Monday, October 16, 2017

Bangalore Rains – Water and Potholes Everywhere

Almost every day, especially in the evening, heavy rains are hitting the city. This is supposed to be a moment of happiness after longs years to draughts and dwindling water table. Before rains, huge number of bore wells were running dry. People dug to such an extent that, even magma may start coming out. However, what is supposed to be happy moment turned out to become a disastrous one when low quality roads coupled with bad design crumpled under the pressure of downpour.

Pot holes suddenly became much bigger. In many pleases there were hardly any roads. Thanks to bad design, water clogged at the beginning of flyovers, in underpasses etc. Basements of buildings which are constructed below ground level were flooded with water. Many service roads and other connecting roads lost most of their blacktop and became storm water drainages. Needless to say, this created a nightmare for drivers especially bikers. Even major arteries lost lot of black top and many parts of it became non-navigable.

Major reason for this havoc is not rains, its bad quality of road construction and design of public infrastructure. As rains became a rare phenomenon in previous years, quality of roads went down significantly. To an extent this was compensated by frequent maintenance. Roads doesn’t last long but frequent maintenance kept things under carpet. Commuters were angrier about blocks than quality of road.

This time rain exposed the real strength of public infrastructure in Bangalore. We don’t need any cyclone but a fortnight’s heavy rain is enough to bring this city to a halt.

Problems are not limited to roads and flyovers. Lakes are filled with industrial water and it vomits white forms and foul smell. Water in lakes like Agara, Vurthur etc are untouchable for all practical purposes. It was courts which pulled up the administration to do something with lakes. Now due to rain focus moved towards roads and people are going to forget lakes for a while. I am sure, a massive infrastructure revamp will happen after rains. Lots of roads will be widened, re-tarred etc. I am also sure that, hardly anyone is going to check the quality of those work products. Hardly anyone is going to care about its design. BWSSB and private parties are going to dig up the road wherever they need going to leave a mess behind.

Sajeev 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

An Adult Individual's right to Marry

Hadiya's case is the latest in the series of love jihad-related events. We are not going to check the merits or demerits of other cases, as it is not relevant to this scenario. The question here is, whether Kerala High court went overboard in annulling the marriage of Hadiya (aka Akhila) with Shafin Jahan.

Main points here are, Constitution of India allows willing adults to marry. Second thing is, constitution also allows people to believe in any region they choose. Of course, there are some conditions. But, in this case, Hadiya (aka Akhila) is an adult and also stated that their marriage is not a forced one. As far as the media reports go, she is psychologically sound. In addition to that, as per her own statement, she accepted Islam willingly. Hence, she is within her rights to marry a person of her choice and change religion. Which implies, the high court decision was not correct.

Love jihad may be real or imaginary. Even if it’s real, then also I don’t think courts have the right to annul a marriage unless husband (and)or wife submit a request for the same. Hope that Supreme Court will correct HC judgment.

For background stories and other details please read the links given in references section.

Sajeev.

References

1. Her journey from Akhila to become Hadiya - IE
2. The Jurisprudential Conundrum Of Hadiya Case - LiveLaw
3. Activists Write to Kerala CM, Women’s Commission on Hadiya Case - TheWire
4. Ruckus halts SC hearing on Hadiya case - The Hindu

Better to Stay away from investing in ‘Mattala International’ Airport

Check-in Counters, Photo by Anuradha Dullewe Wijeyeratne
China’s One Belt One Road(OBOR) is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever initiated by any country. Probably its only rival may be Marshall Plan for post-world war reconstruction of Western Europe. India is not comfortable with it, as OBOR also sets up transportation points (which may be used in future for military purpose as well) across Indian ocean. More importantly the USD 48bn CPEC corridor pass through Pak Occupied part of J & K (PoK).

It’s not that OBOR is a smooth success everywhere. It ran to trouble in Sri Lanka, where Chinese built seaport-airport complexes at Hambantota during the reign of Chinese friendly Rajapaksa regime. Discussions are also on for a refinery and investment zone. The main attraction of Hambantota is its closeness international shipping routes. China is running Hambantota seaport with a 99-year lease and proposing 6000 hectares investment zone. If realized, this will be the largest of such project in Sri Lanka.

Now India is proposing to invest in an international airport at Mattala near Hambantota. On paper, it looks like a good decision. After all, we are going to sit next to Chinese projects; getting a bigger footprint in Sri Lanka, from where India was practically out during the reign of Rajapaksa.

But on the ground, there are bigger problems. This international airport is also dubbed as the emptiest international airport in the world. Built almost nowhere, this project was opposed by a government agency in the beginning itself. Now hardly any flights come to this airport. Major visitors to this airport are wild animals. Approach road is already taken over by cattle. In 2016, 300+ soldiers, police officers were deployed to clear the airport from wild animals.

