrialists openly feared further chaos in what was, even before Modi’s arrival, one of the most critical states for their business operations.

After his misadventure with CII. Within a few days, a group of Gujarati businessmen close to Modi—including Gautam Adani of Adani Group, Indravadan Modi of Cadila Pharmaceuticals, Karsan Patel of Nirma Group, and Anil Bakeri of Bakeri Engineers—had established a rival organisation, which they called the Resurgent Group of Gujarat (RGG), all of whose members threatened to withdraw from the CII on the grounds that it had humiliated and insulted Modi and all Gujaratis. The RGG issued a press statement swearing by the pride of Gujaratis, and demanded that the Gujarat chapter of the CII resign for “failing to protect the interests of the state”.

The deal to bring the Nano factory to Sanand attracted worldwide attention, and within weeks of the plant’s inauguration in June 2010, both Ford and Peugeot approached Gujarat, seeking plots to build their own factories. The GIDC had acquired a total of 2,200 acres, and handed over sizable plots to Ford and Peugeot (along with a substantial package of financial incentives, similar to what Tata was offered). The initial resistance from the farmers around Sanand quickly crumbled as the proposed compensation grew. Landholders were paid more than 10 times the market value for their property. Before Tata arrived, the price for one acre was only Rs.300,000; the GIDC paid at least Rs.3 million per acre, and issued cheques to the sellers within a week.

In 2003, the government allotted 700 acres of public land in Mahuva to one of Gujarat’s largest industrial companies, Nirma, for a cement plant. (Karsan Patel, Nirma’s founder and chairman, was one of the leaders of the Resurgent Group of Gujarat, which rallied behind Modi against the CII that same year.) But the plot granted to Nirma included some 300 acres of wetlands and reservoirs, which were said to be used by local farmers for irrigation and animal husbandry. The farmers objected to the deal and the protest gathered momentum and publicity when Dr Kanubhai Kalsaria, the BJP MLA for Mahuva, led an agitation against his own chief minister.

Nirma and the state of Gujarat claimed that the affected area was a wasteland, but after the farmers appealed to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (controlled by none other than Congress at Centre), it ruled in their favour and cancelled the plant’s environmental clearance. The farmers hailed it as a rare victory against the state’s top-down development agenda. Kalsaria has become a spokesman for Gujarati farmers who accuse Modi’s government of lavishing money and land on corporates at the expense of citizens. In 2012 he left BJP and now is a AAP leader in Gujarat.

Successive BJP governments under Patel and Modi supported NGOs and communities in the creation of infrastructure projects for conservation of groundwater. Gujarat has improved its agricultural output substantially, in large part due to projects relating to improvement of groundwater supplies in Saurashtra, Kachchh and the north, as well as efforts to increase the use of micro-irrigation and to provide more efficient power supply to farms.

Nearly 500,000 structures have been constructed, of which about 1/4th are check dams. While most check dams remained empty during the pre-monsoon season, they helped recharge the aquifers that lie beneath them. 60 of the 112 Tehsils which were found to have over–exploited the groundwater table in 2004 had regained their normal groundwater level by 2010, meaning that Gujarat had managed to increase its groundwater levels at a time when they were falling in all other Indian states. As a result, production of genetically-modified Bt cotton, which could now be irrigated using tube wells, increased to become the largest in India.  The boom in cotton production and utilization of semi–arid land  saw the agriculture growth rate of Gujarat increase to 9.6% in the period 2001–2007.  Though public irrigation measures in the central and southern areas, such as the Sardar Sarovar Project, have not been as successful in achieving their aims, for the decade 2001–2010, Gujarat recorded a compound annual growth rate of 10.97%, the highest among all Indian states.

The system of supplying power to rural areas has been changed radically and has had a greater impact on agriculture than the irrigation works. While states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu provided free electricity to farms, and most other states provided subsidised power, the Gujarat government between 2003–2006 reacted to concerns that such measures result in waste of power and groundwater. With the Jyotigram Yojana scheme, based on ideas developed by the International Water Management Institute, the agricultural electricity supply was rewired to separate it from other rural power supplies. Then, the electricity used by farms was rationed to fit scheduled demand for irrigation, which consequently reduced the cost of the subsidy. At first, the farmers objected to this, but came to realise that the supply suffered less from interruption, was more consistent in voltage and was available when they most needed it for irrigation purposes. Other states have since begun to adopt similar, although not identical, strategies.

