After fifth Robert Langdon adventure, Origin, is out!

Though adept in detailing elements of his narrative, he fails in making them thrilling enough to keep the reader hooked to an extended period of time. His are not ‘read in one sitting’ books anymore. You can visit a particular segment on any given day and can revisit the next pages, probably after two days, without feeling a hangover of the story. Yes, a thrilling work must create its hangover in the psyche of its readers.

A direct fallout of that is the perception being built around length of his adventure tales – yes, they are basically the adventure tales but lack the charisma that makes adventure tales memorable experiences, be it The Lord of the Rings or Alice in Wonderland or even Harry Potter. A 500 pages Dan Brown book can essentially wind up in 100 pages and mind you, most people do like that, even his fans. Apart from few discernible readers, no one bothers to go for and in between the lines to know the semiotics of symbols or architectural details of buildings. If needed, Google and Wikipedia do much better job at this.

Dan Brown is not an avant-garde writer and Robert Langdon is not an avant-garde character. The concoction of religion, atheism and modernity that he presented in The Da Vinci Code in 2003 has seen a consistent downward slope. The Da Vinci Code presented a worn-out subject in a new, if not fresh, flavour and people accepted it, creating a fan base for Brown’s works. But since then, it has always been an ‘I thought so’ journey with his books. One can easily guess where the plot is going. And moreover, he is sounding repetitive and thus boring.



18-23 year bracket is considered the higher education age-group and according to the data available from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), India has around 14 crore youth (14,10,46,000 to be precise) who should populate our institutes of higher learning.

But only 24 per cent of them, i.e., 3,42,11,000 are enrolled in higher education courses, means over 10 crore youth of the country in an age-group that is considered academically most fertile, are missing from the scene.

And when we further split this 3.42 crore figure, we come across some more disturbing facts that tell why India’s higher education is in shambles and why it lags in every major global ranking.

Research based course like Ph.D. and M.Phil. have just over 1.5 lakh (1,51,000) students enrolled the ministry data shows. That is just 0.1 per cent of the total higher education population in our country. And even their quality is questionable with corruption, political appointments and nepotism ruining the standard of teaching in almost every institution.

Apart from few institution, we simply do not have the research culture in our universities. We can gauge the seriousness of the situation by the fact that for quality research education, it has become a common observation that one needs to look beyond India.

Number of students in post-graduate courses in the country is 38,53,000, a little under 3 per cent (at 2.73 per cent) of the 18-23 age-group population. Only cream of them go for further higher education like carrier oriented research education or get into post-graduate professional courses like management, medicine and higher engineering and technology courses. Most of them had no other option but to look for jobs – jobs that are really not there – or jobs that have dried up.

And maximum of them are enrolled in under-graduate courses, 2,71,72,000 of them or around 20 per cent of the country’s higher education population or 80 per cent of all students enrolled in higher education.

Now irrespective of the fact that how many of them go on to complete their under-graduate, post-graduate, M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses, something that is subject for a separate discourse, the huge difference between every successive level of higher education shows higher education in our country virtually stops at the graduation level.

Only 38.5 lakh graduate students (around 14 per cent) out of 2.71 crore students enrolled in under-graduate courses opt for a post-graduate course, and only a handful of post-graduates (around 4 per cent) go for further higher education or research.



India has around 10,000 engineering colleges and 5500 management institutes producing each year over 16 lakh engineers and over 5 lakh management graduates, data from All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and ASSOCHAM say.

And most of them are unemployable.

While AICTE says some 60-70 per cent of engineers remain unemployed, an ASSOCHAM study has found that only 7 per cent of our management graduates are employable.

Other reports by organizations like FICCI, EY and Aspire Minds quote even higher proportion of unemployable engineering graduates in the country, at 80 per cent. Studies also say that B and C category business schools are producing basically unemployable graduates and if some of them find jobs, it is mostly in the range of 8000-10,000.

They are in oversupply.

Estimates put 1-1.5 million Indians entering job market every month but the country could create only 1.55 lakh jobs in 2015 and 2.31 lakh in 2016. The situation is acute in case of professional education courses like engineering and management where students pay much higher but end up either jobless or with abysmally low paying sub-standard jobs.

If industry needs few lakhs of engineers every year, the proportion of management graduates is even less – at around 40,000 as some estimates put it.

So, basically there are no jobs for most of them, especially when job creation in the country is at eight years low.

And it is not that all the jobs created are going to them only. Others, from non-professional course, are competing for those illusive jobs as well. The Census of India 2011 put number of graduates and above at 6.8 crore.

