Friday, April 24, 2015

Story : The Cargo plane and the tissue boxes

A large cargo plane has suffered one engine failure while flying and must immediately reduce its weight to prevent a crash, by dropping out some of its cargo load from the back side bay doors. There are 10 minutes within which to act, failing which enough altitude will be lost and they will crash into some oncoming mountains. The pilots relay this to the airman crew head inside the cargo plane. Inside the plane are some crates full of heavy-duty metal equipment, some crates carrying drinks, and the rest of the space is being taken up by hundreds of crates carrying tissue boxes. A glance at the inventory roster reveals that the equipment and the drinks combined weigh as much as all the remaining crates put together. But that is in terms of wegiht. In terms of monetary value, they are worth 100 times more than the remaining crates.

Keeping in mind that the heavy equipment and the drinks are high-value consignments whose cost cannot be covered by the insurance cover, the crew head instructs his staff to start with the crates having tissue boxes first.

Did this story ring a bell with some global-level issue that you can recollect?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book : The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty

Wonderful book description.. (I haven't read the book yet but the descriptions and reviews stand on their own)

The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty

A Review of "The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity: The Principles of Liberty"

The new book by Trevor Z. Gamble - The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity (published in paperback and Kindle editions, 2011) - provides a welcoming introduction to ideas that go a long way toward resolving many of our contemporary problems and the deeper concerns behind them. Like many of us, the author realizes that something is amiss in the world. Then he takes us on a journey to find out what is wrong and how it relates to our understanding (or misunderstanding) of politics, economics, human rights - and ultimately, the idea of freedom itself.

Mr. Gamble opens his book like the 12th-century thinker, Bernard of Chartres, by acknowledging his debt to writers who came before him - political scientists, psychologists, and economists who enabled him, in effect, to stand on their shoulders so that he can see a bit farther than they did. And the first thing he sees is that we can do away with the tiresome convention of thinking about politics in terms of "left" and "right" with all of the name-calling that goes with it. And it's not enough, says the author, to point to the villains of history to find out why things have gone wrong. After all, every nightmare-toting dictator in the history of the world was able to get there because he (or she) had plenty of followers willing to do the dirty work. In other words, it's not just them...

In his next chapter, Gamble identifies the concept of "human rights" as a basic source for gaining insights into and unraveling the problems that surround us. He explains and adopts the excellent definition of rights laid out by Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe: self-ownership. Consequently, he defines the most important human right as the right of ownership that one has over one's own body. Better yet, he explains that it is the only self-evident "right" that we can have, and from it, he deduces our ethical concepts of rights to personal property and the constellation of ideas that come into play with that realization. In doing so, he explores the non-aggression axiom that lies at the basis of all fruitful and peaceful human interactions - stressing, as he does so, the inviolability of all human beings as ends in themselves.

Once he has marked out this intellectual and ethical territory, he goes on to explore topics such as equality, property rights, government entitlements, collectivism, majority-rules politics, the natural environment, third-world poverty, and related issues. This would be a daunting task if he didn't do two things that make his book particularly enjoyable to read.

* First he enlivens his narrative by breaking it up with fascinating quotations from figures that loom large in literature, politics, and history. What makes his use of these quotations especially useful, however, is how and when he inserts them into the text. These quotes appear in the most unexpected places, and they call a complete halt to our thinking - forcing us to engage our minds and question our assumptions. The reader is continually shocked by the unsavory pedigree of words uttered by a number of "favorite" American icons. At other times, these quotations simply reinforce what Mr. Gamble has attempted to explain. All of them, however, are delightful in the context of the narrative and well worth the price of the book.

* Second, he ends each chapter with a section entitled "I Object!" It's the author's way of entering into a dialog with readers who may disagree strongly with the things he has been writing. By including these objections, Mr. Gamble anticipates some of the most common complaints that can be registered against his viewpoint, and he addresses them fairly. This alone sets him apart from writers who are so convinced of their brilliance that they can't imagine anyone disagreeing with them about anything.

