Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ganga Expressway or Ganga Waterway?

Ganga Expressway: state government envisioned Rs 3,160 crores worth project to provide 22 KMs long four lane congestion free road link within Patna... HUDCO...sanctioned Rs. 2,000 crores as soft loan to state government for this project

- Business Standard

3160 Crores for 22 km means, 143.63 crores/km, that too fully funded by government. Is it really required? Why doesn’t Bihar try to connect its industrial cities together? Why not improving freight transport using its waterways?

TB - The Killer Disease and India

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention - Chest X-ray of a person
with advanced tuberculosis. Infection in both lungs is marked by white
arrow-heads, and the formation of a cavity is marked by black arrows


TB - short form for Tuberculosis - was just a name of disease in Biology text, which could give me half mark in exam. This changed when TB conquered the body of one of my friend's father. Fortunately, doctors identified the disease quickly followed by treatments. After suffering for a number of months, he recovered slowly but steadily and now leading a life free of TB. However, all are not so lucky.

TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer around the world due to a single infectious agent. According to WHO in 2011 alone, around 8.7mn people fell ill with TB and it killed the dreams of 1.4mn people permanently. Almost 95% of TB deaths mainly occur in low and middle income level countries. This deadly disease not only kills people but also destroy the life of many more millions. In 2010 alone there were about 10mn orphan kids, whose parents died because of TB. We all know that AIDS is a deadly disease, but how many of us know that one quarter of all HIV deaths are due to TB.

TB (Tubercle Bacillus)

This air borne disease usually affect the lungs and spread to air, when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit. Inhaling a few of those germs (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) can create infection. According to reports, people with TB can infect up to 10-15 others in a year through close contact.

Main symptoms of TB are "persistent cough, usually for more than three weeks, night sweats for weeks or months, weight loss, fatigue, high temperature, shortness of breath etc" - WHO


Early diagnosis is very important in TB cure. This deadly disease can be cured with a treatment of four anti-microbial medicines (isoniazid, rifampicin, streptomycin, ethambutol) over a course of six months. If not diagnosed early, disease will not only spread to many others but can mutate into deadly forms.

India and Tuberculosis

India is home to largest number of TB patients. According to WHO's latest estimations 2.2mn patients out of 8.7mn are Indians. Not only that, 2-3% of TB patients carries it drug resistant verity. New diagnostic tests suggest a rate of 6.7% in 18 sites; as high as 28% at a clinic in Mumbai.

Out of 310,000 cases of Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) in 2011, 60% were in India, China and Russia. Around 9% of MDR-TB cases had XDR-TB (Exclusive Drug Resistant) as well.

Victims of a controllable disease

Mycobacterium tuberculosis
What make such high rates of death particularly unacceptable is, TB is not an incurable disease. With early diagnosis and proper intake of medicine we can save millions of souls. Just imagine how tragic it is, to see people suffer and die when we have the means to cure it.

Normal drug sensitive TB can be cured using four medicines (antimicrobial) over a course of six months. Even MTR-TB is curable using second line drugs, though it is costly and may produce adverse effects.

If we can diagnose the disease in time, if we could offer treatment in time, then we may be able to save lakhs of people who may die otherwise. In 2011 alone, about half a million children aged between 0 and 14 years old came under the deadly clutch of TB; out of those 64,000 kids died.

Drug Resistance

Antibiotics are one of the most prized treasures of humanity. Penicillin "saved the lives of an untold number of servicemen and civilians wounded in World War II; in earlier wars, people died by the thousands from bacterial infections resulting from their injuries" - NYT

However, antibiotics are not an answer to all the diseases. I often see people simply taking antibiotics when they feel a little bit fever. If I told someone, I am feeling a little bit high temperature; friends will immediately come with the suggestion of some medicines.

The main problem is, due to unnecessary and indiscriminate use of antibiotics, bactierias can become resistant to antibiotics, viruses to anti-virals and parasites to drugs like anti-malarials. This often makes those drugs useless.

