Citizens' Issues
IIT ditches alumnus
 
Young graduate student Buddhi Vikram is still languishing in US prisons since 2006 for allegedly sending threat mails to the then President George Bush and all efforts of his father, another IIT alumnus, to garner support have failed. The IIT alumni were supposed to take up Vikram’s case with former President Bill Clinton during his address to the PanIIT 2009 conference held earlier this week at Chicago, but allegedly could not muster up courage to do so.
 
This has started a fresh debate among the IIT alumni about their annual conference itself. Moneylife has come across some chain mails that are doing rounds on the Internet about PanIIT’s failure to take up Vikram’s case.
 
Vikram was arrested in April 2006 and charged on 11 counts, including charges under US Code 871, which deals with threats to the US president and his successor. If proved guilty, he could be sentenced to imprisonment up to 60 years. Vikram graduated in mathematics with an MSc degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, stood first in the class and received a silver medal from IIT.
 
According to Dr Buddhi K Subbarao, a former defence scientist who worked with the Indian Navy, and father of Vikram, PanIIT association conference organisers at Chicago buckled under pressure from US authorities. "It is amazing to me to know the twists and turns from the events at the PAN-IIT Conference," said Dr Subbarao, who holds a PhD in nuclear technology from IIT Bombay.
 
Echoing the same feeling, one of the attendees at the PanIIT conference, Ajeet Saxena, said, "These (the PanIIT fellows) are the guys who were not even known within their own batch and are now looking for some public recognition and scenes of importance by holding some 'public' office. They are goody-goody, out to maintain status quo, please all those in authority and somehow pose for photo sessions. They have nothing to do with matters of truth, righteousness and justice—as advocating any of these three requires courage and involves risk. Championing the cause of truth and justice antagonises people in powerful positions—people on whose crumbs these creatures thrive, and one faces the danger of not only losing the privileges offered by the establishment but even the risk of being victimised. So, don't expect anything from them."
 
Another IIT alumnus, who attended the conference after some reluctance, Samir Kelekar has termed the behaviour at the conference as a "tamasha". He said, “I didn’t see any difference in the PanIIT tamasha in Chennai. In fact, nothing of any consequence of social political change was taken up or (issues of more importance) followed up. While some of us fight for democracy and freedom of speech, others just are not concerned, but just 'suck up' to authorities and perhaps are trying to strike good business deals."
 
Earlier in August, Dr Subbarao, in an appeal to SM Krishna, external affairs minister, India said, ”Vikram is awaiting his sentencing at a US prison in Chicago. In prison, he has been conducting himself in a dignified manner, teaching mathematics to inmates as per the formal program prescribed by the prison authorities, and in the rest of the time making a serious and in-depth study of US Federal Criminal Laws with the hope that a time would come where some US Court would apply its judicial mind to secure the ends of justice and his life and liberty would be restored to him.”
 
So while Vikram continues to languish in a US prison, his fellow alumni from IIT were not even bothered to help him. Do we have to say any more on why we, the citizens of India, lack patriotic spirit?
-Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]
 

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Gammon Infra lowest bidder for NHAI project
 
If things fall in place, Gammon Infrastructure Projects Ltd (GIPL) will soon have a new project and thus a new wholly-owned subsidiary too. GIPL has claimed to be the lowest bidder for National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) project connecting Patna to Muzaffarpur.
 
“We are the lowest bidders for the project and are awaiting a notification of intent (NOI) from NHAI,” said Parvez Umrigar, managing director, GIPL.
 
The project is on an annuity model connecting Patna to Muzaffarpur, to be built on a BOT basis. GIPL has a total committed capital expenditure of Rs10,000 crore across various sectors and Rs2,000 crore in the road sector alone.
 
GIPL creates a new subsidiary or special purpose vehicle for every new project it wins. At present, the company has some 16 projects, out of which it holds majority stake in 13 projects.
- Amritha Pillay [email protected]
 
 

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Tilting at windmills

The total windmill capacity in India is now 9,000MW (3,594 MW in 2005) and around Rs30,000 crore has been invested in various windmill projects across the country.

Every reputed industrial group—even those who have nothing to do with the power sector— wants a piece of the windmill pie. According to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-WET), India has a wind farm potential of 48,000 MW. This will require an investment of Rs3,00,000 crore.

 But here’s the catch. The investment is nothing other than a depreciation machine with hardly any productivity. If the total potential of 48,000MW is realised, this will generate 48-75 billion KWh of electricity whereas if this amount is spent on thermal plants worth 75,000 MW, they will generate 525 billion KWh of electricity.
 
For instance, Tata Power put up its 80 MW wind power project in a windy area in 2008-09; it produced 1.6 million KWh for each MW of the windmill project. At its Trombay power house—where Tata Power has its 1,580MW thermal power project—it produced 9,845 million units accounting for 6.2 million KWh per MW. However, Tata’s windmill project was set up in a windy area. The situation is worse in other places where wind blades hardly move and generate negligible power.
 
A comparison of thermal power plants and windmill projects throws up some surprising figures. Thermal plants generate around 6-7 million KWh per MW of capacity despite their low efficiency of 36% as power is generated from coal to steam to turbine generator. Against this, windmills have no loss of efficiency in the process of converting wind to electricity as wind blades are directly attached with the rotor and generator. Despite this they get only one million KWh of electricity per MW.
 
Only plus point with windmills is that they have no raw material cost. But looking at the huge cost which is 1.5 times higher than thermal plant, why is the government promoting wind mills?
 
One answer may be thanks to depreciation benefits. The entire cost of a windmill plant can be depreciated in the first year of operation if it is used for more than 180 days other wise 80% cost can be depreciated even if it is used for one day under section 32 of the Income-Tax Act.  
 - Dhruv Rathi [email protected]

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