Sometimes I wish my life had a erase/rewind button

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why do we treat our cities so bad?

Living for some time in Mumbai now I am struck by the fact how badly maintained is Mumbai infrastructure especially roads. The difference is even more stark when I compare it with Delhi. When will be start treating our cities as the showcase of our concerns about its citizens?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where Kejriwal is wrong

Unlike most commentators I wholly endorse India Against Corruption activists in politics. Given the brazenness of corrupt politicians and their obvious reluctance to do anything to cut their own source of funds as evidenced in the pending Lokpal bill in spite of great professions to their commitment to bring in the bill, the only way out is to work from within. Where I disagree is their idea of fighting elections all over India.
Let us face it, most of India condone corruption at least at high places especially if done by their caste/regional leaders etc. Also creating an organization pan India will take a lot of time and resources. Generating resources will lead to Aam Aadmi Party getting compromised besides spreading out too thin. The way forward in my humble view is to act like a pressure group. Let the party concentrate on few urban pockets where the voters have move on from issues of basic survival to causes like corruption, dignified life, responsive government etc. If the party can fight and win- lets say for argument sake all the seats in Delhi/Bangalore/ places with high cosmopolitan/young urban voter that feels connected with India shining story. We are looking at about 50 seats in Loksabha.
With that kind of strength they might end up being in top 3 parties in Loksabha seat wise. If they win even Then do a Kanshiram - support to ruling party when needed in return for guaranty to pass key legislation. Lokpal too is a too big a body being envisaged by them. Start small and then work on expanding scope once the effectiveness is measured and fine tuned. Have an independent auditor/investigator for members of parliament and secretary level upwards officers of IAS/IPS and allied services. If the top is strengthened the lower rungs will eventually improve. Also have a mechanism that any elected member of parliament will have cases against them handled by a special court directly working under the Supreme Court of India and the cases must be disposed off within an year under day to day hearing and the lean Lokpal owning the investigations. This will make the criminal ticket seekers pause in their quest atleast a bit.
The key to building complicated systems is to build them incrementally and test and refine often. The same approach should be utilized by AAP.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

What ho culture?

What is culture? Perhaps not the best way of phrasing a question, let me expand. We often say someone is cultured? or someone is uncouth? Some music - maybe opera is high culture while some is pop. So what is it that defines culture, and why do we look up upon certain things and look down upon certain things when it comes to 'culture'?
Now while I do understand the popular meaning behind the term, what I do not understand is that most people will broadly agree as to what is or not 'high culture', while chances are that the same so called high culture bores them! Why consider that to be high culture which bores them.


Ah the refreshing logic of our leaders. There is no loss since the coal is not mined. Coal was not auctioned in spite of ministry's own secretary advising same because there was urgent need for coal and so discretionary allotment was the only way.
Few questions:
  • If need for coal was urgent than what action if any was taken on firms that left the coal inside earth saving a lot of loss that otherwise would have happened?
  • If no action was taken than what action is taken against those who were supposed to take action?
  • Why is it that anything non discretionary under this government takes so long even in face of urgent need it cannot cut time on the advisable course of action but the same system is brilliantly quick when doing discretionary allotments?

It has been a while

I think it is time to return.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Schooling Kids

Historic day today with the Right to Education becoming a fundamental Right. Its a beginning that will fructify when that right also translated into quality eduction.
Why don't we begin by setting up 2 schools 1 exclusively for Schedule Tribes and 2nd exclusively for scheduled castes. Not more than 2 to begin with for reasons of funding and also as a proof of concept. Doing it for scheduled tribes and castes will also serve an additional cause of 1 blunting the invariable reservation clamor etc that is bound to ensure in any public funded scheme and more importantly will also serve to prove that the reason for backwardness is that of access to opportunities (reservations started to blunt that) And access to preparatory training (why reservations still fail and attempts to fix that by creamy layer criteria that was effectively politically neutered).
Assign 1000 crore each to these 2 schools (if that seems excessive, remember UP government spends more money on monuments - not infrastructure items named for itself but statues and concrete parks). Have the best of Global faculty - many will come to it to be a part of social cause - do not reserve faculty positions, 100% student reservation should be enough and besides foreign faculty will have no caste and hence crowd out Indian faculty should reservation in faculty be allowed.
Have a common course till at least class 8, preferably till class 10.
In place of courses like SUPW have classes in forestry, crafts etc - I assume most students at least in tribal school will come from tribal areas and we want them to go back to their families and success story and uplift the living standards back home - not become an urban migrant looking for non existent jobs.
Based on candidates aptitude and interest, allow for students to choose a vocational +2 course or continue traditional maths/science/bio/commerce/humanity courses after 8th or 10th as the case maybe. Those who do well in traditional courses can than compete for admission in top institutes and given the excellent training should be able to make it through easily.
In order to make it worthwhile for family to send kids to school which must be residential since we are talking of a single, well funded and monitored school instead of attending local school with questionable quality and then work at home/fields, give them decent scholarships - say a 1000 bucks a month which the students can send back home - in effect a scholarship for family of kids attending school. We can make this scholarship effective for only 2 kids/family if need be. This will also make it worthwhile for students and families to actually compete to stay in school.
Once we monitor this scheme for like 10 years so that we can see that a student from the most disadvantaged of family can be as good as rest we can setup more such schools. Students not very keen on traditional courses can be trained and government can then recruit them as forestry officers/guards. Those good in traditional arts can be given outlets like Delhi Haats and trade fairs to commercialize traditional arts.
Others can train as health workers and work in rural areas. In short a win all.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Women Reservation Bill

