The government seems to be busy trying to meet the needs of the very small section of our population, not realizing that the inaction is leading to a majority of people getting stressed up affecting their health
Fifty seven percent of Mumbai’s 125 lakh resident population lives within three kilometers of their place of work; 69% within five kilometers and 81% within 10 kilometers. 89% live within fifteen kilometers from their place of work and only 1% live beyond.
44% do not use any other mode of transport for their daily work commute—they walk. 3.1% use bicycles, 2.8% use personal motorcars and 8.5% use para-public transport such as auto-rickshaws and taxis. The rest use the suburban railway system and BEST (Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking) buses.
These two statistics reveal a lot. But there is one more statistics that needs to be mentioned before embarking of the topic of this write-up. There are about 75 lakh people who travel by suburban railway system daily, nearly equal to the rest of Indian Railway system users. At peak period extended over three and a half hours in the morning and another three and a half hours in the evening, the crowd that travels in the tidal direction is about 360 thousand persons per hour while the capacity of the services is close to about 160 thousand per hour and will attain a capacity of 180 thousand per hour by 2014. During the off-peak period, the frequency of trains is reduced, but consequently the crowd density in the trains and on platforms does not reduce significantly. There are about 40 lakh bus commuters, three-fourths of who travel by the suburban railway.
With this as background, let us get on with the topic of this article—“creating stressful life for all”.
Practically everyone walks in Mumbai, even most of car users and motorized two-wheeler users—short and very short distances if not those three kilometers. There is no doubt that the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has improved footpath surface by providing good quality and aesthetics interlocking concrete paver blocks but at many places poor adherence to specifications in laying them have resulted in dangerously unevenness of the surface. Narrow footpaths have not only retained older physical encroachments but added new ones, compelling pedestrians to walk on the carriageways. Motorcars do get parked on the footpaths which is not at all safe or comfortable. Many places have garbage dumped on the footpaths and the stench and unhygienic conditions also gets a pedestrian go on the carriageway; the stench itself creates some degree of stress. There is this lurking fear that one may get hit by the motorcar or two-wheeler, good reason for stress to get built within without realizing it.
Waiting for a bus and boarding it is also stressful as the noise level on the roads are unbearable, fear of bus starting off before one has boarded the bus and then the noise level within the bus after boarding it. Crowd density in the bus is not comparable to the one in the suburban railway system but during peak period, it is still high and this also is a reason for creating stress.
Negotiating the crowd on staircases, foot over bridges (FOBs), platforms and the train plus the anxiety while boarding a train or alighting—the whole process is stressful.
With walking from the railway stations becoming an obstacle race, resorting to taking an auto-rickshaw or taxi has become a norm for people with spare incomes. Not getting a taxi or auto-rickshaw, especially when it rains which keeps roads wet and full of potholes is another reason for stress generation.
After reaching home, is there scope to de-stress? Far from it, as the noise levels from loudly playing TVs and sound systems gives no respite. The only time one can really de-stress is at night time as defined in the noise rule—10pm to 6am. The quietness does provide the necessary restful sleep to cope up with the onslaught of next day’s series of stresses. The residual stress accumulates resulting in ailments such as cardio-vascular as well as high blood pressure, opening up possibilities of stroke. Stresses also triggers off diabetes.
Airline pilots have a strict schedule of number of flying hours they can log per week. This is done so as to keep the pilots alert all through the flights. After all they do carry between 100 to 300 passengers and their lives cannot be put to risk due to physical fatigue of the pilot. There is also a co-pilot and one additional co-pilot for long-haul flights. The crew is also housed in five star hotels to enable them to get restful sleep in a noise-free environment. All this for persons who, in practice, are concentrating only during landings and takeoffs! Most other times, the plane is flying on auto-pilot.
On the other hand, the motorman of the suburban railway system is not only stressed up like any citizen of Mumbai for various reasons mentioned above, but has to be drive the train with full attention all the time, slowing down, speeding up at different locations as per locational requirements, stopping at stations and starting off every three to five minutes, keep attention on the tracks for any technical snag and possible track crossings by commuters lost in thoughts or in conversations on mobile phones or listening to music on earphones oblivious to the approaching trains. A motorman has barely three to five minutes before the return trip begins. This motorman carries about 3,500 persons and sometimes nearer 5,000 in the train he is driving. When repeatedly the motormen’s’ union ask for a co-motormen and also five-day working week and better amenities at terminuses, why is the Railways unable to respond positively? The amenities and breaks in work are after all to de-stress themselves and lower the risks to commuters, is it not? Does the management have to respond only when there is a flash strike by the motormen, causing hardship to 36 lakh commuters (only Western Railway motormen went on strike on Friday evening). Did not the motormen go on a similar strike two years ago for the same purpose?
Railways apart, what is government doing to lower the stress in the stressed up Mumbaikar? It must increase commuting capacity by 180 thousand persons per hour as early as possible. This is possible only by introducing a well designed BRTS (bus rapid transport system). It can give priority to public transport by buses and walkable footpaths at stations and stop this “share a rickshaw” or “share a taxi” system which only encourages road congestion without carrying number of commuters to their respective destinations. Anxiety of not getting the para-public transport will to that extent will reduce and thereby, stress due to that.
The government seems to be busy trying to meet the needs of the very small section of our population, perhaps not realizing that its inaction is leading to a majority of people getting stressed up affecting their health. Under Article 21 of Indian Constitution that is unacceptable.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). He is member of the committee constituted by the Bombay High Court for making the Railways, especially the suburban railways system friendly towards Persons with Disability (2011). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Polymer notes would reduce costs and be a challenge to counterfeiters
Thanks to the RTI Right to Information) application submitted by activist Subhash
Agrawal, it is now public knowledge that printing small currency note costs big money! It costs a good 10% of the face value to print Rs10 note that gets soiled in no time, because of its high velocity of usage. However, it costs less for higher denominations.
