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No beating about the bush.
For four times the distance and costs less than one-fifth and the fact that there are other amenities the government/municipality needs to finance, it is quite straight forward answer to the question “Is Metro Rail not the answer for India’s urban transportation
“India is urbanizing rapidly”, a phrase we have been hearing for some time. What does that mean in reality? It means people with low levels of civic amenities they were accustomed to in rural settings have to cope up with overloaded higher level civic amenities in urban settings. Although there are several kinds of civic amenities and services that provide better quality of life in rural settings from fulfilment of basic necessities, the aspirations of human intellect and avenues to reach them is available in urban setting. Urban setting also ensures certainty of livelihood for which people move over to urban areas from rural settings.
India has two cities with population more than 10 million (one crore) now termed as mega cities. In fact we must talk of urban agglomerates (UAs) and we have in India three UAs. There are four other UAs with population more than 4 million (40 lakh) called metro cities. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad are all 40 lakh plus cities, with Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata termed as mega cities. Pune is on the verge of becoming a metro city. There are several cities, almost touching 35 in number, which are a million plus. There are six UAs holding between 2 million and 4 million people.
Although travel for socializing and entertainment do exist, daily travelling or commuting to work and livelihood forms the main travel load in our cities. With physical spread along with growth in population in these cities, average travel distances do keep increasing. Commensurate with earnings of citizens of a particular city, there is a land use pattern that evolves organically to enable poorer sections to walk or cycle to work and the not-so-poor to take to motorized two wheelers (M2Ws) or public transport. Only the affluent own and use motor cars. Ordinarily, the million plus cities have 20% to 30% of its population using bicycles. M2W user and motor car user proportion is also not very small in these four million less cities because these cities do not have any public transport worth the name, or not at all, and the distances travelled daily are not unaffordable.
Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation since 1992, no doubt has resulted in growing gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita incomes, but so has inflation in recent years not remained low either.
With growing urban sprawl, it may appear that the average travel distances would keep increasing. But the reality is non-availability of affordable housing to poorer sections of society whereby the growth of slums have taken place. Mumbai’s slum population hovers around 55% and Bengaluru’s is growing from 8% in 2001 census to about 30% in 2011 census. Transportation, too, needs to be affordable financially as well as from travel time point of view.
The ideal situation is mixed land use, but keeping hazardous and polluting industries and activities segregated from residential and commercial areas. Residential areas, too, must have adequate proportion of accommodation for the poor who serve the affluent in different ways. Most situations of Indian cities have this characteristic. This makes reasonably short average travel distances for commuting.
Take the case of Mumbai where 57% of its population lives within 3 km from their place of work; 69% within 5 km; 81% within 10 km and 89% within 15 km. There is another statistics that matches with this. 44% of people in Mumbai go to work by foot, without using any motorised or non-motorised modes. 3.1% using bicycles out number 2.8% using motor cars. 22% use the suburban railway and 16% use the road public transport. About 3.5% use the intermediate transport such as auto-rickshaws and taxis, leaving 8.5% who use motorised two wheelers.
All over India, the population of M2Ws is increasing at a phenomenal rate due to its operating competitiveness from economy and convenience point of view in comparison to the road public transport. With growing income levels and inadequate public transport, even the motor car population and usage is on the rapid rise mode.
To counter the trend as this growth of personal vehicle usage will lead to considerable air and noise pollution, the National Urban Transport Policy gives directive to improve public transport. But the aspirations of people are whetted by sleek marketing and attractive financial packages for motorised vehicles. Similarly, the aspirations of cities have been raised to wanting to proudly boast of having a Metro Rail and Monorail. Are such whetting good for the cities is the question. Let us look at the Metro Rail.
With about 20% of Metro lines underground, the average cost of Metro per kilometre is being stated to be Rs250 crore while it works out to more than Rs400 cr/km in Mumbai. If we consider that every 40 million plus city in India is having an aspiration of having a Metro Rail, that each city is about 25 x 25 kilometre, each of these metro cities will have about 50 km of Metro Rail. This would mean total length of Metro Rail will come to about 50 x 4 = 200 km. At an average cost of Rs250 cr/km, the total sum these four metro cities will come to Rs50,000 crore. Nearly 350 km of Delhi Metro, 150 km of Mumbai Metro and 300 km of Metro Rail in Mumbai Metropolitan region and similarly 150 km in Kolkata will bring the investment to the tune of Rs3,25,000 crore.
