Two funerals, two different places, one religion

One, the son of fisherman, rose to great heights by sheer dint of hardwork eventually headed India’s nuclear program,a.k.a’ India’s Missile Man’ to defend his motherland from external threats. He went on to become India’s most loved president, the people’s president.

The other, albeit educated, got into managing the finances of his brother, an underworld don who eventually planned and executed the first massive terrorist attack on Indian soil killing 250+ Indians. Mumbai was ripped apart by the bombings as bombs went off in 12 different locations including the iconic BSE building and the Air India building. Memon and his entire family had fled the city before the bombs went off. He, however returned as, by his own admission the monitoring and surveillance to which he and his family were subjected to was unbearable. Memon was charged, among other things, criminal conspiracy to carry out terrorist and disruptive activities.

The latter case makes one sad in the sense that how talent and potential got wasted as someone who got misled in his youth into plotting an act of terror against his own motherland. The irony is unmistakable as on one hand there was a missile scientist who devloped missiles to secure his country and on the other hand a terrorist who bombed his motherland.

Hundreds of innocents got killed in those terrorist attacks. One feels for those who lost their near and dear ones in the attacks, those who lost an arm or an eye or a limb in the cowardly attacks.

Shobha De in her article in yesterday’s ToI seems to have lost it completely. It just made me sick. I guess she should stick to writing about Mumbai page 3 parties when she gets time from attending those. Here are some gems in it;

Over and over again, Mumbai is forced to confront the threats of those hell-bent on destroying it. This time the warning has come straight from the horse’s mouth. Chhota Shakeel, a co-accused in the serial blasts case, called this paper to deliver a sinister message: there will be consequences, he announced.

The above is plain rofl ..

At this stage, it’s a bit pointless to argue about the rightness or wrongness of Yakub’s hanging. Of immediate concern is the question: what happens to Mumbai from this moment on? Officially, it is a ticking bomb. If Chhota Shakeel has openly said so, who can dismiss such a threat? How can we ‘prepare’ for the worst? Yes, we — the millions who live here, work here, will die here…what are we meant to do while plotters work on a masterplan? Is there anybody who can save this vulnerable metropolis? This soft and attractive target?

Did i miss something ? Did Chota Shakeel just pip Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton to win the US Prez elections already ? Then why is Mrs De mistaking Chota Shakeel to the POTUS who is gona bomb any place at will ?

Two men were buried on the same day. One was a humble teacher who became the revered President of a billion-plus Indians. Thousands of admirers gathered at Rameswaram to pay their last respects to APJ Abdul Kalam. The other was a Mumbai professional (a CA), who got embroiled in a nasty war against the state and was hanged as a terrorist. Two parallel lives. Two entirely different scripts. Same country.

Check out the comparison in the same breath. One a former prez of India and the other a great Indian war hero ??? And whats with that Mumbai professional (CA) bit? Is crime the domain of illiterates only?

It’s important to figure out what has gone so horribly wrong. I keep thinking of my granddaughter who is growing up in this twisted Mumbai — not the Mumbai I knew. Today’s Mumbai is transformed, polarized, divided, hostile, suspicious, angry. Neighbour doesn’t trust neighbour. Brothers turn on brothers. Insecurity defines relationships more than love. People prefer to live in pockets that exclude those ‘not like them’— whose food habits and religious beliefs differ. What sort of a Mumbai is this? Unrecognizable! Torn asunder by those who cannot appreciate its vibrant cosmopolitanism. Those who have appointed themselves its moral, social and political custodians.

People like Mrs De seem so far removed from reality that they talk such crap. Spare a thought to those who suffered the events. I was growing up when the riots and the devastating bomb blasts ripped Mumbai apart. They scarred Mumbai and its residents. There are crimes and there are unthinkable crimes, crimes that shake the very foundations of society. Crimes that send shivers down the collective spine of society. The perpetrators of such crimes should be dealt with in the harshest possible terms so that a deterrant is in place to try and prevent such acts in the future.

