Saturday 2 December 2023


Just fifty years ago, products were made available for sale by a shopkeeper who had acquired these goods for himself from an intermediary. Tracing a product from origin to point of sale was far from easy, as the route could involve multiple intermediaries. The intermediary between a manufacturer and a consumer- the middleman- was the vital link between the maker and the consumer of any particular good. With progress in technology, it became possible for the shopkeeper to negotiate with the manufacturer and bypass an intermediary or two, allowing the maker to charge less while still maintaining his profit margin. At the point of sale to the customer, the ethical shopkeeper could charge less, while also retaining his profit margin. The role of the intermediary thus started to lose its sheen and today, the middleman is on the verge of extinction. Diehards that they are, the middlemen are fighting back, as, in their case, it is a matter of survival.    
Keywords: product, intermediary, middleman, manufacturer, shopkeeper, profit margin, point of sale, extinction.
First posted 22 Mar 2011

People have long been suspicious of “middlemen,” e.g., traders, lawyers, bankers, salesman (sic), marketers, managers, and politicians. For millennia, most people have suspected such middlemen of being mostly social parasites, and many “Utopian” reforms have planned to eliminate them. Economists have faced an uphill battle arguing that middlemen usually serve important functions.  Among intellectuals, engineers and physical scientists find it especially hard to appreciate several roles other than designing, building, maintaining, fueling, and distributing physical goods.
Robin Hanson, April 4, 2010; (  

         Right up to the 1970s, Marketing was the preserve of the retailer, or shopkeeper. You went up to him and asked for a product. If it was available, fine. If it wasn’t, he just said, “Sorry, try after a few days.” In those days, the recommended maximum retail price (MRP) was not always printed on the package, just a price. It was made mandatory by law thereafter to print the MRP only in 1975 (Businessworld, Issue 8-14 July 2008). The consumer had no idea what the profit margin was. Prices of a product varied from place to place, uptown markets charging more than the local dime store. Even the manufacturer had no clue about final prices.

        Things have changed radically post globalization. The market no longer belongs to the Seller; it is now a Buyer’s market, with a wide array of products and their prices available online. The Internet has changed global rules totally. With fierce competition in a buyer-driven market, the retailer has to keep prices in check. Brand loyalty has been displaced by value for money. The retailer has to pare costs to the bone.

        The slow demise of the middleman started the day an individual could put his items up for sale with pictures thereof, advertise promos for multiple buys, etc. Canny individuals climbed onto the bandwagon while there was adequate space. We know the success stories of Amazon, Ryanair/Spicejet, Expedia and other net-based low-cost high-volume sellers. Mullaney (2004) has listed the three services where middlemen have more or less been eliminated, i.e., books, music, and travel. He predicts that the next six to fall will be jewelry, bill payments, telecom, hotels, real estate, and software. I believe he is being conservative, but then his article was printed six years, more than a full cyber-generation, ago. The all-pervasive Internet will strike down almost all businesses that have middlemen, bar a few whose expert advice and experience cannot be substituted by online forces. The nurse, anesthetist, child minder, jockeys, Montessori teacher, CAD-CAM operators, Test Pilots, mail delivery systems for physical goods like the courier, and many other specialists will remain. For how long? Perhaps only for a couple of generations, who knows?

        An interesting case would be that of a pharmacist/druggist. He stocks medical goods, some of which he cannot sell to a customer unless he sees a legitimate prescription slip. Can he be dispensed with? All that is needed is that the Doctor fill in a customized prescription slip, of which one copy goes online to the patient’s supplier(s) of that drug/those drugs. But how many drugs is a diabetic coronary disease patient with atherosclerosis consuming? Two separate drugs for diabetes, three for coronary disease and two for atherosclerosis. So will the pills come by routine mail or by courier? Given the attendant risk factor, some will come by courier. So the chemist/druggist stays, while becoming much more efficient. He gets an alert over the web when the good old doctor is filling in the prescription of Patient X, Personal Number (PN) ABQCM7850NAM; he checks his stocks and is all set to deliver. PN could be any unique number on the database, for non-financial transactions. Financial transactions would need multiple security, with at least one layer more than is extant. That would imply yet another PN, the Financial PN or FPN. The number of banks the customer could use would be restricted to three, at the outside, which would make the IRS/Income Tax authorities happy.