In addition to that, Rajapaksa wing is protesting against Indian control of Mattala airport. They call it as handing over national assets to India which is nothing but a big white elephant. In such a situation do we really need to invest, which is nothing but a wastage of money and other resources? Our desire to counter rising Chinese influence in the immediate neighborhood should not result in owning a white elephant.

Chinese outlay for OBOR is good. To an extent all Chinese investments are safe. Everything is in the form of loans to countries; not development assistance or grants. Interest rates are also not so low. All those countries at some point in the future will face difficulties in servicing the loan. Sri Lanka is already facing it. We can help Sri Lanka, and we should help; but not by investing in white elephants like Mattala airport.

Sajeev

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Guns and blood red roses – A disaster which could have averted

Everyday when I go out, there is one thing I am sure about. Whatever happens, there is hardly any chance to encounter anyone who empty out bullets on unknown strangers in the street. Even during heated arguments or on trips to other places I am safe. Maximum people may hit me or cause some physical injuries but there is little chance that I may have to face people roaming around with automatic guns. British during Raj (even though it was for their own good) practically made firearms out of the reach of common people. Independent India made it more difficult to for her citizens to get weapons. It is another matter that that even the police are using guns of stone age!!!

What make Las Vegas shooting spree a tragedy is, US administration fails to do what that they should have been done decades back. Why a common citizen, whose rights are backed by one of the most formidable judicial system and police force in the world want to roam around with guns? That too with those sophisticated automatic weapons which most Police forces around the world never used. 
Why it is still a right for a person to carry guns provided the fact that, he/she in a bad rage can take it out and unleash unspeakable horror. Terrorists can easily get their hands-on weapons. Gangsters won’t have any trouble in getting their toys. Why common people are forced to live in under the shadow of fear?

It’s ironic that, even after sacrificing so many precious lives; USA as a country, is yet to learn basics. As David Hemenway of Harvard pointed out, since 1970 more Americans died due to gun violence than all Americans who died due to all wars in American history right from American revolution. Everyday some 92 Americans die due to guns. Remember these people are not victims of some disease which don’t have a cure, not victims of terrorists, not victims of natural calamity… but victims of an item and an idea which don’t have a place in modern society. The earlier US administration and Senate recognize it, the better. If you can’t ban it outright, then at last make it very difficult to buy.

Sajeev

Referencs

Sunday, July 2, 2017

PSLV – Another Milestone

PSLV, Photo Courtesy - ISRO

When it comes to technology we don’t have many things to proud about. When I talk to others, they often boast about India 5000 years back; which of course is more of a story than a verifiable history. There may be lot of things existed 5000 years ago, we may be far ahead of the world at that time; but two problems are associated with these types of claims. 1. It’s not fully verifiable and 2. Its 5000 years ago. No one talks about 30 or 50 years back.


However, there are a couple of institutions which kept Indian flag flying high in technical arena. One such institution is ISRO. Most of the missions of ISRO are successful and economical; fulfilling the dreams of a country (other countries and universities as well) by providing an economical ticket to space.  In addition to this, ISRO is believed to be free from corruption and inefficiency which otherwise eating away the core of government run enterprises.

There are many good stories about ISRO. Especially its resilience and growth even under heavy international embargos especially after India's nuclear test at Pokhran.

Around one week back, ISRO's work horse (PSLV series) completed its 40th launch, out of this 38 are successful and 1 launch is a partial success. This is 2nd launch of this rock in this year. Probably space mission is one area where pioneer’s visions were successfully me by the institutions they formed.

Two more launches are scheduled for this year. August launch will place IRNSS-1H and December launch is for TeamIndus and Team HAKUTO (Google's $30mn Lunar XPRIZE teams).

PSLV Notable numbers
  • First Flight: 1993
  • First Successful Mission: Oct, 1994
  • Launch of first foreign satellite: 1999
  • Total Foreign satellites launched so far: 209 (28 countries)
  • Indian Satellites: 48
  • Heaviest foreign satellite: TeLEOS (Singapore, 400kg)
  • PSLV was used for Chandrayaan-1 (PSLV-XL, 2008) as well as Mars Mission (PSLV-XL, 2013) as well.
  • PSLV C37 broke the record for placing highest number of satellites in orbit
  • Height: 44m
  • Diameter: 2.8m
  • Stages: 4
  • Cost/launch: around 90Cr (USD 15mn) for PSLV-CA
  • Total launches: 50 (48 successful)
Sajeev

PS:

ISRO have other series commercial challenges ahead. One is to enter in to the space of commercial launch of heavy satellites to geo-stationery orbits. Another one is keep the order book busy for launch of small light weight satellites. Advancement in software, hardware and electronics considerably reduced the size of satellites. In future, it will go down further. Companies like Space X, Vector Space Systems are actively venturing in to this area.