Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The contradiction of Progress

With India predicting or talking about matching China's 10% growth rate in a few years time, India's main population has a long way to go! India’s challenge is to invest not only its service offerings but also to improve is core infrastructure for the general population.

Interestingly, I remember approximately five years ago observing a comment made by the then head of Disney Corporation USA. He suggested that India’s 250 million population was a great opportunity for future markets. Unfortunately, he was talking and expressing an interest in only 25% of the population – those that can still afford to buy such products and have any idea of what Disney is.

Having recently made trips to Delhi and Bombay the contradictions are clearly on display. Shanty towns continue to be positioned as the moats of the grand palaces of hotels, skyscrapers and residencies.

One of the problems is that India is still suffering from lack of investments in its farming infrastructure. Currently more than half of India's population work on farms yet they produce only 20% of the country's gross domestic product. They lack the resources to develop their farmland.

India’s Finance Minister, P Chidambaram this year has promised that he will produce a ‘common man's budget’. He adds that ‘… two out of three Indians still live on less than a dollar a day’. Mr Chidambaram says his budget will focus on agriculture, healthcare and education for the masses. The third leg of Mr Chidambaram's plans is to ‘fuel’ education, a possible route for encouraging economic development. In last year's budget, the Indian government set aside $1.6bn for education. More funds are expected this year. This is clearly a good direction and shows that there is some commitment to this challenge.

However, is the scale of the issue too large to resolve in a single budget? The answer is yes. India needs a sustained commitment to such initiatives. These commitments also need to ensurea common, fair and wide-spread application across all parts of the country but not as a one-off. It needs to be year-on-year.

No one said that addressing poverty is an easy task. I remember on my most recent trip that there were still power shortages – the thought of losing power during mid Summer with no back-up generator is too awful to imagine. For example, imagine also how hard it is for hospitals.

There are so many people in the world that have to walk for miles to attend school, who go hungry with many who cannot afford school fees. There are many children that also grow-up before their time. I remember walking the streets of Karol Bagh (a big shopping area of Delhi) back in December '05 and asking why a couple of children aged approximately 7 years old, each carrying a shoe cleaning kit (see picture of one of the boy's I took with my camera phone) were running from the police. My guide answered that they were supplementing the income of the family.

Although good progress is being made in and many argue that it everything takes time, is it not ironic that many countries in Africa and South Asia have in recent years have allowed investments in digital telephone and mobile networks. However and shamefully, their core infrastructure remains sparse. Clearly, there is a will but is the way focused on the right things?

Read more!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Your personal radio is now here (or hear!)

Over the last month I've been working on a new project, its called podcasting. A bit like Tivo - also known as TV on demand.

With the advent of the mp3 player, audio on the move has taken an even more dynamic path than the original Sony Walkman tape recorder. You can now shrink thousands of songs on to personal player.

Podcasting is a relatively new pass-time. Basically, the consumer can now move into production of audio or video content. The possibilities are truly amazing.

My team and I have now recorded the first episode of Sikhwithin. It is a regular podcast that aims to share knowledge about Sikhism through thoughts focused on honest living and equality for humanity. Join us by contributing and listening to our blog and weekly podcast by sending your Internet browser to the following link:


Establishing the Podcast 'out there'!
It is amazing that there are now many podcast directory sites. Consider them as the Yahoo/Google equivalent of a list of available podcasts. We have now started to register the one that we have just recorded. To actually get on a listing/site, the podcast directory owners have to authenticate our podcast. It is quite easy to get a podcast if you use i-Tunes. Once found you can quickly transfer it to your connected ipod (Apple Computer's device).

Listening online.
If you do not have a personal mp3 player, for example an i-pod, you can hear the episode/show online.

What is the format of the show and what is in it this week?
The format of the show has been structured into a number of parts:

Introduction - A summary of the show format
Shabad (Sikh Hymn) / Translation (In English)
An aspect of Sikh History
Featured CD of the week (Hopefully over time some interviews)
A Sikh Story
Related Interfaith Songs/Messages/

This week we feature a wonderful CD track/snippet from Dya Singh (Australia) with an built-in translation half-way through the Shabad. Featured on the CD: Naam. The track is called: Man mero gaj, jehba meri koati

We cover some aspects of what it was like at the time when Sikhism was just emerging from Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

We are very grateful to Indi Kaur for allowing us to feature a snippet from her recently released CD, Keep on Walking.

This week we also feature a snippet from Snatam Kaur's 'Long Time Sun' CD track. The CD is called Grace.

We close with some snippets from Stevie Wonder ('Have a talk with God' from the acclaimed, Songs in the Key of life double long player) and One Giant Leap ('Racing Away'), the latter bringing to humanity the wonders of world music.

Resources, Support and Thanks:
We are grateful to Mr Gurumustuk Singh:


You can hear and get connected to buying some great CDs from:


As previously mentioned our Thanks to Indi Kaur.
You can listen to further snippets of her CD and get an opportunity to buy it online at:

The research for this podcast this week have been based on:

Biography of Guru Nanak - Hemkunt Press and
A Brief History to Sikhism by Mr G.S Sidhu - SMSociety

Please feel free to send us your feedback. Take Care and believe in Waheguru (The wonderful Lord God).

Read more!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Is it a lack of respect? Of course it is!

On Monday 13th February a leading Iranian newspaper launched a competition asking people to submit cartoons about the Holocaust. The Hamshahri Daily says the competition is to test the boundaries of free speech for Westerners. At its website, Hamshahri has invited artists to send up to three cartoons by 5 May and promised to announce the results. The move could be viewed as retaliation for the publication in a Danish paper- Jyllands-Posten that has caused angry protests across the Muslim world.

Many in the media have suggested that this whole area is a freedom of speech issue. In my view it is one of a lack of basic respect for each other. What right has anyone to be critical of someone’s beliefs and then justify their actions! The fact is that Blasphemy is Blasphemy regardless of international boundaries. Religious tolerance is achieved through dialogue – a dialogue that promotes understanding each others differences not through ridicule.

Although Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday 13th February again tried to soothe the row, insisting his nation was ‘an open and tolerant society, a tolerant society which respects all faiths’. Unfortunately, the cartoons have caused so much outcry that people have died. There appeared to be no guidelines in any country that can proactively review possible risky material. Although this latter statement implies the need for state control of any publication, it is not meant to. Maybe instead or a compromise / or the closest we can get to is a published code of honour that provides a guide to respect in the community. This is where interfaith and representative of faiths can come together to provide sensible discussion on what is acceptable and the implication on society if incorrect information or inappropriate use of content is distributed. I would hope that the world is sensitive to reason and this is enough to motivate change.

Take for example, a couple of articles I wrote way back on the Hitman 2 video game, clearly this was a inappropriate portrayal of Sikhs.

In an era of available images on the Internet we have further challenges on our hands. For example, whilst scanning the Internet, I came across how the misuse of Google available content as part of a company logo. My understanding is that the image has now been removed from the home page of the particular site in question (date of writing this: 13th Feb). Whilst reading some of the posting protesting the adaptation of the item of content, one response suggested that Sikhs needed to open a dialogue with the company to ensure a peaceful resolution to this situation. The irony being that sometimes investigating abuse can give unnecessary publicity to the party responsible for the crime. In addition, we need to be aware that there are many that wish to defame religion as part of a hidden agenda. This is why respectable groups that talk sense need to communicate with the correct media outlets.

We need to work closely with the law to define and establish an international law to achieve a protocol of mutual respect.

Read more!