70,000-year history of Indian sub-continent


Unraveling the mystery of our roots to understand the present and predict the future.


Do we have it in us to give the fairer sex the place they deserve?.


Change of world order. Religious Terrorism. Where are we heading?.


Wanderlust Hodophiles.

Welcome to KHOJ: The search to know our roots and understand the meaning of our existence.

Prejudice is the biggest problem in the society. It can be it in terms of religion, cast, sex, skin-colour, status etc. Prejudice can also be in form of the feeling that human beings are the greatest creation, or even patriotism about artificially created borders. The motto of KHOJ is to gain knowledge and break that prejudice. But there is a word of caution for the readers. To break the prejudice KHOJ might throw upon you the concepts it believes in. If the reader believes on KHOJ’s perception without question, then KHOJ itself might incept a prejudice in the readers mind thus failing in it own motto. KHOJ is trying to break its own world of prejudice, but at times that prejudice might get reflected in its writing. Please do challenge them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Short answer: Because “whiskey’s for drinking, but water’s for fighting over”.

Water crisis is not unique to India. Human population is growing while the supply of drinking water is decreasing. Water crisis is inevitable all around the world at some point of time, if this trend continues. In fact, it is a reality at many places at this very moment. The problem is there in every corner of the world. ~2.8 billion people are affected by water shortage for at least one month in a year. 

Let us first understand why is there a crisis in the first place. With growing population and urbanisation the demand of water is exceeding the rate at which the aquifers are recharged. The waste generation is also increasing with time. It is polluting the already stressed drinking waters. This is very obvious in cities like Delhi. We desperately need to clean our rivers. Climate change is accelerating the crisis further. As the icecaps are melting, the glaciers are receding. This reduces the flow of waters in rivers and streams. Climate change also affects the weather pattern. Droughts are becoming common and monsoons are becoming unpredictable.

Water conflicts are nothing new. Where ever a river basin is divided between strong states, there has been rivalry. In fact, the English word “rival” is derived from the Latin word "rivalis," meaning persons who live on opposite banks of a river used for irrigation. Conflicts related to usage of river waters is common in Middle East and North Africa over the waters of Euphrates, Tigris, Nile and Jordan river. Turkey and Israel had made a “water for arms” deal in 2004. Turkey exported gallons of water in oil tanks to Israel in return for tanks and airforce technology. Stress is building up over the water usage of Colorado River in US. Water wars have been common in California. When I went to Mono Lake I was amazed to see the towering Tufa towers. I was surprised when I heard that they formed under water. The dramatic fall in the water level has not only exposed them, but also affected the eco-system. 

Tufa tower of Mono Lake

Water scarcity is also affecting Mediterranean basin. Spain had to import water from France in 2008 due to severe drought in Catalonia. South-eastern Brazil, including cities like Rio de Janeiro, are struggling with the worst droughts in over 80 years. China has always been a society that is heavily depended on its river water. Hydrologists have warned that the economic boom is fast drying up the water resource, and with it China’s future.

Nowhere on earth the decline of groundwater is faster than it is in northern India. It became evident when twin satellites from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) detected the ground water storage based on gravity. India had it’s share of disputes over the sharing of river waters with Bangladesh and Pakistan. But the main war for water in India is happening in the south.

In India water is not just a necessity … water is god. Control of river has always been the key to agriculture and economy of empires. Wherever there was a dispute, war followed. Fight for the waters of Krishna River dates way back in history. There have been battles between the Chola and Chalukya Empires between 10th to 12th century, then again between the Vijayanagara Empire and Bhamani Kingdom in 14th century.

The dispute of Kaveri River started in the 19th century between the kings of Mysore and British controlled Madras Presidency. A pact was signed in 1892 that allowed “on the one hand allow to Mysore in dealing with irrigation works, and on the other, give to Madras practical security against injury to interests”. The pact resulted in peace that lasted for 18 years. In 1910 the issue resurfaced when Mysore king wanted to construct a dam with a capacity of over 40TMC. It clashed with the interest of Madras which had it’s own plan of a dam almost double in size. After lots of negotiations final agreement was reached in 1924 which allowed Mysore to construct the dam, but of only 11 TMC capacity. Because of higher population and need TN got more share of the water. The agreement was to lapse after 50 years. The seeds of today’s conflict was planted.