In doing this, Modi dropped many of his Hindutva-wadi friends, after the riots hit Gujarat, like Praveen Togadia of VHP. Possibly a few others with Skeletons, as he also demolished many temples for development related projects.
But now I question this, to people with a brain as well as a heart, who can put themselves in Mr. Modi’s position first and then honestly answer these questions –

1.    Without any direct administrative / governance experience and no past experience with controlling bureaucrats, you become a CM, and 4 months later you face riots in your state, where you had not stepped in for last 6 years. What kind of control will you do? Will you run around yourself in the “Nayak (Anil Kapoor)” Fashion to stop them, across the state, or you will issue orders and appeals?
2.    Why do you think, Modi today has such good grip on the state’s police, bureaucrats amongst others? One man, against so many, how is it possible for a bad man to ensure this, assuming you are that bad man?
3.    If, after the riots, every industrial house, every foreign investor, everyone who were the money bags stand against you, and accuse you to have personally killed thousands of people, do everything but assist you by investing, what would you do?
4.    Would you feel grateful to those few who stood by you or not, when everyone else shuns you?
5.    If you have a piece of land, in say an off beaten place, nowhere near a city / town, what price do you expect for it? Also, what price do you expect for a land near to a developed place? So who pays for the development costs? Do you believe in eating the roti without having to roll it?
6.    You’ve never benefited monetarily nor your family did, by virtue of being a CM. You’ve not amassed property either. The gifts you get are given to charity. Are you a corrupt man?
7.    An oft repeated claim against Modi is brought around by Mrs. Zakia Jafri, the widow of Ehsaan Jafri who was brutally murdered during the riots, that he called Modi several times but the help never came. I am sure, the call records would be available from the mobile phone operators or landline phone companies. Why is it that all the so called detractors of Mr. Modi have never shown this up so far? And assuming, even if it was true, why would you particularly want to save one man, just because he happens to have your phone number and has been an MP, while neglecting numerous others, with just a 4-6000 strong Police force at your disposal in all of Ahmedabad?
8.    India had seen a worse riot in Gujarat in 1969, in which it is said approx. 5000 people were killed. Congress Government in power. To this date, not heard of a single conviction in that one. The riots lasted over 5-6 days. On this occasion, the riots were controlled on the 3rd day, convictions have happened in approx. 10 years, and still on, many have been arrested too. But everyone blames you for being a “mass murderer”, despite you being the only Chief Minister in history to have been subjected to an enquiry commission / SIT probing you for hours. How do you feel about it.
9.    If you were the CM of Gujarat, and such a thing would have happened, would you have said “sorry” and if yes, what do you actually mean by that “apology”? Would you really think that a true politician, who knows, he is guilty would say sorry or not? I think, he will keep saying it a hundred times, but mean nothing.
10.  What do you think is governance? Is it running the buses and trains for you, supplying you with power or water, or do you think, it is about ensuring that you actually get these services efficiently? That you get, what you pay your taxes for, good roads, good services, grievance redressal system and a chance to feel beautiful for your surroundings too?
11.  Do you think, getting subsidies is your right or getting education and a job is your right?
12.  Do you think getting free food is your right, or being able to buy and cook them is your right?
13.  If you call yourself an Indian Nationalist, and you are a Hindu, can you think it as being a Hindustani, rather than reading it as a communal comment?
14.  If you talk of India’s glorious history, ever in the past 1000 years, 2000 years, 3000 years, do you think, your forefathers were receiving alms and subsidies at that time from the king or a respectful ability to earn your livelihood?

India & China :
Modi has been a key factor in promoting cordial relations with China and the Chinese Government too appreciates him. In fact he is reputed to have been instrumental in securing release of a few diamond merchants from China during his visit there. He uses Chinese ideas and some technologies in Gujarat too. So, now we also have an old issue suddenly released just few days before the elections, the India-China war report. Reminding people again of the bitterness, but in fact, it is nothing else but to keep the mistrust alive in the hearts of Indians and Chinese too.

Every country which has a complete Ecosystem can survive on its own. Both India and China have ample natural resources, manpower, both in terms of hands and brains and a self sufficiency is possible. If these two countries align together, the rest of the World will be only looking for alms from them. So it scares the present powers, and such reports and news items are released and kept on in the media with a new report or analysis of the report creeping up every day. Do you really think, normal Indians or Chinese care? But if politicians want, they can use it. So the report is released now.

Think, can one man really be as dangerous as he is being projected to you, that too, when he is now 64 years old, with no family, no children of his own, and who has not built his palaces until now?

What makes you fear him? Your mistrust in him or your mistrust in your own power as a common man?

What is it that you cannot undo in the next 5 years? Well, one thing you can, the feeling of being slave for sure, yes you can! Shift outside your inhibitions and get polarized, because until you do, you’ll keep on playing in the hands of the internal rulers.

One question from Delhi wallahs too. When you were fighting for justice in the rape case, where were your elected representatives? If the Delhi Police is governed by the Central Government, what was the stand of your MPs at the time? Did you ever think that even if the state Government doesn’t control Delhi Police, through your MPs you do? So did you try to question them? If not, question Mr. Kapil Sibal and his likes now.