         What about your grocer and other essential services providers? Somebody has to deliver your foodstuff, your wine and other liquor, household requirements, etc. Is there enough data to substantiate a statement that an errand boy for household goods is necessary? Yes, there is, even if you need to make a trip to the supermarket to select your goods and hand over your shopping cart to an agent who will deliver your stuff at home and collect your payment there. A time will come when even this system will be automated; the supermarket’s wide array of supplies will be made visible online for you to pick and choose. But delivery will still be through a system. The Supermarket and its delivery system cannot be replaced, but only made more efficient and cost-effective.

         The educated middleman like the stock broker and the financial investment consultant is doomed to perdition. The share depository will be subsumed by the company and all transactions will be online and one-on-one. With time, every single interaction involving a middleman will be put through the wringer and an answer found on a case by case basis as to how to get rid of the middleman. Peter Drucker used to point out that the classical professional firm consisted of two partners and a clerk. Today, the partners ARE clerks, doing data entry, numbers crunching, and most other computer related activities ( The poor clerk has been hacked. Do we really care about what he will do to survive? No. That’s his problem. And he is not alone, if that is any consolation.

       Shopping will be entirely through the net, even for those who like personal interaction. Each store, as we see it now, a collection of bricks and mortar, will change tack, as all of them will become part virtual stores or storefronts as well. The magic mirror (, 3-D viewing platforms ( and person-specific customization ( will become the norm. Every buyer will be able to select color codes and patterns to suit his/her choice.  Hardware, carpentry and other tools, DIY machinery, etc. will all fall into place.

        When I bought my first Desktop PC in 1996, I had a 2 GB hard disc and the seller told me it would take me a lifetime to load 2GB! Today, net geeks have 360 GB hard disc drives, with a 2 TB attachable hard disc. Servers are talking of 1 Gbps standard transmission speed, but this will also jump like Bubka. Data transfer will shift into the nanosecond regime, perhaps calling for artificial slowing down to digestible levels. When you call a company-through the computer-that company will scan its database to check if you are on record. If yes, it will crosscheck your facial features and voice for identification and proceed. A credit viability check will decide if you can place an order on credit. If not on record, they will treat you deferentially, using the 7Ps of the extended Marketing Mix (, Macro-environmental factors with the new-fangled acronym PESTLE ( and similar stratagems to get you on their rolls as a customer. Data-sharing agreements between branch/affiliate concerns which the customer might have agreed to will be used laterally, to dialogue with you, the prospective customer, offering you value or promotional pricing (

         E-billing and E-payment are basics. Expensive paper checks are passé. Online bill payment has shed its mystical aura and is exploding: Gartner Inc. estimates that 65 million people paid at least one bill online last year, up 97% from the year before. "The Internet economy is in full swing again," says Mark M. Zandi, chief economist at Inc. (Mullaney, 2004).

         The Computer World will soon see a battle of prices. Over the past lustrum, Linux had steadily but surely eaten into Microsoft’s OS pie and was considered a better system than Windows for servers. Today, this open source system is considered superior to the confusingly complex Windows 7. According to Computer guru Michael Horowitz, who runs a full website dedicated to Linux vs Windows, most of the software preloaded on top-end Sony VAIOs is junk and should be removed. He says (online: 2008), “A new computer with Windows pre-installed normally comes with additional application software; exactly what to include is up to the PC vendor. Sony VAIOs come with a lot of software. However, there are problems with the pre-installed application software on Windows computers.

    1.       First, much of it is junk. So much, that a new term ‘crapware’ is being used to describe it. The PC vendors make money by installing this software that many people consider worse than useless. In fact, the first thing many techies do is un-install this software. I have never heard of anyone complaining about the software that comes pre-installed in the normal, popular versions of Linux.

     2.       Second, important software is often missing or old. For example, the Adobe Acrobat reader, may not be pre-installed by the PC vendor.

     3.       Next, Windows is open to attack by viruses. Linux is not!
To be fair, the installation of applications under Windows, while not standardized, is generally consistent and pretty easy. Installing software under Linux varies with each distribution and has not been nearly as simple, easy or obvious as Windows. But the fact remains that Linux costs less than half of what MS charges for Windows. But the computer world has gone beyond Linux (Hamm 2004).