Post Independence Indian states were reorganised on linguistic basis. The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (ISRWD Act) was passed on the eve of reorganisation under Article 262 of Constitution of India to resolve the water disputes that would “arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley”. The reorganisation brought new players into the game. The new state of Kerala and the Union Territory of Pondicherry now had a share too. However, Madras, now Tamil Naidu (TN), and Mysore, now Karnataka, remained the major players.

The Government of India archive website reports 7 Inter-State water disputes under ISRWD, 1956:

The control for Kaveri remained a volatile mix of unpredictable monsoons and dirty politics. The dispute was referred to a Tribunal in 1990. Every failed monsoon inflamed the tensions. Violence broke out in 1991-92, especially in Tamil populated parts of Bangalore. Monsoons failed again in 1995. Quick intervention by the then prime-minister P.V. Rao resulted in a negotiation and helped prevent widespread violence. Tensions flared up again in 2002 when monsoons failed once more. It was followed by four years of relative calm.

The final judgement by the Tribunal was delivered in 2007 as per ISRWD. It allocated 419 TCM ft. of water annually to Tamil Nadu, 270 TCM ft. to Karnataka, 30 TCM ft. to Kerala and 7 TCM ft. to Puducherry. None of the states were happy with the decision and review petitions were filed by them for re-negotiation. With no side willing to back off, the dispute still remains nine years since the judgement.

To understand the dispute let us first try to understand the number game. The following analysis is based on the data in the following website :

Experts did some complicated maths (which has lot’s of assumption) to come up with the magic number of 740 TCM ft of total water available from Kaveri Basin (if monsoon does not fail). Of that the major chunk of 462 TCM ft is the yield of the river in Karnataka. Karnataka can keep only 270 TCM ft and give the rest (192 TCM ft) to TN. TN also generates 227 TCM ft from it’s own catchment area increasing the total share of the state to 419 TCM ft (227+192). Kerala, which generates 51 TCM ft, can keep only 30 TCM ft. The rest 21 is divided between Pondicherry (7 TCM ft) and environmental purposes (14 TCM ft).

The obvious question is why Karnataka gets less water though it has the highest water yield?

This is a very common problem around the globe. As per this ( website:

The upper-riparian nations (riparian nations—nations across which, or along which, a river flows) initially base their claims on absolute territorial sovereignty, typically claiming the right to do whatever they choose with the water regardless of its effect on other riparian nations. Downstream nations, on the other hand, generally begin with a claim to the absolute integrity of the river, claiming that upper-riparian nations can do nothing that affects the quantity or quality of water that flows in the watercourse. The utter incompatibility of such claims guarantees that neither claim will prevail in the end, although the process of negotiating or otherwise arriving at a solution might require decades.

Karnataka, being an upper-riparian state, has more responsibility. It has to provide water for down-stream states, which in this case is TN. That still does not justify TN getting a total of 419 TCM ft and Karnataka only 270 TCM ft. The justification to the biased proportion lies way back in history. The Chola Dynasty has been building dams for irrigation since 10th century. This led to growth of agriculture in TN. Comparatively, Karnataka had been lagging behind. The people of TN became more dependent on the waters of Kaveri River than Karnataka. Under British Rule TN naturally got more share of water. Even till 1974 80% of the annual yield of Kaveri River was used by TN. Now that TN is more dependent on the waters, there is no way of reducing their share drastically without adversely affecting the farmers. TN has more population and thus more need. Karnataka, on the other hand, needs more share for the growth of their agriculture. With rapid increase in the population (more than 10% in last decade) in Southern Karnataka (having cities like Bangalore) the demand of water is also rapidly growing. Without increase in share of water Karnataka's growth will become unstable.

Another issue that Karnataka has with the tribunal is the monthly allocation of water that it has to provide to TN. During the four monsoon months it has to provide 10 TCM ft in June, 34 TMC ft in July, 50 TMC ft in August and 40 TMC ft in September. This is based on the average figures provided by the state itself. There is no problem when monsoon is sufficient. However, during the distress years, like this year (2016), it becomes a major issue.