In respect of Aaaaaam Aadmi Party – please remember, keeping a name as Aaam AAdmi or using a broom as your party symbol doesn’t give you the right to portray everyone else, who is not your member as bad.
If you want to change India, first you need to change Indians, you need to bring in positivity of hope, not spread despair. You need to bring in that feeling in every man, that they should respect Women, every other man, irrespective of Religion, Caste, Creed. We don’t need you to go and stand with the offended, we need you to go offensive on the accused. We don’t need you to play politics, we’ve already seen that for last many years now; instead we want to see you upholding good values of truth, honesty and clarity. Please remember we’ve not given you a license to fight for us that you can use our name and claim that every person who is not with you is bad.

Lastly, to the Indian, irrespective of religion, caste, creed and not aligned to any political party, also the young Indians or Hindustanis, if you have been directly affected and wronged by any act of Mr. Modi, please don’t vote for him. But if you have not, for once, stop paying attention to hearsay and use your brains. Ask questions first to yourself whether you trust yourself or not. You’ll get the answers to all your confusing thoughts. Is your idea of solving the problems of India creating another political party?

India already has hundreds of political parties. At national level we have 6 now and atleast 60 at state levels.
In order to qualify to be called a national recognized party you need to fulfill at least one of the following conditions :

1.   The party wins 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha (11 seats) from at least 3 different States.
2.   At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party polls 6% of votes in four States and in addition it wins 4 Lok Sabha seats.
3.   A party gets recognition as State Party in four or more States.

In order to be a recognized state party you need to fulfill at least one of the following conditions :
1.   At General Elections or Legislative Assembly elections, the party has won 3% of seats in the legislative assembly of the State ( subject to a minimum of 3 seats).
2.   At a Lok Sabha General Elections, the party has won 1 Lok sabha seat for every 25 Lok Sabha seat allotted for the State.
3.   At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly , the party has polled minimum of 6% of votes in a State and in addition it has won 1 Lok Sabha or 2 Legislative Assembly seats.
4.   At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party has polled 8% of votes in a State.

Both national and state parties have to fulfill these conditions for all subsequent Lokshabha or State elections. Else, they lose their status.

So choose wisely and trust your own instincts, not your fears.

Friday, 20 December 2013


"Do Thou, Whose countenance is turned to all sides, send off our adversaries as if in a ship, to the opposite shore: do Thou convey us in a ship across the sea for our welfare."
                                   - Rig Veda. 1., 97, 7 and 8

The recent few incidents have really inspired me to put my thoughts into this blog. The title of the blog stems from my recent thought process to decide a birthday theme for my son’s 2nd birthday. I wanted the theme to be Sea or a Sailor, my wife and my daughter, Superman. Then I realized that if Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, the News Reporter, was found out (fiction), possibly, he could have taken up another alter ego to work as a sailor. Because in ordinary life, a sailor is no less than Superman, multi-tasking most of his time, despite leading a lonely life, greatly misunderstood, works longer hours, gets exploited to the hilt, and well, leads an anonymous life. So much so, that the regular public views us with suspicion.

People do need to realize that a sailor is as much human, possibly more human than all other professions put together.

Look at Capt. Sunil James, who spent good 5 months in a obscure prison, of a country, half of India won’t even have heard of, where India allegedly does not maintain an embassy, in possibly deplorable conditions, as a common thief or worse. It took the loss of his infant son for people to realize that he also has a family back home. If not for the poor showing in the recent elections, our Government and PM would possibly do nothing even after this time. Just because, the media found this story interesting, that such a person is in a remote prison, while his only infant son is no more, and the family refuses to perform last rights, until he is back. Good story for media.

Capt. Prabhat Goyal of Dehradun, who was unfortunate to become a captive on Stolt Valor of the Somali Pirates together with his crew. Not until the family ran from door to door, when a section of the merchant navy joined hands, and media fancied a story in the making, that he was released. Fortunately in about 3 months.

Asphalt Venture, a vessel that was hijacked on 28th September 2010, 13 returned home, released, while 8 are still held hostages, to my knowledge. Media possibly does not find this interesting enough anymore to take up this issue. Disappointment with Government notwithstanding, media has ignored this as well, and I don’t even hear anymore, if their has been any fresh attempts to liberate these poor souls.

In December 1999, a storm in the Bay of Biscay, a vessel called Erika foundered and broke, before sinking releasing heavy fuel oil into seas. The owner was a Italian, living in London. The ship was registered in Malta, carrying the class of Italian RINA, under a time charter of Total, a French company. The master, an Indian, Capt. Karun Sunder Mathur was put behind bars, and only let go in Feb 2010. The French, still want to extradite him to face trial in a French court.

And so on.

