Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bangalore Metro: small step, giant leap

Not in the recent past has Bangalore seen such a celebration as on October 20, when the city’s Metro Rail service was opened to the public. I was at the Baiyappanahalli terminus for the inaugural run at 4 pm. Another train started at the same time from the other end of the 6-km stretch at M G Road.

There was cheering, hooting, whistling and clapping, as the decorated coaches pulled into the platform, then when the train began to move, then at the arrival at each of the stations; when the other train crossed ours near Indiranagar; and finally when it ended the journey in around 15 minutes. Everyone posed with friends and family to freeze the ‘first day first show’ moment on their cameras; as if that was the only day the train would run! It was as if we all had landed up on some fantasy land! On the inaugural day, the service had to be extended to 11.30 pm, due to the huge rush.

Yesterday, the second day, was quieter, there were less joy riders and more genuine passengers. The trains ran packed to capacity. Authorities are expecting a huge rush during the weekend, mainly of shoppers. The good start will hopefully give the authorities enough momentum carry on the project much faster.

The celebration would remain etched in history as nouveau Bangalore continues to rediscover itself and come to terms with its rapidly evolving social and economic landscape. It’s not difficult to fathom the reason for the average Bangalorean’s “we-are-there” feeling. Transportation is one of the basic needs of a society; and this IT powerhouse has been woefully short on it; so much as to ruin the rosy picture of the Garden City.

Bangalore has been a traveller's nightmare: the agony of having to go over a hump or a pothole every 200 metres on an average is compounded by the seemingly eternal wait at a traffic signal every 500 metres on an average. The collateral damages being loss in productivity, revenue and health hazards like back pain and spondylitis.

Probably  because of the frustration caused by choking traffic, there are some in Bangalore, who think the Metro project is overhyped, too little too late, and is no solution for a rapidly growing city like this. I think it’s an uncharitable reaction to an ambitious project. True, this Reach 1 is just a 6 km stretch connecting a small part of East Bangalore to the Central Business District. It took over four years. But this is a phenomenal achievement, considering the hurdles it had to surmount, and the fact there are very few stretches of good roads. No one can discount the fact that this small beginning is a huge relief to countless people. It is also a symbolic turning point in Bangalore's growth story.

Progress is a continuum. The synergy of small incremental steps forward is greater than the effect of one long step. No one believes a fully Metro-Rail-connected Bangalore will see very few cars on the roads, or that Metro is a magic wand that will in one sweep solve all of Bangalore’s traffic woes.

Transportation solution in any city in the world is multipronged; and mass rapid transport systems like Metro Rail is just one of them. It has to be complemented by many development parameters. What Metro obviates is the struggle to get through the chocked main roads. What Metro obviously doesn’t solve is the connectivity between the many residential localities and the main road. All these years, more Bangaloreans would have used buses if this point had been addressed.

One by-product of Metro Rail is the sudden realisation of the need to have efficient ‘last-mile connectivity’. This should have been taken care of the moment Bangalore hopped on to the information highway, some 15 years back, resulting in thousands of residential layouts springing up on city fringes. Hopefully, this point would be addressed before long, as Bangalore grows at a phenomenal pace.

There are so many other solutions like better quality roads (potholes and humps slow down traffic), relocate squatters (a lot of free space would be instantly available), widening roads (traffic will move faster), encourage public-private partnership in development of city outskirts (so that all are not forced to travel only towards the city), and even disincentivise vehicle buying by individuals (so that private vehicle are less of an ornamentation). But all these will work only if there is across-the-board political commitment, especially at the grassroots level, and discipline on the part of citizens to make solutions work.

For now, I am happy that my travel to office is an effortless exercise in less than half the time I used to take. I am sure that's the case with many other Bangaloreans too.

(This has been crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

See also: Bangalore Metro feeder buses important

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Making sense of Occupy Wall Street Movement

The protest by Occupy Wall Street Movement group has now gone on for quite some time, almost a month. Interestingly it hasn't created a traction across the world, as probably one would have imagined. But, I think it's quite a significant landmark in the post-Soviet, post-socialist era.

We all depend on businesses in one form or the other, directly or indirectly. Even the most communist and the most socialist of human being has no way of escaping a business organization, however big or small. Take the very simple instance of daily shopping.

One hard reality I have always understood is that no business is out there on charity. Even a recognized charity organization! If anyone is selling you anything for 100 bucks, then the cost of that item actually is much less than that, because that guy has to make some profit out of selling that stuff to you. Making profits is part of the game.

