cities inhabitable

air pollution

Hawa mein udta jae,
mora lal dupatta malmal ka
ooo…  ji… ooo ji

Hey girl. Don’t let your dupatta fly off your soft hands. Delhi is approaching. You will need it to cover your nose and mouth.

The air pollution in Delhi reaching alarming proportions is the top trending news these days. Of course for the weak lunged, most of the Indian cities are increasingly becoming inhabitable. After shifting to Bangalore when I went to a doctor friend for my persistent cough, the first advice he gave was to leave Bangalore.

In the WHO list of most polluted cities in terms of outdoor pollution, ten Indian cities have the honour of being included in the top twenty.  Delhi, which ranks fifth among Indian cities, gets highlighted the most because, the media men and VIPs stationed there think Delhi is the world.

Air pollution in cities has become a common phenomenon in hugely populated developed countries. Countries like India and China with their affluent population crowding the cities experience it the most. Recently there were newspaper reports that many city dwellers in China are forced to flee the cities.

In India, the major causes of pollution are industrial and vehicular emissions and inefficient cooking fuel. According to the WHO report the air quality in many of the thickly populated rural areas do not provide a back up for the city dweller.

Adulterated vehicle fuel and traffic congestion worsen the situation in cities. Following the example of China, the Delhi government implemented the odd even scheme to reduce number of vehicles on the road. But the impact of such schemes has not been on expected lines and these schemes are likely to end up as symbolic gestures in the long run as people find innovative ways to bypass the system. Maybe, the time has come for tougher measures like banning of all four-wheelers other than public transports and ambulances on fixed days.

Those who commute to office for less than  five kms can easily pedal to office. The healthier and more enthusiast ones will not mind the distance, provided there are dedicated cycle tracks. We need to create more awareness in this regard and the city planners must focus on decreasing traffic congestion and encouraging people to pedal around the city.

The sharp increase in use of personal vehicles can be attributed to increase in purchase power. But economic empowerment of people cannot be and should not be reversed. No doubt pollution is a byproduct of modernisation. However, scientific development in one field can be used to counter the ill effects of scientific development of another field. We can focus on developing technologies to have affordable cars like Nano or, improving the vehicles that run on no fuel. Further increase in standard of living makes people abandon basic bikes and cars in favour of luxury brands that consume more fuel. Problem is – it is the inessentials with money power who also influence legislative decisions. Thus, it becomes difficult to legislate and implement simple and practical solutions.

For a growing economy with a huge population the situation can only get worse as we go for more investment in manufacturing sector. Hope, side by side with the improvement of our ranking in ease of doing business,  we took tough steps to ease out our ranking from pollution index.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Get a copy of my book ‘Idle Hours- Humour|Memoir|Essays ‘to read more of my takes on  social, trivial and selfhelp issues. You may find some of them hilarious too.  

dhan ki jai

 dhananjoy.jpg

If you are monied and influential enough you go scot-free in spite of committing the most heinous crime. In India, we have got used to these kind of incidents. What is worse is – if, you are poor you may get convicted for someone else’s crime.

You have to be a strong believer of karma and rebirth to feel OK with the social injustice meted out on a poor fellow by the combined forces of the state and the media after watching the movie Dhananjoy, which is based on the real life trial and conviction  of Dhananjay Chatterjee.

Dhananjay Chatterji was held guilty and and hanged for raping and murdering Hetal Parekh – a fourteeen year old school girl – on 05 Mar 1990 at  her flat in  the apartment complex where Dhananjay was a security guard.

The media went on a frenzy to brand Dhananjay a rapist and murderer even before the trial began. As Dhananjay’s family could not pay the fees, his lawyer lost all interest in the case. Based only on circumstantial evidences Dhananjay was held guilty by the trial court. The verdict was upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court. The pressure of vote bank from the influential Gujrati Community was so much that the wife of the then West Bengal CM Budhadeba Bhattacharya held public rallies demanding death penalty for the accused. Public opinion to paint Dhananjoy a monster was kept up through out the trial and his consideration of mercy plea by the president of India till he was finally hanged to death on 14.08. 2004.

Later on many inconsistencies in the so called circumstantial evidences surfaced. Three professors of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata did extensive research and published the details of the inconsistencies and a probable sequence of events based on their collection of evidences in a book. The movie- Dhananjoy- is based on this book.

If the inconsistencies mentioned in the book ( as I learn from the movie) are true, the probability of Dhananjay being innocent is very high.  Certain facts which were not taken into account while pronouncing the verdict are as follows:

  1. All the twenty one or so injury mark are only on the upper part of the body. If it was a rape some injury marks were expected in the lower parts as well.
  2. There was proof of sexual intercourse, but there was no conclusive proof of rape. Even the forensic report said so.
  3. When Hetal’s mother discovers her injured (already dead)  body, in stead of seeking medical help  as a first thought, the first thing she does is she shouts to know the whereabouts of Dhananjay.

