Sania Mirza in U.S. Open third round (updated)

18-year-old tennis terror Sania Mirza just beat her second-round U.S. Open opponent, Italian Maria Elena Camerin, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 (thanks, Sania Fan). Her next draw is 21-year-old Marion Bartoli of France (via desiFans). Mirza won her first round against Mashona Washington of Houston.

The 18-year-old from Hyderabad defeated Italy’s Elena Camerin 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in a roller-coaster of a match and with France’s Marion Bartoli to follow, she will harbour genuine hopes of reaching the last 16 and a likely encounter with top seed Maria Sharapova.

But she will need to fully recover physically from what was a punishing second round tie if is she is to better her breakthrough third round performance at this year’s Australian Open where she eventually lost to Serena Williams. [Link]

Now ranked 42nd in the world, Mirza is the first Indian woman to win a match at the U.S. Open. She’s got lots of power, but in her last two matches committed plenty of worrisome unforced errors.

The doubles events have produced some interesting desi pairings:

Injuries notwithstanding, Sania Mirza has opted to play in the women’s doubles, partnering Australia’s Bryanne Stewart, at the US Open… Sania has a strained abdominal muscle and is also troubled by bleeding toes…

In the mixed doubles, Leander Paes joins hands with Martina Navratilova, in what could be the 48-year-old legend’s last US Open. Paes and Martina [are] seeded seventh… Mahesh Bhupathi will pair up with Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova…

Paes and Bhupathi are playing with their regular partners Nenad Zemonjic of Serbia and Montenegro and Martin Damm of the Czech Republic respectively in the men’s doubles. [Link]

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Babu hell

Sooner or later, just like the world’s first day
Sooner or later, we learn to throw the past away
History will teach us nothing…

– Sting, ‘History Will Teach Us Nothing

India’s coalition government, the United Progressive Alliance, has pushed a quasi-socialist employment guarantee through Parliament:

Parliament on Wednesday night approved the historic Bill for providing employment guarantee to all rural households in the country with Rajya Sabha passing the legislation by a voice vote. [Link]

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2004 promises wage employment to every rural household, in which adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Through this Bill the government, aims at removing poverty by assuring at least 100 days’ employment. [Link]

Like most government handouts, the entitlement was expanded from its original means-tested form to include all rural households, even the relatively prosperous. India needs to build plenty of infrastructure, her villages are very poor, and so I’m all for the UPA’s WPA for a limited period of time. But you do that by first fixing which roads, flyovers and airports you want to build and then figuring out manpower requirements. What you don’t do is guarantee a paycheck regardless of the availability of work, able-bodied individuals in a household or the individual worker’s performance.

The Congress returned to power in last year’s general election largely on its promises of giving the country’s economic reforms a human face and making the process more inclusive so that it benefited the poor in rural areas…

“This bill has been tabled in Parliament without proper preparation. The government does not know the exact number of unemployed people. There were six such schemes earlier, but they all failed due to the same reason,” said Singh, who is chairman of the Parliament’s standing committee on rural development. The bill, when enacted, will cover all rural households, not just those below poverty line, as had been provided earlier. [Link]

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Shopaholic India

So now we know why I can shopping spree like a champion– it’s in my genes. (Thanks, 43 Seconds.)

According to the annual Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations report (pdf)–widely considered the most comprehensive source on global weapons sales–India’s got so many shopping bags full of “tanks, submarines, combat aircraft, missiles and ammunition”, her arms are sore. ;)

India was the leading buyer of conventional arms among developing nations in 2004, a report for the US Congress says. The Congressional Research Service said Delhi agreed the transfer of $5.7bn in weapons, ahead of China. [Beeb]
India was also the leading developing world purchaser over the 1997-2004 period covered in the report, sealing 10% of all such arms agreements.[Beeb]

Yes, yes, the US is the biggest “weapons mall” of them all, with around a third of all contracts. It’s the mall of America, if you will. Oh wait, we already have one of those.

Keeping up with the Wongs’?

India negotiated $15.7bn in agreed transfers of conventional weapons between 1997 and 2004 to top the list.[Beeb]
China overtook India for the period 2001-2004 on the back of a big increase in defence budget, but India was back on top for 2004 alone.[Beeb]

Enlighten me, do you think this is a good thing to be “on top” of? Continue reading

Disastrous celebrity

Remember when much of the coverage of last year’s tsunami focused on the Victoria Secret’s model caught up in the waves rather than the 200,000 dead? And the ToI story which said the real tragedy of the Bombay cloudburst was that customers couldn’t get their ToI?