Remember, "no new classes of antibiotics had been introduced since 1987; whereas new pathogens were emerging every year, and existing bugs were developing resistance to current treatments" - Dam Sally.

One of the main reasons for lesser number of antibiotics under development is, Research and Development in antibiotics are not considered as profitable. So, as more and more pathogens become drug resistant, we will loss a big treasure of one of the most wonderful achievements of humanity- antibiotics.

Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB)

Robert Koch - Discovered TB Bacteria
These types of TB bacteria “do not respond to, at least, isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful, first-line (or standard) anti-TB drugs."

The main reason for MDR-TB is inappropriate treatment, incorrect use of anti-TB medicines, poor quality drugs etc, which will make these bacteria’s immune to conventional treatments. However, this can be cured by second line treatments - up to two years. Second line drugs are costly and its usage may create adverse effects.

"The number of laboratory-confirmed cases of MDR-TB around the world has gone from 12,000 in 2005 to 62,000 in 2011. However, the real figure is thought to be closer to 300,000". According to WHO 150,000 deaths a year are attributed to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Extensively Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB)

Some variants of bacteria are resistant to more number of antibiotics, this version - called as Extensively Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB) - is detected in 84 countries.  These types of bacteria respond to fewer available medicines. Some of the effective second line drugs are useless in front of this new treat.

Government programs for the eradication of TB

GOI allocated 710 crores for fighting this disease in 2012-13 (80% increase over last fiscal). Till now, "RNTCP (Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program) has evaluated over 44mn people for TB and initiated treatment for over 12.8mn patients. It has also saved more than 2.3mn lives. In 12th Plan, Indian is looking forward to treat 83 lakh TB patients, including 1.2 lakh MDR-TB. Among HIV-infected TB patients, 90% will be provided ART during TB treatment to reduce mortality. 12th Plan document for TB control [states that], Annual Risk of TB Infection (ARTI) has reduced from 1.5% to 1.1% and prevalence has also reduced from 316/lakh in 2007 to 266/lakh in 2010." - TOI

"Anti-TB drugs alone are projected to cost Rs 1,797 crores, of which 62% is for costly second-line MDR-TB drugs that such patients are otherwise unable to afford themselves." - TOI

RNTCP provides, free of cost, quality anti-tubercular drugs across the country through the numerous Primary Health Centres and the growing number of private-sector DOTS-providers


If someone is no diagnosed properly, then it may not only affect him/her but many others as well. So it in everyone’s interest to make sure that, people knows about the treatment and get equal chances for the same.

At the same time, unnecessary use of antibiotics will make a good verity of drugs impotent in fighting against TB. Each time you use antibiotics unnecessarily, using self prescription or force your doctor to give antibiotics to you, or your doctor itself giving antibiotics unnecessarily; there is a chance that humanity may lose that drug forever. So it is important to avoid self treatment and unnecessary antibiotic intake.

"Since 1995, over 51mn people have been successfully treated and an estimated 20mn lives saved through use of DOTS and the Stop TB Strategy recommended by WHO...TB death rate dropped 41% between 1990 and 2011."

On this TB day (24th March), lets join hands with government and other NGOs to create a TB free world. If we can beat polio, then there is no doubt that combined strength of us can beat back TB as well.


Note 1: Tobacco use greatly increases the risk of TB disease and death. More than 20% of TB cases worldwide are attributable to smoking. 


1. Plan to Fight Deadly TB Strain Gains in India - WSJ
2. Antibiotics resistance 'as big a risk as terrorism' - medical chief - BBC
3. Sale of anti-TB drugs without doctor's prescription faces ban.
4. World Health Organization - India
5. 'Visionary' leadership needed on TB - BBC
6. Tuberculosis - World Health Organisation (WHO)
7. Anne Miller, 90, First Patient Who Was Saved by Penicillin - NYT

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Monday, March 25, 2013

Incredible India and sexual attacks directed towards women

Sexual attacks on women and foreigners are slowly but steadily eroding the image of India as a safe place for women. This is particularly damning for our tourism sector. Whatever positive opinion generated by 'Incredible India!' campaign may evaporate considerably, if we are not able to put a full stop to sexual attacks on women and foreign women tourists.