For some reasons, what really makes these events important? They are the faces of people, who have been penalized for actions of theirs and / or inactions of others including the Governments. These also highlight that the people entrapped in these events were as much human, as Ms. Devyani Khobragade, for whom, the current Government has taken up a fight with the Americans, though I feel, this is more to do with trying to shake off the “undecisive” tag and project a strong Government. Unfortunately, the sorry “cattle class” people will fall for this too.

Before, I proceed on, let me give you a glimpse of what the maritime industry in India is / was, the Shloka from Rigveda at the start notwithstanding.

Buddhist Jataka stories wrote about large Indian ships carrying seven hundred people. In the Artha SastraKautilya wrote about the Board of Shipping and the Commissioner of Port who supervised sea traffic. The Harivamsa informs that the first geographical survey of the world was performed during the period of Vaivasvata. The towns, villages and demarcation of agricultural land of that time were charted on maps. Brahmanda Purana provides the best and most detailed description of world map drawn on a flat surface using an accurate scale. Padma Purana says that world maps were prepared and maintained in book form and kept with care and safety in chests.

Surya Siddhanta speaks about construction of wooden globe of earth and marking of horizontal circles, equatorial circles and further divisions. Some Puranas say that the map making had great practical value for the administrative, navigational and military purposes. Hence the method of making them would not be explained in general texts accessible to the public and were ever kept secret. Surya Siddhanta says that the art of cartography is the secret of gods. This being the general thinking at those times, yet, there was one group of people who realized that the maps or the secret texts that contained the geographical surveys will not last a very long time. Only cryptology using words and names would last longer than any.

1795 – British Hydrographic Office established by an Order in Council by George III. The Hydrographer to the Honourable East India Company, Alexander Dalrymple FRS, is appointed as Hydrographer to the Admiralty Board. Does this throw any light of the influence India had on the art of drawing charts?

Professor Max Duncker, author of History of Antiquity, says, that ship-building was known in ancient India about 2000 B.C. It is thus clear that the Indians navigated the ocean from the earliest times, and that they carried on trade on an extensive scale with all the important nations of the whole world.
Testimony to the flourishing condition of the ship-building industry in India is available in the description of the return journey of Alexander from India via the sea route. According to estimates of Ptolemy nearly 2000 vessels which between them accommodated 8000 troops, several thousand horses, and vast quantities of supplies. This vivid description speaks not only of the ready resources and expertise of the Indian craftsmen but also of the tonnage of the seaworthy ships estimated at about 75 tons (or 3000 amphorea) by Pliny. I’m sure, no one thinks, that Alexander asked for ships to sent to India to fetch him back to Greece.

Sir Charles Elliot (1862-1931), British diplomat and colonial administrator, a famous scholar and linguist of Oxford, observed on his book Hinduism and Buddhism observes: 
"This outgrowing of Indian influence, so long continued and so wide in extent, was naturally not the result of any one impulse. At no time can we see in India any passion of discovery, any fever of conquest such as possessed Europe when the New world and the route to the East round the Cape were discovered. India's expansion was slow, generally peaceful and attracted little attention at home.”

Francois Balazar Solvyns (1760-1824) a French maritime painter, wrote a book titled "Les Hindous" (tome troisieme) in 1811. He lived in Calcutta from 1791-1803 and he remarked: 
"In ancient times, the Indians excelled in the art of constructing vessels, and the present Hindus can in this respect still offer models to Europe-so much so that the English, attentive to everything which relates to naval architecture, have borrowed from the Hindus many improvement which they have adopted with success to their own shipping.... The Indian vessels unite elegance and utility and are models of patience and fine workmanship."

Alain Danielou (1907- 1994) son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India has written:
"India's naval dockyards, which belonged to the state, were famous throughout history. The sailors were paid by the state, and the admiral of the fleet hired the ships and crew to tradesmen for transporting goods and passengers. When the British annexed the country much later on, they utilized the Indian dockyards - which were much better organized then those in the West - to build most of the ships for the British navy, for as long as ships were made of wood."

In the days of the sailing ships and oaken vessels, the naval engineering of the India was efficient and advanced enough to be drawn upon with confidence for European shipping. At Madapollum, for example, on the Madras coast, many English merchants used to have their vessels yearly built. The Indian ship architects could ingeniously perform all sorts of iron works, e. g., spikes, bolts, anchors, etc. "Very expert master-builders there are several here," says the English traveler, Thomas Bowrey in his Geographical Account of Countries Round the Bay of Bengal (1669-1675); "they build very well, and launch with as much discretion as I have seen in any part of the world. They have an excellent way of making shrouds, stays, or any other riggings for ship."

India became the first power to defeat a European power in a naval battle - The Battle of Colachel in 1742 CE.

