Delhi

Metros’ Moonsoon Mess : urban India collapses in rains

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indiatoday_logoPublished on 31 Aug 2016

BRT was best thing for Delhi, unfortunately it failed due to bad planning a from India Today

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Akhilesh Yadav, ML Khattar, Kejriwal & Jung have to work together to control monsoon mess in NCR

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Right to walk: Give back our public spaces

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HT logoShailaja Chandra | Updated: Apr 14, 2015 23:03 IST

In the name of livelihood, we have destroyed fine walkways that could have easily supported open-air cafes and well-laid out kiosks. (HT Photo)
In the name of livelihood, we have destroyed fine walkways that could have easily supported open-air cafes and well-laid out kiosks. (HT Photo)

The old tug-of-war between vendors and pedestrians has for once swung in favour of citizens, at least in Delhi’s congested Lajpat Nagar market.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the removal of hawkers and vendors from all metalled roads — a harbinger of what might be in store for similar markets booming on pavements, usurping motorable roads.

How things have reached such proportions not just in Delhi but also in many parts of Mumbai and other cities of India is a story that bears telling.

In 2010, the Supreme Court had directed that a law should be enacted balancing the needs of ordinary citizens and those of street vendors.

The case was Delhi-specific and only involved the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the New Delhi Municipal Committee. The SC juxtaposed two fundamental rights conferred by Article 19 (1) (d) and Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution, the right of commuters to move freely and use roads without any impediment and that of hawkers, squatters and vendors to carry on hawking.

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The Last Word: How different will an AAP government prove to be?

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ibnliveThe first of its kind daily show on Indian TV. Debates issues related to the media. Don’t miss host Karan Thapar discussing the everyday’s news and their coverage.

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Guests: Shailaja Chandra (Fmr. Chief Secretary, Govt. of Delhi) ; Prof. Pushpesh Pant (formar professor of Poltics) ; Siddharth Vardarajan (Senior Journalist) ; Atishi Marlena (member, AAP Party) and Anchor: Karan Thapar

I come in at 1:04 minutes,11:44 minutes 15:35 minutes 19:55 minutes and 23:18 minutes.

Bengaluru vs Delhi: The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side

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The last month was momentous but in a different kind of way. Just when everything seemed to be going okay my Sunday morning was shattered by an urgent call from Bangalore. A close relative had been hospitalised with what sounded like life- threatening symptoms. A huge 2 cm clot of blood had been discovered wrapping his brain. The choice was obvious – immediate surgery or sudden paralysis – even death. But can any family reconcile itself to such a situation so easily? Could there be a third option? How successful are cranial surgeries known to be? What was the prognosis about likely outcomes? In all my 15 years in the Ministry of Health, I had never heard of this phenomenon. I tracked down a neurosurgeon in the GB Pant Hospital in Delhi who thank God, answered the phone that Sunday morning! Imagine my surprise when he said:

“It is a very simple procedure. They will just make a couple of holes and drain out the stuff. Besides your surgeon was my student and he is very competent.”

I forthwith conveyed these words of reassurance to the Bangalore branch of the family and booked the first available flight. My own heart was thumping and my brain was full of forebodings. As things turned out, the surgery was over before I landed but then followed several days when we made rounds of the ICU. Each day began not knowing how it would end. For the first time I felt helpless shorn of my Delhi support systems. But the neurosurgeon was right. Once the clot had been drained, the patient was on the road to recovery.

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To change the subject, what were my impressions of Bangalore? This was the first time I had stayed in the garden city minus the regatta of being met at the airport with hotel and transport provided by the host organization I walked out of the posh granite floors of Bangalore airport received only by the refreshing evening breeze outside. Two large boards hung outside. One said ‘Airport Taxi’ where around 20 “corporate” sorts stood in a queue, laptop bags, black shoes and black trousers announcing their business backgrounds. A long line of white Toyota Etios limousines were waiting to navigate them into the city. Another board said, ‘Airport Shuttle’ with an arrow pointing to a yard where several buses awaited the arrival of passengers. A smiling,English-speaking official waved me in the direction of shuttle Number 5 where I was greeted by another friendly face. The bus conductor wore a white uniform with BMLTA- short for the city Transport Authority monogrammed on his shoulders. With an unreserved beam and outstretched arms he yanked me and my trolley aboard. I paid the princely sum of Rs.206 for a 50 km ride in an air-conditioned, Volvo bus seated in the company of clean, neat, smiling and helpful co-passengers. All my companions were keen to tell me the most convenient place to disembark.