There are so many inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses that even a layman (provided he is totally unbiased) would award Dhananajy at least a benefit of doubt. But, forget about a benefit of doubt, this poor security guard who could not afford a costly lawyer, was held guilty and hanged to death. (Contrast this with the recent case of a film director who hired a costly lawyer, Kapil Sibal in this case and got exonerated of rape charges from the High Court. This director is also well connected in the left liberal circle of Lyuten’s Delhi)

Even the communist government in power, that prides itself for standing for the poorest of the poor and social justice, sided with the moneyed Gujarti Community in this case and went overboard in demanding death penalty for the accused. Dhananjay’s karma was so poor that, the then president of India, who rejected his mercy petition,  himself hailed from a poor family.

Coincidentally, the previous day I had watched the  English movie – Jack Reacher. The base plot line of the movie thinly resembles Dhananjoy, except that in this Hollywood movie the innocent convict is saved by a powerful duo of an attorney and an ex-Army officer from Military Police. Another difference is that the movie Jack Reacher is not based on real life incidents.

Justice and fair play for the poor and the innocent happen after all. Of course, in the land of fiction.

jack reacher

 

 

 

it was a great show

trapeze.jpg

Six hours of circus-

As usual the politician inaugurated it

And slept throughout the show

To wake up in the last hour

To proclaim

In words impeccable  and rehashed

The situation is under control

The guilty will not go scot free

And the victims will be compensated

 

The trapeze men thought they were

Fighting  a just cause

Going up and down without a safety net

So thought the green and yellow foot soldiers

Going up and down and down

 

Three dozen died

A few heads rolled

(Do we know their names?)

Some cried and

Some cried foul.

 

Far away

In another planet

Faces lit up

‘It was a great show’

They chuckled

And took a break.

hear the saga of the common man

Hear the saga of the common man- the aam admi.

He is the ultimate hero, the fictional centre of the universe.

Some claim that their hands are with him.

Some have made name, fame and fortune out of his name.

Every religion champions his cause.

Every atheist has vowed to be by his side come what may.

Each page of newspaper is dedicated to protect him from other looters.

Every body from the king to the millionaire is in competition to be his most humble servant, protector and savior.

The world exists to fulfill his wishes and everyone of some reckoning has been working for him, since time immemorial.

Now this is the miracle:

In spite of so many well-wishers, messiahs and mass leaders,

he continues to remain poor, exploited,  helpless, be-fooled, baffled

fighting and killing fellow common man for the just cause.

Every hand is out to rob him.

Every elephant is out to trample him

Every sickle is out to cut his throat

And every hammer is eager to crush his head.

Every lantern burns out of his blood.

He bears the brunt of every broom.

His desperation and despair provides manure for every lotus to bloom.

The list would go on.

But, the saga of common man will continue

to be the same story of struggle and betrayal day after day.

 

JNU – all that buzz non academic

jnuJawaharlal Nehru University – a premier educational institute of India, has been in regular news over the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, for reasons not academic.

Not because its students or professors achieved anything remarkable connected with higher studies, research or anything related to learning for that matter. But, because of the battle of supremacy of one idea over the other accompanied by violent protests and clashes bordering in anti national activities.

Jawaharlal Nehru, after whom the university is named, was a free thinker and welcomed criticism of his own ideas. While he advocated secularism, he has also written books about the lofty heritage of this country. By no means he would have been delighted by the attempt to propagate anti-national ideas on Indian soil.

Healthy debates and discussions and free expression of opinions are the bread and butter of a citadel of higher learning. Even though the university was dedicated to the memory of Jawaharlal Nehru, it was the leftist leader Prakash Karat who formulated the major policies related to the University. Moreover, the student politics of the campus has been mostly left dominated. Hence, it can only be expected that the university propagates and zealously guards a particular point of view.

An ideology is just a notion. As a prodigious student, in stead of probing the origin or relevance  age old ideologies, it is unfortunate that  a citadel of learning has been a stage to propagate particular ideologies.

A student should be a skeptic, questioning everything. The faculty should engage in producing and encouraging that spirit of inquiry and should not in any way bring their own ideologies  to influence their commitment for the intellectual growth of the students.

According to the Wikipedia page on JNU, while it is ranked third best university by India’s Ministry of HRD, it ranks 1177th in the world by an international study. Academically speaking, the university has still a long way to go in spite of attracting some of the best minds of India.

The events at JNU also raises serious questions as to whether student politics should be allowed across educational institutes in India. By the way, elections were banned in JNU from 2008 to 2011. At the age when students in India enter campus politics, are they mature enough not to be used as pawns? Moreover, by indulging in active politics, do not they lose precious student time  that they would have devoted to learning? After all ,educational institutes are not meant to give hands on training about the nitty- gritties of winning elections. During my college days I witnessed classes being postponed frequently due to student activism over trivial issues.

As the JNU events  show, students are used as pawns to push forth particular ideologies or carry on certain types of propaganda not at all related to the curriculum of study. The situation becomes dangerous when anti national propaganda are carried out in the name of free speech. Somewhere a line should be drawn between free speech that genuinely encourages spirit of inquiry and self reflection on one hand and  propaganda by vested interests that questions the very fabric of a nation that after all gave them an opportunity to study in that university with a generous subsidy out of her citizens’ earnings.

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