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No beating about the bush.
Our babus continue to ignore his inventions, while the world honours the technology man who patented an anti-collision device, made the Skybus and more recently the Gravity Power Towers
Rajaram Bojji, former managing director of Konkan Railway, never got a chance to implement his revolutionary Skybus project which would have provided inexpensive, air-conditioned mass transport without land acquisition! The idea, backed by 17 patents, was abandoned by Indian authorities despite a successful demonstration in Goa. But Mr Bojji, who is better known as B Rajaram, moved on to new research and has kicked off the new year with a bang.
Automated People Movers and Transit Systems (APM-ATS) has accepted Mr Bojji's work on Gravity Power Towers (GPT) as a peer-reviewed paper to be presented at its 13th International Conference on 24 May 2011. The biannual international meeting is being held in Paris for all those involved in the development of fully-automated people movers and urban transit systems around the world.
This is an honour for the man who invented the anti-collision device (ACD) for the Indian Railways and has already got 17 patents for his inventions. He has assigned the intellectual property (IP) rights of this technology to the president of India, which has the potential to generate additional revenues of between Rs300 crore and Rs400 crore per annum for the Konkan Railway.
In a message to Moneylife, Mr Bojji said, "With the GPT, the world will be benefited by a more economical and nature-friendly transportation system that runs substantially on eternal gravity. With GPT, the carbon emissions can be substantially reduced in the future. This totally automated system neither uses electrical traction motors on the rolling stock nor fixed signal train control systems. All it uses is automated energy control systems from gravity power towers, which can redefine our safety standards and lifestyle as well. It can be even adopted by the existing legacy systems. A dream of mine has taken the first step. Hope humanity benefits."
While, the Indian Railways is still 'thinking' about implementing indigenous technology, one of its technology drivers has moved on to bigger and better things.
Mr Bojji's GPT principle re-directs vertical-acting gravity force in a horizontal direction to create a tractive force on a mass on wheels-either rail or road-to accelerate, then sustain speed, and when decelerating to recover kinetic energy. It is almost like the action of a pendulum.
The recovery on the GPT system can vary from 95% to 70%, depending on the distance of uniform speed-the longer the distance, the lesser the recovery. Hysteresis losses owing to friction cause increased irrecoverable energy loss. GPT has been granted a patent in the US.
Mr Bojji has also presented the outline for a $450 billion scheme to create a cargo transportation network of about 100,000 km to be fully powered by the GPT in the US. The network, fully powered by gravitational force, would save around 97% of energy being utilised currently, and generate 30% surplus after meeting all expenses, while generating a million blog GPT.
It is estimated that gravity power systems could contribute 30-40% of the Earth's total energy needs, taking care of transportation of people and cargo, while attaining speeds of 360 kmph on rail-based systems.
Unfortunately, as the world rewards and awards the Indian innovator, the Indian government has shunned his solutions. The best example is the anti-collision device that he devised and which was given a patent, but the Railways have chosen to ignore it while trying to adopt the European Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) on busy rail routes. (Read, 'Is the anti-collision device system being derailed?' ; 'Why we are denying Raksha Kavach to rail commuters?' )
Mr Bojji's other creation, the 'Skybus', was also left by the wayside by Indian authorities planning mass transit systems. Further, while the anti-collision device was singled out by the World Intellectual Property Office for special coverage, the Skybus Metro Rail System was described in special programmes on National Geographic and Discovery channels.
Mr Bojji was involved with the Konkan Railway project as chief engineer from the beginning of its construction in 1990, then as director for projects and finally as managing director between 1998 and 2005. He was instrumental in delivering more than 100 tunnels (including the Mumbai-Pune Expressway tunnels), about 2,000 bridges and 750 km of live running track through treacherous terrain in Maharashtra's Konkan region.
While UIDAI and its chairman had said that the biometrics-based UID number would not be mandatory for Indian residents, many financial institutions and service providers are planning to turn it into the final word for identification
The biometrics-based unique identification number (UIDN) programme was launched with an open declaration that it would not be mandatory. However, the union government (the chief financier for the project) and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) are busy creating backdoor compulsions for UIDN through financial institutions and service providers, to ensure that people enrol or be left out of the system.