Once we are grounded in the ethics of self-ownership and non-aggression as the bases for constructive human relationships, Mr. Gamble's remaining chapters address the following topics:

* Money, central banking, hard currency, debt, and the source of inflation and economic manipulation

* Taxes and their meaning in our lives and in our relationship with others

* The real meaning of profits, capitalism, democracy, and the nation-state

* The how and why of bailouts, price fixing, tariffs, innovation, labor unions, social security, and tax-funded undertakings

The penultimate chapter is one of my favorites. The author devotes it to dispelling a good number of commonly held myths. Among them are favorites such as the following:
* Self-sufficiency (a favorite of nationalists)
* Local buying (its good and bad points)
* Inequality and its value to us
* The idea that one person's loss is another's gain
* Free trade and its imposters
* Employers as tyrants
* The meaning of capitalism vis-à-vis communism

In his final chapter, Mr. Gamble asks a thought provoking question: what should we do? He clearly wishes to see improvements come quickly, but how are we to accomplish change? Hint: not by depending upon promises by politicians. After exploring a number of different approaches to change, he seems to choose the route that all of us are capable of enacting - changing how we ourselves interact with others and calmly discussing our insights with friends and acquaintances. This is not a call for destroying or compelling or storming or squatting. It is a call to reasoned discussion and an invitation to make changes in our own lives - including how we interact with our own children.

And that brings us back to where we began, doesn't it? After all, if we can raise a generation of children who have been respected and treated as inviolable human beings, won't they be able to stand on our shoulders and see even farther than we do? And if you are passionate about human rights and liberty (but find it difficult to express yourself), The Secrets to Nonviolent Prosperity can do your talking for you. Try it, and see for yourself.

Participatory Budgeting in Delhi..

How opposing one defective Car model doesn't make one anti-technology [GM issue explained for technology lovers]

Share this with your technology-inclined friends!

While we all agree that research and science are important and that innovation shouldn't be blocked, here's a little devil-in-the-details sharing about GM (genetically modified) foods technology.

The present GM varieties being marketed, those being in focus, are defective models that a company shouldn't be pushing to market. Kind of like releasing a car model whose braking system the company's management internally knows tends to get defective after the first 10,000kms, so they decided to test the car only for 1000 kms. Results were positive so it went into production and is now being aggressively marketed. The industry regulator believes that there is no further independent testing of the car needed since they already know that it is safe, from the 1000km test. The top boss of the regulatory commission happens to be the car company's former high-level employee. Oh, and IPR (intellectual property rights) laws ban any third party from conducting any kind of tests on the car, they're quite strict about that. If you as an independent consumer try to conduct any test or research on this car model, you're likely to get sued and loose everything you have in lifelong litigation, and your research results likely cannot be accepted as evidence. Hence, the car company isn't doing the tests needed and isn't letting anyone else do them either.

The car is now released for open trials, which isn't actually a test for safety; it's one for studying financial potential and performance metrics. But people are led to falsely believe it's a safety test and the car company likes it that way. This test isn't being conducted in separate off-limits proving grounds or Top Gear style retired airport runways where the car being tested wouldn't interact with normal civilian traffic.. several units of the car are actually being driven actively all throughout the country, including on the streets you cross everyday, highways, expressways, AutoBahns etc, by regular people and with children in the back seat. The law of the land has exempted the company from any liability or any obligation for call-back or money-back should anything unfortunate happen, since the regulatory agency has already declared it to be safe. No one wants to talk about what will start to happen when the users of this car cross the 10,000km mark. Right now there are very few first-buyers who have, and the company is quick to respond to any complaints with the standard "it's the driver's fault, we are not liable" reply.

As per our current wisdom which is brought to us by our academia, government and media, all the people who are protesting against the release of this car model or its open testing are hereby decreed to be against technology and anti-progress, anti-science, and should not be listened to. Otherwise society will end up going backwards and we will all die for lack of cars, as if there isn't any other company on the planet capable of manufacturing the requisite number of cars (scroll down to find out that there actually is).