Six years have passed since then and so the number would certainly have gone up. Many of them would in some job. Many of them would be some sort of entrepreneurs. But most of them would be either jobless or forced to earn their livelihood by trying their luck in the unorganized sector.



If we go by the results of the assembly constituencies that fall in the Amethi Lok Sabha seat, we can say the Congress citadel has never overwhelmingly supported Congress, especially after Rahul Gandhi took over the constituency from his mother in 2004 Lok Sabha polls that he won comfortably.

Amethi parliamentary constituency (PC) has five assembly constituencies (ACs) – Tiloi, Salon (CS), Jagdishpur (SC), Gauriganj and Amethi.

In fact, in his first two LS polls from the Amethi constituency, Rahul won comfortably and massively, increasing his vote share from 49.33 per cent in 2004 to 57.25 per cent in 2009 but we also need to keep this in mind that whenever it came to parliamentary polls in Amethi, Rahul almost always got walkover from the main opposition parties, SP and BSP. And BJP was nowhere in the scene as a potent political force with a consistent downward spiral in Uttar Pradesh.

But that changed in 2017 assembly election. Stunning even the most seasoned political pundits, BJP won the assembly elections with a huge margin with 325 seats in the 403-member UP legislative assembly, so much so that no Muslim candidate could win even the minority concentration districts of western UP and their overall representation in UP assembly came down to a historically low of 25 MLAs, from a high of 68 Muslim MLAs in the UP assembly just five years ago, in 2012 assembly election. The 2017 outcome followed the massive BJP wave of 2014 LS election when the party had 71 out of the 80 LS seats in India’s most populous state.

And it reflected even in Amethi, in 2014 and now in 2017.

The battle for 2014 proved a tough one for Rahul Gandhi with senior BJP leader Smriti Irani as his main opponent. She gave a spirited fight and it reflected in Rahul’s winning margin coming drastically down to 12.36 per cent. And we can assume the next one in 2019 is going to be even tougher as Smriti has maintained a regular connect with Amethi, visiting the constituency like she has always been in the electoral mood.

And in assembly election earlier this year, BJP won four out of five assembly constituencies falling in the Amethi PC, the party that had failed to win even a single AC in Amethi in 2007 and 2012 assembly polls. Congress failed to open even its account with the other left seat going to SP. Moreover Congress didn’t remain even the main opposition in two ACs, ending up third in Tiloi AC and fourth in Amethi.

TILOI (178)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – BJP – 96119 votes
Mohd Saood – BSP – 52072 votes
Vinod Kumar Mishra – Congress – 3rd – 35837 (18.55%) votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Dal Bahadur – BJP – 78028 votes
Suresh Chaudhary – Congress – 61973 votes

Suresh Kumar – BJP – 84219 votes
Radhey Shyam – Congress – 67619 votes

Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 77915 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 51496 votes

AMETHI (186)
Garima Singh – BJP – 64226 votes
Gaytri Prasad – SP – 59161 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 4th – 20291 (10.85%) votes
BSP – 3rd – 16.13% votes

But even earlier, in 2007 and 2012 assembly election, Amethi PC was not clearly a Congress bastion, if seen from the perspective of AC voters.

In 2012 election, SP, the party that had won that year’s assembly polls with 224 seats overall, ended up winning three out of five ACs falling in Amethi PC including the Amethi AC while Congress could win only two. The only solace that the party could have drawn was, it remained the principal opposition in other three ACs.

TILOI (178)
Dr Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 61249 votes
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 58539 votes

SALON (SC) (181)
Ashakishore – SP – 69020 votes
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 48443 votes

Radhey Shyam – Congress – 56309 votes
Vijay Kumar – SP – 50912 votes

Rakesh Pratap Singh – SP – 44287 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 43784 votes

AMETHI (186)
Gayatri Prasad – SP – 58434 votes
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 49674 votes

2007 was tad better for Congress when it could win three out of five seats in the parliamentary constituency. The 2008 delimitation had not affected the basic AC composition of the Amethi PC and it still consisted of the abovementioned five assembly segments – Tiloi, Salon, Jagdishpur, Gauriganj and Amethi – of which Congress won three including Amethi and remained the principal opposition in other two – out of which one went to SP and the other to BSP.

