The coverage on public transport and goods vehicles used to be much bigger and better in the past!! Now it appears to be all about personal transport of the big and expensive kind
A thumb rule many of us followed in the old days on long-haul cross-country sales calls, when saving money by travelling on night trains was the done thing, was to convert the notes taken during the day into a sales report and then post or fax it to the office from the next town. It was an accepted and known fact that if you didn’t do this, then the real nuances that spelt the difference between success and failure were simply lost.
It is about the same thing with writing about events. Modern electronic aids help. But the first day at Auto Expo 2012 in Delhi is the exception that breaks the rule. Unforgettable, and that’s being extremely polite. This is what Punjabi weddings usually are all about, lot of people in their best clothes, great fun if you like that sort of thing. People come from far and wide to criticise, but they come again and again, like this writer.
The Auto Expo is held at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. For the uninitiated, the main entries are from Mathura Road, and extremely well regulated to the point of being obtrusive, the security guards and others are also interested in the bags full of freebies—vigorously. However, this does not deter access for everything from stray dogs upwards, from the Bhairon Road/Old Fort side, through the administrative block/Gate 3&4 entries, and most of all, from the open land along the railway line which runs along the boundary. There is also a suspicion that entry passes for a variety of support roles are happily being duplicated and utilised. In addition, of course, the minor functionaries who belong to the reigning deity here, known as the ITPO (Indian Trade Promotion Organisation) and the other minor deities (Armed Forces Recruitment Office, public sector banks, and more) add to the fun and games—with exponential growth. Further, this is a city where most people know this mythical creature called ‘Somebody’, and that entitles them to entry—preferably with the maid, security commando, and family car.
As a result, maximum safe permissible numbers are the first casualties, followed closely by all elements of safety, resulting in a situation which reminds one of a lesser agricultural fair in some redneck part of the US—only the hucksters have a different language. The crowds at Auto Expo, to put it briefly, are a major deterrent—and the concept of using leggy models as automobile accessories appears to add to the rowdy behaviour that has become part of the horizon there.
But that’s how it is—if you are headed for Auto Expo 2012 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, then be prepared for the whole range of push, shove, prod and grope experiences, especially in the more ‘popular’ stalls.
So, briefly, what does Auto Expo 2012 have in store, given that the theme was ‘green’?
Well, for one thing—by evening, the atmospheric pollution levels are even worse than what things are like on the road, mainly due to the huge usage of old fashioned smoke spewing generators all over the place, so that’s with the “green part”.
Here is a quick review from the general visitor’s point of view. Today, the cars:
# The two best stalls to circulate in are from General Motors and Tata Motors. At GM they have their range of cars and SUVs, some muscle cars and in one corner—the Volt as well as an electric version of the Beat. At Tata Motors, apart from the normal range, some very interesting concept cars from small Nano to huge Range Rovers and Jaguars.
# The most crowded stalls with circulation patterns gone haywire are the Volkswagen/Skoda/Audi and BMW—they also happen to have some of the most interesting cars on display—the one that caught my eye was the A3- ETron from Audi. However, you can’t get near it. Maybe that's why the ‘new’ Mini is on the wall. Tearing its hair out?
# The stall which has managed to garner all the attention by showing a mock-up of a car, has to be Ford, hats off to their PR team. People are going ecstatic about something which has not even moved on the roads as yet! Not much else to see there, except lots of people from Ford talking to each other.
# Toyota & Honda—their stalls do appear to be very low-key and conservative. Again, nothing stands out.
# By contrast, Nissan and Renault, next to each other, appear to have taken a lot of trouble to show something fresh. That’s also because they are fresh into India. For those who like really fast cars, which have proven pedigrees on real roads, check these stalls out. Something for everyone, from Formula to street racers.
# Bajaj Auto’s famous small car RE60, appears to be a token presence at the Auto Expo, again, garnering all the news and coverage. If the price and running costs are well below that of the Tata Nano, then, sure—a great motorised quadricycle.
# Mercedes Benz has a very interactive stall, with plenty of activities for all ages, but the AMG cars on display appear to be like part of a disposal sale—everybody knows the sub-brand is being withdrawn. That apart, they also have a fuel cell car cut-out—interesting.
# Prominent absentees— the range of vintage and antique cars, Hindustan Motors/Mitsubishi, Fiat and Volvo cars. Sensible.
# The Maruti stall, done in a surreal white tunnel into and tunnel out of style, is interesting—but again, the ‘oomph’ is missing. Some new launches on display, but they get lost in the clutter. Shall have to visit again to understand, thing is, the place looks like a Maruti showroom.
# And finally—the Mahindra stall, also branding as Rise, showing a variety of cars from their foreign acquisitions—Ssangyong, unknown in India, but with the range probably most likely to succeed. This is the one stall I would like to visit in peace and quiet, it has the most mind-boggling variety of new technology cars, and presumably the prices will be Korean smart too.
Today, the second day of the “special invitees” and “media preview”, I will cover other aspects of the Auto Expo. For now, put it this way—if you can brave the crowds inside, and what appears to be cold and windy weather outside, then Auto Expo will appeal to you. But if you thought it was about really going green, then there is another one coming. Frankly, the coverage on public transport and goods vehicles used to be much bigger and better in the past!! Now it appears to be all about personal transport of the big and expensive kind.
For those who are keen to get a candid camera kind of look-see, my photos are up and running at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vm2827/
Having said that, if that is what you want to see, then head for Auto Expo. Check out if you will get tickets in advance, though—the online resources show ‘sold out’ at http://www.bookmyshow.com in most cases already. Or try to find a ‘Somebody’ who will get you in. Good luck.
