Thursday, 5 April 2012

Metro Maladies

No No! I am not beginning to criticize the most efficient public transport system India has ever been witness to. That has been a result of an amazing team which put forth a concerted effort to churn out one engineering marvel after another. The Metro rail is the life line of sorts for Delhi & Delhi NCR and it is the new symbol of pride for the proud Delhiite. 

I want to focus my thoughts on the everyday maladies of the conventional definition of metro. Yes, the metropolises of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and the latest kids on the block Bangalore, Pune & Hyderabad are in the spotlight.

Maybe malady is too intense a word but so is the situation in these mega cities.

India is a country which is 1/7th the area of the United States but with a burgeoning population which is 5 - 6 times more than the United States. We are a nation blessed with resources both natural and human. We are a democracy where the young outnumber the mature by mind - boggling figures. 

From an agrarian economy when the majority of the populace worked in the paddy and wheat fields to a  modern country with an outlook for a zesty industrial 
economy, India has witnessed a sea change. Rapid Industrialisation created a deluge of job opportunities for the youth and there was an exodus of men and women coming out of their rustic villages to the cities in search of the promised better life. 

All major cities in the world were built around sources of water. Be it a major river or the vast ocean which offered access to dozens of trade routes. Delhi and Kolkata had long running rivers which were fed by massive tributaries and Mumbai and Chennai had the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal for company.

All the four metros are gigantic cauldrons ignited by the passion of its denizens and fired by their zeal to capture the pinnacle. 

India is home to the ancient art of acrobatics where there is tight rope walking and fire eating, hanging on thin threads and flirting with danger. 

These India metros witness this circus everyday. People are always on the edge walking on tight ropes ever at risk of falling in deep to the abyss, eating fire when there is nothing else to consume and all the time trying to kiss the angel of death. 

The New Delhi Railway Station is a classic example of this. An alien to this part of town always gets lost in the  ocean of men and women. There are people from literally all parts of India rubbing shoulders here in total oblivion to the impending perils that threatens to snatch their very breaths from right under their nasal labyrinths. 

Delhi is tainted with the blood of innocents.An indelible mark as a result of years and years of ghoulish perpetration of terror by fiendish men. From the time of Ghouri, Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Abdali to the recent explosions orchestrated by deranged men of the religion, the psyche of this glorious city was mauled and maimed repeatedly. 

Yet, the stream of men, women and children that visit this one Railway station in Delhi are so exposed to acts of terror that it can only be called a miracle that the day passes on without an event for the newspapers to harp about. 

And then there is the notoriety of the traffic scenario in all of the Indian metros. So much so that it gave Barrack Obama an opportunity to squarely blame India for the energy crisis in the world! Yes, it is as bad as it sounds. 

  No doubt, the state and central governments have contributed significantly to the reinforcement of infrastructures - traffic, public, law & order etc but apparently it hasn't just been enough. 

It is surprising that Delhi which is flush with funds and where people exercise suffrage with panache, important public welfare schemes often take the back seat due to red tapism and severe lack of political will. 

Delhi is greener than it was 10 years back but it is still counted amongst the most polluted cities of the world despite the Government force switching public transportation to supposedly eco friendly CNG run 3 wheelers and buses. 

The Yamuna which is the source of the nectar of life for this magnificent city, is witnessing unprecedented inflow of untreated industrial effluents and municipal refuse. It is an alarming situation and one wonders why the government is reluctant to hard press the panic button. 

 Corporates where its employees need to undergo regular medical checkups have passed on dicta that employees based in Delhi and NCR have to undergo annual medical checkups whereas employees based in other cities have to undergo the process once every two years. Apparently it is because people based in this region are more prone to heightened levels of stress and vulnerable to lung & heart related ailments.

I am a temp when it comes to staying in Delhi. The job opportunities here abound and they are so alluring that you choose to ignore the underlying hazards of spending the prime of your youth here. 

There have been initiatives by the Government to curb pollution such as stricter enforcement of pollution control acts on erring industries, encouraging the concept of car pooling, enhancing the city's green cover and setting water treatment plants across to provide clean & safe drinking 
water for Delhiites. 

Delhi Police is one of the world's best crime busting forces and it has been empowered by acts and laws to maintain law & order in one of India's most notorious regions. 

Crime has always been playing havoc in Delhi NCR and there seems to very little regards to respecting the law of the land. Kangaroo courts operate fearlessly in areas as close as 50 - 60 km to the national capital. These village courts pass their own judgments and openly challenge the authority of the nation's apex judicial body.

Each and every person who has ever flipped a newspaper would have come across reports of the draconian laws that are the order of the day in areas 'governed' by these kangaroo courts. There has been very little intervention from the concerned authorities despite a lot of hue and cry raised by many amnesty groups and other free lancers who uphold the right to equal justice. 

Delhi is in the cusp of the old world darkness and the monstrosity of unbridled growth. It is for time to see that Delhi eases itself into softer hands that can protect it from the proverbial harshness. 

The authorities have been blinking every now and then and it is always the hapless that bear the brunt of anti social elements, pollutants and the tenets of a hellish countryside judiciary. 

Instead of focusing on the large scale poverty and wide prevailing abomination of men without a roof above their heads, the Indian Government made a silly joke of itself by stepping down into subterfuge mode. It hosted the common wealth games which was mired in controversy and scandal. The tax payer's money was embezzled by fraudulent politicos, bureaucrats and so called entrepreneurs posing as genuine service providers. The authorities no doubt conjured up a story and threw a scape - goat into the jails. The games were declared a 'grand' success. 

 They say public memory is as small as a seed and the nation has put its foot forward choosing to forget the bitter past as a bad case of hiccups. We have obviously moved on to bigger & badder scams that make the CWG scam look like a midget. 

Delhiites may please pardon me for throwing up so much dirt in the air. I also find it my moral responsibility to state that the other metros are in no better position. They have their own woes of infrastructure, uncontrolled migration from the cities i.e. an extremely dynamic demography, pollution, traffic, city planning, law & order, crime. 

A nation is made by its people. It only reflects the moods, attitudes, psychology and values of its citizens. It is like pure water which takes the shape of its carrier and adapts the colour of the ink that is dropped into it. The water is potable is taken care of and turns to poison if abused. 

I think as responsible men the onus of bringing in the change we so desire is in our very own hands. As a people, we Indians need to completely refurbish our understanding of things we take so easily for granted. 

Bill Gates once described Indians and Chinese as the smartest races on the planet and we know it is a fact. No wonder millions of Indians across the globe have carved a niche for themselves and brought it in great laurels for their motherland. 

As I said earlier, India is just 65 years young and it is still in its adolescence when it is hard to dichotomize good and bad. We are still learning and we will emerge out of the mess bright and shining. 

Somebody said - India Shining! some time back. True, it will, only we need to blow off the dust clouding its sheen & splendor. 

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.
I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.

Abraham Lincoln 

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