Who would like to go to a country, where the possibility of suffering sexual attacks – even rape - is real? Some days back, US State Department warned female travellers to "observe stringent security precautions" and "avoid travelling alone in hired taxis, especially at night". Briton followed the suit, and remembered their citizens that, "women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men".

In a country like India, which claims to respect and worship women, is not supposed to metamorphosed to a state where women fears to walk alone through the streets after 8 in the evening. It is not that, India is unsafe for women. Sexual attacks are not uncommon around the world; no matter whether it is developed, emerging or least developed country.

According to Pentagon, in US - high priest of liberty and equality - military, "about 19,000 sex crimes take place in each year. Many of the victims are male, but men in the service face the same risk of sexual assault as civilian men do... women who join the military face a much higher risk of sexual assault than civilian women...  estimates that only 14% of sexual assaults get reported... According to the Pentagon's own research, more than 1 in 4 women who join the military will be sexually assaulted during their careers ".

When potential foreign tourists hear about steady stream of sexual assault reports, they will think hundred times before deciding to spend their holiday in India. Why foreigners? Even Indians will fear.

Recently a "female British tourist was admitted to hospital after jumping through a hotel window over fears of a sex attack in the Indian city of Agra"; "Swiss tourist was gang-raped while on a cycling holiday in the central state of Madhya Pradesh"; "South Korean student who said she was raped and drugged by the son of the owner of the hotel where she stayed during a holiday in January"; "A Chinese woman working in Gurgaon, a town bordering the Indian capital, was also reportedly raped by an acquaintance last month". Note that Agra is home to India's iconic Taj Mahal, and above said Swiss tourist was with her husband. These are not the only incidents.

Just imagine, how many friends of these victims will dare to come to India for spending their vacation? Forget about friends, anyone in those countries who heard about these incidents will think thousand times before booking a flight ticket.

It’s totally wrong to say that India is dangerous to women. What happened in Delhi or Agra or MP may not happen in Shillong or Mumbai or Trivandrum or Bhubaneswar or Ajmer or Hyderabad or Ooty or Ladak. It may not repeat again in the same place.


Unfortunately damage is already done. Now if we are not ready to follow it up, prosecute the culprits and bring the cases quickly to a logical end, it will send a wrong message. If government cares about the brand called India and India's tourism sector, then it is important to work overtime to remove this taboo. Holidays are supposed to be happy moments; nobody wants to live a life filled with perpetual fear.



1. Off The Battlefield, Military Women Face Risks From Male Troops - NPR

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Declining share of agricultural sector in Indian GDP

According to latest government reports, share of agriculture and allied sectors in India's GDP may decline to 13.7% in 2012-13 from 14.1% in 2011-12. In 2009-10, it was 14.6% and in 2010-11 it was 14.5%.

This declining trend, in terms of percentage, can be attributed to relatively high growth in non-farm sector like services.

Now the question is, whether this trend is good or bad for India? I think it is good as long as the reason is better growth in other sectors. However, these numbers will pose another problem in front of policy makers.
We can't afford to have close to 60% of working population stick to a sector which contributes just 13.7% of GDP. Subsistence farming and seasonal employment in agro sector is one of the main reasons for high rate of poverty in rural areas.

What we need to have is optimum number of people working in agro sector and shifting the rest to industrial sector. Here comes another problem, is our industrial sector is capable enough to handle such a massive flow of work force? I think the answer is no.

As long as we are trying to improve productivity in agriculture, even shrinking acreage may not pose problems for nation’s food security. However, if we are not able to expand industrial sector and accommodate excess labour force - coming from agro sector currently engaged in seasonal or no employment – there, it may create a big social problem.