               The open-source crowd, led by MySQL AB and JBoss Inc. are coming out with second generation open-source software: everything from databases and search engines to programming tools and desktop PC software. If this stuff follows the trajectory of Linux, it could cut into the sales and profits of incumbents, altering the financial landscape of the $200 billion business. None of this would be possible without the Web. The Net lets thousands of people worldwide contribute code, fixes, and ideas to the small tribes that put open-source programs together (ibid).

             ‘The Consumer is King’ is today’s tagline. And the market will do its utmost to hard or soft sell their products to more and more customers. The customer never had it easier. Imagine a marketing manager from Toyota calling from his factory and offering you a simulated test drive in their latest model on your 3-D monitor/TV. And comparing it with other cars in the market! You could test drive a competitor’s car and push hard for bargain prices. Everything must be on tap for the customer. The moment you enter an option into your PC, all relevant data must be made available to you on demand. All presentations must be audio-visual, with no time wasted on buffering. You could split your 100 cm screen into four, and shut down the audio as you compare the physical goods, whatever they are. You read whatever you want on your Kindle/I-pad/ I-phone/Treo-phone or whichever is most convenient to you.

               Still, some diehards like Hotel chains are bent on fighting the digital evolution (Mullaney, 2004). InterContinental Hotels Group is slapping hotel owners with fines and threatening to pull their franchise licenses if they offer special discounts through Net partners. Real estate giant Cendant Corp. is pressing the National Association of Realtors to make it harder for Net upstarts to get home-sale listings. These tactics can, at best, work for a limited period. Hotel owners barred from giving online discounts may see travelers book rooms across the street at a rival hotel. Cendant's parry in real estate is on hold while the Justice Dept. conducts an antitrust probe (ibid). The end result is inevitable. Change is just round the corner.

         Cross channel solutions provider ATG noted a rise of 50-100% in traffic for its e-tailer clients ( Several mid-sized retail companies reported year-over-year e-commerce sales growth of more than 200%. ATG noted the impact of Cyber Monday alone, when the sales conversion rates for consumers who were presented with personalized recommendations were triple the rate for customers who did not interact with them, as they say. Nina McIntyre, SVP & CMO, ATG, summarizes (online:, “It’s clear retailers are seeing success this year by combining attractive, aggressive sales promotions with personalization techniques that enable them to target different segments of shoppers with offers they’re likely to be interested in.”

          Convenience goods/services: Goods which are easily available to the consumer, without any extra effort are convenience goods ( Further, convenience goods can be sub-categorized into:
         Staple Convenience Consumer Goods: Goods which come under the basic demands of human beings are called staple convenience goods, e.g. milk, bread, sugar, etc.
         Impulse Convenience Consumer Goods: Goods without any prior planning or which are brought impulsively are called impulse convenience goods. e.g. potato wafers, candies, ice creams, cold drinks, etc.

          Shopping Consumer Goods: In shopping consumer goods, consumers do a lot of selection and comparison based on various parameters such as cost, brand, style, comfort etc, before buying an item. They are costlier than convenience goods and are durable in nature. Consumer goods companies usually try to set up their shops and show rooms in active shopping areas to attract customer attention and their main focus is to do lots of advertising and marketing to become popular. Goods like clothing items, televisions, radio, foot wear, home furnishing, jewelry, etc. come under the category of shopping goods (ibid).

        Specialty Consumer Goods:Goods which are very unique, unusual, and luxurious in nature are called specialty goods. Specialty goods are mostly bought by the upper-class of society as they are expensive in nature. The goods don't come under the category of necessity; they are purchased on the basis of personal preference or desire. Brand name and unique and special features of an item are major attributes which attract customer attraction in buying them. Examples of specialty products are: antiques, jewelry, wedding dresses, cars etc.

        Sought Consumer Goods: Goods or Services like insurance which are available in the market and the customer is interested in buying them with an ulterior motive are called sought goods (ibid.)

        The removal of middlemen will make no difference in Convenience goods/services. But they will no longer be present in the Shopping Consumer Goods category. Expensive items of clothing and jewelry will be the first to be affected. Stores will have to conform to a new global prototype that will emerge of itself. Sought Consumer Goods will see status quo.