A dramatic and virtually unknown past, in an area of bucolic calm surrounded by spectacular hills: that is Colachel, a name that should be better known to us. For this is where, in 1741, an extraordinary event took place -- the Battle of Colachel. For the first, and perhaps the only time in Indian history, an Indian kingdom defeated a European naval force. The ruler of Travancore, Marthanda Varma, routed an invading Dutch fleet; the Dutch commander, Delannoy, joined the Travancore army and served for decades; the Dutch never recovered from this debacle and were never again a colonial threat to India. 

The Battle of Colachel in 1742 CE,  where Marthanda Varma of Travancore crushed a Dutch expeditionary fleet near Kanyakumari. The defeat was so total that the Dutch captain, Delannoy, joined the Travancore forces and served loyally for 35 years--and his tomb is still in a coastal fort there. So it wasn't the Japanese in the Yellow Sea in 1905 under Admiral Tojo who were the first Asian power to defeat a European power in a naval battle--it was little Travancore. The Portuguese and the Dutch were trying to gain political power in India at that time. Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch in 1741. He was an able ruler. He established peace in his country - Travancore. It was a remarkable achievement for a small princely state.

Right from the ancient Indus Valley civilizations to the present, where Indian navy is regarded among the finest in the world, the Indian Maritime History has added many chapters and pioneered many nations’ naval quest for adventure and trade.
With astronomers and mathematicians like Aryabhatta who was able to pinpoint exact naval routes to enable naval trade between India and nations like China and with the help of visionary kingdom like the Cholas and the Mauryas, actual Indian Maritime History did go places in the time where other nations were still trying to find and gain a foothold in the waters. But unfortunately, the Indians do not know this, they are not told of this, they do not realize this.

India has always been a land of visionaries and looking back at some of the poignant Indian Maritime History records, it can be seen that the imagination and insight behind the creation of ships in those days were something that no ship building designer could ever visualize at that time. As a nation which has a very vast coastline, India had very successfully managed to adapt and fully utilize its marine borders for successful voyages across the world and manage to inspire Europeans to visit the nation with its rich and varied culture.
This inadvertent invitation also proved to be a costly mistake and from the time the Europeans managed to colonize India, this is where the Indian Maritime History starts to change and shows the European influence in the Indian culture.

Three European nations had colonized India – the British, the Portuguese and the French. And, even though the Portuguese and the French were curtailed to just colonizing only a limited part of the nation, they nonetheless created their own fleet of naval vessels thus vetoing the Indian naval fleet and adding yet another chapter to the Indian Maritime History. And since the advent of the two wars and the utilization of naval fleet extensively in both the wars, Indian naval fleet underwent yet another bout of revolution and there ended up a new chapter in the Indian Maritime History book.

The Indian rulers weakened with the advent of the European powers. Shipbuilders, however, continued to build ships capable of carrying 800 to 1000 tons. The shipbuilders at the Bombay Dockyard built ships like the HMS Hindostan (1795) and HMS Ceylon (1808), inducted into the Royal Navy. The historical ships made by Indian shipbuilders included HMS Asia (1824) (commanded by Edward Codrington during the Battle of Navarino in 1827), the frigate HMS Cornwallis (1813) (onboard which the Treaty of Nanking was signed in 1842), and the HMS Minden (on which The Star Spangled Banner was composed by Francis Scott Key). David Arnold examines the role of Indian shipbuilders during the British Raj:

Shipbuilding was a well-established craft at numerous points along the Indian coastline long before the arrival of the Europeans and was a significant factor in the high level of Indian maritime activity in the Indian Ocean region....As with cotton textiles, European trade was initially a stimulus to Indian shipbuilding: vessels built in ports like Masulipatam and Surat from Indian hardwoods by local craftsmen were cheaper and tougher than their European counterparts.

It is strange that the world knows of Industrial Revolution starting in England, but does not realize that the British suddenly became smarter only after coming, borrowing, demanding or thieving from India. And to keep this a secret, they destroyed, India, as best as they could.