Coming back to the GMOs.. two main technologies:

BT : they produce a toxin that supposedly only harms one specific insect (in the patent they're classified as pesticide and not as food), but it turns out that humans and that insect are not from different planets after all and share certain physiology. Hence, that toxin is turning out to be harmful to living organisms other than that particular insect, surprise surprise. Plus, it turns out that insect is already evolving to beat the BT-toxin, and there's other pests coming in too, resulting in farmers having to resume spraying pesticides on their crops. That ruins the single most important USP of BT technology : that pesticides would no longer be required. The technology was basically betting that biological evolution doesn't happen. (and that's Intelligent Design for you). It also turns out horizontal gene transfer does exist as a phenomena.. the technology was betting on the assumption that it didn't. Which means that the BT-toxin-producing tendency is capable of "installing" itself into other plants as well as the human body's gut bacteria : that itself was a very grey area and treated as non-existent until quite recently.

HT  or "Roundup-ready" herbicide tolerant : glyphosate tolerant.. the recent Mexico court ruling was mainly about glyphosate. It's a toxin right up there next to DDT and friends, and its devastating effect on pollinators like bees (without whom you can't have most plant reproduction) as well as on humans is only now being brought out. If you remove the glyphosate herbicide, that GM crop is useless.. the whole technology was betting on the assumption that glyphosate only kills every single other plant in the whole field (making multicropping impossible btw) but is perfectly safe for humans and other non-plants (despite Monsanto in their own fields mandating their employees wear fully enclosed protective suits and not get in contact with any particles in the field).

Some other technologies being explored:
Golden Rice : It is being compared only with rice, and so is claimed to provide more necessary nutrients. The assumption here again is that people only eat rice and nothing else. Foods like drumsticks (Moringa) have more of those nutrients than the Golden Rice can ever hope to achieve, and it's far cheaper to increase their consumption in the target population. (this thing and others like it literally grow on trees) But the assumption is that people prefer eating only and only rice in their meals and will never ever touch anything like drumsticks, so one must try squeezing all the required stuff into the rice only while forgetting that there are other items in people's meals and the rice was supposed to be for the carbs.

DNA structure:
Also, it turns out that plants are not predominantly left-brained like the people who designed the GM seeds. So DNA is quite messy and integrative, whereas the gene theory upon which the entire GM technology is based, says that DNA is linear and reductive. It assumes that there is an exact input-to-output relation between gene and characteristic. So they thought that precisely X gene sequence controls Y characteristic, and its placement or removal will then control only and only that characteristic of the plant and have absolutely no side effect whatsoever on the rest of the living being and its other characteristics. It was assumed that there is no integrative overall structure  or inter-relationship between the various parts of the genetic sequence. Typical assumptions of the techno-savvy left-brain mindset. All very neat and orderly, a place for everything and everything in its place. Turns out that assumption was false, DNA is integrative and inter-relational, and one drastic change in one part tends to have other effects on other characteristics too which they didn't bother to check out, since the assumption was that nothing else will get affected.

So it's not like the flagship products of the GMO sector have "a few chinks to iron out". The very technologies they are based upon have lost their core USPs in light of emerging realities, and have become redundant. You can't make an improved version of a floppy disk : it's pointless, you need to go back to the drawing board and look at the whole thing again from an improved understanding of the science of food.

Some websites where you'll find good info on this topic:  : this European scientist repeated Monsanto's same feeding trial on rats that had "proved" safety of their GM products, but made one tiny alteration: He ran the experiment for 2 years instead of Monsanto's 3 months. (after which their opposition to independent testing really kicked in!) The result : After 2 years of eating them, those GM foods seem to be the exact opposite of safe, and the rats that managed to survive the feeding trial are just not what you'd call "perfectly healthy". To this day, Monsanto is refusing to accept the research's results, but not daring to repeat it, which would have been the scientific way of proving something wrong, which happened to them (Seralini repeated their study and got disputing results). They even terminated another long-term study of theirs midway and refused to share the results with anyone. So for someone who supports science, it's worth questioning which side of science are GM producers on? If they are pro-science, then why are they and their supporters opposing independent scientific research?

Videos : Genetic Roulette, Seed Freedom, Bought... there's many independent films out there which channels like Discovery don't want to show, even if the film-makers themselves aren't charging any money. (saala tereko free mein itna mast maal mil raha hai... fir bhi wohi purane shows repeat pe repeat karte jaa raha hai tu?). But there's surprisingly no independent films out there (not in my years of looking around) which make any case FOR GM foods. It seems every independent film maker out there working on food sector is against GM only, while every corporate studio wants to religiously avoid sharing these objections. Wonder why?