        Amanda Ferrante writes (online: “Black Friday showed that sales and traffic were on par with last year. However, the wake-up call for retailers this year was the continued shift in preference toward e-commerce channels. The biggest traffic jams were occurring online. ComScore Inc. an Internet audience measurement and consulting service, reported that online shoppers rang up $595 million in sales on Black Friday, up 11% from last year. Web shopping also rose 10% on Thanksgiving day to $318 million. Web analytics firm Coremetrics reported that as of 1:00 p.m. Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, online sales for the day were up 19.6% over a year ago.”

         What is of great interest and probably a harbinger of future strategy of brick and mortar stores is the finding reported by Experian Hitwise, a leading Custom Data and Analytics concern (ibid).  According to them, “One traditional brick and mortar retailer that has clearly embraced  the shifting channel preferences into its sales strategy is Sears Holdings.The retailer was ranked third in overall Web traffic for a multichannel store retailer for the week ending Nov. 28, which included Black Friday. Imran Jooma, SVP at Sears Holdings corroborated that finding (ibid), “We’ve experienced a record number of people engaged with the Sears ShopYourWay multichannel platform this Black Friday and on Cyber Monday, which proves we provide customers with the tools needed to easily find whatever they need when they need it.”

          Jooma added, “Use of mobile phone orders were also on the rise and further evidence that we’re offering an exceptional online experience that is clearly transforming the way our customers shop.”

         Driving Cross Channel Traffic : In order to drive traffic to both their physical stores and Web site, retailers continued to ramp up their e-marketing efforts this season. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit all-time highs in terms of email volume ( Cyber Sunday, the day before Cyber Monday, also saw record email volume (online: Smith-Harmon’s Retail Email Blog). This is in keeping with Cross channel solutions provider ATG’s findings and subsequent strategy.

          On Black Friday, 69% of major online retailers sent at least one promotional email, up from 59% in 2008, as tracked by the Retail Email Blog. On Cyber Monday, 71% sent at least one promotional email, making it both the most popular retail email day of this year and also the most popular of all-time. Last year, 70% of retailers sent email on Cyber Monday. And on Cyber Sunday, 45% of retailers sent at least one promotional email, up from 36% last year. That made Nov. 29 the biggest Sunday ever for retail email marketing (

         While Black Friday is traditionally known for in-store sales, the Smith-Harmon report noted that more online sales were promoted in this year’s Black Friday email campaigns. At the same time, retailers used their email campaigns to actively promote their in-store sales. According to the report, plenty of retailers promoted their Friday store hours in their emails and Kohl’s, Office Depot, Sears and Toys “R” Us even promoted theirs in their subject lines (ibid). End-to-end e-commerce provider iCongo Inc., revealed that its retail clients indicated average gains on sales this year versus the same period in 2008 for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to be 83% and 74% respectively. The average sales increase, year to year, for the Saturday and Sunday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday was 47% (ibid).

        Trends in E-Commerce: Site search vendor SLI Systems found that most e-tailers were using multiple technology applications and approaches, though 75% were uncertain if they are utilizing all the data gleaned through these applications to successfully recruit customers. The top technologies being used are Search (88%); Web analytics (87%) and Email marketing (81%) (

        Geoff Brash, VP Marketing, SLI Systems believes, “During 2010 we expect to see integration of various on-site technologies provide a major impact to retailers — whether it’s the integration of applications like video, site search, customer ratings and reviews or improved integration between analytics and other on-site components. Retailers have been investing heavily in technologies over the past few years and they now need to integrate these technologies to see the full ROI” (online: He adds that niche players are strengthening online, because typically shoppers have to travel to get to a specific type of store they’re after, but online always comes to you. He also notes that SLI’s retail clients have been exploring new ways to optimize the visual appeal of E-commerce sites, like adding more imagery and color to grab shoppers’ attention, in addition to improved site search and navigation tools (

        Conclusion: The traditional marketing system involving the manufacturer, the sales agency and the customer is undergoing a sea change with the middleman being excluded from the deal. There is no place for him in most businesses and his future appears bleak. Middlemen in certain businesses will remain, though their longevity cannot be forecast. Moreover, the balance of power has changed irrevocably, with the customer becoming king. The market has become ethereal in the sense that the customer is now invited to purchase any item he fancies of the lot being displayed to him, as he lounges on his sofa and observes the audio-visual hard sell in progress. He no longer has to visit a bricks and mortar store; the store is brought to him. E-commerce practitioners are besieging him with package deals and he has hundreds of options to choose from. Research has shown that old habits die hard, and those who pander to him, interact with him and keep him happy are most likely to get his patronage.



