Monday, August 20, 2012

Violence and SMS curfew

The Indian government's latest move to not allow more than 5 sms per person per day to arrest the violence against North-East Indians is a nuisance at best.

It not only fringes on the citizens' right to communicate, but also squarely puts the blame on to interactions through sms. This is a law-and-order situation and should be treated as such.

Instead of focusing attention on sms and social networks, the government should rather spend its energy on stopping the riots in Assam in the first place and then curbing the violence in the South Indian cities.

As Einstein once pithily remarked, "I've little sympathy for all those who find the thinnest part of the wood and then proceed to make a great many holes in it."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Independence Day

"Happy Independence Day" -- this phrase has been hitting us more and more in recent years. This is more like happy mother's day, happy valentine's day, happy new year, etc. Indeed, consumerism has brought everything down to the same level.However, there is a more important issue about happy independence day.

What is so "happy" about it? Have we forgotten our history completely? Don't we remember anything about the circumstances in which our country gainedher independence? Don't we remember the partition? The breaking up of our country, for the sole benefit of some foreigners and some-worse-than-foreigners-businessmen-and-politicians? The riots that followed? The millions that died? The more-than-millions that were forced to flee their homes overnight without so much as even a paise or a change of clothes?

No, we don't. We only remember a footnote of history that India got its first Indian prime minister? Note that still Mountbatten was in the country. And instead of booting the British out, we welcomed them.
But what is it to us, a generation far removed from the practicalities of hardship and nation building. We have inherited a free country and a more-than-useful holiday. Let it be that.

Jai Hind!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mahan Maharaj

Mahan Maharaj (Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award winner for Mathematics in 2011) is simply one of the great wonders of this world. A student, so brilliant, with a chance to stay back in foreign countries, not only returns but embraces monkhood! However, his love and sense of duty for what he is good at (i.e., mathematics) leads him to continue doing research at the highest level.

Indeed, I feel one of his comments to be so apt -- when asked why he chose to be a monk, he replies "Perhaps because I wanted to find the peace to work away at mathematical problems!"

With this fast world around, are we giving yourselves enough time and peace to work towards what we are good at?

Monday, August 6, 2012

E-filing of income tax

While the Indian government's effort to get all income taxes over ₹10 lakhs to be filed online compulsorily must be lauded, we are still really myopic about the way to do it.

The website requires one to first create an account (a regulation step), and then submit an XML file as the tax return. The use of XML is a great step as (i) it is really just a text format, (ii) it is free and not under any copyright, etc.

However, as soon as one starts thinking of how to create the XML file, trouble ensues. The website asks one to use a spreadsheet file (that also after unzipping). Note that while spreadsheet is an open (and free) format, the file that the website provides issues macros and ActiveX controls which, unfortunately, cannot be run without Microsoft Excel. I have tried different Openoffice versions and confirmed this.

This is where my real complaint is. Why force an entire population to use a paid (and if I may add, quite heavily so) software? Does the Indian government assume that all users have access to such a pricey software? Or as is the current wisdom, have access to one with such a privilege or worse have access to a pirated version? Is this really promoting piracy?

I must re-emphasize the fact that the final output is just an XML file. Some other software (not a spreadsheet) could have been used to generate it only if the website also provided the document structure for it. But why bother when the open secret is that M$Office is freely pirated.