Indian parliament starts the process of reserving 33% seats to women in parliament today. I think its a fair step though I do think the bill could have been structured better.

My main grouse which I share with many others is against the bill is the concept of rotating seats. As columnists have pointed out it shortchanges the electorate. With the seats being rotated there is not much incentive for the MP to work as hard for the constituency and this holds for both men and women. A better idea might have been to have some sort of a time frame - say reservation of the seat for 20 years.
Another and I think a better idea would have been to create additional seats for women. So maybe parliament could have increased its capacity to say 700 and have additional 200 seats for women. These seats could have covered 2 existing seats, so each person votes for 2 seats during parliament election, 1 the regular seat and 1 the women seat. A bit complicated to explain to electorates but managing that is what the political parties are there for.
The 2nd major argument against this reservation is that it will promote family rule since parties will now give these tickets to spouses, siblings of existing leaders, there not being enough women leaders on their own about. The argument in my view is misleading. We already have family rule - women or no women. Most regional parties are family owned. Of the national parties Congress is Gandhi-Nehru owned and while BJP doesn't have a single family, plenty of its leaders give tickets to family. Only communists seem a bit fair here to give credit where its due.
What this reservation will do its to create a class of women parliamentarians. The same way as Panchaytiraj system saw plenty of proxy male rule, the fact remain some women will find their own feet and become leaders on their own right in due course. Further urbanization will see mega cities becoming electorally important. Look at Bengaluru's importance to Karnataka election now. Soon Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad etc will also become like that. And young urban voters might just about allow genuine women candidates to flourish - provided of course that rotation of seat doesn't prevent them from building bonds with constituents.
The 3rd argument being made is for quota within quota. I think that is a dangerous idea. What I propose is that if there is a rotation let the existing quota system remain. So if a reserved seat comes under women quota, well women from reserved communities can contest. Why is say this is becomes if there is genuine caste based oppression - there is in significant parts of the nation- that means its very hard for a person from those castes to come up as a leader due to social discrimination and/or denial of opportunities. This means that a far significant proportions of these quota within quota candidates will actually be women from households of caste based political party leaders. No wonder that almost all the opponents of bill based on quota within quota demand are caste based politicians.
I think its an idea whose time has come. We need more women to occupy positions of power. Somewhere though I hope this measure will not be needed after about 50 years and then we will go back to a reservation less society because non will be needed.