In September 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Valley Heights High School in Ontario, did something unforgettable. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent and the principal, she removed all the desks in her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they found no desks.  
'Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?'
She  replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at one.'
They thought, 'Maybe it's our grades.'  'No,' she said.
‘Our behavior?' 'No’ she said.
And so, they came and went, the first period, second, third. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening; by early afternoon television news crews had gathered at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all desks out of her room.
The  final period of the day came and as the puzzled students sat on the floor of the classroom. Martha said, ‘No one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I’m going to tell you.'
At this point, Martha went over to the door of her classroom and opened  it. Twenty-seven (27)  Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that  classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then walked over to stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, for the first time in their lives, how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha  said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price for your freedom to get education. Never forget it.'
This teacher was awarded Veterans of  Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW.
The freedoms we have in this great country were earned by our Veterans. Sardar Patel would have liked this fact. He had fought for independence, using ahinsa.
Remember the men of our military and the rights they  have won for us.....
I’m a Gujarati Christian from village Ratanpur, Matar, Kheda distt. Gujarat & a resident of Behrampura, Ahmedabad; get the goodwill of the Defence Forces and you will have a zero-crisis tenure. They will die for you with a smile.


Perhaps India's Prime Minister, a self-educated tea-stall tea seller should read this blog. 


Friday 1 December 2023


 IAF Lands ‘Super Hercules’ C-130 Transport Aircraft on Unfeasible Strip for Tunnel Rescue Mission


IAF assistance in the ongoing tunnel rescue underway at Dharasu, Uttarakhand was first seen when an IAF C-17 was deployed to airlift almost 22 tonnes of critical equipment from Indore to Dehradun. From a non-descript 3500’ 25m wide airstrip, Dehradun runway was extended to 7,000’ and also broadened from 23 metres to 45 metres to enable the landing of short-field capable aircraft like the Boeing 737 some ten years ago.

But the scene of hazardous air operations was elsewhere, near the collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel 140 km away on a treacherous mountain route. A small 3,000’ long disused Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) suitable for Dakotas in the late 40s-early 60s at Dharasu was selected as the ALG for the rescue mission.

Ahead of undertaking the delivery flight, an IAF helicopter with C-130 pilots on board had executed an exhaustive recce of the ALG’s questionable condition and the many obstructions it posed, before eventually undertaking the equipment delivery mission. Thereafter, varied aspects of the reconnaissance were suitably ‘war-gamed’, taking all impediments into consideration, and an operational plan was then formalised.

The quasi-military Border Roads Organisation, or BRO, was roped in to clear the ALG of thick undergrowth and shrubbery, and in the best tradition of jugaad that defines a wide spectrum of its operational activity, as well as that of the Indian military, it also constructed a makeshift mud ramp to substitute for specialised off-loading equipment, simply unavailable at the remote ALG. By now, the ALG had reached 3,600’ (1,100 metres) in length.

The narrow and undeveloped 3,600’ ALG was declared ‘unsuitable’ by the IAF for C-130 operations. Unsuitability notwithstanding, the IAF executed a perilous mission to deliver crucial equipment for rescuing trapped workers in Uttarakhand's mountain tunnel. There was too much at stake! The urgency in reaching the critical equipment to rescue teams spurred the IAF and its pilots to, yet again, exploit their jugaad or innovative skills and fabled derring-do to professionally vindicate their mission objectives.

In yet another instance of operational daredevilry, the Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully landed two of its C-130J-30 ‘Super Hercules’ military transport aircraft at Dharasu ALG. These missions were carried out in inclement weather, to deliver heavy engineering equipment to help rescue workers trapped inside a nearby under-construction mountain tunnel.