Now, for those who don't care about the harms part and want to "be positive" and focus on the gains, here's a 30-year side by side growing study by Rodale Institute (they incorporated GM when it became mainstream). Tested conventional non-gm, GM, organic.
Result? Organic won hands down. Greater yield per unit area, lower costs, lower inputs, lower CO2 emissions, negative damage to soil (ie, soil health improved year on year). Everything that the world's  scientists and our governments have been desiring from a technology to grow food, delivered without the pesky patents or high input costs. And what's more, it's an industry alternative that while lowering the bottom line, actually creates more jobs (with zero work related illnesses) at the same time! Organic technology has much higher job creation opportunities, while simultaneously having much lower costs than GM technology! Now you'd object that this organization might have had some bias (but apparently Monsanto conducting its own tests has no bias). May I point you to the scientific method : The best way to prove a research study wrong is by repeating the experiment as defined and publishing your results.

Note: There are presently heavy government subsidies given to the competitors, and the market dominance combined with lack of market mechanisms for decentralized organic technology are hampering these cost benefits from making their way to the retail end. That changes when more people join in and market share increases, and this sector is witnessing exponential growth right now, with the first adopters being everyone from politicians' families to movie stars to industry leaders to well-educated people. Like in any other technology's life cycle, early adopters pay higher but this funds the technology and enables it to come into its own.

What makes things difficult here for those who love technology and internally bracket everything natural as non-technological and backward, is having to eat humble pie and admit that nature might be technologically more advanced than present human attempts in at least ONE sector (saala ek ko jaane do, kya jaata hai tumhaara?), and might have a solution that is still far better than what our best scientists and mega-corporations have come up with so far. Given the fact that she has had a multi-billion year head start and access to a planet-full of resources to tap into for her research, we shouldn't be so surprised and definitely not so jealous of her. On our end, more research should happen of course, but it should happen safely, without treating you and me and our children like lab rats. Defective products shouldn't be pushed to market for the sake of recouping investments made so far. If you know your closest competitor is so far ahead of you, then you should either invest in researching something like GMOs for the long, long run (I'm talking multiple human lifetimes here), or not invest at all and simply go for the best alternative solution available that delivers better, even if you can't earn royalties off it. But it's wrong to get impatient or greedy and push defective products to market just for the sake of showing a profit this year, and it's wrong to use massive government subsidies, IPR and friends in high places as a crutch to conceal your product's defectiveness.

And that's pretty much what all your "anti-technology" friends are trying to tell you. Nobody's being anti-technology. They're just warning about defective products that can cause irreversible harm. That is all. On the other hand, they are also actively supporting organic technology which seems much more promising, so it would be nice if we didn't have anti-technology and anti-science people and mega corporations unnecessarily harming progress.

PS: this is adapted from a reply in another email conversation, so apologies if some reference is not explained or linked fully here. Do search the net for it, you'll find it easily and get bonus points for not being spoon-fed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do you support universal adoption of Aadhar card? When Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled AGAINST it?

There are reasons why the developed countries of the world have opted out of UID for their citizens. It is foolish to think we're smarter than everybody else. It is especially foolish to not bother doing any homework on your end and then say "But what's the problem, why are you opposed to Aadhar? It is good only!".


On 23 February 2015, I accompanied two young persons applying to have their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act before the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) in Delhi. They were told that the system would not accept their application without their Aadhaar enrolment ID. They categorically refused to comply, and cited the orders of the Supreme Court. They proposed going to court to get a direction issued to the ADM. The ADM then relented and that led to the acceptance of their application – a series of dots (….) in the enrolment ID column did the trick. The form, though, remains unchanged.

On 25 February, 2015, the Ministry of Rural Development sent out a letter about the government's decision that wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) would only be paid through direct cash transfer, and that all states "are to seed the Aadhaar numbers of the MGNREGA beneficiaries and enrol the MGNREGA beneficiaries who have not yet got enrolled for Aadhaar." Jean Dreze reports from the field that those not enrolled are not being given job cards. There has been no revision of these circulars.

