March 26, 2009

Of Mumbai and more... I

I had serious reservations about living in Mumbai two years ago - still have as a matter of fact. But the famous Mumbai spirit is ever present and infectious. But being an outsider, I observed that in spite of having the best bus transport in India (BEST), the traffic situation is terrible. And getting worse. A lot of contributing factors: bad roads, slow flyover constructions, terrible and untrained drivers, road blocks like filth, garbage, illegal parking, and sometimes just the humongous human crowds. What are the agencies who are supposed to provide for the public doing? Why are some of them thriving, while others are woefully fumbling and stumbling?

Recently, BEST, traffic policemen, firemen have all realized the importance of actually turning in a profit rather than just waiting for the government to wake up and allot them funds. Better late than never, I say. BEST has been the path breaker and how! They are already turning in a profit, adding new buses to their fleet every year, paying their employees a pretty penny, and making moolah from advertising space both on and in the buses. Add to that the fact that their buses are almost always clean, or maybe I should say, swept and seats wiped. It seems nigh near impossible to evade buying a ticket, so I guess, this is a big contributor, but be that as it may, they are really a shining example. Oh, they could do more, sure, but hey, when you take a look at, say, our locals, traffic policemen and firemen, well, it becomes clear how far ahead BEST is.

Generating a profit is not for the money part alone, it also means you are able to pay your employees a decent salary - enough for them to be motivated to do their jobs properly without resorting to bribes. It also means expanding your workforce, which in turn means a bigger profit. And if these agencies fight for it, they will soon have laws standing by them to make it easier for them.

Take BMC for example - their Keep Mumbai Clean act is wonderful. Everyday, on my way to work, I see scores of their personnel clearing the trash and even the human feces from roadsides and footpaths. And they seem to take their work very seriously. I travel by the Western Express Highway, JVLR and Powai. Every road that I see is clean. Admittedly, these are all arterial roads. I frankly have no idea about the smaller, more densely populated (and hence, more filthier) roads and areas. But this initiative is commendable, especially in a city like Mumbai, where trash and filth seem to have become a part of the cityscape.

If our traffic policemen can take a cue from BEST to raise funds here are some ways to go about it:
  • Fine illegally parked vehicles. Double the fine for those who are double parked. No new law required for this one. Can be implemented straightaway.
  • Fine vehicles which have broken down on the middle of the road. A large fine if broken down on an arterial road, a larger one if broken down on the highway. A hefty one if broken down on a flyover. (seriously though, why do these decades-old, smoke-belching trucks want to use the flyovers when they woefully lack maintainance and the power required to negotiate the flyover? once these trucks break down, you cant move them and these people start their repairs then and there and leave behind grease and oil to show for it. fine them. if they can afford to strike days on end protesting the fuel prices, they can cough up fines for not maintaining these vehicles too). Also, make towing a vehicle compulsory. People waste time sitting in traffic just because some idiot thought that he could flout laws and common sense and not service his vehicle for a dozen of years. He should be fined for causing offices and people loss of money and mental trauma!
  • Fine abandoned vehicles - you know, the vehicles which have broken down and have been abandoned in the middle of the road - and include the towing charges as well.
Even if they implement this, their inflow will increase enough to actually recruit more who will help implementing these rules and fines.

For the BMC, well, things are not easy. They cannot fine people who defecate on the roadside as there is lack of sanitary services these people could turn to. And no, this is not to start the debate on how the slum dwellers are living illegally on government land or not. Bottom line is, it cannot fine them. So then, what can it do?
  • Fine for dumping garbage right next to the garbage bin and not in it.
  • Fine for leaving behind refuse and garbage after any and every festival and gathering - religious or political. If people can take organize gatherings, they can organize the clean-up as well.
  • As it falls to the BMC to take care of our roads, they can also charge every single hoarding - whether lighted or on sticks, large or small; on the divider, near the footpath and of course, over the road. BMC could mint thousands during election time or when some political big-wig comes visiting. And lets not forget political hoardings congratulating their party head on his/her birthday, political scaffolding larger than the deity whose celebrations are on, wedding mandaps and more. Admittedly, this would be neigh near impossible to implement what with the BMC and local politicians being in total cahoots.