In an official statement, the IAF said that two C-130J-30’s executed three sorties to the rudimentary Dharasu ALG on November 15. This was carried out in ‘reduced visibility conditions’, to ferry 27.5 tons of machinery needed to extricate 41 construction workers, entombed since Sunday, in the collapsed tunnel being built on Uttarakhand’s Yamunotri National Highway.

The narrow and undeveloped 3,600 feet ALG, located at an altitude of 3,000 ft, some 30 kilometres from the mishap site, had earlier been declared ‘unsuitable’ by the IAF for C-130J-30 operations. Despite this constraint and based on inputs from the helicopter reconnaissance mission over Dharasu, the ‘non-routine critical delivery’ mission featured two C-130J-30’s from the IAFs 77 ‘Veiled Vipers’ Squadron at Hindan, on New Delhi’s outskirts, and was ably completed in under five hours. The IAF declared that the entire operation was underscored by a ‘calculated approach and adequate risk mitigation’. Its success, it added, stemmed from ‘pinpoint execution’.

One of the IAF’s other, larger, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III airlifters, too, was involved in the tunnel rescue operations. One of them shipped 22 tons of heavy equipment from Indore to Uttarakhand’s capital Dehradun, from where it was shipped to Dharasu by road, for onward transshipment to the accident spot.

The IAFs daredevil Dharasu delivery operation was reminiscent of its 17 daring flights, featuring C-130J-30’s and C-17s, which were undertaken earlier this year as part of Operation Kaveri to repatriate thousands of Indians from war-torn Sudan.

At the time, The Wire had reported on some of these C-130 flights, which were executed in pitch darkness, with calmness and dexterity on the unfamiliar Wadi Sayyidna airstrip that had neither any navigational approach aids nor critical landings lights, some 40 km north of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, wracked by civil war.

The IAF’s fleet of 12 C-130J-30s, inducted into service 2011 onwards, are split between the 77 Squadron at Hindan and the 87 ‘Wings of Valour’ Squadron at Panagarh in the east, from where they support the Indian Army’s deployment along the disputed line of actual control (LAC) with China. The IAFs 11 C-17s operated as part of No 81 “Skylords’ squadron, also from Hindan.

Both aircraft types were acquired via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route, with the C-130J-30’s costing around $2-2.5 billion and the C-17s priced at around $4.1 billion. In recent times, both platforms had been instrumental in transporting army personnel – and their assorted assets-like tanks and infantry combat vehicles – to the LAC to counter the ongoing three-year-long face off with China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The IAF had last acquired some 70-odd second-hand twin-piston engine Fairchild C-119 ‘Flying Boxcars’ from the US in the 1950s, after which New Delhi’s relationship with Washington deteriorated and those with Moscow proliferated, lasting the duration of the Cold War era, which ended only in the early 1990s. The C-119s, however, were retired in the 1980s, following their extensive employment in two wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.

Hence, for over five decades thereafter, the IAF remained dependent almost entirely on legacy Soviet-origin transport platforms. This was in addition to combat aircraft-like the Ilyushin Il-76s and Antonov An-32s, which a cross-section of IAF pilots maintained had recently been ‘technologically outmanoeuvred’ by the newly inducted US transports.

“The fully automated, state-of-the-art flight decks of both the US models fitted with +4 generation avionics were far superior to those of the two Soviet transports, making them relatively effortless to operate,” a former IAF transport pilot said. Besides, the US platforms were ‘significantly’ more fuel efficient, requiring a smaller, three-person crew – two pilots and a loadmaster – to operate, compared to five personnel needed for an Il-76 and four for an An-32, he said.

Besides ease of operation both in the air and on ground, the US transports had a 12-week maintenance cycle, which was almost three times higher than that of the Il-76s and even the 60-70 retrofitted and upgraded twin-turboprop An-32s, both of which required regular servicing every three to four weeks, said the C-17 pilot quoted above.

The total technical life cycle of C-130 and C-17 engines, too, is notably higher – almost 10 times more than that of the fuel-intensive Soviet aircraft power packs. This operational aspect increased platform efficiency and considerably reduced maintenance and operating costs.

Besides, by undertaking the Dharasu delivery mission, the IAF had ‘stretched’ the C-130’s operational envelope, possibly even a little beyond what its manufacturers Lockheed had anticipated and could, in time, further boost the transport platform’s commercial appeal.