The Indo-Asian News Service throws its hat into the ring of vacuousness. Remember that in inverted pyramid style, the most salient fact comes first in the headline and lede. So here’s the most important fact about the destruction of New Orleans and the Louisiana, Missouri and Alabama coasts as reported by IANS and quoted in Abhi’s post:

Hurricane Katrina leaves US Congressman man Jindal homeless [Link]

You can contribute to the Red Cross relief effort here. Previous posts: one, two

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Jindal and H.R. 387

As I’m sure many of you  have been following, the situation in NOLA seems to be getting worse and worseMaitri is continuing her great coverage by trying to separate facts from media hype and B.S.  Among the many people who have been evacuated is one U.S. Congressman Bobby Jindal.  The Central Chronicle reports:

Indian American Congressman Bobby Jindal was among thousands of residents in New Orleans, Louisiana, who were left without food or electricity after Hurricane Katrina pounded the US Gulf coast.

“The events of the last 48 hours have hit us harshly, and the effects of Hurricane Katrina are still not fully known,” Jindal, a resident of Louisiana’s New Orleans that has been submerged under the flood waters, said on his website.

I know most of you, like my family and I, have spent a restless night, evacuated from your homes and still without power. We are all worried about what we will find when we are finally given the all clear to return,” he said.

As “luck” would have it though, one of Jindal’s first actions in Congress was to get a bill passed which eases the financial burden on victims of natural disaster:

Jindal’s legislative victories on natural disaster compensation in Congress this year are critical for Louisianans as they fight yet another major calamity.

Soon after he came into Congress this year, he began to lobby and successfully got passed legislation reversing an earlier ruling that would have taxed compensation to his state’s residents for monies they got as a result of natural disasters. That law takes on added meaning for Louisianans now as they battle with massive devastation from Hurricane Katrina.

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The New Yorker Festival

This year’s Wells Fargo New Yorker Festival draws a grab bag of celebs-e-tweed you can pay to rub shoulders with: Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith, Richard Dawkins, Behnaz Sarafpour and Sasha Frere-Jones. And they’re not alone: Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Roots, yadda yadda. It’s like they swiped the Sex and the City item numbers and invited with abandon.

In a highbrow bow, a gesture of noblesse oblige, the magazine not only ran a feature on the Three Stooges this week, they invited the South Park brats to the fest. But of course the Jhumpa-Zadie axis is sold out. How now, brown cow?

The Aug. 29th issue also ran an excellent Vijay Seshadri poem, ‘Family Happiness.’ Seshadri is an English professor who may have been one of the original 2nd genners, with both a pukka American accent and an incongruous shock of gray hair. He read another poem I dig at the SAJA fest; he’s got a radio voice and a knack for lines of astringent tenderness within the clutches of marriage.

Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India, in 1954 and came to America at the age of five. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio… and has lived in many parts of the country, including the Pacific Northwest, where he spent five years working in the fishing and logging industries, and New York’s Upper West Side, where he was a sometime graduate student in Columbia’s Ph.D. program in Middle Eastern Languages and Literature… He currently teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. [Link]

New Yorker Festival, Sep. 23-25, 2005, Manhattan, various locations

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Kid Made, Adult Approved

New tipster FOBish informs us of yet another way India eats its young: Child Sari Weavers.

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It is estimated that there are around 10,000 children in the districts of Kanchipuram and Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu work in the silk industry.

There are over 100,000 looms set up in individual homes on which these famous silk saris are woven. Many of these saris cost several thousand rupees…

These children work every day of the week for up to 10 hours a day.

Savarnam, an owner of two looms rejected all accusations of exploitation. Instead he said that they were helping these poor people by giving them employment.

“We make hardly any profit. The cost of raw material is high. Added to that we face competition from cheap copies of Kanchipuram saris,” he argued.

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Riiight. Many, if not all these children are essentially bonded laborers working to repay a loan their parents were forced to take. Human Rights Watch reports:

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A 14 year-old boy who worked as a weaver’s assistant in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, told Human Rights Watch that he could not leave his loom owner because he was paying off a loan, which in two years he had only reduced from Rs. 2,500 (U.S. $52) to Rs. 475 (U.S. $9.90). “The owner pays [a small salary] but deducts for the advance [loan],” he said. “He deducts but won’t write off the whole advance. . . . We only make enough to eat.”
Karnataka, in the south, is India’s primary producer of silk thread. There, production still depends on bonded children. Most are under age 14 and are Dalit or Muslim. In 2001, the state government promulgated an ambitious plan to eliminate all child labor, but it was not in operation at the time of Human Rights Watch’s investigation one year later. [link]

A detailed examination of how bonded child labor works can be found here. Continue reading

The Keystone Cops of Connaught Place

stooges.jpg Raju Sharma, a money changer in New Delhi, left his office around half-past eight last night carrying a bag filled with around Rs. 14 lakhs. On his way to the car, interception!

four young men on two motorcycles intercepted him and tried to snatch the bag. At this, Mr. Sharma put a stiff resistance and raised an alarm. [linky]

I “put a stiff resistance” whenever I’m approached by four young men, too. ;)

No heroes in all of ND?