On 3 March, 2015, a Maharashtra Cabinet decision is recorded as having taken the "revolutionary decision to link ration cards and FPSs with biometric database and Aadhaar." The same day, the Election Commission announced a National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Program (NERPAP) to be done by linking the Aadhaar database with the electoral database to be completed by 15 August, 2015.

The most immediate and proximate consequence was of exclusion – where people not enrolled on the UID database may be denied a service because they did not have an Aadhaar number. Those not enrolled for any reason, ranging from those unable to get on to the database to those not wanting to, and those whose biometrics may not work because of the nature of their work – such as manual labor or those working with chemicals – or because of age, could find themselves deprived of their entitlements. There was also in the background the constant iteration of the UIDAI that enrolment was voluntary and not mandatory.

So, on September 23, 2013, the court issued an interim order, till the case could be finally decided, that "no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card", even where some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.
On March 16, 2015, when counsel for the petitioners expressed his concern that governments were pushing ahead with enrolment so they could present the court with a fait accompli – that they already have large numbers on the database and so the project should be allowed to go on – the court said during the hearing that that would not hold weight with them.

In the UK, when their identity scheme was abandoned for being "intrusive, bullying and ineffective," the database had to be dismantled; that was the only way to respect the law and to protect citizens from a surveillance state.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Remembering Vinoba Bhave, Sarvodaya, Bhoodaan

Some anecdotes from an all-but-forgotten past which might just shine a
light onto what frame of thinking we need to adopt to solve present
day issues.

Even back then, conventional thinking labeled it impossible; said that
we cannot hope for things to happen by choice and goodwill; that
anything that is for the good of all must be done through more and
more laws and regulation and force and even violence if need be.
Basically the same message conventional thinking gives us today.
Fortunately, history has shown high disrespect to conventional

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#AAPBreakup became a tool for preventing news of good things happening in Delhi from spreading
And there's a Lottttttt more that I just don't have the energy to put here.

Sad to see that whether intentionally or unintentionally, YY and PB
have managed to attack THIS all, and have given the country's
mainstream media the excuse it was looking for to mostly censor all of
these real-impact stories in favour of something that, at the end of
the day, didn't really impact the common man or woman's life on the

If people across the nation aren't lighting the torch under their
chief ministers' arses to do many of these obvious common-sense but
much-needed steps right now, then YY-PB and group as well as those who
were so stupidly attacking them (duh, focus on what really matters
yaar, why u so insecure?), stand at least partially accountable for
it. It is a bad thing to prevent news of good things happening from
spreading where they should. They know how the media of this country
operates. YY of all people surely knew how even the littlest of things
was enough to guarantee a full-scale hijacking of the people's
attention. Hence his actions puzzle me and tell me that this guy
better be left alone for some time.. he's lost sight of the ball and
forgot about the long-term universal benefit that comes from removing
oneself from the equation.

The whole narrative being formed of AK and team being ultra-evil
super-Nazis etc etc is just so absolutely inconsistent with the
factual series of real tangible steps on the ground they are
undertaking. The narrative simply doesn't co-relate with reality for
me. And I also think that people who are doing so much groundwork
obviously won't have the time at hand required to do the due thinking
about the spat that happened. If I was in AK's place I'd probably be
putting Gandhiji's Talisman in front of myself the whole time, and
allotting very little to no time to any activity that did not in some
or the other way help the people I have been tasked with helping. YY
and PB weren't busy managing the lives of millions of people, that too
in the crucial first days, that too with full-on daily interactions
with large numbers of people, and in ways that are a first, where
there really isn't any reference point to compare with and guide,
where even more careful attention and devotion to one's duty is
required. Respect for a person's mental bandwidth seems to have gone
out the window. And to remember that this all erupts when one of the
main stakeholders has had to leave things and go away and be
off-communication for medical treatment.. and to see YY and PB coming
on TV cameras and launching their protests aimed at AK while the guy
was still away for treatment.. that was plain and simple
under-the-belt. I couldn't imagine what the bloody hell these guys
thought they'll achieve from doing the exact same thing they've been
complaining about since years now.

