BBI, IP report, State Borders and Civil Aviation – I

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants – Issac Newton, 1675. Although it should be credited to 12th century Bernard of Chartres. You will know why I have shared this, probably at the beginning of Civil Aviation history itself.

Comments on the BBI court case which happened in Kenya, then and the subsequent appeal.

I am not going to share much about the coverage of the BBI appeal as Gautam Bhatia has shared quite eloquently his observations, both on the initial case and the subsequent appeal which lasted 5 days in Kenya and was shown all around the world thanks to YouTube. One of the interesting points which stuck with me was that in Kenya, sign language is one of the official languages. And in fact, I was able to read quite a bit about the various sign languages which are there in Kenya. It just boggles the mind that there are countries that also give importance to such even though they are not as rich or as developed as we call developed economies. I probably might give more space and give more depth as it does carry some important judicial jurisprudence which is and which will be felt around the world. How does India react or doesn’t is probably another matter altogether 😦 But yes, it needs it own space, maybe after some more time.

Report on Standing Committee on IP Regulation in India and the false promises.

Again, I do not want to take much time in sharing details about what the report contains, as the report can be found here. I have uploaded it on WordPress, in case of an issue. An observation on the same subject can be found here. At least, to me and probably those who have been following the IP space as either using/working on free software or even IP would be aware that the issues shared have been known since 1994. And it does benefit the industry rather than the country. This way, the rent-seekers, and monopolists win. There is ample literature that shared how rich countries had weak regulation for decades and even centuries till it was advantageous for them to have strong IP. One can look at the history of Europe and the United States for it. We can also look at the history of our neighbor China, which for the last 5 decades has used some provision of IP and disregarded many others. But these words are of no use, as the policies done and shared are by the rich for the rich.

Fighting between two State Borders

Ironically or because of it, two BJP ruled states Assam and Mizoram fought between themselves. In which 6 policemen died. While the history of the two states is complicated it becomes a bit more complicated when one goes back into Assam and ULFA history and comes to know that ULFA could not have become that powerful until and unless, the Marwaris, people of my clan had not given generous donations to them. They thought it was a good investment, which later would turn out to be untrue. Those who think ULFA has declined, or whatever, still don’t have answers to this or this.

Interestingly, both the Chief Ministers approached the Home Minister (Mr. Amit Shah) of BJP. Mr. Shah was supposed to be the ‘Chanakya‘ but in many instances, including this one, he decided to stay away. His statement was on the lines of you guys figure it out yourself.

There is a poem that was shared by the late poet Rahat Indori. I am sharing the same below as an image and will attempt to put a rough translation.

kisi ke baap ka hindustan todi hain – Rahat Indori

Poets, whether in India or elsewhere, are known to speak truth to power and are a bit of a rebel. This poem by Rahat Indori is provocatively titled ‘Kisi ke baap ka Hindustan todi hai’, It challenges the majoritarian idea that Hindustan/India only belongs to the majoritarian religion. He also challenges as well as asserts at the same time that every Indian citizen, regardless of whatever his or her religion might be, is an Indian and can assert India as his home. While the whole poem is compelling in itself, for me what hits home is in the second stanza –

:Lagegi Aag to aayege ghat kayi zad me, Yaha pe sirf hamara makan todi hai

The meaning is simple yet subtle, he uses Aag or Fire as a symbol of hate sharing that if hate spreads, it won’t be his home alone that will be torched. If one wants to literally understand what he meant, I present to you the cult Russian movie ‘No Escapes‘ or ‘Ogon’ as it is known in Russian.

If one were to decipher why the Russian film doesn’t talk about climate change, one has to view it from the prism of what their leader Vladimir Putin has said and done over the years. As can be seen even in there, the situation is far more complex than one imagines. Although, it is interesting to note that he decried Climate change as man-made till as late as last year and was on the side of Trump throughout his presidency. This was in 2017 as well as perhaps this. Interestingly, there was a change in tenor and note just a couple of weeks back, but that could be only politicking or much more. Statements that are not backed by legislation and application are usually just a whitewash. We would have to wait to see what concrete steps are taken by Putin, Kremlin, and their Duma before saying either way.