Wadia oversaw the construction of thirty-five ships, twenty-one of them for the Company. Following his death in 1774, his sons took charge of the shipyard and between them built a further thirty ships over the next sixteen years. The Britannia, a ship of 749 tons launched in 1778, so impressed the Court of Directors when it reached Britain that several new ships were commissioned from Bombay, some of which later passed into the hands of the Royal Navy. In all, between 1736 and 1821, 159 ships of over 100 tons were built at Bombay, including 15 of over 1,000 tons. Ships constructed at Bombay in its heyday were said to be ‘vastly superior to anything built anywhere else in the world’.
Indian built ships continued to occupy an unequalled position down to the 19th century. In 1819, for instance, we get a revealing instance quoted by C.R. Low in his two-volume “History of the Indian Navy” : “Of the strength and superiority of the Bombay built ships, an unimpeachable witness, the First Lieutenant of one of them, the Salsette frigate, bears testimony in his letter to the builder, Jamshedji Bomanji. In his letter he points out that the Salsette with five other war vessels and twelve merchanmen was beset by ice in the Baltic Sea – the Salsette alone escaped shipwreck and saved all lives”.
This reputation was maintained for a generation more. The colourful history of the “Tweed” is perhaps the swan-song of Indian shipping. One of the most famous ships in the Indian Ocean, she was a creation of the Wadias. She began her career as a steam frigate in the old East India Company’s navy. She was one of the two frigates built in Bombay in 1852-54. As both ships were put into commission during the Crimean War and troops were badly needed to make good losses at Sebastopol, they began their lives as troop-carriers. This was in 1854. The following year both ships took active combatant part in the Persian War. No sooner was this Persian trouble ended, than the two ships were hurried back to take part in the Mutiny. In 1862 both ships were sent to England where it was intended to convert them from paddle to screw steamers. On their arrival in England, the Government changed its mind, and they were sold out of service to John Wallis, one of the best known ship-owners of his time. Her hybrid character – sail-cum-steam – did not appeal to him, so he had her engines removed and her rig improved. With a new figure-head and named anew as “The Tweed” she went to the sea once more, this time as a cable-ship laying the first cable in the Persian Gulf. The cable laying finished, she was converted into a passenger ship. Her remarkable sailing qualities aroused such widespread attention that experts used to copy her sail plan and other details of her design. She earned immortal fame as a record-breaker during her career as a passenger ship. “

But the competitively better built ships in India were proving too much for the British. Enactment of laws restricting trading of non-British built vessels was just one of these results.

In 1800 “Cornwallis”, a frigate of 1363 tons with 50 guns was built in India. It was owing to the agitation in England against Indian ship-building and the taunts which were made about him as being a native that led Jamshedji Wadia of Bombay Dockyard to inscribe the words : “This ship is built by a d—d black fellow, A.D. 1800.” on the keel of the “Cornwallis.”.

Aptly as Gandhiji summed up : “The tragic history of the ruin of the national village industry of cotton manufacture in India is also the history of the ruin of Indian shipping. The rise of Lancashire on the ruin of the chief industry of India almost required the destruction of Indian shipping.”

Indian Seamen distinguished themselves by their bravery in the war of 1914-18. 3427 of them lost their lives as a result of enemy action and 1200 were imprisoned in enemy countries. “The lascar’s sobriety and his calm demeanour in emergency and philosophic endurance of catastrophy were beyond all praise.”(Lord Inchcape). Lascar was a term used by the British for Indian Crew onboard their ships, believed to be derived from the Persian word, Lashkar, meaning an army, a camp or a band of followers.

The political and economic awakening in India during the war years and immediately after them made the people conscious of their complete dependence on foreign shipping and made them anxious to develop Indian mercantile marine. The success of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company helped to crystallize that feeling. It was voiced with growing clarity and firmness in the newly organized Central Legislature.

In pursuance of a Resolution moved by Sir P.S. Sivaswamy Iyer in the Legislative Assembly and adopted by it on the 12th January, 1922, the Government of India on 3rd February 1923 appointed the Indian Mercantile Marine Committee with Mr. Headlam, the director of the Royal Indian Marine, as the chairman and the Consulting Naval Architect to the India Office, a representative of British Shipping interests, two representatives of Indian shipping Interests and a member of the Legislative assembly as its members. The committee reported in March 1924. Its report was unanimous except for an important dissenting minute from the representative of the British Interests.

The committee recommended maintenance by the Government of a Training Ship for nautical training of Indian youths. They further recommended compulsory employment of Indians, so trained, as officers by the companies engaged in our coastal trade. A far-reaching scheme for Indianizing the coastal marine in a period of 25 years was also suggested by the Committee. Ship-building was to be revived and encouraged by payment of suitable bounty by the Government.

This report, if implemented, would have gone a long way in resuscitating Indian Sipping. The public however had grave doubts about the recommendations being implemented. “The simple appointment of a committee will never satisfy the Indian public. It always happens that when the recommendations of a committee do not suit the Government no action is taken to enforce such recommendations.” Events proved Mr. Lalji Naranji’s pessimism justified.

The Government took nearly two years to study the various implication of the Report. In 1926 the Commerce member under-scored and emphasised every point of the dissenting minute of Sir Arthur Froom. The commerce member went further and characterise the committee’s scheme for the progressive Indianisation of our coastal marine as savouring of expropriation and flag-discrimination. He played on provincial jealousies by saying: “As the principal Indian shipping company has its headquarters in Bombay, the monies of Burma, Bengal and other provinnces would be drained into Bombay.” With such a speech Sir Charles Innes, the then Commerce member, disposed off the report of the Mercantile Marine Committee.