Almost immediately on arrival my forays into the hospital had to start. The next few days meant finding my way through the hierarchy of doctors and a labyrinth of hospital staff. Pharmacies, cybercafés and grocery stores filled in the rest of the time. Each interaction left me with three thoughts. What pleasant people these were; so keen to please; so keen to be of help. Through more than 40 exchanges with complete strangers I always came away feeling good.

But another facet of the city detracted from all the decency that had impressed me so much. And that aspect was quite off-putting I was staying in a pretty up market residential colony though not equivalent to Bangalore’s version of Lutyens Delhi. But it was Jayanagar where well-to-do Bangalorians live- some original residents and some recent derivations of in-migration. On earlier visits I had admired the wide roads shaded with enormous trees cascading with dense foliage. Those emblematic giants who had stood their ground for over half a century had been hacked down and replaced by monotonous municipality tiles. Even these had been broken and cast aside to relay all kinds of pipes, girders and cables which had been dumped all over. Clearly the right hand knew perfectly well what the left was doing but if hefty commissions flew in through chosen contractors staying hand in glove was well worth it. Huge stretches of entire streets now looked like trenches with heaps of mud capped with rubbish piled on either side. Aggravated by scanty street lighting every step I took spelt disaster for my bones. It made much of Delhi look quite pristine in comparison.

“Don’t the residents complain?” I asked. “What is the local corporator doing? Is there no Residents Welfare Association? Don’t people use RTI out here?” I need not have asked. The morning edition of The Times of India 25th September headlined as follows:

“Garbage tourism takes corporators to Salem”

“The picnic had begun: Three buses ferried 140 corporators.. Dressed for the occasion, they were busy clicking pictures of each other. It was an enthusiastic bunch, armed with tablets and smart phones, which set out to solve Bangalore’s biggest civic issue. And they made no bones that it was a pleasure trip. Roars of joy went up from the occupants, off on a trip to Salem to study the scientific disposal of garbage in that district of Tamil Nadu.”

Even as the politicians make hay, highly educated citizens do not seem to care. That is because the demographics have changed completely. The simple, almost austere men wearing a tilak and spotless white lungis, the womenfolk resplendent in Bangalore silks and fragrant flowers in their hair seemed to have vanished. Everywhere one saw smart young girls in salwar – kameez or skintight churidars hopping out of buses headed for hundreds of offices. Young men roar down the streets pillion riding on motorbikes, swerving precariously at every turn. Was this progress? I did not see a single traffic cop while even riding on the wrong side of the road was treated casually-even by other drivers and passers-by.

I longed to see the old cantonment bungalows distinguished by their brilliant bursts of bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers. Where had all those multihued croutons gone? Instead monotonous palm trees guarded landscaped lawns within the boundary walls. Those rambling houses which once grew mangoes, coconuts, avocados and grapefruit have been supplanted by hospitals, banks, jewelry shops, departmental stores and gyms. Restaurants advertising Biryani and kebabs were heralded by kitschy plaster of Paris elephants on the pavements. The aroma of fresh South Indian home-made filter coffee had been wafted into scores of red air-conditioned Coffee Café Days- each a copy of the other. I returned from Bangalore with mixed feelings. Is it better to confront broken pavements, rubble, construction material and mounds of rubbish or was it better to live in a city like Delhi which at many places has permitted pavements meant for pedestrians to be devoured by flyovers, the fourth family vehicle and the nth sentry box?

But having kvetched about pavements let us ponder about common courtesy. Has anyone met hospital staff in Delhi who give their mobile numbers and add, “if you have a problem please call me?” Is it better to live where people are pleasant, helpful and efficient or is it better to be in Delhi where “kal aaa jana?” is forever the first response? Where paying a bribe is the second response and brokering a deal the third?

Has anyone in Delhi found cheerful, helpful staff at Mother Dairy vegetable booths or in the Kendriya Bhandars? Bangalore’s Reliance Fresh, Big Bazaars and Nilgiris were a treat to enter and to shop in. Enough reason to change one’s habitat? No!

When all is said and done, the lone factor for which one might be willing to trade at least retired life in Delhi with retired life in Bangalore would be the bracing, temperate climate of the Garden city. Imagine a place where there is no need for even a fan for most of the year; the joy of snuggling into a blanket come September. Picture fruit and vegetables lying without refrigeration and still remaining firm and crunchy after 3 days. Dream of setting creamy curd made from delicious cow’s milk.

