Important thing is to prevent accidents from happening. Laws must be in place but the focus should be physical features that prevent cars moving at high speeds in by lanes and road junctions
There is a report that the driver of a Bollywood actor, while rushing in a Toyota Lexus in Bandra to take a tiffin box and an umbrella, hit a 70-year old pavement dweller at about 10.30pm. She died at the hospital. It is reported that the driver was not under the influence of alcohol.
Firstly, this is another occasion reported of an accident when a speeding car hit a person crossing the road in the Bandra Khar region. Unlike the last time that occurred at Khar Danda when the driver-owner stopped and took the pregnant woman and her husband to the hospital, in this case the driver had no such concern and fled to the police station at 1am fearing mob fury! When the 70-year old victim in the current accident was taken to the hospital, the story is as pathetic as it was then, except that the victim breathed her last outside the first hospital, as was reported in various media.
From various press reports one could say for sure that the driver was driving at high speed; he had to negotiate a near u-turn for which the speed was still high enough for him to have lost control, especially after he suddenly saw this lady crossing the road and tried to avoid hitting her but was late in doing so. The impact must have been severe enough to injure her sufficiently that she succumbed to injuries when taken to the hospital.
We know that it is next to impossible to police every nook and corner of Mumbai 24x7 and prevent speeding cars. Fear of punishment perhaps prevents many from driving rashly but there are always some who dare to defy, especially when the roads are empty. Cars are powerful and the probability of being caught violating speed limits being low, violations do take place, sometimes resulting in fatality.
Speed limits have been imposed firstly for the safety of other road users such as other motorcars, motorized two-wheelers, non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians; and secondly for the safety of the car user himself. Modern cars are designed to provide safety to the occupiers of the cars which give added confidence to car user and he tends not to slow down. It is important to drive within the prescribed speed limits and be concerned of everyone’s safety while driving. One must value life over everything.
“Stop & Proceed” used to be the road signage put up at every road junction and generally followed by motorists. This “slowing down” brought vehicles to speeds low enough to prevent accidents due to surprises like the Bollywood actor’s driver experienced at late night. We need to reintroduce the culture of “Stop and Proceed”. This cannot just be a campaign like “Halt before Stop Line” where at road level there was non-observance perpetrated by constables themselves, but through physical deterrent like a speed breaker. Drivers must also stop before the zebra crossings. All roads must have this raised zebra crossings at the entry and exit of every by lane with proper signage of stop and proceed prior to exit point. Similar provision needs to be made at any location that appears to be vulnerable.
The point is that the driver took the near u-turn at high speed and perhaps saw the lady all of a sudden. On the other hand, I have seen drivers, including owner drivers, not slowing down while they spot pedestrians crossing even at a pedestrian crossing with green signal for the pedestrian. Therefore the culture of defensive driving from all perspectives, especially from the pedestrian perspective has to be inculcated.
I myself experienced a rash near u-turn close to the bus stop where Vacha Gandhi Road meets Hughes Road (NS Patkar Marg). It was the valet of West Side (a mall) bringing out the car of a customer. Since I had just got down from the bus at about 8:30pm and was walking towards the footpath across the Vacha Gandhi Road that I saw this car coming speedily and I stopped just in time. I escaped getting hit by a whisker. I took up the issue up with West Side and pulled up the driver. Had someone been walking in the opposite direction, surely the person would have met with an accident as neither the driver would have seen the pedestrian not the pedestrian seen the speeding car approaching.
What is essential is to get people to drive slowly on by-lanes as though their own children are likely to surprise them by suddenly coming in front. Physical deterrents like raised footpaths at zebra crossings must also be introduced. This will hopefully make even a rash driver slow down at such speed breakers.
(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). 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 on email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
President Obama is tied to the post of healthcare—he will sail or sink with it. He might as well give it his best shot
A rather peculiar feature of American jurisprudence is that years after or even a decade after a particular judge is appointed by a political party, he or she is supposed to follow the party line. Hence judges appointed by Republican presidents are supposed to follow Republican policies and judges appointed by Democratic presidents are supposed to follow democratic policies. This is regarded as completely normal and passes without much comment and a judge not following the party line is regarded as misjudgement for the president concerned. Hence Earl Warren, who was a appointed by the Republican president Dwight Eisenhower and had been the Republican governor of California, turned out to be one of the most liberal judges (he was responsible for desegregation in the case of Brown Vs Board of Education and was regarded as a disastrous appointment.