Bloomberg funding for Mumbai

After a long hiatus, Midnightbreakfast is back… as there was a lot that was going on in mine as well as my writing buddies respective personal lives. Promise to return regular posting now.

Last week, Bloomberg Philanthropies, a foundation set up by Michael R. Bloomberg who owns Bloomberg, as part of its ‘Global Road Safety Initiative’ has committed to donate $125 million over five years to help strengthen road safety legislation. This initiative aims to reduce road fatalities and injuries.

The initiative aims to;

  • Provide full-time staff to work with the city municipality on its road safety initiatives for up to five years,
  • Technical assistance from the world’s leading road safety organizations,
  • Training for police officers
  • Other relevant city staff and help to create mass media campaigns

Mumbai, which has over 2 million registered vehicles could do with such road safety initiatives as driver negligence is one of the major causes of road fatalities. Such initiatives are always welcome .

Auto Drivers bigger than the law??

How often have we seen old people, females with their kids or tored office goers standing stranded on the middle of the road helpless with out any rickshaw agreeing to take them where they want.

This is the story of mostly all Mumbaikars everyday who bear the brunt and rash attitude of rickshaw wallas. They have blackmailed by going on strike and have managed to increase the fares by many folds but still plight according to their wish.

But the question is whether this is right as per laws. Answer is NO!!

As per the Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Law section 22 d 178 (3b) any auto and taxi with their meter UP saying “For Hire” has to take a passenger anywhere they want whatever the distance maybe.

Failing to do so they attract a penalty of Rs.100 if the passenger complains to the Mumbai Traffic police. This can be done by lodging an online complaint at http://trafficpolicemumbai.org/Complaint/ or calling at number 100.

They can also mail Joint Commissioner at jcptraffic@trafficpolicemumbai.org

Also one important point to remember is that passenger should first GET IN the auto and then say where they want to go. The auto driver cannot say NO.

Another instance of auto drivers defying law is in Delhi. As per Delhi Motor Vehicle law an auto with battery below 250W and speed 25kmph do not come under the Act and so they have banned the e-rickshaws. But they have defied this law also by buying these at Agra, Ghaziabad and Noida so that they do not come under this law. They use 4 batteries of 15V power around 850W and speed more than 35Kmph. By defying this law they are not bound to pollution rules. They also do not need to have insurance and thus expose passenger safety.

These instances point that auto and taxi drivers have no respect or fear for law as they have political backing.

But it is high time we commuters fight back so that the government realizes their mistake amd they also start taking serious actions against these goons who actually should serve the people as they fall under the “Public Service Vehicles”.

Another knock to the city

Congress led Maharashtra government recently announced the extension of the cut off date for regularising illegal encroachments in Mumbai to 2000 from the year 1995, just before the model code of conduct came into existence. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Maharashtra-clears-bill-to-make-pre-2000-slums-legal/articleshow/31186880.cms.

Just wondering, isnt there any way to just stop this? This is such a convenient way for the government to garner brownie points before every election.

By continuously extending dates and providing alternative accomodation to the encroachers, they are encouraging more and more squatting / encroachment in the city. Such moral hazard behaviour is encouraged as the date of slum regularising is extended continuously. Some real estate developer then comes into the picture by undertaking “rehabilitation schemes” for the squatters. The developer gets development rights in return which they exploit commercially elsewhere. The costs are huge with the little open spaces squatted up.

In the above chain, the politician benefits as he panders to his vote – bank, the squatters get free accomodation at the expense of the tax paying junta (who now might be cursing themselves for taking mortgages to buy homes), the real estate developer benefits as he rakes in the moolah by developing prime real estate in most cases. But the losers are the tax paying public and the city

In another story, apparently two ministers in the present government have stalled the rightful return of ~ 18 acres of Aarey land from a developer to the local authority.