Unfortunately, for the Metro Rail line to be able to attract commuters commensurate with its carrying capacity, especially to be utilized to justify such high investment, one will have to provide a network of feeder road public transport services or intermediate public transport services and car parking spaces. If that be the case, what tangible benefits would the Metro Rail provide that a Bus Rapid Transit System cannot, is the question one would like to have an answer to? A BRTS will cost up to Rs15 cr/km and can provide capacities high enough not to be considered just a provider of feeder service to Metro Rail but be a competing transportation mode on its own right. Since cities comprise properties and accesses i.e. land and road network, it is a natural corollary to have buses run on them with priority to enable large number of people to cover larger distances; for medium distances bicycles and for short distances, walking as modes of mobility. Running buses with priority means a system of Bus Rapid Transit. Thus, even if we provide not 1,150 km in 2 million plus UAs but say 4,600 km of BRTS in all these 2 million plus UAs, it would cost just about Rs60,000 crore as against 1,150 km of Metro Rail’s Rs3,25,000 crore. And what do we get for this? We get four times the length of a bus service as that of Metro Rail length, in a way covering much larger area and there by serve larger number of people, at costs one-fifth of Metro Rail costs.
When cities get good mobility, there is bound to be economic growth. If city gets into a ‘jam’ over a long period, can there be any significant economic growth and thereby improvement in quality of life?
And let us not forget that with Metro Rail projects moving at super-snail’s pace, as we see it happening in Mumbai and Bengaluru, all that we will be dong is keep pouring money and not get any relief. Let us also realise that while India is rapidly getting urbanized, it is happening in Tier II and Tier III cities. The Government of India is seriously planning to put up a Metro Rail network in cities with more than 20 lakh (2 million plus) population. This will only raise the aspirations of these cities on the wrong track, achieve nothing for their majority inhabitants. The investment is enormous and it will be possible only at the cost of adding to the misery of rest of India.
While we have confined arguments to transportation and specifically Metro Rail, a city has to provide amenities and services such as water supply, sewage disposal, walkable footpaths, non-motorised vehicle lanes, medical infrastructure, education, playgrounds, gardens, recreation grounds, fire-fighting, public health and what have you. When large sums get spent on transportation sector, where from does one generate funds for the other amenities and services?
Does the question “Is Metro Rail not the answer for India’s Urban Transportation?” find an answer above?
(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 [email protected])
The future of the world depends on a new change in schooling system, thus ushering in an era of sharing, caring and universal compassion—the true religion for the masses
"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.” -- Rabindranath Tagore
Life is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ceaseless change till death. “Anything that does not change does not come under the definition of science” wrote a federal judge in the US while delivering his judgment in a dispute between the Creationists and Scientists. Human life history is the story of the evolution of this Universe itself. If one wants to understand the nature of Nature one has just got to understand human nature which is a miniscule of this universe itself. We are obsessed with science today. The word science brings goose-pimples on many of us. Indian schools do not seem to have changed ever since the East India Company destroyed our ancient school system some time in the early 19th century. There have, of course, been some cosmetic changes in that schools today have become big corporate businesses and they have also got a bit of American flavor. However, the philosophy of feeding the young creative minds with useless dead information seems to be our goal. Rote learning for getting grades is the order of the day. Grades should make wealthy careers at the end of the day is the philosophy accepted by the greedy parents as also the powers that be in the educational system, and some of the powerful industrial honchos who see nothing wrong in education being a big business.
The vital part of education, which is to try and make healthy minds, is all but lost in this milieu. Our education, especially the primary one, which matters a lot, is, therefore, unscientific by definition, as it has not changed. The aforementioned federal judge would have declared our educational system as a religion, which I think it is slowly becoming by Karl Marx’s opinion that a religion is the “opium of the people”. The actual complete quote from 1843-44 Karl Marx’s book Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right is more nuanced, though. Marx did not ridicule religion by this statement; rather he thought that religion is an extension of his own thinking. He goes on to say that: “To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions”. That was in a way Marx’s own opium in one sentence since the “human essence has not acquired any true reality”. Yet instead of the crude opium reference there is that beautifully poetic conclusion “of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo”. To call upon our present school system bosses to change would be exactly like what Marx felt about asking for change in his times. Spirituality—sharing and caring—is not only the essence of all religions but also the ageless wisdom of man, which has very little to do with ritualistic religions.