Similarly justice Harry Blackmun when appointed was dubbed the Minnesota Twin along with Chief Justice Warren Burger and later went on to write Roe Vs Wade, was regarded as a disaster by the Republicans. It is in this light that Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in the Healthcare case has to be evaluated. Chief Justice John Roberts replaced an extremely conservative judge. Chief Justice Rehnquist was appointed by George W Bush to his position. In split decisions, which went five to four, he has not once decided along with the liberal block. He is a staunch conservative. However, for the first time in what looks like of statesmanship, he sided with the liberal block to uphold the single mandate in the case of National Federation of Independent Businesses Vs Kathleen Seblius.
The single mandate says that those who do not buy insurance will have to pay a minimum penalty. Chief Justice Roberts' judgment is a carefully crafted judgment and is based on basic constitutional tenet i.e. all attempts should be made to uphold the law if legally possible and the court should strike down the law only as a last resort. The judgment of the chief justice also cites the original intent of the framers of the constitution-a common conservative argument to aid his argument in not utilizing the commerce clause to uphold Obama's case. For this, among other things, he interprets the commerce clauses in a typically legalistic fashion which would do a strict constructionist proud.
Justice Roberts is also extremely careful in repeatedly stating that it is not for the court to sit in judgment on the wisdom of the policy that is between the people and their representative and is actually none of the court's business. Justice Roberts saved the Obama case by calling the penalty a tax and bringing it within the power to tax that Congress has. He said that that was a possible interpretation and hence had to be utilized. He is also solicitous of a basic conservative principle of States Rights. However as Justice Roberts upheld a fundamental law initiated by a Democratic president and was opposed tooth and nail by the Republicans., the Democrats were surprised and elated and the Republicans were shocked and wondered how all this happened. However, this happened.
Chief Justice Roberts has done much to restore the credibility of the court after the partisan judgment of Bush Vs Gore (in which the Supreme Court handed the White House to George Bush) which coloured the reputation of the Supreme Court for many years. He has also made the court his own and now it can be truly called the "Chief Justice's Court".
But more importantly what is the impact all this has on the election. As soon as the judgment was passed, Governor Romney announced that the Supreme Court did not comment on the wisdom of the healthcare policies but only on their constitutionality and if he becomes president his first task will be to repeal the healthcare law. This is easier said than done. Even assuming that the Republicans take hold of the Senate they will not have a filibuster proof majority and the Democrats will not allow Obama Care to go without a fight. In the hour after the result it was announced that the Romney campaign had collected a million dollars and it is safe to assume that the conservative base is going to be all fired up.
It is up to President Obama now to take on Romney head on and staunchly defend the healthcare law which he has been avoiding all this while it caused the Republican landslide in 2010. Universal healthcare is understandably something which many presidents have previously failed to get passed and President Obama will now have to be its "chief salesman". President Obama is tied to the post of healthcare-he will sail or sink with it. He might as well give it his best shot.
But the dubbing of penalty tax by the Supreme Court will complicate his task. He will be dubbed a tax and spend liberal with the recent Supreme Court judgment President Obama's legacy is now secure. The same cannot be said of his re-election.
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)
While a 29% rainfall deficiency for June per se may look rather depressing, it is less than 5% of the average rainfall of 887mm in the monsoon and could be possibly made up for in the remaining season
The media has apparently gone totally berserk declaring the monsoon dead even as it has just arrived. Their headlines scream that June rainfall was deficient by a whopping 29% and that 83% of the country, including India's granary states of Punjab and Haryana, receiving deficient or scanty rainfall so far.
Self-titled "Food Security Analyst", Devinder Sharma of the NGO sector and founder member of Indian Against Corruption, also joined the scare mongering tamasha when he warned during an interview to a news channel, of the prospect of a negative agricultural growth rate due to a likely El Niño effect. This, Mr Sharma added, will further accentuate the downward pressure that the overall economy is currently experiencing that has seen our economic growth rate slip below the 7% levels-the first time over almost a decade!