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Cong-ministers-stalled-return-of-18-5-acres-to-Aarey-Colony-by-builder/articleshow/32094476.cms

The above stories sums up the sorry state of affairs and the plight of this great city. Cut – off dates for slum regularisation keep on getting extended, the original date being 1976 then 1985 then 1995 and now 2000. Encroachment in Aarey, the only sizable green stretch of the city left, is a serious issue, may be topic for another blog post. Politicians, most of whom are non – Mumbaikars, in their attempt to garner a few more votes are irrepairably damaging the city.

Mumbai Metro Train- A Saga with enduring delays and Red Tapism

India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world with Mumbai as the financial hub with a population of around 25 million. Great infrastructure viz., public transport, which enables the people to smoothly travel to and fro for work and recreation, is imperative which would increase productivity and the quality of life in the city.

Keeping this in mind an ambitious project for Metro Rail was flagged off in 2006 by Manmohan Singh on lines with Delhi Metro to reduce the traffic congestion.

The project had three phases and was expected to complete in 2021:

Phase 1
Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar
Colaba-Bandra-Charkop
Bandra-Kurla-Mankhurd

Phase 2
Charkop-Dahisar
Ghatkopar-Mulund

Phase 3
BKC-Kanjurmarg via Andheri Andheri East-Dahisar East
Hutatma Chowk-Ghatkopar
Sewri-Prabhadevi

Total project length was 160 km with an estimated cost of INR 19,000 cr. It’s Private-Public partnership (PPP) between MMRDA (26%), Reliance Infra (69%) and Veolia (Residual). Construction work started in 2008 citing to feasibility and cost delays.

Cut to 2014, after 7 years now the testing and trial run is getting completed but that too of only ONE LINE of PHASE 1. The cost of the entire project has also increased to INR 67,000 cr now (+) 250%, ~ 400 Cr per km. Contractor and the government agency keep on parroting the lack of ‘unencumbered ROW’s, underground utilities and a generally dense population in the city excuse for the incessant delays.

Consider Delhi Metro, which was conceptualised and the physical construction began in 1998 by DMRC under Sreedharan. According to Wikipedia, Delhi Metro was planned to be built in phases spread over around 20 years as with each phase having a target of five years and end of one phase marking the beginning of another. Phase I (65 km) and Phase II (125 km) were completed in 2006 and 2011, respectively, and Phase III and Phase IV are scheduled for completion in 2016 and 2021, respectively. Work on Phase III has already started while planning for Phase IV has begun. Ex-chief of DMRC hinted that by the time Phase IV is completed, the city will need Phase V to cope with rising population and transport needs.

With 190 kms of length operational with a capital cost of Rs 200 Cr / km, is one of the cheapest.

When Mumbaikars finally thought that they might be able to have the metro experience, we came to know that there might be more cost and delay in the project. The entry and exits at the various points of several metro stations are near schools, shops, bus stops etc. and will be shifted which would mean increased cost of INR 36 cr and further delay.

Mumbai Metro train is a classic case of bureaucracy and red tapism in India and is a big black mark for a country wanting to compete with other developed countries.

Mumbai Local Trains- True spirit and lifeline of this city

In our last blog we presented our take on the stress we Mumbaikars face while commuting and using the public transport. – In our last blog we presented our take on the stress we Mumbaikars face while commuting and using the public transport.

Now let’s look at another side of it… Life in a Mumbai Local… Millions of people who have been and will be using this amazing mode of commuting in this city of dreams will feel deja vu and for other non-Mumbaikars this will be little insight that ‘it’s not just a train ride to work but so much more’…

First of all, a big ‘thank you’ to the British Raj – for giving Mumbai its ‘lifeline of commuting’, the Railways. Nobody’s a real ‘Mumbaikar’ if they have not travelled in the local trains and come home smiling or sometimes, frowning.

Millions of people use this vast and extensive Mumbai railway daily to commute to work and so. The western, central and harbour railway networks are the lifeline of the city. The city would come to a near standstill of these networks would stand still even for a day.