The 2016 water crisis started when Supreme Court (SC) directed Karnataka to release 15,000 causecs of water to TN for 10 days on 5th September. This order was passed to satisfy the demands of TN's farmers for growing summer crops. This led to violent protests in Karnataka, as the water flow was already less. As the law and order went out of control SC revised the orders this Monday (12th Sep). Now Karnataka has to provide 12,000 causecs instead of 15,000. The duration, however, was increased till 20th September instead of 15,000 causecs for five days as Karnataka wished, and the protest continues.

According to recent estimates Karnataka has suffered a loss of around Rs 22,000-25,000 crore because of the wide-spread agitation hitting transport services and businesses. Two deaths has already been reported because of the clashes. Most of the violence is instigated by miscreants. Involvement of politicians cannot be ruled out. The scary fact is that, there is no easy solution to the problem.

Is Kaveri dispute a warning for rest of India? As water demand grows and rivers dry up, are we going to see more of such wars? What is the solution?

Only way to solve the issue is dialogue and negotiations. The states has to be more mature and understand that the problem will only increase if it is not solved now. Instead of short term thinking guided by local politics, politicians should think about the long term implications. The states also need to manage the water efficiently. There is a lot of scope of improvement for better water management. One way is to avoid water intensive paddy crops and the use of techniques that do not facilitate conservation of water. If we don’t act now, the water wars is soon to become reality all over India. We desperately need to find a peaceful alternative.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Is Mother Teresa a saint?

REF# © 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 / Lizenz: Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.0 de 

This simple question has been a topic of heated discussions in our office cafeteria since she received her sainthood. I am sure other offices in India would be no different. The simple answer to that question would be ‘no’.

The long answer to the debate is probably more complicated than a simple ‘no’.

Let us first take a look at how she became what she is today.

Teresa was born in an ordinary family of Skopje, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Macedonia, on 26th August 1910. Her real name was Agnes (Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu). From her childhood, she had been a religious person. The idea of serving the poor of Bengal for Christ was implanted in her mind very early. In her teens, she got fascinated by the stories of missionaries serving in Bengal. Once she was 18 years old, there was nothing that could stop her from achieving her dream. Teresa left her home and went to Ireland not only to learn English, the language of missionaries in India, but also to start her journey of serving Christ by joining Sisters of Loreto. She arrived in India in 1929 and began her training in the foothills of Himalayas of Bengal in the sleepy city of Darjeeling. In India, she took the name of Teresa - the patron saint of missionaries.

It was only in mid 20th century when Teresa became Mother Teresa. The World War II had deadly repercussion in Bengal. The famine of 1943 left over 3 million dead and those left behind barely survived. Few years later, before the wounds of famine could heal, Bengal suffered the second deadly blow - the Hindu-Muslim riots. Kolkata was lucky to have both Mother and Mahatma (Gandhi) with them during such trying times. Teresa was saddened by the desperate condition of the poor in Bengal and she experienced "the call within the call" to help the poor. She decided to leave the comfort of her missionary and serve the poor while living among them. Since then she has served the poor and took care of "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

With permission from Vatican, she opened the missionaries of charity in 1950. Since then she had opened numerous orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centres worldwide. In 1952 she opened the home for dying in Kalighat and named in ‘Nirmal Hriday’ (Pure Heart). It was meant for those who lived their life like “animals”  but could now “die like angels—loved and wanted.” Her efforts made an adherent atheist like Mr Jyoti Basu, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, say “She makes me a bad Marxist since she makes me believe in godliness”.

Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work. As humble as always she said, “I am not worth it”. Her humbleness could also be found in her card that did not bear her name or number, but just had the words “Happiness is the natural fruit of duty” typed in it. While she tried to make others happy, it took a toll on her mind. Behind her smiling face, she suffered the “tortures of hell”. She wrote a letter in 1959 to the then archbishop of Kolkata, “There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God, so deep that it is painful, a suffering continual, and yet not wanted by God, repulsed, empty, no faith, no love no zeal. Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing, to me it looks like an empty place. The thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God. Pray for me please that I keep smiling at him in spite of everything.” 

