Thursday, December 9, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Editorial by Vinita Deshmukh (Intelligent Pune August 13-19.
At the nucleus of the uproar over the Common Wealth Games (CWG) preparations is unaccountability, lack of transparency, high-handedness, brazen financial irregularities, cost overruns due to lack of planning and sub-standard infrastructural development works due to racing against time and damning Comptroller of Accounts General (CAG) Report that has been ignored. Does this ring a familiar bell? Yes it does - for another such magnum opus is theDelhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC’s) ambitious metro rail projects across the country.
If Suresh Kalmadi is the unquestionable and authoritarian one-man figure for the CWG, then E Sreedharan is his equally high-handed counterpart as the head of the DMRC who is lorded over by parliamentarians, in almost unison.
Any serious flaws in the construction of the Delhi Metro, in fact any negative news about it is slyly pushed under the carpet. Its attempt to replicate its model in plus million cities, without any homework on the impact on them due to their different nature in terms or geography, demography, the existing transport and so on, is full of holes, yet is trumpeted as infallible. Pune Metro is a shameful example of how, DMRC has made a haphazard DPR (Detailed Project Report) and the bureaucracy and politicians at the highest level in the city, state and atthe centre, have accepted it blindly, refusing to listen to the horrendous flaws pointed out by experts and citizens.
The CWG disaster-in-the-making sprouted because the British government sought explanation to allegations made that a substantial sum of 4.50 lakh pounds was transferred to a little known U K company, A M Films, from the Games Organising Committee (OC). This one-man show company is also receiving 25,000 pounds a month. Otherwise, all wrong-doings of disastrous scale, as have now been exposed would have been kept a guarded secret, never mind if later a stadium was to collapse and kill people.
Kalmadi is clearly not as lucky as E Sreedharan.
In the case of the Rs.450 billion Delhi Metro project, the CAG report has pointed to thequestionable standards of construction. Tragic accidents have taken place during Delhi Metroconstruction due to cutting costs and caring two hoots for safety regulations, but no fingers have been pointed at the culprits responsible for this unpardonable tragedies. Last July five workers and a site engineer were killed and a dozen injured during the work of the elevated Central Secretariat-Badlapur line near Lady Shriram College in South Delhi as the girder above crashed down bringing down with it the viaduct. Despite this tragedy, the CAG Report was not discussed in parliament. Reason? DMRC has been given such uncalled for monopoly that it does not come under any ministry, so no ministry was ready to take it up. It’s a way to hush up things and let the scoundrels scot-free to repeat even more monumental errors.
E Sreedharan is free to work the way he wants and not be accountable to expenditure of any amount of public money. Like the CWG which shockingly rents computers and other accessories at exorbitant amounts, DMRC too had flown the imported Delhi Metro coaches by air – one can only imagine how costly air-lifting of these coaches must have been which has been paid through our money, but Sreedharan is praised for completing the task in a record time.
What’s shocking is that DMRC has been allocated huge public funds, unprecedented in thehistory of our nation for infrastructural projects and yet it is not answerable to the government or to the public. Can you imagine the implication of such freedom which is being undertaken with gross irresponsibility? Lets take the case of the railway tunnel built on the Kalka-Shimla Railway line during the British Raj sometime in early 1900s. A British railway engineer Barog who was in charge of the tunnel made the mistake of digging the tunnel from both ends simultaneously but the twain did not meet at the ends due to wrong alignment. The British government penalised him for a handsome sum of Re.1 for wasting public money. Humiliated, Barog committed suicide by shooting himself. The name of this tunnel is Barog Tunnel and is made one kilometre away by another British engineer, H. S. Harington with the help of a local sadhu, Bhalku.
After six decades of attaining freedom, the government does not have the guts and the moral responsibility of punishing high placed politicians and bureaucrats even if they have been directly or indirectly involved in wastage of thousands of crores of public money. In the same vein, politicians and bureaucrats too have become so morally corrupt that they would probably poke at the Barog tunnel story, if told to them.
The CAG report on the DMRC point to shocking revelations but no action taken.Some of them are: no records of minutes and justification for decisios;no regulations for safety standards followed; no documentation/manuals for systems; no policy directive of management controls by the urban development ministry; high fares resulting in lesser riderships; noise levels above permissible standards; premature wear and cracking of wheels and metro track affecting safety and reducing life of this rolling stock to below 30 years; more than 50 per cent of bids exceeding project estimates and that too without finance concurrence; audits show major irregularities in evaluation and acceptance of contracts; audits point out major irregularities in payment to contactors giving non-contractual benefits to hem; abysmal testing standards; land acquisition in excess of requirements; property development contracts accepted in uncompetitive bidding at abnormally high prices.
Sounds so much like a CWG controversy-in-making? Well, Kalmadi and Sreedharan represent thetarnished face of our government which has stooped low in principles, ethics and governance. Can there be a change? Only peoples’ revolution can help - most of who are callously watching the murder of our Nation, within their cosy drawing rooms.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I have penned my first book titled `To The Last Bullet' by Vinita Kamte with Vinita Deshmukh. I have written it in first person account of Vinita Kamte. She is the wife of Ashok Kamte, one of the most outstanding police officers of India, who died in the Mumbai Terror attack of 26/11 last year. The book is a gripping story of his chequered and inspiring life and provides shocking details of circumstances that led to his death. She has invoked the Right To Information Act to procure vital Call Log records which reveal shocking details of the final hours of her husband Ashok Kamte in which the other two equally brilliant officers, Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar were killed. The book is available online: http://www.a1books.co.in/homepage.do
Thursday, June 4, 2009
sorry for being absent for so long but finally finally all of you can read Intelligent Pune on the web though it will be one issue old (otherwise my print circulation will drop).