TILOI (92)
Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh – SP – 44513 votes
Dr. Mohammad Muslim – Congress – 44056 votes

SALON (SC) (97)
Shiv Balak Pasi – Congress – 45078 votes
Asha Kishor – SP – 31969 votes

Ram Sewak – Congress – 34563 votes
Shri Ram – BSP – 21356 votes

Chandra Prakash – BSP – 34386 votes
Mohd Naim – Congress – 28393 votes

AMETHI (105)
Ameeta Sinh – Congress – 48108 votes
Ashish – BSP – 35684 votes



Rahul Gandhi started contesting Lok Sabha polls from Amethi from 2004, the year when BJP’s India Shining campaign unexpectedly failed; ending Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule and a coalition government led by Congress’ Manmohan Singh came to power.

Since 1967, when Amethi was carved out as a Lok Sabha constituency, it has been a Congress bastion, only briefly going to Janata Party in post-Emergency wave for three years and for a year to BJP in 1998.

And since 1980, it has been with the Nehru-Gandhi family. Sanjay Gandhi was a member of parliament from here in 1980 but his untimely death saw his brother and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi representing Amethi four times in the Lok Sabha till 1991 when he was killed in a terror attack. After Rajiv, Congress’ Satish Sharma was Amethi’s MP till 1998.

Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv’s wife, had joined politics and was chosen Congress president in 1998 and Amethi again came back to the Nehru-Gandhi family in 1999 when Sonia Gandhi contested from here, scoring a massive victory.

In the next Lok Sabha polls in 2004, Sonia left Amethi seat for her son Rahul Gandhi and shifted her base to Raebareli, another Nehru-Gandhi citadel and Congress fortress. Since then, Rahul has been winning the Amethi seat.

But while in his previous two terms, in 2004 and in 2009, where he almost got walkovers from other parties with successive gains in his already impressive winning margins, from 49.33 per cent of total valid votes polled in 2004 to 57.25 per cent of total valid votes polled, the battle for 2014 proved a tough one with senior BJP leader Smriti Irani as his main opponent.

She gave a spirited fight and it reflected in Rahul’s winning margin coming drastically down to 12.36 per cent. And we can assume the next one in 2019 is going to be even tougher as Smriti has maintained a regular connect with Amethi, visiting the constituency like she has always been in the electoral mood.


Rahul Gandhi – Congress – 408651 votes
Smriti Irani – BJP – 300748 votes
Margin – 107903 – 12.36% of total valid votes


Rahul Gandhi – Congress – 464195 votes
Asheesh Shukla – BSP – 93997 votes
Margin – 370198 – 57.25% of total valid votes


Rahul Gandhi – Congress – 390179 votes
Chandra Prakash Mishra – BSP – 99326 votes
Margin – 290853 – 49.33% of total valid votes

Sonia Gandhi – Congress – 418960 votes
Dr. Sanjai Singh – BJP – 118948 votes
Margin – 300012 – 48.07% of total valid votes



A senior North Korean official has warned that the world should take literally its foreign minister’s warning to detonate a hydrogen bomb over Pacific Ocean. In an interview to CNN, the official, Ri Yong Pil, said the world should not dismiss the North Korean threat as “it has always brought its words into action.”

“The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally,” CNN quoted Ri Yong Pil saying.

The threat was issued last month by North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Ri’s threat followed vitriolic outburst of his country’s dictator Kim Jong-un who called US President Donald Trump a frightened dog and a mentally deranged dotard after Trump threatened to totally destroy North Korea while delivering his maiden UNGA speech.

While speaking at the UNGA on September 19, Trump had warned that if the United States was forced to defend itself or its allies, it would have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea adding that the Rocket Man was on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. Trump invented the term Rocket Man to describe Kim Jong Un after a series of missile and nuclear tests by North Korea under his watch.

Regular North Korean threats, its repeated missile tests and successful ICBM launch followed by a hydrogen bomb detonation in spite of global sanctions and Donald Trump’s warnings of ‘action on the scale of fire and fury against North Korea’ has pushed the whole world to debate possibilities, ranging from a nuclear war to the Third World War.

Just yesterday, following Kim Jong-un’s declaration that North Korea was a “fully-fledged nuclear power,” the country had issued a warning that it was ready to strike at any moment in its self-defense and the attack would be on an unprecedented scale. Kim Jong-un had written an open letter addressed to different parliaments of the world to make his proclamation warning the world that “it would be a big miscalculation and an expression of ignorance if US President Donald Trump thought that he would bring North Korea, a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat.”

Reports have emerged that US has put its nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert to meet any emergency, a first since the Cold War days. Trump revealed in a Fox News interview recently, “You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be.”