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)
CIC pulls up the national airline on issue of providing bigger aircraft for accommodating family of former aviation minister
The Air India story is a spectacular example of ruining a public enterprise. Stories abound about how government functionaries themselves have abused its services. Now, a Central Information Commission (CIC) directive may reveal who enjoy VIP services at the cost of public money.
In a 12th December 2011 ruling, the CIC has directed Air India to disclose the names of passengers and other details of bigger carriers that replaced the scheduled ones; reportedly for flying VIPs from Bangalore to Male and back in April 2010.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had filed a petition in March 2011 asking for the details of Bangalore-Male flight Airbus A-320 on 25 April 2010, and also on 28 April 2010 for Male-Bangalore. An A-320, a larger aircraft, replaced scheduled aircraft on A-319 and IC-966 flights, respectively, on the two dates. Allegedly, the change was made just so that the family of former civil aviation minister Praful Patel could fly to Maldives and back.
On the scheduled flights, seven of the eight available seats were already booked. Mr Patel’s daughter, Avni Deshpande and her in-laws wanted to fly to the Maldives on 25 April 2010, but the whole party could not be accommodated. So, Mr Patel insisted on a bigger Airbus plane with 20 business class and 125 economy class seats.
Smaller Airbuses are used on the Bangalore-Male route because the load factor is not high. But in order to accommodate the Deshpandes, the larger Airbus flew with 53 vacant seats, and returned with 57 vacant seats. On 28 April 2010 when the family returned, the Male-bound flight had 20 vacant seats, and on its way back to Bangalore, 60 seats were vacant.
“I came to know about this last year from a journalist who wrote the story. I filed a query, but the CPIO refused to give me information. He clubbed queries together and said that the information sought is exempt from disclosure. I had asked for related documents and file notings related to Air India’s decision, even that was not provided,” said Mr Agrawal.
The Air India CPIO (chief public information officer) gave an unsatisfactory reply to Mr Agrawal’s queries, simply replying that the changes were made due to “commercial requirements depending on the booked load/demand and also due to operational/engineering requirements.” About Air India’s decision to change the carrier, he said that the decision to switch aircrafts was taken by Central Coordination Cell and the decision was intimated telephonically to the concerned personnel. He refused to give out any information, citing commercial interests.
When Mr Agrawal approached the CIC, the commission directed the CPIO to disclose the names of the persons responsible for the decision, the names and designations of the officials to whom the decision was communicated, and particulars of the business class passengers on those flights. The ruling said, “The CPIO has denied the information on the grounds that the company, keeping in view its commercial interests follows the practice of not disclosing the travel particulars of its valued passengers which are personal, too. However, in view of the facts and circumstances of the present case, the commission deems it fit and appropriate in public interest to direct the CPIO to provide the list of business class passengers as requested by the appellant.”
Despite the CIC directive that all information, including the file notings be provided to Mr Agrawal within 10 days of receipt of the order, the activist has not got any details.
It is an open secret that public laws do not apply to people who make them. No wonder, a large part of Air India’s road to ruin is paved with such VIP ‘requests’, which has cost a fortune to the exchequer, and the country one of its symbols of pride.
The output comprised 31.58 mmcmd from the D1 and D3 gas fields and 6.85 mmcmd from the MA oilfield.
Reliance Industries has reported natural gas output from its eastern offshore KG-D6 fields dipping below 39 million cubic meters a day as it shut five wells because of high water ingress.
Natural gas production from the Dhirubhai-1 and 3 gas fields and the MA oilfield in Block KG-DWN-98/3, or KG-D6, in the Krishna-Godavari Basin of the Bay of Bengal was 38.43 mmcmd in the week ended December 25, according to a status report filed by the company with the Oil Ministry here. The output comprised 31.58 mmcmd from the D1 and D3 gas fields and 6.85 mmcmd from the MA oilfield. The KG-D6 production is lower than 61.5 mmscmd rate achieved in March, 2010, as a drop in pressure in the wells and increased water ingress has led to a lower per-well gas output.
The report said of the 18 wells drilled, completed and put on production in the D1 and D3 fields, five wells— A2, A10, B1, B2 and B13— were kept closed due to high water cut/sanding issues.
The output from KG-D6 is short of the 70.39 mmscmd-level (61.88 mmscmd from D1 and D3 and 8.5 mmscmd from the MA field) envisaged by now as per the field development plan approved in 2006. While RIL holds 60% interest in KG-D6, UK's BP Plc has 30% and Niko Resources of Canada the remaining 10%. RIL started natural gas production from the KG-D6 fields in April 1, 2009, with output of about 30 mmcmd. The MA oilfield, where one of the five oil wells had been shut due to water loading, produced about 12,623 barrels of crude oil per day in the week ending December 25. In addition, 1,672 barrels of condensate are produced from the field every day.
The report said 15.03 mmcmd of the gas output was sold to fertiliser plants and 20.18 mmcmd to power plants. The remaining 3.22 mmcmd was consumed by other sectors, including compressors and internal use of the East-West pipeline that transports gas from the East Coast to consumption centres in the West. RIL projected an output of 38.50 mmcmd of gas in January.
As per the status report, out of the 22 wells planned in in Phase-I of D1 and D3 field development, 18 wells have been drilled and completed so far. Of these, 13 wells were put on production, while five wells were kept closed due to high water cut and sanding issues. The field development plan envisages drilling of an additional 9 wells by March 2012.
In the late afternoon, Reliance Industries was trading at around Rs707.30 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 1.15% up from the previous close.