Science today tells us that the world began with the Big Bang. I wonder if there was a big bang or a small whimper! For 750 million long years, they say, that there was no life on earth. The first life came as a single cell which could do all that you and I can do today-breathe, eat, excrete, think, and work. That stage went on for more than a trillion and half years when these single cell individuals wisely thought that it is better to get together as a colony to work more efficiently with least expense. They had a fertile brain in their cell wall (membrane), called the memBrain by a famous cell biologist, Bruce Lipton. They could sense their environment through antennae in their cell walls, their brain, called Integral Membrane Proteins (IMPs). These could make the cells come alive to the environment (universal consciousness) to have own their individual consciousness. Figuratively life gets born then like your actors on the TV screen. When that antenna does not get the message (when you switch off your TV) life ebbs out just as the TV actor dies when the switch goes off. The consciousness gets into, may be another cell immediately after that- life again. So death is only a part of life and not its end! Thus the human body is a happy colony of 50 trillion individual cells.
Why did the single free-floating cells come together then? They, in their wisdom, realized that they are better off and stronger if they came together in larger groups as they could expand their individual consciousnesses many fold by increasing the IMPs exponentially! How wise of them? As time passed they realised that each one of them need not do all the work that needs to be done. They could share their responsibilities. Some cell groups inside the body became what we call today organs doing specific tasks more efficiently. But they did not lose sight of the fact that they were all functionally identical even when they morphologically different to fit that organ e.g. brain looking after overseeing the total function of locomotion, etc. In this new role they found that they could care for others better. Thus evolved the philosophy of spirituality—sharing and caring! Body cells therefore love one another. This could be seen under the electron-microscope in disease conditions. In a fresh fracture site the red blood cells in the clot could gradually change to pluri-potent stem cells to heal the fracture eventually! Same cells but different work. These endogenous stem cells are our best doctors in all disease states.
Education, therefore, should teach the young mind that it is in sharing and caring that the world can go on for good. Our grading system, on the contrary, puts negative thoughts of greed, hatred, jealousy, anger and pride into that innocent, creative, loving, and compassionate mind of a child. Scientific studies have shown that if students in a class with varied levels of intelligence could be taught the principles of collective compassionate sharing efforts they all get high grades in the final examination! This is conducive to good health as well since body cells enjoy working together, anyway. Health is defined today as “enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate.” Those who do not have either or both of those are really sick! In that definition society as a whole is becoming sick today with no compassion. Recent noise about “Wall Street” greed is but a sign of that universal sickness that is overtaking our present society; rather it is the corporate greed that would eventually destroy all God-given resources of nature. The root cause for this disease is the wrong type of primary education that turns a universally compassionate, creative, God-like child into a greedy, angry, proud man/woman who joins the rat race to acquire money, power and parking lots! The future of the world depends on a new change in schooling system, thus ushering in an era of sharing, caring and universal compassion—the true religion for the masses.
“Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making and character-making assimilation of ideas.” -- Swami Vivekananda.
(Professor Dr BM Hegde was awarded a Padma Bhushan in 2010. Prof Dr Hegde has a string of degrees to his credit like MD, PhD, FRCP (Lond, Edin, Glasg, & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, Chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected])
Three years have passed by since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in which the country's three most brilliant police officers, Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar were killed. Despite Mr Kamte's wife Vinita establishing through call log records procured under the RTI Act, the negligence of the Police Control Room which clearly led to the unfortunate tragedy, no action has been taken against those guilty for it
Call log records procured from the Mumbai Police under the RTI Act proved that negligence in communication by the Control Room to officers on Ground Zero at Cama Hospital on the Mumbai terror night of 26 November 2008, led to the unfortunate loss of lives of India's three brilliant police officers—Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar. Vinita Kamte, wife of Late Ashok Kamte, who established this fact, was made to run from pillar to post to procure vital information from Mumbai Police under the RTI Act. An account worth rewinding three years after the terror attack as it reflects the tenacity of an individual to challenge a government system interested only in cover-ups. It also establishes that come what may, the government will support its officers who showed no sense of duty during such circumstances, for allegedly its own vested interest. It also, at the same time, reminds one of the immense powers of the RTI Act. It will also serve as an inspiration to others who are treated with contempt by the government in maintaining secrecy of information which is rightly the affected citizen’s! It also proves that you must have a dogged determination to pursue your RTI application and not expect replies to fall into your lap, at the first go.
Why did Vinita Kamte invoke the RTI Act?
Because, after her husband, Ashok Kamte, additional commissioner, eastern region, Mumbai was killed along with anti-terrorist squad chief Hemant Karkare and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, the press statements given by the Mumbai Police and the state government implied they foolishly came together and died, without giving a fight. The popular statements being: “We don’t know how they went together'”, “they met there fortuitously (by chance) (as stated by the superficial Ram Pradhan Committee Report, too)” and “they did not understand the gravity of the situation.”'
