March 3, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

As I write these random reflections, I notice that ‘unseasonal’ rains and snow are lashing various parts of the globe; climate does seem to be changing? Here is another set for your perusal:

  1. Railway stations in India have a life of their own, bustling with activity and people 24*7. Station premises also provide food and shelter to millions of homeless people as well. A large number of ‘runaway’ children are roaming around such stations. In Lucknow’s famous Charbagh station, it is estimated that nearly a hundred such children arrive daily. The ‘homes for homeless children’ are unable to cope with this flow. Lucknow station is not unique in this regard?
  2. Delhi elections brought landslide victory to AAP and Arvind Kejriwal is the new Chief Minister. During campaign for the elections, most candidates and political parties used new media to influence voters. Messages on mobile phones, facebook and twitter were utilised by almost all political parties. Given the depth of penetration of mobile technology in Delhi, it made eminent sense. But political rallies and public meetings were also used in large measure. The traditional advertisement medium of posters also covered walls, bus stands, and private vehicles. The cost of campaigning has continued to soar. An interesting caveat: while the Election Commission limits expenditures for candidates, there is no such limit for parties and other well-wishers!
  3. The Western Group of Temples of Khajuraho are one of the World Heritage sites; the lawns and temples are clean, beautiful and inviting to tourists. However, the sites of another group of temples in south and east sides remain almost abandoned; roads are broken and filthy; buffalos and pigs roam around freely; beggars ‘hound’ the tourists. Why should we not have similar arrangements for these temples in the same city? The counter staff selling tickets for the evening’s sound and light show are decidedly unfriendly; the policemen on duty to search visitors lack civility. Is there any point in governments wasting money on advertising tourism if such basic, and indeed simple, things do not improve?
  4. A fortnight ago, big advertisements appeared in Delhi’s newspapers imploring and warning drivers in the city to follow designated lanes; you may have previously heard of such slogans as ‘lane driving, sane driving’. One can understand the meaning of such slogans to promote systematic lane driving, and proper protocol for lane changing, in Mumbai. For a Delhite, it is ‘shocking’ to notice such ‘sane lane’ driving in Mumbai by all types of drivers—motorcycle, three-wheeler, car, tempo, truck, bus. Why such a difference between the political capital and financial capital of India?
  5. Amongst many forms of terrorism in practice today, Boko Haram in Nigeria is one of the most dreaded. It has abducted school girls, bombed public buildings and carried out massive violence over the past three years. Many a times, the Nigerian government and security agencies have appeared to be helpless spectators of the ravages of Boko Haram. In an ironical way, the political establishment of Nigeria decided to postpone Presidential elections due to the threat of this terrorist entity. Such a move weakens democracy, and adds muscles to the terrorists. The elections held in Jammu & Kashmir in December 2014 have shown how democracy and legitimacy of the government are crucial to combat terrorism.

Sincerely

Rajesh Tandon