What is important, however, is the tragic admission by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) that there is a 95% increase in counterfeit notes in the country over the past five years, most of which, regrettably, have come via Pakistan, and smuggled through the land borders of Nepal, Bangladesh and of course Pakistan. The smuggled counterfeit
currency notes are of higher denominations, mostly in Rs500 and Rs1,000.
If polymer bank notes are introduced in India, this will eliminate the backlog of unusable worn out bank notes and combat counterfeiting menace.
RBI, according to data available, had initial plans to introduce one billion Rs10 notes “before the end of 2010”. It is not clear as to what has caused this two-year delay so far, as no specific date has been announced for the introduction, even on a pilot basis. However, even assuming one billion Rs10 polymer notes are introduced this year to
the market, balance of the currency, some 95% of the notes in circulation, will continue to be made with traditional cotton bank note paper!
Practically, a quarter century ago, polymer note technology was first developed by Australia which introduced the currency in 1988 and it became the first country in the world to have a complete series of polymer notes by 1996. These polymer notes offer greater security against counterfeiting, last four times longer than the conventional paper notes and are easily recyclable.
It is Note Printing Australia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia that prints these polymer notes for a host of other countries as well, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Chile, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and others.
Considering the volume of Indian currency notes that is in circulation, and bearing in mind the aspirations to become an international currency, what the RBI plans to do, in terms of bringing in the technology into the country so that it can become self-sufficient rather than be an importer are factors that come to our minds, but which are unclear at this stage.
It seems that RBI is conducting some field trials, presumably with Rs10 polymer notes at Mysore, Kochi, Jaipur, Shimla and Bhubaneswar, chosen for their varied geographical locations and climatic conditions, according to the press release as a sequel to Subhash Agarwal’s RTI. However, if this trial is already on, it has been done without fanfare and even those handling these notes may not be in the know of things. Proper and due publicity are essential elements that would elicit intelligent response.
In any case, it is now imperative that polymer rupee notes be introduced without any further delay. There ought to be even more greater urgency in bringing out Rs500 and Rs1,000 value polymer notes as this will be first major step to stop counterfeiting. If it makes economic sense, and minting capacity is available, both Rs5 and Rs10 denominations be wholly made in coins, and paper currency be completely eliminated. If need be, a Rs 25 polymer note can be introduced at a later stage.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Pranab Mukherjee got 5,64,469 vote value, well beyond the half-way mark of 5,25,140 in an electoral college of over 10.5 lakh when counting of votes of 20 of the 30 states was completed
New Delhi: Pranab Mukherjee was on Sunday elected as the 13th President, marking a new journey for the veteran Congress leader after over four decades of life in active politics, reports PTI.
Mr Mukherjee, UPA nominee, got 5,64,469 vote value, well beyond the half-way mark of 5,25,140 in an electoral college of over 10.5 lakh when counting of votes polled by the MPs and MLAs of 20 of the 30 states was completed.
His rival PA Sangma, who was backed by BJP and some other opposition parties like All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD), could manage only 2,57,466 vote value, according to Rajya Sabha secretary general VK Agnihotri, who is the returning officer for the poll.
Mr Mukherjee, 76-year-old Congress leader, brings to the top Constitutional post a wealth of experience as he has held key positions in the party and government, including holding the portfolios of finance, defence and external affairs.
He established a clear lead right from the beginning when counting of votes of MPs completed and maintained it across the states, except the BJP-ruled ones. He sprang a surprise in BJP-ruled Karnataka where he got the votes of 117 MLAs against BJP’s 103 in the 224-member assembly.
Out of 748 MPs, who had voted, he secured 527 votes with a value of 3,73,116 against 206 for Mr Sangma which has a value of 1,45,848.
Fifteen votes including that of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav were invalid. Of these, nine were to be in favour of Mr Mukherjee while six for Mr Sangma.
Voting for the presidential election took place on 19th July. The electoral college for the poll comprises MPs and MLAs.
As Mr Mukherjee headed for victory, senior ministers, including AK Antony and P Chidambaram, went to his 13, Talkatora Road residence to greet him.
“He will be a great President. We wish him all the success,” Mr Chidambaram told reporters outside his residence.
As expected, Mr Mukherjee won with the backing of UPA partners, including Trinamool Congress which had announced its support only at the last minute.
Outside supporters of UPA, including Samajwadi Party and BSP, besides some opposition parties like JD (U) and Shiv Sena also voted in his favour.
In Kerala, it was a clean sweep for Mr Mukherjee as he got all the 124 votes polled while one was invalid. Mr Sangma drew a blank. CPI and RSP members abstained from voting which has a 140 member Assembly.
In neighbouring BJP-ruled Karnataka, there has been apparent cross-voting. Mr Mukherjee got the majority votes in the 224-member Assembly with 117 MLAs voting for him. Mr Sangma could get only 103 votes while three votes were invalid. One MLA did not vote.
The Congress had expected only 102 votes, including that of HD Deve Gowda-led JD (S).
Mr Sangma, as expected, scored heavily in states ruled by BJP, like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Goa.
Strangely in Jharkhand where BJP shares power with JMM, Mr Sangma got the votes of only 20 MLAs. JMM voted for Mr Mukherjee.
The electoral college included 4,120 MLAs in the states.