It was left for deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia to strike a word caution to journalists:
"It's not the date of the onset of the monsoon; it's the overall level and distribution over the next four months. You can have a situation where the monsoon is absolutely on time and then it peters out. You can have a situation where the monsoon is one week late or even 10 days late, but then is healthy."
Though by academic training an economist, it is good to see Montek Singh Ahluwalia display commonsense understanding why the most frequently-used adjective used to describe the monsoon is vagaries.
As seen from the above table, June accounts on an average only 18% of the total rainfall during the south-west monsoon. The monsoon had been demonstrating a pattern change in recent times where the rainfall in June has been decreasing while that in July is increasing. Such a change in rainfall pattern is often used as 'evidence' by NGOs and environmental groups for the building their case of "catastrophic climate change".
In reality; such a change may even be beneficial for agriculture. Though such a trend may result in delayed sowing, the excess rains in July tends to leave sufficient soil moisture for standing crops to tide over even if August rainfall fails to live up to expectations. This makes the performance of July rains absolutely the key month to agriculture growth rate. It is the failure of July rains that could prove 'catastrophic' for Indian agriculture.
Rains can accordingly fail in June but if July records near normal or even above average rainfall, we can be fairly optimistic that this year's agricultural growth will end up in the green. While a 29% rainfall deficiency for June (124 mm of rainfall as compared to 163.6 mm average) may per se look rather depressing, it has to be kept in mind this had been almost less than 40% of the deficiency that the country suffered for the same month during the 2009 monsoon season-also another El Niño year.
In 2009, the June rains were a whopping 47.2% below a 50-year average called as the long period average (LPA). The 2009 El Niño was one of the strongest in recorded history and despite this, the country managed +0.4% agriculture growth rate, suggesting that through irrigation expansion over the years, the vulnerability risk of our agriculture to poor monsoons have significantly reduced. There is no reason why this year should be any different. In fact, we are better placed this year than ever to register a new bumper food record. Whatever momentum in the growth rate in agriculture lost during the Kharif season could be offset in part or whole by the expected bumper Rabi crop this year. While El Niños negatively affect the south west monsoon, it has an extremely favourable influence on the north east monsoon.
On an average, the country receives around 887 mm of rainfall during the monsoon months-June-September. A 29% deficiency for June still adds to date, just a 4.93% deficiency from 887 mm total average SWM rainfall. Such a shortfall could be possibly made up either in part or whole during the next three months of the monsoon performance. This is really the crux Montek Singh Ahluwalia tried telling journalists.
As far as agriculture is concerned, it is not even necessary for the monsoon to perform 100% of its LPA. What matters is what its performance is during the months of July-August and its spatial distribution during these two key monsoon months. While a 10% deficiency of rainfall from its mean by itself should not pose a problem to agriculture, what is more critical is its spatial distribution.
This is particularly true this year as what concerned meteorologists more is not so much the mean rainfall for the country but the alignment of the monsoon troughs. It was the alignment of the north west monsoon trough that initially (in June) posed a problem while the north-eastern bay trough was found well developed. Such a formation however was not helpful for rest of India since entire moisture gets offloaded in the area of the trough here that explains the Assam floods. But the situation now has changed.
A study published in the International Journal of Climatology in 2009, carried out by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) director BN Goswami et al showed that the monsoon is demonstrating a new pattern taking more time to reach the northern parts of the country. Instead of the normal onset date of 15th June, the onset at Nagpur is now taking place on 18th June with the Arabian Sea branch more active than the Bay of Bengal branch-the slowing of the monsoon being linked to the weakening of the wind shear. Wind shear is the difference in the wind speed at 1.5 km and at 12 km above the land surface.
While most global models have indicated a deficient monsoon (below 90% of LPA); the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)'s forecast is 96% of LPA viz. a 'normal' monsoon. Since the model error of IMD is + 5%, their forecast in reality is between 91-101% of LPA, which means, despite the 29% deficiency in June rainfall, the IMD is still very much on target. So is this blog-our revised forecast last week was 94% of LPA or between 92%-98% of LPA at 95% confidence level! We see no reason to revise this forecast further downwards. So don't rule us or the IMD out just yet. If rains fail in July, then please by all means announce the demise of this season's monsoon.