The training Ship was not set up till 1927. “Unless the Government of India  make it obligatory by statute, as recommended by the mercantile marine committee in their report, on the ships plying on the coast to recruit at least 50 percent of their officers from those who obtain the necessary certificate of competency after undergoing training on the Training Ship, I feel certain that the proposed Training Ship will defeat its own objct.” These words of Mr. Narottam Morarji proved prophetic. The British Companies employed less than 25 of the “Dufferin” cadets. The P&O Company has employed four as against forty employed by the Scindia Steam Navigation Company! Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Commerce member, admitted in 1936 that “it is correct that a large number of ex-Dufferin cadets have not found employment” and that “it might to some extent, have discouraged youngsters from taking up that career.” Instead of taking steps to remedy this situation, the prospectus of the cadet ship was suitably altered. The provision : “The following Shipping Companies have agreed to accept as apprentices, youths who have completed the course of the Training Ship, and the Government of India consider that the apprentices who gave satisfaction should be able to obtain employment on the ships belonging to these and other companies,” was altered to read as follows :”The Government of India have arranged with the principal shipping companies operating on the coasts of India to grant facilities to Dufferin cadets to proceed to sea “as vacancies occur…” Engagement of apprentices and the employment of officers in after life is, however, dependent on many factors, such as conditions of trade, number of vacancies and “the rules and regulations of each individual company”.” Comment is needless.
While the Cadet Ship idea was thus emasculated, every solicitude was shown towards British shipping. Rs 15,00,000 continued to be paid without any condition to the P&O and BISN companies for mail contracts. In 1934, the Government issued a circular requesting officers entitled to Lee Commission passages, to travel by Empire Ships – thus assuring to the British Lines an annual bounty of Rs 55,00,000 from the Indian tax payer’s money. In 1935, the Government of India addressed a circular to all Provincial Governments directing them to ask Municipalities and other local bodies to import their good and materials by Empire vessels. But the same Government could not ask the shipping companies to employ the Dufferin Cadets!

The claims of Indian Shipping had the honour of being the only industry to be included among Mahatma Gandhi’s Eleven Points epitomising India’s National Demand in 1930.

This above information, I came across through a number of sources, including a book, which I read, while I had taken admission in Delhi College of Engineering. The book was written by Mr. Asoka Mehta in October 24, 1940, but had no opportunity to revise the manuscript, as he was arrested and imprisoned, in the Satyagraha movement, before he could see the book through the press.

What got me inspired enough to join Merchant Navy is still a riddle to me, and choosing T.S. Rajendra, the same year the batch started with T.S. Chanakya, over DMET (MERI) was definitely not difficult to me. I wanted to associate with a history.

In 2003, I too could have left the merchant marine, as by good / bad luck, I had to face a question regarding my own future. But I decided, that pursuing an education outside what I’ve spent 10 years of my life in, was not worth it. I would rather want to continue in it, then outside it.

In the overall context of the seafarer in port, the only thing often highlighted to form a poorly formed “public opinion” (a term I read in my class 9th Civics), though offers grudging respect to them, but does not hesitate to highlight in the same breadth of the drinking dens and brothels.
Why is it that the industry has never bothered to change this perception positively?
Why is it they have never tried to carry forward the work of rejuvenating India in the maritime sector, the effort that possibly never came to the fore fronts after independence?

The present problem of Indian Shipping, manpower, Ship building, in my opinion can be solved by doing at least some or all of the following :

1)         Form a better public opinion – we need a strong presence to do this, to be able to be seen as normal people.
2)         The industry, should only bank on people from within. If it remains under the illusion of Government domain, it will serve no purpose.
3)         India should work on developing own tonnage, by opening / allowing more shipyards, relaxing taxation, if required by opening Open registries in Andaman Nicobar, Lakshwadeep Islands etc.
4)         Indian industry majors, particularly the likes of Tatas, Birlas etc should be approached and encouraged to enter into Shipping WHOLEHEARTEDLY. It may be worthwhile to remind Tatas that they were once a Shipping Company, TATA LINE with four ships in the 1893’s to operate the Japan line to support their Swadeshi Mills, but because of the British approach of preference to British company, they had to close down. I must mention that the Tata NYK arrangement is as old as 1893 formed by Mr. J.N. Tata, then.
5)         Indian Shipbuilding industry needs to be rejuvenated and brought back, modernized where required and expanded to best capabilities.
6)         Research in ship-building, case studies, failures, legal or material should form part of the industry as much as elsewhere.
7)         Ancillary industries, such as engines, pumps manufacturers etc should be promoted.
8)         The Shipping ministry should be headed by a team of professionals, not state actors, who really understand, what it would take to build up the industry.
9)         Establish Admirality or dedicated Maritime Courts in India.

