Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Young lady at the ticket counter

I was now reading an article about currency shortage and the problem of "small change" like one, two or three rupees. And, a small personal anecdote came to my mind.

I was at a Metro Rail station. Since I had forgotten my prepaid smart card at home, I had to purchase a token. At the booking counter, the official asked me if I had a change of Rs 2.

But I had only a coin of Rs 5, and he didn't have Rs 3 to give me in return.

There was a brief interlude.

Noticing that there were others waiting in the queue, and not wanting to prolong the agony, I told the official, "It's ok. I will give you Rs 5 and you can keep the change of Rs 3."

He looked surprised; but seemed to agree to the deal.

Just then,  a young lady, standing next to me in the queue, moved forward, took out her wallet, and said, "I have a Rs 2 coin. You can give this. ... "

It took a moment for me to realise what was happening. And I said, "O no, it's fine. It's just three rupees. It comes and goes". Only the other day the vegetable vendor had waived Rs 3 I owed him.

Pushing the Rs 2 coin forward, she said, "Precisely. Two rupees also comes and goes. That's ok. I have been in such situations before."

She in fact pushed that Rs 2 coin through the opening on the ticket counter window. Probably assuming that she and I were known to each other, the ticketing official took that Rs 2 coin. He gave me the token, and turned his attention to that lady.

In the meantime, I thanked that unknown young woman. It also left me a wondering why did she do that, though it was all about just Rs 2. Maybe someone had earlier similarly helped her with change; and she just wanted to keep that chain going.

While she was getting her smart card recharged, I told her. "Thank you, for your kindness," and I headed to the platform to take the Metro. I didn't see her after that.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

French presidential poll 1st round result updates

(This was a live blog post)

1.20 am

Signing off for now. Will look forward to the final numbers tomorrow morning.

1.10 am
Interior Ministry puts Marine Le Pen ahead with 24.38% and Emmanuel Macron with 22.19%, François Fillon 19.63% and Jean-Luc Mélenchon 18.09, after counting of 20 million votes

12.55 an
Today's was a historical election, though we still don't have a new President of France until May 7. Historic because, the main parties that ruled France for almost 50 years have been eliminated.
The second and final round of election on May 7 will be a more bitterly fought one. The views of centrist Independent Macron and extreme right-wing Le Pen are vastly divergent. Immigration -- open border as opposed to closed border -- is going to be passionately debated. And the role of France in European Union and also the larger comity of nations will also come under the lens.

12.45 am
Marine Le Pen addresses supporters. Expresses gratitude to people for supporting her. Says survival of France is at stake.

12.40 am
Fillon has conceded defeat and urged his supporters to vote for Macron

12.30 am

Who is Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron
--  Born December 21, 1977
-- Senior civil servant and former investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.
-- Member of the Socialist Party from 2006 to 2009.
-- In 2015, he stated that he was no longer a member of the PS and was now an Independent.
-- As Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Data in 2014, he was at the forefront of pushing through business-friendly reforms.
Source: Wikipedia

12.15 am

Who is Marion Anne Perrine (Marine Le Pen):
-- Born on August 5, 1968
-- President of the National Front
-- Youngest daughter of FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen
-- She is said to be more republican than her father and have more acceptance among people.
-- She expelled her father from the party on August 20, 2015
-- She changed some traditional views of FN, with support for same sex unions, abortion, and pulling out death penalty.

-- She was ranked among the most influential people in 2011 and 2015 by the Time 100.

Source: Wikipedia

12.05 am

Emmanuel Macron with 23.7% is slightly ahead of Front National leader Le Pen who has 21.7%. Official figures awaited.

11.55 pm

11.45 pm

Historic results, since the mainstream parties have been sidelined. Macron and Le Pen have 23% of votes. Fillon and Mélenchon have 19%. Benoit Hamon of Socialist party gets just 5%

11.35 pm

Emmanuel Macron leads, Marine Le Pen takes second place in French presidential election, according to early results from FRANCE 24’s partner Ipsos.

11.28 pm

After the disaster of predicting the US election results, which Donald Trump won in November last year, no is taking the risk of loudly proclaiming the possible winner today. Once bitten twice shy! But the above mentioned four are widely expected to end up on top.