Civil Aviation and the broad structure

Civil Aviation is a large topic and I would not be able to do justice to it all in one article/blog post. So, for e.g. I will not be getting into Aircraft (Boeing, Airbus, Comac etc., etc.) or the new electric aircraft as that will just make the blog post long. I will not be also talking about cargo or Visa or many such topics, as all of them actually would and do need their own space. So this would be much more limited to Airports and to some extent airlines, as one cannot survive without the other. The primary reason for doing this is there is and has been a lot of myth-making in India about Civil Aviation in general, whether it has to do with Civil Aviation history or whatever passes as of policy in India.

A little early history

Man has always looked at the stars and envisaged himself or herself as a bird, flying with gay abandon. In fact, there have been many paintings, sculptors who imagined how we would fly. The Steam Engine itself was invented in 82 BCE. But the attempt to fly was done by a certain Monk called Brother Elmer of Malmesbury who attempted the same in 1010., shortly after the birth of the rudimentary steam engine The most famous of all would be Leonardo da Vinci for his amazing sketches of flying machines in 1493. There were a couple of books by Cyrano de Bergerac, apparently wrote two books, both sadly published after his death. Interestingly, you can find both the book and the gentleman in the Project Gutenberg archives. How much of M/s Cyrano’s exploits were his own and how much embellished by M/S Curtis, maybe a friend, a lover who knows, but it does give the air of the swashbuckling adventurer of the time which many men aspired to in that time. So, why not an author???

L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon) and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun). These two French books apparently had a lot of references to flying machines. Both of them were authored by Cyrano de Bergerac. Both of these were sadly published after his death, one apparently in 1656 and the other one a couple of years later.

By the 17th century, while it had become easy to know and measure the latitude, measuring longitude was a problem. In fact, it can be argued and probably successfully that India wouldn’t have been under British rule or UK wouldn’t have been a naval superpower if it hadn’t solved the longitudinal problem. Over the years, the British Royal Navy suffered many blows, one of the most famous or infamous among them might be the Scilly naval disaster of 1707 which led to the death of 2000 odd British Royal naval personnel and led to Queen Anne, who was ruling over England at that time via Parliament and called it the Longitude Act which basically was an open competition for anybody to fix the problem and carried the prize money of £20,000. While nobody could claim the whole prize, many did get smaller amounts depending upon the achievements.

The best and the nearest who came was John Harrison who made the first sea-watch and with modifications, over the years it became miniaturized to a pocket-sized Marine chronometer although, I doubt the ones used today look anything in those days. But if that had not been invented, we surely would have been freed long ago. The assumption being that the East India Company would have dashed onto rocks so many times, that the whole exercise would have been futile. The downside of it is that maritime trade routes that are being used today and the commerce would not have been. Neither would have aircraft or space for that matter, or at the very least delayed by how many years or decades, nobody knows. If one wants to read about the Longitudinal problem, one can get the famous book ‘Longitude‘.

In many mythologies, including Indian and Arabian tales, in which we had the flying carpet which would let its passengers go from one place to the next. Then there is also mention of Pushpak Vimana in ancient texts, but those secrets remain secrets. Think how much foreign exchange India could make by both using it and exporting the same worldwide. And I’m being serious. There are many who believe in it, but sadly, the ones who know the secret don’t seem to want India’s progress. Just think of the carbon credits that India could have, which itself would make India a superpower. And I’m being serious.

Western Ideas and Implementation.

Even in the late and early 18th century, there were many machines that were designed to have controlled flight, but it was only the Wright Flyer that was able to demonstrate a controlled flight in 1903. The ones who came pretty close to what the Wrights achieved were the people by the name of Cayley and Langley. They actually studied what the pioneers had done. They looked at what Otto Lilienthal had done, as he had done a lot of hang-gliding and put a lot of literature in the public domain then.

Furthermore, they also consulted Octave Chanute. The whole system and history of the same are a bit complicated, but it does give a window to what happened then. So, it won’t be wrong to say that whatever the Wright Brothers accomplished would probably not have been possible or would have taken years or maybe even decades if that literature and experiments, drawings, etc. in the commons were not available. So, while they did experimentation, they also looked at what other people were doing and had done which was in public domain/commons.