Only yesterday, labour secretary PC Chaturvedi told media persons that once the UIDN project is fully launched, the number would also help track provident fund (PF) accounts of individuals. Even the railways, as if not to miss the train, is planning to provide targeted concession to low-income group people through the UID number. According to reports, the railways wants to use the UID number to identify people living below the poverty line (BPL) and sell cheaper tickets to them. Although at present there is no provision for financial status, it could soon find a place in the UIDAI database, if one is to go by what the railways in planning.
Two months ago, CB Bhave, chief of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), had said that the market regulator was working on a new concept of operations based on the UID number. Although, for SEBI this is not the first time that it has tried to enforce an identification for investors. The market regulator discontinued its much-touted 'market participant identification number' (MAPIN) scheme in June-July 2005, after a six-member committee that was appointed to re-examine the use, structure and feasibility of the MAPIN database, recommended an end to biometric identification for investors. (Read 'Now, SEBI jumps on the UID bandwagon')
The question is, if UIDN is not mandatory why are banks, the regulators, the labour ministry and even the railways seeking to incorporate it under the garb of providing facilities or services, unless they want to use it as proof of identification. The list of UIDAI's associates, or partners for UIDN (also known as Aadhaar number), does not end here. There are many fat-profit organisations, which are collaborating with Aadhaar. This is not illegal, however, the question is why would a fat-profit organisation want to join this controversial project and spend public money?
As mentioned, the UIDAI database may include information related to financial status of an individual and thus would provide a golden opportunity for these fat-profit organisations to undertake targeted marketing. This aspect may have turned the Aadhaar project into a magnetron where UIDAI would be the magnet and these fat-profit organisations the electric power to generate extremely high frequency (targeted marketing) and short bursts of very high power (you get a UIDN or else…).
Addressing the Nielsen company's "Consumer 360" event in New Delhi not so long ago, Nandan Nilekani, chairman of UIDAI, said, "The (unique identification) number will create a much more open marketplace, where hundreds of millions of people who were shut out of services will now be able to access them."
Using UID, or allowing its database to be used by companies for marketing would turn the UIDAI into a business against its mandate, activists say. In addition, if at all the UIDN project is so good, why are leaders (political and business), bureaucrats and Page3 celebrities being kept out of it? Why not use their services to popularise the spread of UIDN, instead of launching it in some remote village in Maharashtra?
Our mails to the UIDAI chairman and other officials were unanswered.
Now, SEBI jumps on the UID bandwagon
UID = more 'consumers', admits Nilekani
Right to privacy and biometrics of the UID
National UID: An Orwellian Odyssey
UIDAI's not-so-'clean' partners and their tainted executives
Fat profit institutions continue to board UID bandwagon
2010 will go down as the ‘Year of the Corrupt’. Looking back, it’s difficult to step out of the muck of scams, to hope for a cleaner year ahead. But hope we must
The Bofors scam and Harshad Mehta are long forgotten, but 2010 will go down as a year that redefined the word 'scam' by displaying the many fields and ways in which they can occur.
The year started with the Sukna land scam, leading to disciplinary action against the top army brass. Army chief General Deepak Kapoor ordered court-martial proceedings against his close aide and military secretary Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash, the senior-most of the four generals indicted in the alleged scam case. The case involved the issuance of a no- objection certificate by the commander of the Army's 33 Corps to real estate developer Dilip Agarwal, for the transfer of a 71-acre tea estate adjacent to the Sukna military station, on the pretext of opening an educational campus affiliated to Ajmer-based Mayo College.
In February, IT major Wipro Technologies detected embezzlement of company funds by an employee in its finance department. The fraud is estimated at $4 million.
In April, Shashi Tharoor, resigned as minister of state for external affairs over the Kochi franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The problem started after Lalit Modi, the then IPL commissioner, revealed that Mr Tharoor's friend Sunanda Pushkar had an equity stake in Rendezvous Sports World (RSW) which won the Kochi bid. It was later disclosed that Ms Pushkar got sweat equity of the value of Rs70 crore from Rendezvous. But the focus soon shifted to Mr Modi for alleged fraud, tax evasion and more, with allegations and counter-allegations flying about through the media.
In the North-East, a special investigative cell in Arunachal Pradesh arrested Gegong Apang on charges of a multi-crore public distribution scam that happened before 2004, when Mr Apang was chief minister. The public exchequer suffered losses as fraudulent hill transport subsidy bills were cleared without financial concurrence.