11.27 pm

To win the election, the leading candidate has to secure more than 50 per cent of the total votes. Since there are 11 candidates it's highly unlikely that the winner will go past the half way mark. In that case, the top two will clash again on May 7.

11.20 pm

There are 11 candidate. The four most prominent among them span the whole spectrum:

1) Marine Le Pen of far-right National Front

2) Emmanuel Macron of centrist En Marche!

3) François Fillon, centre-right The Republicans

4) Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of far-left La France insoumise

11.15 pm

Brexit. Trump's victory. And now French elections. This is perhaps the most unpredictable French elections in modern times. A lot of focus on rising support for the right-wing and extreme right-wing parties. In September we will see the same unpredictable scenario playing out in Germany too. Polls close in 15 minutes time. And exit poll results should be coming in soon after that.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why are some people cribbing about ban on red beacons?

All of us -- ok, or most of us -- don't like the so-called VIP culture, which is most visible in the form of red beacons on the vehicles of VIPs, mostly politicians and government functionaries.

On Wednesday, the Union government decided to amend the law regulating motor vehicles. Henceforth, governments, both central and state, can't designate people whose vehicles can have red beacons. No exception, it was stated, very clearly.

Given our near-universal abhorrence towards VIP culture, I thought the decision would be wholeheartedly welcomed. But I was surprised to see some cynical  reactions saying this decision was a "meaningless tokenism" when many people were arrogantly flaunting their powers.

I don't know how the decision to ban red beacons can be tokenism. A privilege taken away for ever is not tokenism. It's a substantial deprivation of a perk that the powerful loved to flaunt quite unabashedly.

True, there are many "red beacons", in the form of officials who throw their weight around. That's a behavioral issue, and can't be banned by legislation. Hopefully, deprived of red beacons, they will get the message and would rein in their temperament.

So, can't we look at this abolition of red beacons as one step forward, even if it's a small one?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunday petrol pump closure not linked to fuel conservation

So, finally a decision has been taken to keep petrol pumps closed on Sundays in eight states from May 14. The States are Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Haryana.

So, I will have to ensure on Saturday that there is enough fuel in the tank. Just in case I have drive a long distance on Sunday.

But there seems to be some confusion about what has triggered this closure. Some have gone to the extent of blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for it.

There is a little background to this development.

Sunday holiday is related to demand for higher commission

There has been a demand for increasing the commission for dealers. In support of that, some fuel station owners had said that they would keep pumps closed on Sundays, since it wasn't viable to keep their staff working all seven days of a week in the absence of any increase in commission.

While this issue has been on, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, on March 29, said every national objective can't be achieved only by the government and citizens too have a role to play. In that context, he suggested people could consider abstaining from using petrol one day a week, in order to cut fuel consumption.

This is the relevant portion of what he said: (Paragraphs introduced to facilitate easier reading.)
When there is a talk of ‘New India’, its criticism, its analysis, it counter views, are but natural, and that is a fundamental of democracy. But it is true that if 125 crore countrymen resolve, and decide to walk step by step on a path to realise that resolve, the dream of ‘New India’ can be fulfilled in our lifetime.
And all these things are not necessarily achieved through the Budget, government projects, or government money. If every citizen resolves to obey traffic rules, if every citizen resolves that he will discharge his duties honestly, if every citizen resolves that he will not use petrol or diesel one day in a week – – these are not very big things. 
But these will contribute to the realisation of the dream of this country, this ‘New India’, that is being nurtured by 125 crore countrymen, and this realisation will be achieved before their eyes. In essence, every citizen must discharge his civic duties and responsibilities. This in itself would be a good beginning to the New India.

The link between decision on closure of petrol pumps on Sunday, and Modi's exhortation is only contextual. The thought of having a Sunday holiday actually existed before Modi spoke.

Modi's focus is cutting fuel consumption

The context in which Modi made the appeal too needs to be understood. He was suggesting a voluntary decision by car owners to take their cars only six days a week, in order to reduce fuel consumption. There is no point in filling the tank full on a Saturday and driving all day around the city on a Sunday.

The six-day week concept put forward by petroleum dealers was from their workers' point of view, while the PM's appeal was from fuel conservation point of view.

Not many seem to be seeing the difference.

Keeping pumps closed on Sundays might benefit the employees, but might not necessarily lead to drop in petrol consumption, which will happen only if people consciously and voluntarily reduce usage of their private vehicles, as the Prime Minister has suggested.