1. Agriculture's share in GDP may fall to 13.7% in FY13 - Business Standard

Travel restrictions on Italian diplomat to India and Vienna convention

According to reports, on 15th February 2012, two marines from Italian Navy Vessel Protection Detachment(VPD) travelling on board of oil tanker 'MV Enrica Lexie' shot and killed two unarmed Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala, in India's contiguous zone (but not in Territorial waters). After close to one year, for exercising their right to vote in Italian elections, Supreme Court of India (SCI) allowed the two accused marines to go to Italy for a period of four weeks based on the guarantee of Italian Ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini.

However, after the marines reached Italian shores, Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi announced that, marines will not come to India any more to stand on trial. Technically speaking Italians didn't breach the guarantee till now, as 22nd March is the last date for them to return. However, after the message from Italy, SCI asked the ambassador not to leave the country. Please note that, he is neither arrested, detained nor under any travel restrictions within Indian Territory.

The problem here is, if Italy refused to send marines back to India on that particular date. This will be considered as the breach of word given by Ambassador to SCI. Will SCI/GOI arrest him? In other words can SCI/GOI order his arrest? In order to answer this question, we have to look in to an old treaty called 'Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations - 1961', signed and ratified by both Italy and India.

According to Article 27 of Vienna convention, 

"The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving State shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity."

Article 32 further states that, "1.The immunity from jurisdiction of diplomatic agents and of persons enjoying immunity under article 37 may be waived by the sending State. 2. Waiver must always be express."

Please note that Ambassador gave that undertaking on behalf of Rome and the decision not to send marines back was also taken by Rome. Moreover, Vienna convention explicitly prohibits the detention or arrest of diplomat unless the impunity is waived by sending state. In this case sending state is Rome and they didn’t waive the immunity. In such a situation arresting or detaining Daniele Mancini will amount to breach of International conventions, signed and ratified by India.

And please, don’t bring national honour in to these issues. This is a legal dispute between two nations, where Italy breached their word given to Indian SC through the ambassador. Opposition parties should not unnecessarily get excited and pressurize government to become rigid to the extent of arresting him. At the same time, we can't simply ignore such a breach of trust from Italy's side.

As far Ambassador’s issue is concerned, government need to handle it professionally without succumbing in to unnecessary pressure from opposition, politicians from Kerala and media. In the mean time, I can only hope that Daniele Mancini won’t try to make the matters worse by going to any Indian airport.


The Coal dilemma in Indian power sector

According to latest details from government, India installed 15,956 MW against the planned capacity of 16,407 MW in conventional - thermal and hydro - power sector in 2012-13. During this time, state run NTPC commissioned five thermal projects – Mauda (MH), Rihand (UP), Sipat (CG), Vindhyachal (UP), Indra Gandhi Unit 3 (HR) - totalling 2,660 MW. NTPC-TANGEDCO added 500 MW and ONGC installed an additional 363MW. Apart from this, 500 MW Koderma project was also commissioned.  Private sector chipped in another 9,103 MW (25% more than the planned capacity) more to the grid.

In Hydro sector NHPC commissioned projects in J&K, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh etc.

Currently total installed capacity in renewable energy is around 26,920MW (total installed capacity is 2,12,829 MW) - 12.5% of total. During 12th (2012 -17) plan, government is planning to produce 29,800 MW in renewable energy sector. This will make renewable energy’s share in total generation capacity to 16-17%.

It is good to hear that, we were able to produce more power than we planned. However what concerns me is the proliferation of thermal power plants. In private sector itself, we already awarded four UMPPs [(Sasan (6x660MW), Mundra (5x800MW), Krishnapatnam (6x660MW), Tilaiya (6x660MW)]. Many are in advanced stage of awarding. Apart from this, state run utilities are also adding many more MWs to the grid.

How far we can afford it ecologically? Dirty coal will take the pollution level to much higher degrees. As many of the coal deposits are located beneath forest areas, thirst for coal will definitely affect forests and biodiversity. Another problem is price, no discoms - almost crushed under their own debt burden - in India will like to buy electricity produced using imported coal, without subsidies.

