A Goodbye to Appu

When Delhi hosted the Asian Games in 1982 the mascot of the Games a baby elephant named Appu stayed back in Delhi to become a symbol of unending fun in form of the amusement park known as Appu Ghar. The mascot in form of a dancing elephant adorning the gateway to Appu Ghar provided a cheerful day of fun and frolic during 25 years of it’s existence to millions of children. Located in heart of the town and offering so many permutations and combination of joy rides and games it was a place you could head for any time on any day . Weekend outings came to acquire a special meaning specially for the middle class crowds which could have free run of the place at an affordable cost. A whole generation of Delhites grew up with the joy and thrill of the rides and games. Other options to the city’s entertainment package by way of water parks or the occassional visiting circuses or the Delhi Zoo remained way behind in the matter of popularity.

Now Appu has grown weak standing on one leg for so many years and a new world is emerging around it which is more professional and devoted to matters of corporate concern, so Appu bids good bye to Delhi and to those whose child hood memories would never be complete without recalling the excitement and thrill of Appu rides. In the age of computer games and multiplexes Appu the symbol of common man’s entertainment will perhaps move to some smaller town where child’s world is still not trampled upon by monstrous organs of modern society . Delhi richer by achievements of scientific progress and by growth of legal wisdom through the library which will take place of joy rides now has less time to care for the smile of the young child.

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To seal or to deseal: Question that puzzles Delhi Govt

The Sheila Dixit Govt. in Delhi has at least one major institution building achievement to it’s credit. It introduced the concept of empowerment of Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) in a big way through the Bhagidari Scheme launched by it. The word Bhagidari meant partnership and the concept intended to provide opportunity for sharing of responsibilities and power between the RWAs and the Govt. The Scheme visualized Govt. support and guidance for growth and networking of these institutions to facilitate experience sharing and capacity building. At the initial stage the scheme seemed to have achieved success and earned several prestigious awards for the so called new concept in governance. However ironically a strange twist of events started which became a perpetual cause for conflict between the Govt. and RWAs.

Some of the RWAs were already enlightened to the civic rights of their members and a larger number with the newly acquired sense of power woke up to the need of raising their voices against the Govt’s negligence in enforcing the provisions of Delhi’s Master Plan. Over the years a large number of residential areas in various colonies of Delhi have acquired commercial character leading to progressive deterioration in quality of life for those who continue to live in their residential properties which are getting surrounded by unauthorized commercial structures. When the Govt. machinery was found to be unwilling to change the scenario , the RWAs were forced to take recourse to litigation.

The dispute went up to the Apex Court and the Govt. had to repeatedly cut a sorry figure for it’s knee jerk reaction to the grim scenario. The RWAs which were creatures encouraged and empowered by the Sheila Dixit Govt. found themselves involved in a running battle with the same Govt. The continuous monitoring by the Apex Court and the pressure to catch all the violators irrespective of their status became so intense that even the Chief Minister and certain other bigwigs in her party were running for cover against notices received against their personal properties for violation of Master Plan of Delhi or building bye laws.

The Govt., from the initial stage was cowering under pressure from the law breakers but found itself helpless against people’s power. The stage managed scenes of street violence and a legally unsustainable piece of legislation could not bail it out . The Govt. was forced to mobilize all power of state to seal thousands of Commercial establishments which were functioning in violation of law.

The battle is a rather ironical conflict between the law makers and the law supporters . The process of sealing of properties has taken a heavy toll on personal reputations of several major operators in the field besides the progressive Chief Minister of Delhi who is otherwise a progressive and professional politician. At one stage Delhi was agog with rumors that the whole business was masterminded by the daughter of ruling family who was promoting several new Malls in the city and needed buyers willing to pay high prices. Similar insinuations later popped up against relatives of a key figure connected with judicial activism. The issue is still wide open . A large number of commercial establishments have closed and shifted to conforming areas and to Noida and Gurgaon. However thousands crores of rupees invested in the sealed properties remain blocked and a source of continuous pressure on city govt. to find a way out.

A recent news item says that the Govt. is coming out with a legislative solution. But the outcome of legislation in favour of desealing of offending constructions remains to be seen. For Sheila Dixit Govt. caught in the crossfire , seal or to deseal is the question that keeps it’s intellect puzzled.

Nano mania , join the Tata Car lovers club

Nano, Nano and Nano it is Nano all the way . After a long time the latest car launched by Tata with this name tag has given the nation something to be collectively happy about. Cheaply priced people’s car has been a favourite piece of allurement which generations of Indian politicians have offered to the middle classes. The dream nearly died after Sanjay Gandhi the prodigal son of the then Indian Prime Minister hijacked the small car project for personal gains. Several years later with changed management set up in Maruti Udyog Ltd. the first truly small car Maruti 800 hit the Indian markets with a price tag below fifty thousand rupees. Riding on the economic boom following the liberalization of Indian economy , for a substantial period upper middle class families enjoyed the comfort of a car based on latest generation technology and having a stylish appearance as per contemporary standards . With the still growing prosperity of Indian middle class the closing decade of the previous millennium saw the car market flooded with numerous new brands and styles and the people’s car became a forgotten concept . Then one day Ratan Tata returned to the concept with a product which could be affordable to the lower middle class, student or any two wheeler owner. Nano is said to be based on that vision of Tata for this segment of Indian population.

Launch of Nano means different things for different people. While the dissentors in West Bengal are upset over the loss of the agriculture in Singur and want the car to remain invisible which is said to be the Bengali meaning of the word Nano, the Gujrati Bhais consider it as the ideal gift for the their youngsters because in their language nano is akin to nanua meaning the younger one. Bangloreans facing the chaotic traffic which has supposedly gripped the city after the spurt of IT Companies, are a bit shaky with a new cheap car entering the market. The city traffic authorities are gearing up to meet the “ threat” with improvement in public transport system !

Leading Banks have already started the loan campaigns. Three wheeler operators see an opportunity to dump their TSRs in favour of the new product, but they also see a threat to business due to possibility of increase in number of car owners. The dealers expecting jump in demand are also concerned about the low margins.

Outside the country in the US the product launch in Delhi auto expo received huge media attention. Car enthusiasts have grudgingly acknowledged the feat of an Indian manufacturer producing a truly low budget car with latest feature, however the bloggers in Canada seem to be more keen to highlight the supposed adverse environmental impact of the car. Some of them are not willing to accept the claims of manufacturers on security aspect and feel that they would not drive even up to the corner grocery shop in this “pancake” ! In UK Tata’s small car has become the talk of the town in London . It is getting big publicity, being called “……a miracle on wheels, a car a generation ahead of its’ predecessors and a revolution in the small car market.” Europeans are fond of small cars and Nano reminiscent of VW Beetle may turn out to be quite popular.

For the collaborating spare parts manufacturers the project has been a consistent struggle to meet the deadlines maintaining highest standards of craftsmanship. The ultimate outcome may be quite rewarding for them when more car manufacturers join the segment an look out for manufacturers of accessories . However the dedication and vision of Ratan Tata is universally acknowledged as the driving force for the success.

Tsunami in Delhi

26th December 2004 was an unforgettable day for people living in many coastal cities in India . The powerful earthquake and the gigantic Tsunami waves which followed it shook several peaceful and sleepy towns out of their slumber, swept away several habitations from face of earth and in the process left painful memories of loss of near and dear ones for survivors. But human beings are just play things in the hands of nature so civilizations silently bear the sufferings arising out of such acts of devastation at the hands of the creator.

 

But how do we react to a Tsunami created in the national capital by politicians for the sake of publicity at the cost of public . Tsunami in a coastal city may be a something acceptable for natural compulsions but Tsunami in the land locked capital city of the country ? What does it mean ? Tsunami I am referring to here is a rally of human beings which is due to engulf the Capital city around the third anniversary of the original Tsunami .The occasion for rally is the celebrations for the empowerment of the Panchayati Raj institutions in the country . The proposed sweeping mega event which seems to owe its creation to brain waves originating in the ever creative mind of some ruling think tank is slated to hit the city on Christmas eve with a mega force . Train loads of members of panchayats and their families numbering more than 2.5 Lakhs are expected to descend on the city at the call of respected Prime Minister to participate in this celebration of transfer of democratic rights to grassroots level by virtue of a constitutional amendments several years back .

 

The persons in charge of the affairs started everything at a breakneck pace as if there was a fear that time was running out for the Govt. The first meeting was organized at a notice of barely 48 hours. Since it was impossible for senior officers of States (who have to send the participants) to attend the meeting at such short notice, so the Delhi based representatives of States were roped in along with Railways , Municipal Corporation and other agencies connected with logistic arrangements . Stunned by the sheer magnitude of the wasteful exercise Railways tried to plead for mercy citing the heavy cost of transportation (around 200 Crs.) , the heavy traffic movement due to vacations and paucity of resources and time. But the Juggernaut refused to stop it’s run. The pleadings of Health authorities about the possibility of causalities due to extreme weather conditions at the time of rally too could not impress the leader.

 

The citizens of Delhi have for years been at the receiving end, bearing brunt of the miseries and chaos in daily life which accompany such political gimmicks . Rallies organised in past have thrown life out of gear. People going to workplaces, children returning from schools , persons in need of medical treatment , women and disabled have repeatedly suffered in the past due to blockade of the traffic and hours and hours of traffic jams. Rallies have often created scenes of lawlessness and chaos. Public money worth Crores has gone down the drain, every time when such fancies have struck the minds of a political leader. However the anxiety to corner publicity at national stage always overcomes any sensitivity to sufferings of the public in the minds of politicians. Also, perhaps because most of the organizers have scant affection for the city and the city govt. burdened under it’s own contradictions, surviving at the mercy of central leadership is too meek to come to the rescue of the people.

 

Several years back the then political masters had decided that enough was enough. Henceforth Delhi would be a civilized place. So a rally ground was developed at the outskirts of the city in village of Burari. It was decided that all those coming for rally would disembark outside city limits at this rally ground, park the vehicles and do whatever they wanted in support of their cause at the vast open grounds there. This time too it was reminded by someone that Burai or even some neighboring town like Gurgaon would be a far better option for this kind of gathering. But politicians know their games well. A rally outside the city limits! Would that receive as good attention from media . Off course not. And a rally at Gurgaon ..would that not give far more mileage to the concerned State Govt. So heart of Delhi would remain the best choice and the human Tsunami would sweep us off our feet on the destined day. Get ready Delhiites.

 

Subsequently better sense seems to have prevailed. Rally is now Cancelled (14th Dec.2007 )