I'm supposed to believe the narrative that a person who's attending
naturapathy where one of the biggest preconditions is to empty one's
thoughts of negativities, is busy hatching evil diabolical schemes on
assassinating people's characters who aren't even in his
opponent-sights to begin with (I'm supposed to believe that he's
forgotten all about Mugambo Ambani and his stooges running the whole
show), and hasn't spent any time thinking about the real on-the-ground
solutions that he co-incidentally gets going as soon as he's back, and
still manages to have the treatment work for him. Bull Shit.

And just to counter the obvious answer, NO, I now don't think it's a
wise idea (this is a BIG change from my earlier stand. I like evolving
my opinions in light of heretofore unknown facts coming to light. If
you don't like that, f**k off.) to hand over and away control of AAP
to people who are demonstrating rampant impatience, non-groundedness,
disconnection from the common man's issues, sheer lack of humility,
total absence of mind, non-acknowledgement of the context we are all
in (HeLLOo, Modi, Land Acquisition, attacks on minorities, increasing
crimes on women and backwards, destruction of the idea of India,
corporate takeover, destruction of forests.. remember??), and who
place the flawed Western ideologies disguised as democracy over and
above practicality. (USA has put 1 out of its every 100 adults in
jail, highest prison population in the world, and crime hasn't
reduced. Innocent people across the planet are being slaughtered left,
right and center for the sake of their oil and geopolitical interests.
Society is falling apart. Real happiness as well as physical health is
at an all-time low. Fear is becoming the only motivating factor in
life. They're printing money out of thin air to keep the economy
going, imposing the inflation on the whole world, and the wealth is
only trickling up from the commoners to the upper class. The planet
has been put in peril and they're the biggest culprit for it. That's
not what a democracy looks like, buddy. There's something seriously
wrong in the very basic DNA of how the USA is that has turned them
into the single biggest threat to the planet)

It's definitely not a wise idea to be blindly handing over the reigns
when confusion is so rampant, there is full evidence of deliberate
destructive intervention by shadow players on behalf of the supposed
opponents, and it's so obvious that the real target of whoever is
pulling the strings behind this whole thing is the censoring of all
the good work that's going on so as to prevent other local people from
daring to opt for a real alternative.

That's a time to hunker down, fortify the walls and toss all the
noisemakers out, and let them keep protesting how undemocratically it
all happened till they grow up and start working on things that
actually matter to the people they claim to be serving. Let them go
start the initiative elsewhere on their own if they're so sure they
know everything. Biology 101, man. The seeds leave and go make new
trees, and everyone tries a variation they feel will be better. Anyone
who's ever managed a startup or a fledgling initiative will know the
necessity of shielding it from those who will intentionally or
unintentionally end up destroying the whole thing because of having
some basic fundas ass-backwards. And if you're really undertaken any
inititative and ever had to act to protect it, then you'll recall that
the loudest protest that you've heard is "what is this? See, I was
right all along. There is no democracy in this ____. You are just
another dictator!".

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

6 reasons why BRT (bus rapid transit) is better than Metro

Much ink has been spilt debating the minutae of the current 5.8 km
corridor, its pros and cons. But this misses the point. One shoddily implemented
short stretch cannot be the reason for scrapping BRT as a solution for mobility in
Delhi, indeed in other Indian cities. It is like saying if a man wearing a blue shirt
committed a crime then all men wearing blue shirts are criminals!

[from a PDF shared.. and with a few lines removed in order to bring the focus on the issue at hand, avoid the everybody-loves-to-hate-____ audience]

While the BRT corridor is under attack by car owning critics, the expensive, shiny toy
that is the Delhi Metro can do no wrong (the DMRC website dubs it as "swanky and
modern"). In fact, every city worth its salt from Kochi to Jaipur has one or wants one.
It makes us feel modern much like Nehru's 'temples of modern India' in the socialist
era. So whether we ride the Metro or not (and most car owners do not) we feel
proud to have it. It matters little whether it addresses urban mobility in a cost
effective manner or not. The Metro has been effectively packaged and sold to the
country as a successful engineering project, delivered on time and within budget. It
showcases the can-do attitude of a resurgent India, something we can wow the
world with. But wait a minute, this is about moving people not a feel good factor
where India could build a white elephant quickly and competently with Japanese
largesse. A "swanky and modern" BRT too can be sexy. But then who cares!