In June, the microfinance sector was plunged into turmoil. Ironically it was the country's leading microfinance company, SKS Microfinance, that triggered the crisis with the controversial sacking of its chief executive officer within weeks of a very successful initial public offer. While the dismissal exposed the high-pay-high-interest operations of micro lenders, the Andhra Pradesh government soon issued an ordinance forcing strict rules and a cap on their activities. At the year-end the ordinance became statute. The sector shows no signs of recovery and is reeling from defaults and absence of fresh funding.
In July, the illegal mining scam rocked the BJP-led Karnataka legislature. Governor HR Bhardwaj asked for the resignation of the Reddy brothers, who are ministers in the Karnataka government, accusing them of illegal mining. The opposition sought the resignation of chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, but he refused to quit. The illegal mining and export of iron ore in Karnataka is estimated at Rs60,000 crore.
In August, an Uttar Pradesh government official disclosed that the Rs300 pension, which is part of the government's social security programme was fraudulently disbursed. The official revealed that of the 86,035 registered old-age pensioners in the state, only 65,920 people were genuine, while 17,419 were either fake or ineligible and 2,441 dead people were being paid a pension. An investigation has been ordered.
In September, the collapse of a footbridge, incomplete and shoddy construction work and filthy accommodation for sportspersons participating in the Commonwealth Games set off an uproar over misuse and misappropriation of money spent on this international event.
Media investigations revealed that money was siphoned off through allocation of broadcast rights, payments were made to non-existent parties, wilful delays in execution of contracts, over-inflated prices and disorganised purchase of equipment. The Central Vigilance Commission probing the alleged corruption in expenditure over the Games has recorded misappropriation amounting to an estimated Rs8,000 crore. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has raided the offices of Suresh Kalmadi and other Games officials, but Mr Kalmadi continues to be the chairman of the Games organising committee.
In Maharashtra, the Adarsh Housing Society land grab cost chief minister Ashok Chavan his job. The Adarsh building project, in Mumbai's Colaba area, originally cleared as a six-storey structure for Kargil war heroes and widows, was converted into a 31-storey building, in which flats were allocated to top army officials, bureaucrats and politicians or their close family members. Inquiries by the media and RTI activists have also found that clearances for the building, constructed on prime defence land, have also been given illegally.
Karnataka chief minister Mr Yeddyurappa was again targeted over land transfer deals favouring his sons. The lands, which were part of the discretionary quota of the chief minister, were earlier earmarked for public projects and industries.
Even as the Adarsh and Karnataka land scams held the attention of the public, another major corruption case came to light with the arrest of eight finance executives, including the chief executive officer of LIC Housing Finance, Ramachandran Nair. The officials were accused of sanctioning loans to corporate houses (many of them real estate businesses), overlooking the guidelines, in exchange for bribes. The deals were worked out by Money Matters, a hitherto little known Mumbai-based company.
But it was the 2G spectrum allocation scam that created the biggest storm, disrupting the entire winter session of parliament. In November, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the country's topmost accounts head, reported irregularities in the government's allocation of 2G spectrum to private companies that resulted in a loss of nearly Rs1,76,000 crore in potential revenues.
The CAG report held telecom minister A Raja responsible for arbitrary and unfair allocation of spectrum in 2008 at the rates in 2001, ignoring the guidelines of the telecom ministry and the advice of the prime minister. Raja resigned, but more disclosures about lobbying over ministerial positions by some industry leaders and involving popular media personalities widened the matter and ensured it will not die down easily.
The opposition has been firm on its demand for an investigation into the matter by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), but the government has so far refused to give in to the demand, saying that it is being investigated by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The opposition is adamant that only a JPC can look into the aspect of the accountability of the government that is at the core of the scam.
A lot of the disclosures on this matter were contained in taped conversations of Niira Radia, corporate lobbyist and public relations consultant for top business houses like the Tatas and Reliance Industries, by the income-tax authorities. The conversations reveal how she manipulated the media over issues concerning the Ambanis and the even the appointment of A Raja as telecom minister in the current government instead of Dayanidhi Maran.
Extensive transcripts of the tapes were published in Outlook and Open newsmagazines and the tapes of nearly 5,000 conversations are now in the custody of the Supreme Court, which is keeping a close check on the ongoing investigations into the entire matter dating back to 2001.
In the last few days, we learned about a customer relationship manager at the Citibank branch in Gurgaon duping high networth individuals to the tune of nearly Rs400 crore.
The investigation into most of these cases is still going on and will likely dominate the new year 2011.