How we can move ahead? Waiting for other countries to come up with innovative solutions to generate electricity at a lower cost? Or are we willing to sail in to the uncharted territories do something revolutionary? Like the one Japan did with hydrates?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Petroleum Ministry's magic lamp

"We are working with a programme that by 2020, 50 per cent of import of petroleum should be stopped and 75 per cent imports should be stopped by 2025. By 2030, the country must become self sufficient in petroleum," he [Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily] said.

"Working towards self-sufficiency in petroleum by 2030: M Veerappa Moily" - Economic Times

Entire nation is very eager to know, what magic lantern government has, to make our country independent from petroleum [and gas as well] import by 2030?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Can government replenish Maths (religious institution) budgets?

Chief Minister [Karnataka]... defended the State government’s decision to allot land and sanction funds to maths and other religious institutions through budget announcements and Cabinet clearances. There was “nothing wrong” in these generous allocations and it was a “tradition”, he said.

Shettar defends largesse to religious institutions -  The Hindu

Issue is not about who is right and who is wrong. It's about the relation between religion and government. Once someone started these processes, then it may end up as a convention. Maths should run by the money donated by followers and general public.

Don't kill the poster boy - Derailed reforms in telecom sector.

If someone asked me to give an example on what India gained through the liberalization moves started in early 90s, my answer will definitely be 'look at Telecom sector'. You can see brands of telecom companies, no matter whether it is Vodafone or Airtel, even in the remote areas of India - which may not even have proper roads. Honestly speaking, mobile phone technology not only revolutionized Indian environment, but also in many African countries as well.

After more than two decades of liberalization and more than one full decade of telecom revolution we are supposed to have a strong and clear cut policy in telecom licensing and taxes. Unfortunately, these policies are not yet clear. It’s not only government but telecom companies itself are doing self destructive infighting - which will little add anything but value; old timers Vs new entrants, companies using CDMA technologies Vs GSM, companies holding additional spectrum Vs others etc.

Government is not able to stick to a policy for long. 2G spectrum allocation, subsequent de-allocation, later not so successful auction of recovered spectrum is a case in point. 3G spectrum allocation brought huge amount of money to government treasury, but at the same time reduced the financial capacity of service providers. I still believe that, if companies paid less amount of money for 3G frequencies, then users may not have to pay what they are paying now for using 3G.

Now the case of underreporting came in to focus and companies are asked to pay 1,842 crores in additional fees for the allegation of under reporting their revenue.


Telecom is an important sector. Moreover it is the poster boy of India's liberalization. If government has to go ahead further with economic reforms, then they have to convince general public that they are going to gain something. Believe me it is difficult to convince people without a proper example - a symbol. In India's case it is telecom. So please, for our country’s sake, sit together discuss and come up with a policy paper - just, competitive, effective in both letter and spirit as well as in implementation.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

'Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)' 57th session

After a string of disputes and negotiations, countries finally agreed on UN code to promote and safeguard women rights and fighting violence against women. At this point, let’s go through major points on draft conclusions by 'Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)' in its 57th session (4 – 15 March 2013).

1. Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. "Violence against women” means any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering...threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty in public or in private life

2. Intimate partner and domestic violence remain the most prevalent forms.

3. Violence against women and girls occurs in all countries... is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations and systemic gender-based discrimination.

4. Condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations. prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of violence and eliminate impunity.

5. Concerned about the gap between commitments and action; inadequate implementation of legal and policy frameworks; insufficient allocation of funding and resources. Existing efforts are not comprehensive, coordinated, consistent, sustained or adequately monitored and evaluated.

6. Strengthen cooperation mechanisms; information exchanges on best practices to address the transnational organised crime problem of trafficking.

7. Accelerate efforts to eliminate discrimination against women and girls; ensure women’s equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to education, health, social security, land, property, inheritance, employment, participation and decision-making in all spheres of life; address social and economic inequalities, poverty of women and girls and their lack of empowerment

8. Promote and protect their rights on matters related to their sexuality free of coercion, discrimination and violence, their right to the highest standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health, and their reproductive rights.