On September 3, North Korea had detonated a hydrogen bomb in its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date and Pyongyang had warned of more ‘gift packages’ for Washington which came true when it test fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on September 15.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

After US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reminded Pakistan that it needed to eradicate militants and terrorists operating from its soil, Pakistan has hit back saying there are no safe havens in the country and also that they are not supporting or protecting the Haqqani Network, one of the most dreaded terror groups of Afghanistan which the US alleges operates from Pakistan.

“Terrorist attacks are not planned on or executed from Pakistani soil, there are no terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said in a Geo News interview. Asif also said that “Pakistan made it clear to the US delegation that it is not protecting or supporting the Haqqani network.”

Tillerson, who is on Middle-East and South Asia tour and is in Delhi today with scheduled meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, was in Pakistan yesterday after his unscheduled Afghanistan stopover on October 23 where he had reiterated the US government stand that Pakistan must rein in the terror groups operating from its soil.

Pakistan’s parliament also lashed at Tillerson’s comment. The Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate, Raza Rabbani, called Tillerson’s remarks unacceptable. “Tillerson’s statement seems like that of a viceroy’s before they visit a country,” an acerbic Rabbani fumed.

Asif also blamed US and international forces for their “ineptitude” that he believed was responsible for prolonging the Afghanistan crisis and dismissed the US threats of curtailing economic and military aid. “Pakistan only receives “a trickle” of economic assistance from the US and does not get any military hardware from them and Pakistanis are not like in the past when they were American’s proxy,” Asif told the BBC News.

After US President Donald Trump called Pakistan a treacherous nation and a safe haven for terrorists, engaged in double-dealings, harbouring and protecting the very same terrorists who attack the US interests in Afghanistan, while unveiling his South Asia policy, the US has increasingly been putting more pressure on Pakistan to honour its commitment.

A fortnight ago, when Pakistan was patting its back for its so-called brilliant rescue operation to liberate a US-Canadian family who was in Haqqanis’ captivity for five years, the terse response from Trump was, “the Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”

The US has taken measures including cutting military aid to Pakistan and is going to curtail its role in Afghanistan while at the same time is looking for a strategic partnership with India in Afghanistan’s reconstruction process, a cornerstone of Trump’s new Afghanistan policy, even if Pakistan sees an increased Indian presence in Afghanistan inimical to its interests.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Following Kim Jong-un’s declaration that North Korea is a “fully-fledged nuclear power”, the country has now warned that it may strike at any moment in its self-defense and the attack would be on an unprecedented scale.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier in the day said she had received a letter from the North Korean dictator, addressed to different countries, which said, “It will be a big miscalculation and an expression of ignorance if US President Donald Trump thinks that he would bring North Korea, a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat.”

Blaming US and its president for pushing the world towards the Third World War by his foolish acts, a KCNA released said Trump is being seen as a ‘dangerous element’, has aroused worldwide derision and even his key confidants are dumping him.

“As the aggressors and provokers have become all the more undisguised in their hysteric war frenzy, the DPRK’s appropriate actions for self-defense will be taken any moment as a strike beyond imagination,” the KCNA release announced.

Targeting the joint US-South Korea naval drills, North Korea said its repeated tough offensives had put US in despair and horror dealing a heavy blow to the world’s only superpower and the US could no longer help the South Korean puppet forces.

“The South Korean puppet forces should clearly understand that already in hand are the toughest countermeasure of Korean style to cope with the US’ reckless military act,” the KCNA release further said. The war of words between US and North Korea has seen regular war rhetoric but its intensity has really gone up after North Korea’s successful nuclear capable ICBM test and hydrogen bomb detonation.

What has irked the Trump administration even more that North Korea did all this despite a clear warning that US would never allow the country to have an ICBM or a hydrogen bomb.

Reports have emerged that US has put its nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert to meet any emergency, a first since the Cold War days. Trump revealed in a Fox News interview yesterday, “You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be.”



A life was in making
From his forest of thoughts
And the beauty of it was
Words were still travelling inside
Like it should have been
Preparing for the journey
With a silent commitment
Yes, time had stayed on
But only in some quarters
Like an important reminder
That where had to be the path
Speaking to themselves
Singing in unison with soul
Sometimes hammering
At times chiselling
Thinking now consciously
Of balance and rhythm
To stay on where it had to be
Yes, thoughts were taking shape
And a life was in making
With elements it had craved for
From his forest of thoughts
And the beauty of it was
It came with a curious attachment




The grey of sky had brilliant shades
Singing along a vibrant sensation
And when it took a break midway
To let us in its enchanted halls
Traversing through its dancing alleys
It was like the day was waiting for it
To speak with it’s blue to go beyond
And to mingle with shades of its grey
That had for so long stayed there
In the galleries of white and black