#1. Don't bark up the wrong tree
If it had to choose, Delhi needs many more buses and a better managed bus system
than Metro. Buses provide flexibility of routes and last mile connectivity unlike the
Metro. New bus routes can be deployed quickly to respond to the fast changing
geography of a rapidly expanding city. Described as a "surface subway" by
Wikipedia, a well designed and managed BRT combines the capacity and speed
of light rail or metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.
Urban mobility solutions for Delhi need not be zero sum, that is, either BRT or Metro.
But at present the focus is only on (i) moving private vehicles faster (read cars and
faster moving cars) by creating signal free corridors, flyovers and elevated roads,
and (ii) expanding the Metro. Buses, especially an extensive and efficient BRT
system are not in the picture. This is short sighted (see homily #2) and wastefully
expensive (see homily #3).

#2. Do not believe in mythology
An earlier article at this site debunked five myths of Delhi traffic. Myth #2 was "more
roads and flyovers will ease congestion." Myth #4 was "Delhi Metro will solve all
(public transport) problems." But these myths persist in the minds of our netas and
babus and have led to abandoning the BRT as a crucial piece of the urban mobility
puzzle. It is easy to see why Delhi's car owning elite and middle classes love the
Metro—it does not compete with them for road space either being underground or
elevated! The shoddily implemented 5.8 kms of the current BRT corridor on the
other hand, goes through tony parts of South Delhi where it crowds out private car
owners. But history is not destiny. Cars and BRT can co-exist. They do in other
cities of the world (see homily #6). And they certainly can in Delhi. After all, the city
has one of the world's highest proportions of road area – a fifth of its total area is
paved over.

#3. Money saved is money earned
A kilometre of elevated Metro costs about Rs. 100-150 crores, about ten times that
of BRT. Each kilometre of underground Metro costs about thirty times as much. But
Delhites do not care. After all, much of their beloved Metro has been financed with
Japanese largesse and to a lesser extent with that of the central government (read a
gift from the rest of India to Delhites)—of the total project cost of Rs. 70,433 crores
($11.4 billion) for Phases I, II and III, the Government of the NCT of Delhi has
contributed a princely sum of Rs. 8,683 crores ($1.4 billion) or 12.3%! The problem
is there is not enough money in donors coffers or in the central government kitty to
replicate this for all Indian cities big and small.

#4. Those who speak loudest are not always right
The pen is mightier than the sword, especially if the pen is wielded by those who can
emote in English print media and on television. They are the ones who drive the
cars and the SUVs and feel the pinch of the current corridor as buses with sweaty
masses whiz past (at least on that short stretch). So they complain the loudest.
They argue the masses have been given a shiny toy to ride in. When we could not
give them bread we gave them cake. So BRT be damned. But the whiners are
wrong. The solution they offer to the masses is not financially sustainable (see
homily #3) and will not address the problem (see Myth#4 in the earlier article).

#5. One swallow does not a summer make
5.8 kms of a poorly implemented BRT corridor cannot be used against the concept to
seal its fate. The corridor became political football between an incompetent
implementing agency, namely, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Limited
(DIMTS) and Delhi government's Public Works Department (PWD). In any other
system where accountability mattered, heads would have rolled. Instead the babus
at DIMTS who gave BRT a bad name went on to plum postings. For want of a shoe
nail a kingdom was lost.

#6. Don't be an ostrich
India and Indians especially our babus are known to be knowledge proof. The
refrain always is "it can work in city X or Y but it cannot work here" "we are too
different" (see Myth#6 in the earlier article). Yes, no two cities are alike as no two
persons are. But world over, cities have shown how well a BRT can work. Closer
home, Ahmedabad's BRT Jan Marg has received international and national
accolades. The ostrich buries its head in the sand thinking if it cannot see its
enemies they cannot either. We know what happens in that case.

Shreekant Gupta is with the Delhi School of Economics and LKY School of Public
Policy, Singapore. He was former Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, New
Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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