9. Prohibit early and forced marriage, sex selection, female genital mutilations and crimes committed in the name of honour.

10. Carry out awareness-raising campaigns; zero tolerance for violence and remove the stigma of being a victim of violence

11. Develop educational programmes (formal and non-formal) including comprehensive evidence-based sexuality education, that promote and build skills for respectful relationships based on gender equality and human rights, involving adolescents, youth, parents and communities.

12. Universal access to police and the justice sector, shelters, legal aid, health-care services, including services for sexual and reproductive health, psycho-social counselling and support, 24-hour hotlines, and services for accompanying children at shelters, as well as long-term assistance and support.

13. Address health consequences - physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health - of violence by providing first line support, treatment of injuries and psychosocial and mental health support, also emergency contraception, safe abortion where such services are permitted by the law, prophylaxis for sexually transmitted infections, as well as forensic examinations by appropriately trained professionals for those women who wish to pursue legal action.

14. Emphasizes that ending of violence against women and girls is not an option but must be a priority for the achievement of sustainable development, peace and security, human rights, economic growth and social cohesion. This should be reflected as a priority area in post-2015 development framework with clear targets and indicators for the realization of gender equality

Considering past history, there may not be any sudden major changes but hopeful that over a period of time countries will follow this agreement on letter and spirit.


1. The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls: Draft agreed conclusions - UN
2. Future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women - UN
3. UN - Women Watch
4. UN women welcomes agreed conclusions at the commission on status of women- UN Women
5. Muslim states agree to 'historic' UN statement on women - Globalpost
6. Muslim and western nations have agreed on the UN wording of a code of conduct for fighting violence against women - AP

Monday, March 11, 2013

Simply incredible; what else can I say?

Uttar Pradesh Government spent over Rs 12.5 crore in organising functions for distributing unemployment cheques worth Rs 8.5 crore between March-November 2012.

- THe Hindu

Simply incredible; what else can I say?

Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City

Nagpur Railway station

I reached Nagpur station at 7.20 in the morning. Railway station seemed to be engaged in a non-stop struggle to embrace the new world, but not yet ready to come out of the old fabric. Nagpur is famous for oranges, and that was the first thing I wanted to do in the city – buying one kilo Orange. Contrary to my expectation, orange was not cheap. Anyway, I bought around one and half kilo for breakfast.

After searching a lot, finally I found a bathroom in platform one. Already three to four people were in queue, soon another three joined behind me to increase its length. Unfortunately there was no option to lock the door; you have to take constant vigil on the door so that no one else would open it when you are in. Many in the queue were so impatient and behaved like their entire life depends on that single bath!!!

Clock room

Let me tell you something about Nagpur’s clock room. In order to keep belongings here, one has to get it sealed by RPF (Railway Protection Force) scanners. Procedure is simple; take the bag to front door, put it on a scanner’s conveyer belt and ask the police personal standing there to seal it. They would attach a paper seal in the main zip. What I didn’t understand was the effectiveness of this procedure.

First of all, people can come to the platform without scanning their bags. Secondly, first platform’s main gate is not the only entrance to the station. Thirdly, places close to the clock room are accessible to common public. Fourthly, they will seal only the main compartment of the bag. Even after sealing you can open other compartments and place anything there. Fifthly scanner is placed at the platform’s entry point, which means anyone can board the train from nearby stations and reach here without anybody checking their baggage.

After seeing these type of equipments – hand held scanners, metal detectors, vapour tracers - sitting idly on the gates of many private and public companies, railway stations, I can only say that don’t simply go and buy it because someone else use it, or someone else recommend it. If we are not using it in a proper way, it’s a pure wastage of resources.

Tekdi Ganpati Temple

Tekdi Ganpati Temple
Located close to railway station this Ganesh is on the sides of St. Tulsidas road. I don’t know whether it was because of Jan 1 or not, there was a huge crowd in front and inside the temple. I also went in and walked towards the big Ganesh idol in orange red colour. After praying there, I came back to Tulsidas road.