Being a senior police officer’s wife, she first directly contacted Mumbai Police
28 January 2009: She wrote a letter to the commissioner of police, Mumbai, requesting for Ashok’s call log records on both the mobile networks—Motorola and Ericsson. This would establish the communication between the Control Room and the mobile phones of Ashok Kamte.
31 January 2009: Vinita receives a reply from the Mumbai Police Commissioner stating that the joint commissioner of police has been “directed to take further necessary action in the matter”. However, Vinita waited for a month but she got no response after which she was compelled to use the RTI Act.
4 March 2009: Vinita files a RTI application with the Public Information Officers (Assistant Commissioner of Police, Co-ordination) at the Commissioner of Police office, Mumbai. She requests certified copies of call log records (wireless) in both the written form as well as audio transcripts.
4 April 2009: Quite predictably, the PIO rejects the application citing Section 8 (h) which states that information can be denied as “information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders”. The PIO had also enclosed a letter by joint CP Rakesh Maria which stated, “Please reject the information sought by Mrs Vinita Kamte under the RTI Act. The information cannot be given to her under Sec 8 (h) of the said Act.”'
29 April 2009: Vinita files first an appeal with the appellate authority, deputy commissioner of police, SM Sabade.
25 May 2009: Mr Sabade orders that the PIO was wrong in rejecting her request of call log records without applying his mind as to why he is doing so and has depended solely on Mr Maria’s letter which also does not specify the reason for rejection. He states that Mr Kamte and the other officers had laid down their lives for the country and it was wrong to reject Mrs Kamte’s request on baseless grounds. However, in his order he allowed only inspection of records and denied Photostat copies/CDs of the same. This was in total contradiction of the RTI Act which gives the right to the citizen to procure copies.
3 June 2009: Nevertheless, Vinita’s twin sister, Revati Dere who is an established advocate at the Bombay High Court and who helped Vinita immensely in analyzing the call log records went for inspection nevertheless. After keeping her waiting for quite a while, a sub inspector put before her some loose sheets which were Photostat copies of the written call log records. When Revati demanded that she would like to inspect the original call log records. She was told that they were handed over to the Ram Pradhan Committee Report. He asked them to come on 6th June by which time he will get the original documents.
8 June 2009: Revati was told that the originals were not as yet procured.
9 June 2009: Vinita wrote to the members of the Ram Pradhan Committee report requesting that, since the work of the Commission is over, could they send back the original call log records back to the Mumbai police as she would like to inspect them under RTI.
11 June 2009: Shockingly, V Balchandran, member of the Ram Pradhan Committee replied via email stating that the committee had received only the certified copies of the call log records—which meant, the Mumbai Police had not provided the original call log records to them. On the same day, Vinita wrote to the Commissioner of Police regarding this issue.
12 June 2009: Mumbai Police suddenly realizes it needs to consult its legal department over the order given by the Appellate Authority Mr Sabade in allowing inspection of call log records. Isn’t this a joke?
7 July 2009: Mr Prasad stated to Vinita that legal advice was already sought and again told Vinita she could only ‘see'’ the documents and not have Photostat copies.
20 July 2009: Vinita wrote to Mr Prasad saying that while she will go ahead and ‘see'’ the records, she reserves the right to go into second appeal to have copies.
29 and 30 July 2009: Vinita sends her representatives for inspection of call log records but they were not shown the originals. Even the audio call log records shown were dated 6th January, a month and a half after the incident, so certainly not the original recording.
4 August 2009: Vinita files a separate RTI application seeking call log records, written and audio, made to Police Control Room no 100 on the night of 26/11. Her application was rejected on 4th September on flimsy grounds. She filed the first appeal to the first appellate authority and received the same reply after several months.
21 August 2009: Vinita files a second appeal to the state chief information commissioner seeking the original copies of the call logs, both written and audio.
15 October 2009: The state chief information commissioner, Mumbai allowed her appeal and directed Mumbai Police to give her certified copies of the original call log records—written and audio—within 30 days. That’s how she finally got her information.
What was the scandalous information she got from these call log records?
So, what happened despite such hard-hitting evidence brought forward by Vinita? Nothing. Officers who showed utter negligence have been promoted. Four additional commissioners, who have survived being posted in Mumbai for 20 years or more, ran away from duty that night, as stated later by the Mumbai police commissioner, but no action has been taken against them. If it was the Army, they would have faced court martial!
Can we expect good and competent officers to come forward in case of another such terror attack? Probably not, considering the treatment given to these three officers who decided to lead in the front, rather than give it all in the hands of constables and junior police officers who were not equipped to handle AK-47s, leave alone operate them. And yet, they were criticized of ineptness, posthumously.
(Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected])