Nano, bane or boon

The launch of Tata’s small car Nano has started a discussion over utility of the small car and it’s impact on the flow of traffic in larger cities, some of which are already facing serious difficulties in managing the same. The discussions are centered around the issue as to whether improvement in the public transport system can be a better option for attending to the transportation needs of the common man.

A debate of this nature can be addressed by appreciating the fact that in India the public transport which for years remained in domain of government control does not have a very encouraging presence . Under the compulsion of maintaining a low tariff structure and also maintaining it’s presence in unprofitable areas a number of states have public transport corporations which are not able to provide quality of service which can be considered to be good enough and several state transport corporations are huge drain on resources of the respective governments.

A look at the evolution of public transport system in Delhi which was a centrally administered territory and is now comparatively efficiently managed city state can give an indication of the difficulties involved . The Govt has for years struggled to make the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) (and it’s predecessor entities) an economically viable public sector unit but found the challenge difficult . It has constantly experimented with various innovative measures to make the commuting comfortable for city dwellers. About 15 years back in one stroke more than 200 private operator controlled redline buses were introduced with the hope of improving the availability of buses on all major routes . The traffic scenario was expected to be metamorphosed in a short while .

However with passage of time the goal appeared to be elusive . Soon questions came to be raised about the intake capacity of roads for additional buses and about the effectiveness of traffic police and transport authorities in controlling such large number of private operators. The bus drivers very soon earned reputation of devils on roads. The number of road accidents became such a regular phenomenon that accident figures were reflected in city newspapers along with weather report every day. At a stage the things got so bad that the colour of these buses had to be changed to blue in order to escape the comparison to the colour of blood. Off course this was only a cosmetic change in true sense of the term and situation could not have changed unless there was a firm control of authorities over the bus operators. With passage of time these buses being operated with poor maintenance became old and difficult to operate in the congested traffic. In an attempt to cut prices operators engage drivers who are under prosecution in other states. Majority of migrant drivers are rootless mercenaries who cannot be expected to have a healthy mind and body. The staff engaged as conductors are suspected to be in league with pickpockets and eve teasers. The common man continues to suffer. The Govt is under extreme pressure to cancel the operation of all the private operators.

In between the city has also continuously invested heavily in construction of flyovers and widening of roads. Other progressive measures like point to point taxi service, a higher tariff for high quality buses and having green corridor on ring road have also been tried with marginal benefits. Scenario appears to improve only slightly for a short time . The recent changes in demographic profile due to decongesting of the central commercial hubs in the city after court orders pertaining to shifting of industries and non conforming commercial establishments had similar short lived effect. Even today a 14 km drive from South Delhi to Airport may take an hour to complete during peak hour.

The Delhi Metro has opened some hope for future. But the project was also in pipeline for a long time due to the unprofessional approach of the policy makers. For years the decision makers continued to make foreign trips for evaluation of options. (It is only our good luck that a decision was taken ultimately). The Delhi Metro Project has also not been universally accepted. There are a number of critics objecting to the project due to high costs , the inconvenience to the public at the construction stage and the possible risk for the buildings due to vibration effects underneath . Some have even questioned the ethics of the project , labeling it as a sort of conspiracy to push the poor underground !

The objective of narrating the above experience is to underline the fact that the need for improvements in public transport system has been appreciated by the governments from earlier stages of evolution of metro cities but for various constraints the public transport system is yet to reach the desired level of consumer satisfaction. The moral of the story is that Improvement of public transport system depends on multiplicity of factors which include the capability of the authorities to provide good governance and of the political leadership in planning and controlling the growth of urban areas with a firm hand and foresight. These goals, given the constraints of a democratic set up may be achievable over a substantial period of time only.

In the meanwhile the changes in pattern of economic activities and consequent growth of middle class has increased the requirement of an affordable transport for them. Several small towns have tried to overcome this need by depending on three wheelers, with various seating capacities , in rural areas jeeps packed with 10 to 12 “sawaris” ( including females ) are the only means of transport which is available for going to hospital or industrial unit outside city limits or reaching the workplace which may be a rural bank or dispensary or tehsil level govt. office . Throughout the year in sun and rain millions of Indians ungrudgingly subject themselves to this torture twice a day. Availability of a cheap transport at their disposal would be beneficial to this category of commuters without causing major traffic bottlenecks.

In the larger or smaller cities a cheap car with latest technology may be expected to replace unsafe three wheelers as well as old rickety fiats and ambassadors which continue to be on road since owners do not have a replacement option within their reach. Against the fear of all motorcycle born youths graduating to small car, it needs to be understood that bike riders are a different class , a good number of them may not like to compromise their macho image by giving up the mean machine in favour of riding a small car. Those having slightly better income levels may not like to be seen driving around in the cheapest car, when a regular car can be had for a few dollars more.

And lastly it needs to be kept in mind that the car costing Rs. 1Lakh may in fact be effectively priced in market at around Rs.1.25 Lakhs .The buyer should also have the capacity to bear the cost of fuel along with the loan installment of around Rs. 2000/- per month which may not be an affordable option for too many people in the lower middle class . So let us keep our fingers crossed and wish good luck to small car.

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Kumble joins the 600 plus league

Eight years after having joined the company of all time great leg spinner Jim Laker with a ten wicket haul in an innings in the New Delhi Test in the Indo Pak series of 1999 , Anil R Kumble has now leaped in the exclusive club of bowlers having crossed the 600 wicket mark. Anil shares the company of Shane Warne and Muttaiah Murlidharan, both of whom are way ahead having crossed the 700 wicket tally .

Having started his career in the year 1990 Kumble crossed the first milestone of taking 100 wickets in the year 1993 in a matter of 21 test matches and moved on to the magical figure of ½ K i.e. 500 wickets in test matches in March 2006.

Certain other records to the credit of Anil Kumble need to be recalled. His maiden test century ( 110 no Vs. England in August 2007) came after having played 118 matches and surpassed the record of Chaminda Vaas who could reach the three figure mark after 96 Test matches. His tally of 31 caught and bowled dismissals is also a world record which he shares with Muttiah Muralidharan. He is also the first bowler in Tests to have 150 batsmen out leg before wicket. On more than 30 occasions Kumbley has taken more than 5 wickets in an innings an achievement which has no precedent amongst Indian cricketers. He is also the first Indian bowler to get 100 wickets against Australia . His most memorable performance in ODI is 6 wickets for 12 runs against West Indies in 1993 at Kolkata.

Hailing from Banaglore , Anil is a Mechanical Engineer . His surname Kumble is related to his grandfather’s village Kumble in Kerala . Having started his Test career in 1990 the cricketer made his way to Wisden cricketer’s list in 1996. He was honoured with Padam Shree in 2005. His home town Bangalore has honoured him by naming a traffic Island after him to commemorate his ten wicket haul in an innings.

Kumble’s bowling forte is known as flipper. A flipper is a back spin ball which remains low after pitching. It is deceptive to the batsman who may except wrongly that the flipper will drop and loop like a normal over spinning delivery. The ball which pitches under the bat may result into lbw if not tackled in time.

Kumble who is considered to be one of the ever shrinking group of gentlemen cricketers in the gentlemen’s game is nicknamed as Jumbo due to his long legs.

When stars are close to earth

Tare Zameen Par the latest creation of Amir Khan is a film on disability management racing with the speed of a crime thriller . It is a three hour soul stirring experience leaving each one of us with some reasons to question our human values in the matter of child rearing. And what a way to deliver a message on mainstreaming of differently abled children. A child with symptoms of dyslexia, parents struggling to cope with the challenges of city life failing to take notice of the differently abled child’s sufferings and a teaching environment with shades of an animal breeding centre , everything appears to be so familiar . Two decade old memories of the days when the kids were youngsters ,struggling with the competitive spirits of junior section in the rich and famous school in New Delhi flooded my mind. And also the chilling realization that perhaps like the parents in the film we too despite our progressive and liberal pretensions allowed ourselves to be unduly harsh to the child under social pressure. Perhaps the perpetual tension in which we put the kids over small failures in academic performance were not so necessary. And perhaps there are so many others who are still not aware of the cruelty which we afflict on our children in an effort to make them standout, to make them work like machines, in order to make them achieve goals which we ourselves could not .

And then the teachers and these schools with high sounding names and their stylish buildings…… are they serving the cause of humanity or sucking the vital elements of humanity from tender souls in fulfillment of the desire to shine and in turn gain high value in market. Do these teachers have any thing to offer for a child whose certain faculties are less developed ? How many teachers are equipped to handle a child in trauma? And do we keep count of teachers who have traumatic effect on young minds?. The impact of the film on a sensitive mind is like a quick spell of thundershowers which leaves everything totally drenched with questions of such nature.

Down under, a Thunder over Bandar

It is said that every human being has certain characteristics of some species belonging to animal kingdom. A man or woman may be considered clever as a fox ,or watchful like a dog or peaceful as a dove. It has also been said that a close look at the facial structure of a man or woman might give a hint of resemblance to some animal whose characteristics dominate his outlook towards life, it may be a bull or a cat or a bulldog and we routinely tease our friends and cohorts for such resemblances. Hardly ever such comparisons are seriously contested. In fact sometimes we on our own compare ourselves to some cute little animals , (like Australin Captain Ricky Ponting’s statement that he was not Harbhjan’s bunny). We even had advertisements over Bandar theme featuring cricketers ( Don,t be a Bandar taste the thunder ).

However things turned out to be very different when Bhajji our ever chirpy and comical cricketer , the typical Punjabi puttar compared a kangaroo to a monkey. Monkeys and Chimpanzees because of their superior intelligence enjoy a much higher rating above the Kangaroos as far as the hierarchy of evolution of species is concerned.

However this time the incident which was reported by the alleged victim (?) a member of Australian cricket team-which is routinely referred to as Kangaroos in the cricketing parlance , triggered off an international crisis between two cricketing nations of India and Australia . The incident let off a fiery protest from the Australians in rather funny sort of way . The comparison was labeled as a racist action inviting severest punishment for sports person. The heat and dust generated by the controversy threatened to insert a monkey ranch in the smoothly rotating wheel of Border Gavaskar trophy being contested on Australian cricket grounds.

Monkeys worshipped as descendants of our mythological Lord hanuman are not the monopoly of any race or nation . Comparison of a human to a monkey , may be irritating to a person totally devoid of a sense of humor but to call it a racial abuse raises serious doubts about the intention of the complainant and his supporters. It is the developed superior logical ability which separates humans from other species down the ladder of evolution. We should try to remain as such.

Wake up call for Goa Tourism

I saw a news item on a foreign tourist who has reported to the police about a case of sexual assault on her in Goa. The tourist was duped by a youth posing as motorcycle taxi operator in late hours and led to an isolated place for committing of this crime. The tourist who was looking for a lift around 10 PM has no idea about the place where she was taken and also failed to note down the number of the motorcycle on which the youth had given her a lift.

Goa has normally been considered as a very safe station for tourists and given the liberal culture of place and the large numbers in which tourist are seen roaming around the beaches and in the city during all parts of the year, the incident comes as an aberration. Normally the foreign offices of various countries give reasonable amount of guidance to their tourists about dos and don’ts in alien places but tourists are bound to ignore security instruction while trying to corner maximum enjoyment out of their stay in a place like Goa.

It is also worth remembering that while enjoying the exciting lifestyle of Goa a very large number of tourists crowd the hotspots in extremely provocative manner. The nightbazars of Goa which I have seen on a recent visit are like a foreign territory . During our visit there were only a handful of Indians in a crowd of hundreds of tourists indulging into drinking ,dancing ,eating and roaming around till late hours. A person seeing this scantily clad group of men and women with all the arrogance of the white man would be quick to form a very dim view about the status of civilization of these so called guests of the country and a semiliterate motorcycle driver may deviate from pattern of normal behaviour on being witness to such crude behaviour.

However nothing can justify a crime of this nature and prompt action against the accused would be the only solution to avert the possibility of recurrence of similar incidents in future. More so because Goa being solely dependant on tourism for the sustainability of it’s economy, can ill afford to loose even a fraction of tourists by such adverse publicity. Goa I remember has an active union of tour and travel operators. The union should try to ensure that the taxi operators are all registered with them after proper screening and all genuine operators should be given their logo and identification tag which a tourist could be able to ask for before taking a ride .

The Tourists also need to be cautious and alert in their own interest. Remember it was Goa which was once the killing field of the notorious bikini killer Charles Shobhraj.

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.

Thank God the Series is on

Cricket fans rattled by the name calling controversy in Indo Australian cricket series for Border Gavaskar trophy finally have something to cheer about. The series will continue and Harbhajan will perhaps be allowed to continue for the team. The fact that a match of Cricket -the gentleman’s game could raise so much of heat and dust is a disturbing trend and all possible efforts should be made to check the declining standards of players’ behaviour. The recent incident has shown that ignorance over cultural background and sensitivities of the rival teams can lead to very unpleasant developments on field and off the field also. It was seen as to how an act of small indiscretion can pose threat to the series and could have cost both the countries heavily by way of financial losses . There is thus a definite need for grooming the players on behavioural aspects . The silver lining in the entire episode was that Australian media was impartial and supported cause of fairplay.