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Monday, May 30, 2011

India Infrastructure Blues…!

It’s happening in India…! Against all odds, India Infrastructure keeps growing/ expanding and when I mention ‘against all odds’, it is really few many problems as you all know… There are politics, mafias, corruption and sub-standard exposures, expertise and equipments, etc..!
Opportunistic politics has been a major hurdle across the country in the disguise of very many varieties of reasons and the fun is that the same party may have different opinions on the same issue at different states based on pure opportunity?!
Land mafias are one of the most vivacious social evils across the world and our most vulnerable nation is no better. They have clinically specific interests and they would go to any extent to achieve that and they kill, they bully, they bulldoze and they manipulate to get their way through!
Corruption in Governance is another largest road block in infra development and one of the surveys conducted by an international organization reflects that only 10% to 20% of the total money spent on various projects goes to the actual development as the rest of the amount is eaten away by the licensing agencies and the contractors even before they commence the projects! Of late, there have been a slight improvement in the scenario as BOT/ BOM models had evolved in infrastructure development. However, there have been cases of inappropriate and exorbitant rates charged & collected as user fees.
Lack of exposure, expertise and right equipments are still visible in terms of building rural roads and infrastructure as those works are carried out by smaller organizations and even in certain large projects undertaken by corporate infra development organizations, it is evident that they lack expertize and vision to optimize the utilities as the work had been sub contracted to multiple small players at multiple levels. In each of such projects, there are certain political/ politicians’ vested interests and under currents playing villainous role?! Whatever it may be, the end result is that we end up with inferior quality of the projects and unjustifiable associated costs, which is borne by the users.
I have been advocating on the need for changed mindsets for adopting and accepting BOT (Build, Operate & Transfer) model since long time under a proper Govt. mechanism for monitoring and regulating practices in the infrastructure front. When NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) was empowered to monitor highway development and expansion in the country, I was one of the staunch supporters of the move. When I travelled from Kerala to Assam by road in 2006, I experienced the convenience and safety of the four lane drive from Vizhuppuram (just before Chennai) till Panagad (Apprx 50 KMs after Kolkata) and started quoting my wonderful experience at every available platform. Of late, I came across various 4 lanes and found it spell bounding as it made every traveller’s life much easy, though the user fee was little too high than what was expected! Still, it was acceptable to me for the time, energy and maintenance cost I would have saved due to this development. I was convinced on this till my last Hyderabad – Palakkad trip by road through a beautiful 6.5 hrs drive till Bangalore and then another 3.5 hrs drive from Bangalore up to somewhere just before Avinashi! 
However, what disturbed me is the fact that despite charging relatively high user fees for these ‘express high ways’, there was an alarming deterioration in the quality of road between Bangalore and Krishnagiri, which is one of the oldest of its kind?! To the limited knowledge I have, the user fees have been collected not only to have built these roads, but to maintain it well and operate till transferring it to NHAI after the stipulated long period of time, by when the contracting company would have made enough profits according to a clear business plan conceived, submitted and approved by NHAI and all other concerned authorities, well in advance. Hence, it becomes natural responsibility of NHAI to monitor, correct and enforce superior quality of such roads and to intervene whenever required.
Seeing the pathetic condition of these pilot roads under this scheme makes me feel suspicious as I smell a corporate foul play behind it…! I’m sure in the near future another scam will be out in this regard as NHAI is responsible for expanding the infrastructure and entrusted with huge amounts of exchequer’s money to act fast to sustain our growth curve ticking…!

However, I feel helpless as a common citizen of India as I don’t know where to express my grievances and how many times I should do it as I come across such illogical and unacceptable issues on a daily basis across the country. This is called real marginalization of common man and I'm sure this is the exact feeling in the minds of those millions, which is dangerous and may outburst any day, anywhere, any time in our country of chaos! 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No Value for Human Lives!

I resumed my morning walk a few days back after a break of 12 days and came across this incident, which is boiling inside me and I wanted to share this to all my friends and if anyone could do something in this regard, I will be a satisfied soul!
As usual, we (me and my friend) started at around 5.30 AM in our regular route, which is about 5.5 KMs. Approximately, 2 KMs down the route, we had seen a small crowd and when we went near them, we could see an old man lying on the road with blood oozing out of a wound on his forehead and someone said that he was hit by a vehicle and the vehicle sped off without stopping. Though the man was conscious, he was neither able to tell us his address nor could he remember any phone number. He seems to have come for walking and had only a ‘heritage’ milk card on his pocket. I immediately called up “108 Service” and they took 20 minutes to reach the spot. They gave the first aid and it was shocking for me to know that they don’t take the patients to the hospital without an attender?! By then, our man managed to tell us his address and we arranged an auto and another youngster who was standing by initiated to go with him to his house.
However, it was really absurd as the very purpose of ‘108 Service’ is to provide quick service to the accident victims by minimizing the time delay in hospitalization and to provide ‘First Aid’ to save lives! If such a service has to wait for an attender to accompany them to go to the hospital, it will delay the process further and defeat the very purpose of this service. Apart from this, the quality of the call center had gone down to the extent that I struggled to explain the location in English and had to ultimately hand over the phone to another person who knew the local language!
We as a nation give more value to all paper works, rules and regulations than for the ‘Human Life’ in every institution we come across! In the process, most of the times we conveniently forget all these rules and laws are made to safeguard the life of every human being, who are in the jurisdiction of this country. The life is the most precious one to be protected regardless of Nationalities, Regions, Religions and any other factors for that matter! Every rule/ law of this country intends only to protect it and not to neglect it under any utopian pretext!
I feel terribly sorry and guilty for the helpless situation I was put in on this morning and I want every sensible activist to take this issue up to discuss with concerned authorities to make necessary amendments to the rules and in my level, I’m initiating to meet up concerned authorities to discuss this issue as soon as possible.
For all those walkers and joggers, kindly carry some identification details and emergency phone numbers with you for empowering others to help you better.