So pl visit www.intelligentpune.org and would love to have your feedback.
at the moment it is a basic site but will soon add blogs etc. Vimal, pl makes suggestions
cheers and warm rgds
Thursday, February 26, 2009
by Vinita Deshmukh
Intelligent Pune weekly tabloid, Feb 27
Amitabh Bachchan thrashed Slumdog Millionaire saying it has “projected India as a third-world, dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots. Let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. It’s just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition.’’
That’s no excuse to looking straight into the movie, introspecting even long after you have seen it and admitting that all of us `haves’ feel rich and prosperous in this country, by looking through the plight of `have-nots’ who are in equally large number in this country. In Mumbai itself, nearly 50 per cent of citizens live in slums but occupy barely 8 per cent of the living space. In Pune too, 40 per cent of the population are slum dwellers. However, due to our wrong interpretation of Karmic philosophy that the sinners are born `poor’, we can drive without apparent guilt in our high end cars through slums - at best sneer at this pathetic neighbourhood for the stench they emanate, feel disgusted for the congestion they create and paradoxically feel triumphant and lucky in our minds about our affluence and the comfortable/luxurious surroundings we live in.
`Slumdog Millionaire’ has awakened the truth of the real Urban India candidly, without any exaggeration. While Bollywood mostly portrays a dazzling picture of life in the name of entertainment and page 3 epitomises this pompous lifestyle, `Slumdog’ hits the very conscience of every educated and prosperous Indian – I, mean, it should. That, it is evoking disdain not only from Big B, whose millions of fans who consider him as God live in that squalour but also many better off citizens of this country, proves that, an insensitive and arrogant frame of mind is second nature to most educated and well-to-do Indians.
We think, living in affluent housing socieites and bungalows means rubbing shoulders with status and class. However, `Slumdog’ hits the bull’s eye and tells you who you are actually rubbing shoulders with. A few examples (some unrelated to the movie) could be – you see a blind or maimed child beggar – through your car window – ever thought how inhumanly he could have been de-capacitated? Your wallet is pick-pocketed at the railway station or your shoes disappear from a public place. Ever thought who these thieves could be? You see mounds of garbage and streets full of litter? Ever thought it comes from our better-off neighbourhoods which can afford to buy all that is wrapped in plastic? We only hold ivory tower discussions of religious intolerance – ever thought how vulnerable slum dwellers are to this and the emotional and traumatic scars those children undergo?
So much like in the movie, we do not want to admit that a slum dweller can have an intellect and would instead like to frame him as a `cheater’ (like in the movie). We love to sabotage the poor becoming rich – like Kapoor attempted in the movie, as the host of `Who wants to be a milliionaire.’ We want the poor to be poor so that we can feel and live rich. The most stark example I came across is this – many affluent neighbourhoods in Pune do not want rag pickers – they spoil the look of the areas through their collection of non-biodegrable garbage in sacks on roadsides, they say. Worse, some said that `with domestic scrap selling business to the tune of Rs.12 crore per year (in Pune), why should the rag picker get it all free?’’
The wall of separation begins from childhood. Rich schools do not want poor children – they are protesting against the new education bill which makes it mandatory to have 25 per cent poor children in every class. Rich children are told that only parents who cannot afford it, send their children to schools on cycles. Rich children are told that parents who cannot afford education abroad, have to toil for scholarship, thus demeaning merit. Servants in rich houses are asked to call even a toddler of the rich family as `didi’ `dada.’ Rich kids can be seen abusing their servants in public gardens. Rich and influential people get `VIP’ darshan in public temples, at the expense of enormous inconvenience to a common devotee, who too comes with all devotion and obeisance. Rich kids grow up with the right of feeling superior – drivers, newspaperwallas, maids, plumbers, electricians, dhoba, chowkidar, kachrewali – all of who are indispensable to portray their prosperity, are treated as non-entities. Rich kids are not given lessons in social equality – they are busy being pampered with materialistic values and pleasures. How can they grow up with sensitivity to every strata of society?
Thus, Big B’s argument that such squalour exists in western countries and is hidden from public eye, holds no water at all. Because the fact is, it exists here just next to you. Unless we (individuals and government authorities) look at every slumdog as a human being who needs a life of dignity just as we, do, we will continue to brush off movies like `Slumdog Millionaire’ as a mode of sadistic pleasure of the rich nations.
Thank you Danny Boyle (director) and Vikas Sapru (bureacrat and original author) for opening our eyes though many would prefer to further close them. Sadism alone cannot get you Oscars – surely the message of human survival and the triumph in inhuman surroundings has pierced every heart!
Friday, February 13, 2009
check out the news item on St Valentine's Day written in the January 19, 1926 newspaper of The Times. http://archive.timesonline.co.uk/tol/viewArticle.arc?pageId=ARCHIVE-The_Times-1926-01-19-15&articleId=ARCHIVE-The_Times-1926-01-19-15-016
Happy Valentine's Day