Is that cheating? No. Right? After all, businessmen too need money to survive. Their salary is the profit they get, right?

Then when does business become cheating and looting of our money?

Probably it is when the margin of profit is too much? Probably when businessmen don't care for the welfare of the very people to whom they are selling their products or services? Probably when in an organization there is a huge disparity in income between the top management employees and lower level employees?

I guess so.

What I understand from my friends is that in many organizations the income gap among employees is very wide. Top management officials earn a huge sum. And the general impression is that they do much less work compared to the lower level staff who are paid much less and end up doing a lot of work. The disparity and the disproportion is all too glaring.

This is not a new development. This has been the way, for a long time. But then, why these protests now?

Because, in these times of recession, when hard cash, the liquid cash, that we all turn to when we actually need money, suddenly seems to have vanished. No one seems to have money. All the guys who were rich till yesterday, seem to have become poor!

In Japan, I am told, the income disparity among employees in an organization is very less. Not that there is equal pay for every one, but the margin of difference is far less than what one would find in the US or Europe.

Occupy Wall Street Movement, I guess, is not a protest against big business houses or corporates. It's not that no one wants them. It's not that they haven't done anything for the society. They have. Of course. The whole movement is more about the resentment and frustration of middle class people, who feel cheated and looted by the top bosses in big corporates.

It could be a matter perception, as a big corporate executive told me. This is a critical time for the US. Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg says, “The Constitution doesn’t protect tents ... It protects speech and assembly.” He was referring to the tents put up by the protesters. His remarks show a sense of frustration in the administration.
As the saying goes: "If US sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold". May be the US isn't so much concerned about the rest of the world, as much as it is about itself. Fair enough. That should solve the problem. At least in the interest of the US, there has to be an intensive introspection about how the whole ultra-capitalist methods of management has brought the corporates and the Americans to this pass. The earlier some solution is found, good for America, good for the world.

Will such a thing happen in India? Can't be ruled out. Already we saw it some form as Anna Hazare led huge masses of middle class people in their a campaign for Lokpal. Issues are not same, but very similar. Here also there is a groundswell of frustration and discontent among the middle class, as people think corporates and politicians have joined hands to take everyone for a ride.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bangalore Metro Feeder Buses important

It's gladdening to read that Bangalore Metro Rail authorities have tied up with Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) to have as many as 62 feeder bus services plying nearly every 10 to 15 minutes between Metro stations and nearby localities, like bus stations and residential localities.

The success of the highly cost-intensive, eagerly awaited, Metro Rail (Namma Metro, as it has been christened) squarely depends on the last-mile connectivity.

If a person has to take the Metro but he has no way of reaching the nearest Metro station that is say, anywhere from 1 km to 3 km, then he wouldn't be encouraged to travel by the Metro. Instead, defeating the whole purpose of having the Metro, that person in all likelihood, will take his own vehicle.

I am eagerly looking forward to Thursday, Oct 20, when south India's first Metro Rail system will be inaugurated in Bangalore. Good riddance to auto-rickshaws, a universal subject of hatred, thanks to insensitive, arrogant and rude drivers; and badly managed auto-rickshaw unions.

See also: Bangalore Metro: small step, giant leap

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address

This is from the official Youtube channel of Stanford University --

A clipping of the great, memorable Commencement Address by Steve Jobs at the Stanford University in 2005. The whole of this inspirational speech is full of Quotable Quotes. He talks of three simple stories from his life... "Joining the Dots", "Life and Loss" and "Death", and the famous "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" quote.

A must-listen... even if you have heard this before.

RIP Steve Jobs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tributes paid to 2/Lt Radha Mohan Naresh

Tributes were paid to 2/Lt Radha Mohan Naresh, who laid down his life for the country in the 1971 operation in Jammu, on Friday. He was an alumnus of my alma mater, Sainik School, Kazhakootam. Much senior to me. But we students grew up hearing about him, the first martyr from our school. The saddest part is that he had been commissioned into the army only a week before the tragic event. It's 40 years since then. The school is currently celebrating its golden jubilee, and the school and the Old Boys Association are jointly paying special tributes to the brave young Indian.

More from Malayala Manorama, The New Indian Express, The Hindu, The Tribune, The Statesman

Sunday, October 2, 2011

TRS chief begins fast at Rajghat

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K Chandrashekhar Rao began his fast at Rajghat on Sunday as a mark of protest over the crisis over separate statehood.