Or as the adage goes, the only way to discover the limits of the possible, is to go beyond them into the impossible; or in this case, the near-impossible, an endeavour in which the Indian military excels on multiple fronts in exploiting its assorted platforms and equipment.


Thursday 30 November 2023



On November 12, 2023, a collapse occurred in the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to debris falling in a 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side. Immediate mobilisation of resources by the State and Central Governments ensued to rescue the 41 trapped labourers.

Safety concerns in opting for a 900 mm pipe through the debris led to the exploration of multiple rescue options simultaneously. The area of entrapment, measuring 8.5 metres in height and 2 kilometres in length, is the built-up portion of the tunnel, offering safety to the labourers with available electricity and water supply.

After 17 painful days, all the 41 workers who were trapped in Uttarakhand's collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel were rescued on Tuesday 28 November. When all efforts since November 12 including the use of a highly sophisticated auger machine, to rescue 41 workers trapped inside Uttarkashi’s, hit a setback in drilling 60 meters of mountains, a team of rat-hole miners achieved success.

Since the collapse of the tunnel, various government agencies worked tirelessly on each assigned task to ensure the safe evacuation of the workers. National and International experts were also present at the site to render advice on the rescue operation. Several machines, resources, and experts from across the country were tasked with ensuring the safe rescue of workers. Many experts were involved in what is being touted as one of the country's biggest rescue operations.

Since the collapse of the tunnel, various government agencies worked tirelessly on each assigned task to ensure the safe evacuation of the workers. National and international experts were also present at the site to help with the rescue operation. Several machines, resources, and experts from across the country were tasked with ensuring the safe rescue of workers.

Six plans were executed including drilling from over three sites - horizontal and vertical. The machines did help in moving pipes for food and other necessary materials to the trapped workers, but the rescue pipe could not reach them till the end. A few plans were still in the making but rat-hole miners, experts in digging tunnels in coal mines, were able to do the impossible. The rat-hole miners, a team of seven from Jhansi, were able to dig over 10 metres (till the end) within 48 hours which the auger machine failed to dig when its rotor blades were entrapped in metallic rods running underside, relics of some past experiment.

Regardless of personal opinion of Prime Minister of Modi, one has to accept that this kind of rescue operation is unprecedented. Five people from the Prime Minister's Office were at the spot day and night for 15 days and lived there in the container.

The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand was present for three-four hours every day, General VK Singh, Nitin Gadkari and many other ministers visited the buzzing-with-activity site frequently to review the rescue work.

A special aircraft of the Indian Air Force was sent from Hyderabad and the auger machine was brought from Slovenia.  The world's best known rescue expert was called by a special plane.. To order a special kind of plasma cutter, the team was first sent to Hyderabad; then, the plane was sent to America and a special kind of plasma cutter was brought from there. Four machines and robots and ground penetrating radar were brought from Switzerland by special aircraft.

A helipad and a working runway were also built at the accident site and a vertical oxygen generator plant was installed there. Think whether you have ever heard of such a rescue operation being conducted in such a quick manner before in history.


Wednesday 29 November 2023



A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers...

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologise for the delay to your
service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you
happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross
over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering
from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let
you know any further information as soon as I'm given any.'

3) 'Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Mile End and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our destination.'

4) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a
security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for
the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some
time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a

5) 'We are now travelling through Baker Street ... As you can see,
Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually
told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about
things like that'.

6) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver
announced in a West Indian drawl: 'Step right this way for the sauna,
ladies and gentleman... unfortunately, towels are not provided.'

8) 'Let the passengers off the train FIRST!' (Pause ) 'Oh go on then,
stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home....'

9) 'Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with
'Please hold the doors open.' The two are distinct and separate

10) 'Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means
that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors.'

11) 'We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.'

12) 'To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage -- what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you

13) 'Please move all baggage away from the doors.' (Pause..) 'Please
move ALL belongings away from the doors.' (Pause...) 'This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bloody golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them up your arse sideways!'

14) 'May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it's only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.'

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, 'We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.'
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her underwear.. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

At the height of the gale, the harbour master radioed a coast guard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. ( Aberdeen Evening Express)

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled -
'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil Hitler.''
( Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Tuesday 28 November 2023