They also did a lot of testing, which gave them new insights. Even the propulsion system they used in the 1903 flight was a design by Nicolaus Otto. In fact, the Aircraft would not have been born if the Chinese had not invented kites in the early sixth century A.D. One also has to credit Issac Newton because of the three laws of motion, again without which none of the above could have happened. What is credited to the Wilbur brothers is not just they made the Kitty Hawk, they also made it commercial as they sold it and variations of the design to the American Air Force and also made a pilot school where pilots were trained for warfighting. 119 odd pilots came out of that school. The Wrights thought that air supremacy would end the war early, but this turned out to be a false hope.

Competition and Those Magnificent Men and their flying machines

One of the first competitions to unlock creativity was the English Channel crossing offer made by Daily Mail. This was successfully done by the Frenchman Louis Blériot. You can read his account here. There were quite a few competitions before World War 1 broke out. There is a beautiful, humorous movie that does dedicate itself to imagining how things would have gone in that time. In fact, there have been two movies, this one and an earlier movie called Sky Riders made many a youth dream. The other movie sadly is not yet in the public domain, and when it will be nobody knows, but if you see it or even read it, it gives you goosebumps.

World War 1 and Improvements to Aircraft

World War 1 is remembered as the Great War or the ‘War to end all wars ‘ in an attempt at irony. It did a lot of destruction of both people and property, and in fact, laid the foundation of World War 2. At the same time, if World War 1 hadn’t happened then Airpower, Plane technology would have taken decades. Even medicine and medical techniques became revolutionary due to World War 1. In order to be brief, I am not sharing much about World War 1 otherwise that itself would become its own blog post. And while it had its heroes and villains who, when, why could be tackled perhaps another time.

The Guggenheim Family and the birth of Civil Aviation

If one has to credit one family for the birth of the Civil Aviation, it has to be the Guggenheim family. Again, I would not like to dwell much as much of their contribution has already been noted here.

There are quite a few things still that need to be said and pointed out. First and foremost is the fact that they made lessons about flying from grade school to college and afterward till college and beyond which were in the syllabus, whereas in the Indian schooling system, there is nothing like that to date. Here, in India, even in Engineering courses, you don’t have much info. Unless until you go for professional Aviation or Aeronautical courses and most of these courses cost a bomb so either the very rich or the very determined (with loans) only go for that, at least that’s what my friends have shared. And there is no guarantee you will get a job after that, especially in today’s climate.

Even their fund, grants, and prizes which were given to people for various people so that improvements could be made to the United States Civil Aviation. This, as shared in the report/blog post shared, was in response to what the younger child/brother saw as Europe having a large advantage both in Military and Civil Aviation. They also made several grants in several Universities which would not only do notable work during their lifetime but carry on the legacy researching on different aspects of Aircraft.

One point that should be noted is that Europe was far ahead even then of the U.S. which prompted the younger son. There had already been talks of civil/civilian flights on European routes, although much different from what either of us can imagine today. Even with everything that the U.S. had going for her and still has, Europe is the one which has better airports, better facilities, better everything than the U.S. has even today. If you look at the lists of the Airports for better value of money or facilities, you would find many Airports from Europe, some from Asia, and only a few from the U.S. even though they are some of the most frequent users of the service. But that debate and arguments I would have to leave for perhaps the next blog post as there is still a lot to be covered between the 1930s, 1950s, and today. The Guggenheims archives does a fantastic job of sharing part of the story till the 1950s, but there is also quite a bit which it doesn’t. I will probably start from that in the next blog post and then carry on ahead.

Lastly, before I wind up, I have to share why I felt the need to write, capture and share this part of Aviation history. The plain and simple reason being, many of the people I meet either on the web, on Twitter or even in real life, many of them are just unaware of how this whole thing came about. The unawareness in my fellow brothers and sisters is just shocking, overwhelming. At least, by sharing these articles, I at least would be able to guide them or at least let them know how it all came to be and where things are going and not just be so clueless. Till later.

Medical awareness, terrorism, racism and Debconf

Hi to all the souls on planet.debian.org 🙂 . I hope to meet many of you in Debconf16 which is being held at UCT (University of Cape Town), Rhondenbosch, South Africa and am excited to be part of it. I pushed a blog post about my journey to debconf till date.