But at the end of the day there is a practical side to enjoying all this quality of life business. Delhi residents are highly organized as groups.NGOs and the media are never too far. When the cacophony gets louder, government organizations have to listen and respond. The RWA phenomenon has come to stay. In Bangalore there is no collective voice leave alone naming and shaming those in charge.

How long then can one live only on fresh air and courteousness?

Gurgaon no exception

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The incident of organ trade is shocking but not surprising in a country where there is an annual demand for 150,000 kidneys, while the transplants remain only 3,500. It’s time authorities streamlined organ transplant law The kidney excavations at knife-point has been among the biggest stories during the last two weeks. The principal targets are three — the police for conniving with and even facilitating the macabre organ digger, the health authorities for not doing enough to stop organ trade and medicos for hoodwinking and causing the poor to bleed (sometimes to death.) The story revives memories of Robin Cook’s novel and the film Coma (1978) which unraveled a grotesque story of how young men and women visiting a particular hospital for a simple procedure, were deliberately rendered comatose; to be strung up brain dead until their livers and kidneys were harvested by ruthless auctioneers operating a bizarre global organ trade. The Gurgaon kidney scam is no less wacky. The difference is that in the novel, the victims were young, educated, independent and able-bodied. The Gurgaon outfit sounded rudimentary and the victims were poor, illiterate and defenceless. The only reason why it made so much news was because at long last at least one racketeer had been nabbed. Otherwise, accounts about South Indian fisherfolk ravaged by the tsunami selling off a kidney each for Rs 50,000 and 50 per cent of village populations in Pakistan living on one kidney have been recounted for years; as have been reports about thousands of organs purloined from Chinese prisoners fated for execution. But the expos? and the notoriety that surrounds the Gurgaon scam demand wider thinking about the issue. Kidneys are the most frequently transplanted organs (around the world). In a country where poverty is ubiquitous, life is cheap and demand outstrips the supply, strategies have to be practical. Several countries have a solution whereby the donor has to explicitly dissent to organ donation during his lifetime. In the US, the regulation of organ donation is left to individual States within the limitations of the Federal National Organ Transplant Act, 1968. Many States in the US have encouraged organ donation by allowing the donor’s consent to be entered on the driver’s licence. Thereafter, state regulations lay down the systems and processes to be followed. In the early 1990s when I was the Secretary for Medical and Public Health in Delhi, doctors and policemen made several suggestions. Pass a law, they suggested, that in case an accident victim’s body is not claimed on the spot, the organs may be harvested at a designated facility and used according to the registry of needy recipients. Looking at the number of accident cases involving young people, it will be easy to operationalise this strategy, particularly if it were coupled with the consent given on the driving licence. Efforts have been on for decades to persuade the public to donate just corneas — far less threatening than retrieving kidneys, but to little avail. Aishwarya Rai has fluttered her gorgeous lashes on countless television commercials encouraging people to pledge their eyes (like her), but the supply remains woefully short. The Economic and Political Weekly writing editorially has referred to an annual demand for 1,50,000 kidneys while the transplants remain only 3,500. The well-intentioned 1994 Organ Transplant Act has clearly failed to prevent the illegal trade of kidneys because criminals would hardly present themselves before the authorisation committee to humbly seek permission. The recent comments by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that the problem is with the implementation and not the law appear to address the enforcement angle. However, no less important is the fact that in a country where poverty drives people to sell their land, house, livestock, jewellery and even children, what is the value of a kidney for the love of money? Especially when it is possible to live perfectly well on its pair? There is also the whole question of the emotiveness that surrounds death. Whether Indians exhibit their feelings more or less is not the point. In the Indian context, when funeral rites are given such enormous importance, few families would be willing to face the additional trauma of waiting for organ removal in a hospital setting. It is not that the idea of harvesting organs or the establishment of organ banks should not be pursued. The point only is that it will take a long time to convince families overwrought with grief to take decisions and get embroiled with hospitals and operation theatres for one minute longer than necessary. The consent on the driving licence is perhaps a good way of giving freedom to the individual, but also to the police to whisk away deceased accident victims for organ retrieval while preserving the body for the last rites. Second, it is the fundamental duty of every local Government to build awareness among poor people that they might be compromising their lives by agreeing to donate a kidney. For starters, all construction and building contractors should be enjoined under municipal regulations to display a film about the harmful effects of kidney removal, for all hired labour. The message may yet percolate to a wider group of poor people — particularly those living in urban areas where nursing hospitals, homes and kidney seekers abound.