As the width of the road was not enough, riders were using the sidewalks as well for their two wheelers. In breaking these rules, girls were not far behind.

Zero Mile Pillar

Zero mile Pillar
Next on my list was zero mile pillar located on the sides of Surat - Hazira bypass road. Erected by British, this monument consists of four horses and a sand stone pillar. I don’t think this pillar is exactly at the geographic centre of India, but the distance through road from Delhi (1105km), Kolkata (1125km) and Chennai (1129km) are very close. I walked from Tekdi Ganpati temple towards Zero mile, it’s just 1.4 kilometres.

Shaheed Gowree Smarak is located close to it.

History of Nagpur

Looking to this old sandstone pillar, I stood there for some time. Don’t know why, but had a feeling that this pillar doesn’t belongs to that small corner of road.

Nagpur - also called 'Orange city' - is the political centre of Vidarbha region and winter capital of Maharashtra. The word Nagpur - was originated from a river called 'Nag' flowing through the city (Nag means 'Snake' in Sanskrit). This region was earlier ruled by Rashtrakutas, Vakatakas, Badami Chalukyas and Yadavas. Allauddin Khilji invaded the region in 1296 AD; then came Tughlaqs. Later Mughals conquered this region; however, regional administration remained with Gonds.

Like many other kingdoms during the rise of Marathas, Nagpur came under their rule (Bhonsle dynasty). However, third Anglo-Maratha war (1817 AD) altered the equations and Nagpur fell in to the hands of British. Following the death of Raghoji III in 1853 AD, British annexed the kingdom under 'Doctrine of Lapse'.  From here, till the formation of 'Central Provinces' in 1861 Nagpur was ruled by commissioner appointed by Governor General of India.

Some important incidents associated with Nagpur

A Busy Road in Nagpur
1. Tata group started country's first textile mill 'Central India Spinning and Weaving Company Ltd'.
2. Congress launched Non-Cooperation movement in its Nagpur session (1920).
3. RSS was founded by K. B. Hedgewar in this city (1925). Organization's current head quarter is located in this city.
4. It was in the Deekshabhoomi of Nagpur, Ambedkar and his 3,80,000 followers accepted Buddhism after taking the oath of Three Jewels, five precepts, and 22 Vows.

Sitabuldi Fort

Founded in early 19th century, this fort lies between the twin hills of Sitabuldi. Currently housing the 118th Infantry Battalion of Indian Army, this old fort witnessed Anglo-Maratha wars and uprising of 1857 as well. During freedom struggle, M.K Gandhi spent some of his prison days here. Unfortunately fort is not open to public except twice in a year - August 15 and January 26.


I resumed my journey on foot through the city. From another junction got a shared auto to Deekshabhoomi. It was here in the grounds of Deekshabhoomi, B.R Ambedkar along with his 3, 80,000 followers accepted Buddhism on Oct 14, 1956. In Buddhism deeksha indicates accepting the religion, like baptism in Christianity.

At present there is a large stupa (designed by Sheo Dan Mal) in the ground, which probably based on the designs of Sanchi Stupa. Unlike numerous other Buddhist stupas this one is hollow. Significant numbers of photographs displaying various events in Ambedker’s life were displayed inside the calm and quiet atmosphere of stupa.

22 Pledges
Outside, there was a big tablet engraved with 22 pledges took by people on the eventful day of Oct 14, 1956. Buddha Vihara is located close to the tablet. On the other side another tablet displays the front cover of ‘Indian Constitution’ both in English and Hindi. After spending some more time, left Deekshabhoomi and headed towards Nagpur Railway station.

Nagpur Railway station

I covered almost half the way on foot. Roads are straight, wide and clean. In between somewhere one person offered me a lift in his bike and dropped me in front of railway station.

After having lunch from railway station, I bought a general ticket (29 INR) to Sevagram. Time was around 1.30 in the afternoon, waiting for the train to depart...