I express my sympathy and condolences to all the people who died in the cowardly shooting spree done by a madman in Orlando 😦 . I have been upset about this development but as what’s done is done, it’s best to just keep moving.

Closer to my own reality, I was shocked to discover during my whole visa experience that nowhere there is any knowledge about vaccinations that people should have when they are traveling internationally. I was kinda rudely awakened by this mail which prompted me to take Hep A shot and also start a thread on the mailing list. The more comprehensive info. I got was at the CDC site . It seems to be a go-to site to find about what is recommended. While I will not be taking any shots now as it’s nearing to the date of travel, if I had known before, it would have been a valuable resource in itself. Definitely something to be bookmarked if you are going overseas and are worried or have health concerns.

On another note, About few days back, there was a discussion as recently, travel advisories have been issued about possible terror action in South Africa by various embassies due to the holy month of Ramadan.

And the recent attack just proves that it takes just one twisted personality with a perverse sense of justice or whatever s/he/ thinks as just to do what s/he did and guns and more security and not the answer.

My take on it some would describe as simplistic, there are things which you can control, there are things beyond your control. No security agency, no country can guarantee it. By being either home or away, you can’t wish you will not get bitten. Got images of Final Destination invoked when I was sharing that, for as an Indian, do believe a bit on fate and karma. Also, me being single also plays a part, perhaps I would have been more cautious or have different motivations if I had a family so I do understand some of the concerns which have been raised by people in that thread. At the end of it, it really is a non-choice in my book.

If you don’t take part due to fear,uncertainty of a possible attack, you have already given in to fear and uncertainty and I believe this goes against the very philosophy of what Debian stands for, being bold, taking chances and having trust in your fellow men. If we haven’t allowed proprietary, commercial software to win over us, how can we allow less than 0.1% radically motivated people to scare us ? And the recent attack just proves that it takes just one twisted personality with a perverse sense of justice or whatever s/he/ thinks as just to do what s/he did. More guns and more security are certainly not the answer here.

A more troubling part is not terrorism but caste-ism and racism which have been also making news (not in a good way) in India. Now while I cannot claim to have any knowledge about Africans apart from 2-3 conversations which didn’t go anywhere, two-three preconceived notions about them can easily be countered. As far as drugs are concerned, IF some Africans are doing drugs smuggling, it would be wrong to pin all of it onto them. India has been fighting drugs smuggling from the 70’s itself. From what we know and have learnt over the years from consuming media, India shares porous borders with almost all our neighbors. Of those, Pakistan is supposed to be the largest grower and supplier and then Nepal where young boys are used as Traffickers. The recent film ‘Rocky Handsome‘ and the recent upcoming controversial movie ‘Udta Punjab‘ are trying to explore these issues. As far as drinking in open is concerned, I have seen and been part of Punjabi parties where both men and women drink without abandon in farm parties. Russians, Germans and Israelis can also out-drink a person on their day/mood. As far as sexuality is concerned, we are the second most populous country in the world, so the less said the better 🙂 .

I believe though that underneath this racism is money, greed, phobia, language barriers and just maybe some lifestyle choices as well. I have seen North-Eastern, Chinese, Buddhist people being colored with the same brush. The more interesting case is with the Buddhist as can be seen in Himachal Pradesh, where locals feel they are deprived as Europeans come and indulge Buddhists for their monasteries and their way of life while locals don’t get much money from them. This is partly true, but also due to our own short-comings in dealing with westerners. I have never seen my own countrymen going out of their way to make westerners or any tourists for that matter feel welcome in a genuine way. More often, the behavior is between hostility, jealousy and a perverted sense of hero-worship due to the color of skin. As far as being racist and bigoted are concerned, it seems we are not alone, just day before came across this news from Malaysia which is interesting in the sense that how people from different communities frame their own history and people around them, forget that is false and misleading to what we in India know to be the truth, it probably is/would be interesting for somebody who does comparative history, myth and folklore analysis. I was actually planning to talk about some of the talks I am looking forward to hearing and seeing on Debconf but guess that will have to wait for few more days. Hope to publish one more before actually flying to Debconf. Till later.