But most important change that needs to be brought about is to change the public opinion. If need be, be aggressively visible. Instead of being defensive about our professions, we need to showcase, what we undergo. We need to make public realize, how important we are to them to deliver them their basic necessities. We need to glorify the profession as one of the best, to make it attractive. Media should be invited, to discuss agenda and put it on the national slate.

Has anyone ever done a root cause analysis of the poor situation of maritime presea / postsea training in India? This is what I found.
A: key stake-holders & drivers :
1)         Government (includes mmd, shipping ministry & imu)
2)         Training institutes and
3)         Shipping companies

B: key-problems :
1)         Government apathy
2)         Mis-governance & short-sightedness
3)         Economy and profit driving the training institutes, not standards
4)         Unavailability of good faculty
5)         Lack of transparency in placements
6)         Poorly trained candidates being churned out
7)         Attitudes of trainees reported to be bad
8)         Lack of owning up the trainees by shipping companies
9)         Trainees are viewed as feeder man-power rather than future masters / chief engineers as well as seamen.

C: what is being talked about, needs to be done :
1)         Reduction of training facilities
2)         Reduction in number of trainees
3)         Enhance training efforts

For C1, A1 has no will, A2 has no intention and A3 are least bothered, since they are not responsible.
For C2, A1 can only frame policies, A2 has no will and A3 are detached, the lesser the merrier, but its anyways not their concern
For C3, A1, A2, A3 talk of this, but it is like one of the numerous committees formed by government, where the committee members also make money and pass time. So do we. No concrete proposals.


What is also missing :
1)         A standard in maritime training in india. No institute has managed this to be that standard, like IITs for engineering & IIMs for management.
2)         A maritime training body represented by the stake-holders, like erstwhile mmert (not sure if it still exists).

1)         Lets not talk of reducing intakes or manning institutes. We all agree that there is, and will be a shortage of able / quality manpower for shipping in future. So this should be the last thing to do or be considered. Besides, shoddy institutes will shut down themselves, if a standard practice for maritime training is developed in India.

So, including all the stake holders, and identifying, nearly all the key problems, what can be done about C3, namely to enhance training efforts, my 11 pointers as follows.

1)         A maritime training body should be formed or made effective, if it exists(?)
2)         Every institute should have a documentary evidence, that the trainees being passed out from their institutes would be absorbed by some shipping companies. Understand, this already exists.
3)         In order to comply with 2 above, the shipping companies giving such undertaking should also appoint at least one faculty member for each 10 cadets they undertake to employ from their own company.
4)         The development of cadets will be the responsibility of this faculty member. [this will ensure that the shipping companies have an actual say in the training & development of candidates, and if they complain that the trainees are bad, they need to look no further then changing their faculty member, as they are responsible to shape them]
5)         Every company to have the right to use the training institute facilities for carrying out short term, value added training of their officers, as available, any basic charges could be set-up / agreed between the company and the institute during providing undertaking stage. [this will ensure, poorly equipped institutes do not get undertakings, and also provides a value to the shipping companies]
6)         IMU should only limit itself to maritime training guidelines, which should be broad, but not necessarily minimum standards. Grading of institutes to be conducted on these guidelines. Actual running of the institutes should be a look-out of the institutes and the maritime training body comprising of the stake holders.
7)         Indian navy officers have been accepted to join merchant navy, after a period of service in navy. A system of reciprocation should be in place, whereby merchant naval officers / crew should be able to take up jobs with indian navy, coastguard etc. Provided they meet the minimum standards that these institutions set up.
8)         RPSL requirements should be looked at facilitation of recruitment and placement, not as a impeding piece of legislation, so that candidates who may have entered the profession through non-RPSL companies are able to get recognition and are able to undertake examinations, courses etc, if successful in their ventures. It should be looked from the point of view of such candidates who took such risk, when no other avenues were available. Experience and knowledge should be given the weightage, not how it was achieved.
9)         Many amongst the new generation are being reported to leave shipping and find other avenues. This should be looked as a favour done on the profession by them. Who do we think are these people. Aren’t these the people who had the different attitudes, weaknesses that we blame for. Only the strong survived.
10)       Public Opinion towards the profession needs to be changed. Visibility of the human element in this profession should be brought out. Issues affecting shipping should be debated in National forums, with Media coverage. A Ram-Setu story should be first looked at from maritime perspective then religious or political perspective.
11)       Shipping companies should involve Cadets of the relevant institutes in dialogues with their Superintendents, who could visit the campuses to briefly explain the roles they play and invoke the interest into shipping beyond just being treated as a quick way of making money in the short-while. It would be interesting for the cadets to know, what horizons they are entering into, real-time experience, when their ships arrive. Sometimes organize seminars in the campuses as well, using their facilities, for their purpose, however, simultaneously invoking the recruits to think, beyond the Fall-ins, cleanship and Marching drills.

Best regards,