Front page of Indian Constitution

Netaji's statue
For reading rest of the articles please visit,

Dakshinayana Part One – An Introduction
Dakshinayana Part Two – Bangalore to Bhopal
Dakshinayana Part Three – Sanchi
Dakshinayana Part Four – Bhopal: The city of lakes
Dakshinayana Part Five: Ujjain – The Holy City, hearing the sounds of forefathers
Dakshinayana Part Six: Indore – Trade hub of Central India
Dakshinayana Part Seven – Jabalpur: Kalchuris, Gonds and Narmada
Dakshinayana Part Eight – Kanha National Park and Mandla
Dakshinayana Part Nine – Chhattisgarh and Raipur
Dakshinayana Part Ten: Nagpur – The Orange City
Dakshinayana Part Eleven – Sevagram: Walking with Gandhi
Dakshinayana Part Twelve – Aurangabad: The City of Gates
Dakshinayana Part Thirteen – Ellora Memories
Dakshinayana Part Fourteen – U shaped Ajanta
Dakshinayana Part Fifteen – Pune: The Maratha heartland

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pipelines returns, only to fade away

Kazahk-India Five nation pipeline

Shymkent is the third most populous city in Kazakhstan. Travellers once used to take rest here, to recover from tiredness caused by long journeys through ancient Silk Route. On the other hand, Atari (India) is located close to Wagah international border between India and Pakistan.

Recently, I just checked the distance between these two cities using Google maps - Its 2025 km. In the era of bullet trains and High Speed Rail, this is not a big deal. But the problem here is, this route also passes through one of the most unstable (politically) and difficult terrains (geographically). Apart from a number of CIS states, this route goes through Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. In total five states.

You may be wondering, why I am talking about the route between Shymkent and Punjab. Well, let me take you to a recent report on ‘The Hindu’,

"...proposed pipeline would cover about 1,500 kms...making it longer than the planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline... It will head from... Shymkent..."

I don’t understand; why we keep on proposing so many unviable hydrocarbon pipeline projects. First one was, Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, which sunk to the annals of history following West’s fear over nuclear Iran. Then came, ‘Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI)’ pipeline; considering the route (both politically and economically) it’s difficult to tell, whether it will ever come out of drawing paper. This newly proposed one creates one more entry in this list.

Before proposing another more pipeline projects, authorities should go through a simple checklist.

1. Are we going to delink gas prices from oil prices?
2. Will international Oil & Gas price come down once US and Canada start exporting shale gas?
3. Will a big success in Arctic drilling be able to reduce the oil & gas prices further?
4. Is there enough oil/gas in Central Asia’s fields to sustain and justify the huge cost of expenditure involved in the creation of pipe line?
5. Considering the cost of construction, will the Kazakh gas be cheap in India?
6. Who will ensure the security of pipeline in Af-Pak region? 
7. Is this pipeline route better than bringing the Central Asian gas to the Iranian port of Chabahar and then through Sea?

There are more, but let’s start with these ones.



1. India proposes hydrocarbon pipeline from Kazakhstan - The Hindu

Two year old flyover's collapse in Kolkata and India's infrastructure dream

Recently a flyover crashed down in Kolkata (Ultadanga area - connecting ‘Eastern Metropolitan bypass’ and ‘VIP Road’) taking down a truck carrying marbles along with it. Fortunately, accident occurred at 4.30 in the morning, when traffic was low.

Are you about to blame the old infrastructure? Wait a minute; this structure was just around 2 year old – sprang up under the recent spells of investments in infrastructure.

Crumpled flyover raises many questions. Currently, we are investing billions of rupees of tax payers and private money in creating new infrastructure - new roads, flyovers, railway tracks etc. In this rush are we properly ensuring whether proper procedures, quality assurance tests etc are followed in letter and spirit?

Hope that, the sound of a crashing down flyover will wake up people and force authorities to undertake strict quality tests. Otherwise India's trillion dollar infrastructure build up will end up as trillion dollar nightmare.



1. Truck falls into canal as portion of Kolkata flyover crashes - The Hindu