However, since one of the robbers was brandishing a revolver, no one came forward. Though he fought with the robbers for about 10 minutes, in the end the culprits managed to snatch the bag as he lost hold of it on being hit on the head with the butt of the revolver.[linky]

That’s gonna leave a mark.

Subsequently, the culprits fled from the spot. Mr. Sharma in the meantime continued to cry for help, which caught the attention of a policeman who was passing by. The duo then gave a chase to the robbers in an auto-rickshaw.[linky]

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New York’s new political landscape

The Village Voice takes a look at what a white (presumably) candidate has got to do to tread the ethnic waters of the Big Apple:

Money talks, and the Wongs and Muhammads of this world are speaking louder in New York City politics. From 1989 to 2001, the number of contributions to municipal campaigns from those two surnames quadrupled as the population of Asians–a broad category that includes people from the Middle East to the Far East–grew faster than any other group in the city. Yet the ethnic calculus of this year’s mayoral campaign is still limited to blacks, whites, and Hispanics, according to the Marist and Quinnipiac polls, which report results only for those three groups, omitting a tenth of the city’s people.

Yes, merely a tenth. “For us, we’re still not that big,” says John Abi-Habib, a person of Lebanese descent and a vice chairman of the Brooklyn Republican Party, who helped found a Middle Eastern political coalition eight years ago, “but then we have over 50,000 registered voters in this city.” And that number is growing, partly as a reaction to negative fallout from September 11. “The last four years, we must have registered thousands and thousands of people to vote,” Abi-Habib says, “and they see the importance of it because they know their voice has to be heard.”

Despite the obvious cultural differences between the different groups of Asian immigrants in NYC, City Councilman John Liu of Queens says that they do share some basic things in common which might be addressed by a common overall strategy in trying to capture their votes:

Ethnic labels are crude by definition: You’re black whether you just flew in from Senegal or are descended from slaves shipped to U.S. shores centuries ago. Latinos include light-skinned Cubans and Indian-blooded families from Ecuador. But the categories make some sense if common concerns affect the people they cover. And while Asian and Middle Eastern New Yorkers care about failing schools, high rent, rats, and all the usual urban woes, they also worry about things that other groups needn’t fear.

There are lots of issues that Asian Americans share,” said Liu, “one being the immigrant experience, being relatively recent immigrant arrivals. And Asians also suffer from a perpetual- foreigner syndrome, meaning that you could be a fourth- or fifth-generation Asian American but still somehow it’s difficult to believe that you’re an American. I get that: First they compliment me on my ability to speak English, and often I get asked, ‘Well, where are you from?’ and for some reason people refuse to take Flushing for an answer.”

The whole article has a bit of a slimy feel to it.  I appreciate the fact that Asian Americans are becoming motivated to vote and that politicians are being forced to listen, but here it almost seems like a contest between the candidates to see who is more down with the “brown and yellow.”  The idealist in me wishes they wouldn’t have to try so hard, but maybe we are at least a generation away from that type of city.

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A New Spook at the Agency

Rediff.com is reporting that Sumit Ganguly will soon take over as head of the South Asia Bureau in the National Intelligence Council:

Sumit Ganguly, who currently holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations will soon be appointed the first National Intelligence Officer of the newly-formed South Asia Bureau in the National Intelligence Council, an appendage of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Ganguly, also a professor of political science and director of the Indian Studies Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, is the first Indian-American to serve in the NIC.

The NIC is the intelligence community’s centre for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking.

Its National Intelligence Estimates on behalf of the Director of National Intelligence (the head of the CIA) are the most authoritative written judgments concerning national security issues.

Yes, intelligence estimates are quite useful (when the analysis isn’t pre-ordained at least). Well good.  It makes sense to have someone of South Asian heritage actually head this new branch.

His most recent work, published by Columbia University Press and Oxford University Press (New Delhi), is entitled Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947. He also recently published The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press and Washington, D.C.: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1999). His research and writing have been supported by grants from the Asia Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace. He has also been a guest scholar and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (New York) and the International Institute of Strategic Studies (London). Professor Ganguly serves on the editorial boards of Asian Affairs, Asian Survey, Current History and the Journal of Strategic Studies. He is also the editor of a new journal, The India Review, published by Frank Cass and Company. [Link]

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