Drill that could kill

The other day We went to Lifestyles in Kalyani nagar to pick up some stuff. While there shareek-e-hyat decided to catch a movie at Meriplex across the street. So we picked up tickets for a 430 show and headed to crossword to browse through books while waiting for the movie time.
Around 420 just when we reach the counter to pay for selected books, suddenly security comes in and asks everyone to come out. At the main gate policemen are busy locking the door and everybody is being herded out. There is no announcement, no co-ordination just some security folks pushing people to a solitary open exit.
The exit as can be expected is jammed with people from multiplex rushing down and people from mall joining the melee. Total chaos, I shield s-e-h from behind while the front crush had to be navigated as it came. I almost could visualize the Pratapgarh tragedy preying Pune doesn't get one of its own. There is no police, no sign of security at this exit, to manage the flow or to help anyone stumbling on the stairs and getting crushed. All there is, is a crush of elbows into sides, boots on toes and fisticuffs.
We come out to a open field with bushes, s-e-h's toenail is broken in the crowd crush and is bleeding badly. There was no time or place to figure out if any one is injured, the first impulse is to rush to safety and somewhere where the toe can be kept away from crowd and dust. Few folks from security outside claim ignorance as to what exactly is happening. Wondering we decided to brave it out and find our way to car and get out. S-e-h is able to walk slowly so we decided to move away from the crowd and try and find a way to the car.
I figured out it cant be a Mumbai style attack happening since then it would have been foolhardy to get the crowd out in open. So maybe its a bomb scare. Anyways we walk ahead, s-e-h limping on and see Lifestyle up ahead. The road is being blocked and police forcing vehicles to detour. But Lifestyle itself is open. So I figured it must have been a bomb scare for Meriplex and situation at-least for now is fine otherwise. I asked a policeman what is happening and he just shrugs.
I got inside, picked up the stuff, got down to lifestyle parking and got the car out, it is past 5 now and people still waiting out, fire brigade etc in front of meriplex. So I took the other route back to home. Lucky thing the car was not parked in Meriplex else we'd have to wait till the scene cleared.
Next day Express mentions it was a mock drill conducted by police. And I think what the hell. Do you want people to die in stampedes. If s-e-h got injured I am sure many others did too. If you have to conduct drill at least ensure it doesn't kill anyone. Why wasn't security placed on the stairs to manage the flow? Why only 1 gate was kept open and that too was one with stairs! What did the exercise prove?
Papers mentioned movie screening was resumed by 4:15 - my foot, I came out on roads after 5 and it was still blocked.
When do will we realize its not OK to put people's life and limb in danger for the sake of a drill. What were the objectives of the drill? How soon a movie hall can be emptied? Sure announce people to leave and come down and stop them there once they are in open. To get an mall emptied? Open freaking all the exits and not crush 1000 people on a 3 feet wide staircase! Heavens forbid where there to be an explosion sound of any kind I am sure people would have died on that staircase!
Learn from these IT firms. We have regular fire drills and 3000 people can and do evacuate in under 2 minutes. Just herding people out like cattle with no management of evacuations is plain stupid.
Lets know no one else got injured or lost valuables. And Pune police folks next time you plan a drill, please PLAN it and not just execute.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How does one measure poverty

Interesting that it took so long to finally junk calorie intake as the poverty estimation tool. Even if one take mere food as an indicator I wonder if the calorie intake took into account nutritional needs like proportion of protein/carbs/minerals/vitamins etc.
I think putting things like Education, access to health-care in ambit of calculating poverty is a step in right direction. After all these define your quality of life and also define in a rudimentary way the opportunities available to better the quality of life. Lack of opportunity is what will keep the poor poor and as such is as much a handicap as lack of food/shelter etc.
Its kind of sobering to think by that yardstick India is still miserably poor. I suggest we also put in place a mechanism to evaluation the effectiveness of poverty removal programs. Accordingly government agencies (and private/NGOs) can also be rated as 'good to reduce poverty, not so good etc'. Organizations that serve to reduce total poverty can be given additional incentives. Otherwise I wonder if any real poverty alleviation will happen in near future.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Bollywood as the new Quettawood

I usually enjoy our neighbour's newspapers. Some to keep track of what is happening next door, sometimes for entertainment - that comes from wild 'facts' quoted by writers who lament why no one else quotes those 'facts', and sometimes well because there are good writers.
Read this piece in Dawn a newspaper and a writer that I usually enjoy. But then suddenly you come across a comment like "It seems that rightwing Jews, who often guide the Indian media’s worldview..." and I was left scratching my head. I've come across all sorts of religions in my personal circle but somehow never a Jew! A quick check on wikepedia and I found there are around 15000 Jews in India a land of a billion. Must be a remarkable set of people to "guide" Indian media's worldview with so few a number. Maybe the author meant US media which maybe is guided by Jews and in turn guides Indian media. A very long shot but still worth trying.
Anyways so that is a problem. Even seasoned journalists which credential to be taken seriously do make such wild statements in the guise of 'facts'. No wonder the common man on streets in Pakistan (and I am sure plenty in India have similar narrow worldview) believes in all sorts of fantasies.
Reading another column in the news gave me an idea. There is no reason why India should not support Baloch fight for justice in a moral support sort of way. Maybe India can allow Baloch movies to be made in India (easy visas, maybe some technical support) which highlight legitimate Baloch struggles. It will be a soft power projection, being totally non-violent can be easily shared with the world and allow Balochis a creative outlet that otherwise might hunt for other expressions. Frankly any more guns in neighborhood is simply too many guns.