She died on 5th September 1997. I was 16 years old when she died. You could see sad faces everywhere in Kolkata, irrespective of which religion people belonged to. She lay in repose for one week in St Thomas church, Kolkata. Being a student of St. Thomas School (Kidderpore), her death had affected me too. I still remember writing a poem for her when she died:

I will remember your blessings mother,
Till my last days sun shall set.
With which you have blessed the poor,
Gave them shelter and bread.

I will remember your smile mother,
With which you won million hearts,
With which you revived people in misery,
Made them one amongst the world.

I will remember your words mother,
Which you taught and prayed.
With which you showed path to salvation,
To the millions, sinful and afraid.

Your frail silhouette in blue and white sari
Is a symbol of hope and peace.
In a mind full of distress and pain
It feels like eternal bliss.

I am not a poet…..nor was she a saint.

To understand why we have to answer two questions:

1] Sainthood requires two miracles. Are the miracles real?
2] Was her humanitarian work selfless?

The first miracle she performed was recognised in 2002 when an Indian woman named Monica Besra claimed that she was cured of a cancerous tumour in her abdomen after a beam of light emanated from a locket she had containing Mother Teresa’s picture. Her doctor and her husband rejected the miracle as a hoax. According to them the tumour was non-cancerous and was cured by conventional medical treatment. The second miracle was recognised by Pope Francis in 2015 who claimed that Mother Teresa was involved in healing a Brazilian man with multiple tumours. Another lie. Thus, the two boxes were ticked and Mother became a saint. Sainthood would have been the last thing she wanted. The only thing she craved for was God. After her canonisation on 4 September 2016, she would probably have said, “I am not worth it”. Sainthood on the basis of lies would have made her feel even more so. To me, it is an insult to her soul. Faith heals. Placebo medicines are proof of that. Science has proven that yoga and happy, positive attitude boosts health. But there is so much placebo and stress relieve can achieve, and curing tumour is not one of them. I wonder why her supporters are celebrating such an insult!

The answer to the second question is more complex. Teresa was a believer and whatever she did, she did for Jesus. She believed in Christianity as the only saving grace. Teresa was against abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage. She has also been responsible for many secret conversions. According to a video recording from 1992, she has boasted of converting over 29,000 people to Christianity on their deathbed in Nirmal Hriday. But she converted those who got only suffering from their own religion. Though not selfless, it does not make her a Satan. She did it only because she cared. How many people would be happy to attend a person on the roadside dying of leprosy? One may doubt her reason, but not her commitment.

There were many charity organisations and individuals who has been serving the poor in Kolkata and other places in India. She was not the only one and her organisation was not even the largest charity organisation in Kolkata. She, however, received more media coverage than anyone else. One of the reason for her popularity was her right political alliance. Being close to Congress she even supported the Emergence declared by the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. She said "people are happier. There are more jobs. There are no strikes."

The question most of her critics ask is whether she did enough to eradicate poverty from Kolkata. Is the City of Joy (and poverty) any different because of her. Though debatable, the answer to that is probably no. She cared for the poor but did nothing to stop poverty. Some of her critics compared it to caring for rape victims rather than trying to stop the horrendous crime of rape. Her treatments were also not up to the mark. The sisters were not skilled enough to treat the diseased. The motto was not to cure but provide a ‘beautiful’ death. In a way, the ‘Saint of the Gutters’ was very much like the ‘Half-naked Fakir’ Gandhi. They glorified poverty and suffering which, they believed, were the path to god. 

Her most vociferous critic has been Christopher Hitchens and Aroup Chatterjee. According to Hitchens, “many more people are poor and sick because of the life of Mother Teresa: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.” They have questioned her dubious political contacts, how she managed the huge amount of money she received, and her main mission of conversion through which she wanted to come closer to god. Are they right? Are they wrong? Truth, like always, follow the middle path.

Neither did Teresa perform miracles, nor was her act of kindness selfless. Whatever she did, had only one purpose - getting closer to god. Thus, she in not a saint. But, she is not a satan either. Coming from an ordinary family, fatherless at just nine, growing up in a religious environment, one cannot blame her for her blind faith. She lived a life she believed in. She did save many lives that others ignored, whatever may be her reason to do so. Despite all her flaws she was a human being, and a good one. Let us remember her for what she was…nothing less, nothing more. The world needs more mothers and less saints.