Some Mumbaikars literally live in these trains if you consider the time they travel to work and back. It’s an altogether different social world that evolves during the peak morning and evening traveling hours and
dissolves thereafter to evolve again the very next day.
People from varied cultures, from various parts of the country who have migrated to Mumbai… The Rags… The Riches… and the Middle class all become a Mumbaikar when they board a Mumbai local…

It sometimes frustrates you, but at the same time the train ride also gets a smile on your face. To know what I mean, one needs to sit at Church gate station or Borivali station or VT or Virar and observe people. Here, people become marathon runners; they don’t want to miss that 9.25 local. It’s a matter of life and death to miss a train – even if the next train arrives in just 4 minutes.

If you are a newcomer, the crowd will probably make you feel claustrophobic, but if you are a regular, it will make you feel everything is fine. Remember, a lack of crowd at Mumbai’s railway stations indicates either a public holiday or that something is amiss.

Local trains in Mumbai are the best place to learn life’s lessons. The train teaches you how to fight your own battles and make a place for yourself in the crowd, it teaches you how to make friends with people, strangers mostly, and adjust with all species of people, something we humans need the most for survival. It teaches you how to handle a dominating mother-in-law, how to love your naïve daughter-in-law, how to cook, how to bargain, the inside and out of share markets, gold prices, and many many more things and of course, it teaches you how to sing in front of strangers. The cost for all this is simple bear the push and punches in the local trains, overcome claustrophobia in crowded places, get used to the crowd and noise around you and be ready to share, care and listen.

In these local trains, you see the real face of Mumbai. It tells you about the kind of people Mumbai is made of. One could be a stern boss in the office, but he is a friendly person in the train. The nice woman who is always ready with a smile for a stranger could be a strict, dominating person at home. You get to see nice, caring, and friendly people always ready to help and you also see scary, bitchy, frustrated people who always want to pick fights.
Here people make friends out of unknown people, share their life’s sorrows, and throw parties when they achieve something. People make these small train compartments and the people inside them their extended families, a part of their lives. Those 45 minutes to two hours of travel time become their welcome break from the hectic lives they lead. Movies and TV serials have been made on Mumbai locals.

Hence it becomes a matter of life and death when people miss their regular local. The Mumbai local teaches us Mumbaikars how to survive, how to live and enjoy no matter what.

It truly reflects the Spirit of Mumbai.

Infrastructure or Inferior structure

Today India is one of the major developing countries in the world and catching the eye of every major economy and business corporations- The MNCs

India is considered to be gifted with a very talented demography and with it the country’s economic growth is expected to be prolific in the coming years and decades to follow.

But for this to be truly attainable on a sustainable basis the major point required by a developing country is good infrastructure and more essentially for a country like ours in which almost 70% of the total population is still living in the villages. These villages need to be interconnected with the metro cities to achieve all round sustainable growth. We need to build many other laterals apart from a few golden and silver quadrilateral highways. This is very vital from free and efficient movement of goods across the country thereby boosting overall trade and industry.
Also the intra city/town infrastructure needs to be excellent so that people do not waste their precious time just in traveling and improve overall efficiency and output of the workforce.

But is this really the case in India??

Let’s consider and analyse by narrowing it down to the city I live in, Mumbai!! The city of dreams, The financial hub of India, One of the most important city of India.

Recently we heard a case of a big ditch that got created on the flyover in Goregaon. The repair took 3 weeks and the people faced problems of huge traffic snarls for that period of time.
In the last five years we have often heard of building structures collapsing which are not older than 15-20 years. We also hear about the poor planning of the city roads for traveling.

After hearing this we start wondering whether this is the same country which boasts of building structures like The Taj Mahal, Sanchi Stupa, Qutub Minar which have stood the tests of time and also talk about well-planned cities like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (Now in Pakistan). These things were built in ancient times and are still standing. But after so many years and technological developments we are building weaker infrastructure than those build in ancient times.

We are forced to ask is this “Infrastructure or inferior structure”??

Inferior structure of our government and regulatory bodies, Inferior structure of a highly corrupted society, Inferior structure of a weak democracy!!

Please give us your views as to who are to be blamed for this state of affairs.