(Photo credit: The Hindu)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why motorists honk unnecessarily

No Horn, Please
I haven’t been to many foreign countries; but one of the striking features of the few I have been to, is the calming quietness on the roads. But for the gentle roar of the vehicle engines, I very rarely heard any motorist honking.

However, in India, in any part of this vast country, it’s a totally different experience. Drivers just seem to be incapable of taking their fingers off the horn. There have been many awareness programmes, but few drivers seem to be bothered about the acute noise pollution and the related health hazards.

No driving school, I presume, educates the learner on this aspect. I was never told. In fact, a presumed advisory is to the contrary, if one goes by the "Horn Please" label on the back of many heavy vehicles. The presumption there is: "I am quite a big vehicle, and normally occupy most of the road. If you want me to give way for you, to get ahead, horn please." But the ‘Horn Please’ request has been taken out of context, and most drivers feel obligated to honk even if it’s totally unnecessary.

Four reasons why motorists honk

1) Habit. While learning to drive, the motorists were not very confident, and that led them to honk quite often. The habit has stuck with them even when they graduated to be an adept behind the wheel. In fact, they feel a sense of incompleteness if they don't themselves contribute to the general cacophony on roads.

2) A general fear that someone or some other vehicle might just come in their way. You would notice that such motorists will mostly honk even when there is no one on the road. Interestingly, they might not honk when people are on the road, because they think the pedestrians would have seen the vehicle and might not stray on to the road.

3) A third group of people are those who are in a tearing hurry to reach somewhere. They sound the hooter to ensure vehicles ahead of them give way, so that they can overtake and race ahead.

4) There is yet another group of people who excel in this noisy past time, particularly at traffic lights. They would actually be quite behind in the queue of vehicles, and the moment they see the light far ahead of them turn green, they ceaselessly toot. Their intention, according to them, is good: to alert the drivers ahead of them that the light has turned green, stop checking the messages and get ready to move. But they don't realize the auditory mayhem they are unleashing.

Is there a need to honk?

My own experience is that 9 out of 10 times there is no need to honk. It's all in the mind. The motorists have to be confident, realize that nothing catastrophic is going to befall humanity if they don’t honk; and just kick the habit. 

I doubt if we have had accidents only because someone didn’t honk. And conversely, with so much honking, India has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world.

This is not to say that one should not sound the horn. The real menace is “needless honking”. Whether the blare of the toot is a distraction for most of us who are anyway used to the generally noisy environment might be debatable. But what is indisputable is the health hazard. Among the problems are hearing loss, stress and physical tiredness. A simple web search will yield plenty of data.

So, if you are one of those hooked to needless honking; here's a passionate request: Please Stop It.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IPL is back to enthral cricket fans

The 10th edition of India’s most captivating sporting extravaganza IPL or Indian Premier League has just got off to a start in Hyderabad with a match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers.

When the concept of T20 was first floated, there was lot of opposition to it, as many felt this short format was damaging the true form in which the game was being traditionally being played. But IPL has carved a niche for itself, and the best part is the longer Test match format, and 50-over One Day International format are still thriving.

Cricket fans are known for their obsession with statistics. Here are some interesting ones on IPL:
  • Highest team total - 263/5 - Royal Challengers - Bengaluru - 2013
  • Lowest team total - 58 - Rajastan Royal - Cape Town - 2009
  • Most extras - 28 - KKR - Kolkata - 2008
  • Highest individual score - 175 not out - Chris Gayle - Bengaluru - 2013
  • Most ducks - 12 - Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir - both 2012-13
  • Most sixes in a match - 17 - Chris Gayle - in 2013
The full set of IPL records can be accessed at ESPNCricinfo here

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Android is king of operating systems, overtakes Windows for first time

Photo credit
Many knew one day this would happen, that Android would be the undisputed king among all operating systems. That has finally happened.

StatCounter, the well-known company that tracks how people access Internet, reports that Android has overtaken Windows as the world's most popular operating system, in terms of total internet usage across desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile combined.

In March, Android had 37.93% market share; Windows 37.91%.

Not quite surprising actually; because the use of mobiles to access internet has been growing at a very rapid pace. Also, the Windows operating system for mobile was way behind Android.