Local trains. No, I don't have any suggestions for this one. Why? Because, there is no separate agency which operates this for Mumbai! Centrally governed, how can anyone have any inkling of the daily hassles? Why not increase ticket fares? What about the poor, you say? They don't pay for the ticket when it so low either! Why not increase the ticket price, for people like me who actually pay for tickets? Why not recruit the beggars on the train to clean the trains every night? How about recruiting about 50 people whose sole job would be to close the train doors at night? Almost everyone who commutes by locals, has an opinion on how they could be better. But most of these would require dedicated and constant aid from the government which, woefully, we have come not to expect at all. So, the locals go on, overburdened and with nowhere to go. Let me backtrack a bit and state for the record that the daily job done by the Central and Western Railway is admirable. So many trains, crisscrossing tracks, high train frequency all must be a daily headache and miracle to manage so successfully [yes successfully, ever heard of a Mumbai local accident or derailment?]. Dirty trains and stations? Ever think twice before tossing that wad of plastic or paper on the tracks? Where can it generate money from with tickets as less as 4 rupees and scores of people traveling ticketless nonetheless? No, there is not one but myriad reasons why the locals are the way they are. And if we as citizens and users don't change some of our habits, well, we have no right to complain about these agencies and the way they work.

Why cannot these agencies aim for profit, when government funds are irregular and in short supply? Aren't these agencies supposed to work for the city and help it gain prosperity? But when will all this come together? When we, as citizens care to see and get it done. Which brings us all to another pet peeve of mine: citizen responsibility. But then, that is another rant, sufficient for another post.

March 16, 2009

Tag: Doormat

Tagged by Sudhir (quite some time ago! Sorry dude, what can I say? I have a Star(t)in Problem ;) ) But once I started, well, I couldn't restrict myself to one answer, and had quite some fun!
Okie, then. Here is the tag.I was supposed to: Cleverly answer these questions, using only song *titles* from one artist.

Pick a band/artist:
Gwen Stefani

1. Are you a male or female:
Just a girl / Orange County Girl

2. Describe yourself:
Doormat / Artificial Sweetener

3. How do you feel about yourself:
Sad for me / Blue in the face

4. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend:
Sweet escape / Spiderweb

5. Describe your current boy/girl situation:
Doghouse / Home now / The real thing

6. Describe your current location:
Trapped in a box / Six feet under / Sinking

7. Describe where you want to be:
Greener pastures / Sundays Morning

9. Your favorite color is:
Fluorescent / Dark blue

10. You know that:
Magic's in the makeup / You started it

11. What’s the weather like:
Stricken / A little something refreshing / Cool

12. If your life was a television show what would it be called:
Suspension without suspense / Tragic kingdom

13. What is life to you:
Brand new days / Get on the ball / Comforting Lie

14. What is the best advice you have to give:
Keep on dancin' / Don't get it twisted

15. If you could change your name what would you change it to:
Hella Good / Paulina

I now tag Sri, Tanu and Veda. Am sure they are going to do a better job at this than me ;)

March 3, 2009

Of the queens and cowards of Bangalore

My sister sent me a mail on the Bangalore attacks that shook me. This is no longer a random incident or goons staging a publicity stunt. This reeks of political agenda. What is the answer? Why don't these same people who are so concerned about their 'culture' target their own film industry, ban Hindi and English channels and, most importantly, rail against the rock concerts that seem to happen only in Bangalore? Aren't these the ways people learn to follow 'western/corrupt' ways? Why target women who are alone? What kind of cowards are these? Incidents like this and this are not only shocking but also unnerving to read about when you have female friends and relatives in Bangalore.

I loved the all-embracing culture of Bangalore, the two years that I lived there. So much so, that I was contemplating moving there! And this comes in. My sister has bought a pepper can and has a male friend who is thoughtful enough to drop her home if it is late in the evening. This in a city which has a huge amount of restrictions to curb hooliganism, including a ridiculous 11 pm deadline. In this post-26/11 days, what is the police doing if they cannot even handle civilian goondagardi?

I feel for all the women in Bangalore. They either change how they dress (as if that is the main issue), stop being who they are or take up arms and do something about it. Am very proud to say that they are doing something about it. There are protest marches, pink chaddi campaigns, the Nirbhaya Karnataka and Blank Noise Project initiatives.
Is this the solution though? Citizens forming groups to curb this kind of menace? No, of course not! The solution lies in nabbing and punishing these offenders by the police, not civilians!! The police, meanwhile, are yet to do anything else than give the media statements on how 'Bangalore is safe for women' and how these victims are media-attention-seeking people. The women who, even after molestation, had the guts to file police complaints are attention-seeking. Shameful, indeed.


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