Friday, July 31, 2009

Crowded Chennai roads - why not government do something about it?


Imagine a place sprinkled with 100s of ants, flies, cockroaches, dogs, buffaloes, and huge elephants. The traffic situation in Chennai looks equally awful. During the peak hour you can see pedestrians getting stranded... surrounded by 2 wheelers, autos, cars, vans, and big buses. There is no patience, there is no tolerance and there is no respect for life. Everyone wants to go first. Traffic rules are just buried into the books. Policemen are helpless. In this part of the world, violations have become the NORM, obeying has become an EXCEPTION. Why not government do something about it?

Traveling by bus is really a pain. The frequency of the bus is poor or the buses are heavily crowded. You should know the knack of getting in & out of a crowded bus. Otherwise, your life would be tough. When people get a descent income, they buy a two wheeler. Moreover, there is lots of financing/credit facilities that make owning a vehicle easy. The result - two wheeler traffic has exploded in the last 10 years. The peak hour traffic moves inch by inch. Politicians don't see the pain themselves because when a politician goes on the road, the traffic is blocked/cleared so that the politician's vehicle can cruise through.

My common sense tells me that increasing the number of buses or trains would solve the problem. However, I don't see that happening. Also, roads have to be expanded. We moved into the Choolaimedu area 25 years back. The Nelson Manickam Road & Nungambakkam subway which catered to the traffic then, hasn't increased in width. But the number of people using that road has. What happens to the tax that folks pay when they purchase new vehicles? I could see some flyovers sprouting across the city. But, isn't that a workaround? Why are we not doing anything to address the root cause of the problem? A few summer showers make the roads nasty. There is stagnant water everywhere. I'm afraid how the winter is going to be. I still feel that the public transportation system has to grow in order to control the traffic in our roads. People (at least the middle & lower class) buy their vehicles because public transportation options are not convenient.

I'm not sure why government hasn't thought about privatising the current public transport system. I agree that the fares would go up, if the transport system is privatised. But, people paying high price for gas & vehicle maintenance wouldn't hesitate to pay a few Rs extra for a convenient ride.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm not worried about India's growth


My day starts when the birds start to chirp and when sun pulls-off its covers. Everyday morning, when the clock strikes 8, I leave my home to work. I couldn't resist making observations on what goes around me. The whole city gets fired up very early in the morning - the lady who knits flowers and sells them on the sides of the street; autorickshaw drivers eagerly waiting for customers; man who irons dresses on his road-side cart; hotel wallas preparing bajjis and rotis infront of their hotel; mobile eateries circled by loads of low-income people; people who walk/bike/drive to work carrying their tiffn boxes; government workers cleaning up the streets and loading piles of trash into vehicles; share-autos squeezing people like honey comb; college/school students waiting for their private buses; bus stops filled with regular commuters; and private vans loading tons of school kids. Boy... what a pleasure to watch all these. I'm so glad that people are working hard. I could clearly see that people are spending a lot too. The wheels of the economy spins around because of all these people. Every hand in the country gives a little push to this giant wheel. No wonder why India's GDP is growing strong and steady. I'm so happy that people don't hesitate to learn new things and work hard. People don't expect the government to come and help them. People solve their own problems.

With this people's force at play, nobody can stop the growth of India.

The OCI Hoopla


Its 6 months since my daughter landed in India. I had to apply for PIO Card Registration for her. I thought why shouldn't I apply for OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India). I read pages and pages of nitty gritty details from FRRO website, carefully jotted down all the stuff that I've to collect and gathered loads of documents. I went to the bank and obtained a Demand Draft for Rs.1,290. I took my daughter to a photo studio to take Passport size photos. I then went to the Regional Passport Office to handover the OCI application form. I waited there for an hour and then learned that my daughter is not eligible for OCI because she is a minor & my wife/I do not hold US Passport. I got completely frustrated because the FAQ or other documentation in the FRRO website didn't explain it clearly. It looks like I can get an OCI for my daughter only after she reaches 18.

Though I was disappointed, I decided to atleast do the PIO registration. I had all the original docs with me. I filled the application form, took some photocopies of passport and stood in the line again. They asked me to write a requesition letter. I don't understand why they want me to write a requesition letter, since I had already filled the application form with all the details. I waited for another 1/2 hour to learn that I cannot give my passport as address proof for my daughter. The processing officer (a lady, who wasn't courteous at all) said I've to bring a phone bill or EB bill. I didn't have either of them. I came back home, completely frustrated.

I went to the bank (State Bank of India) to cancel my DD. They asked me to write a 'Requesition Letter' and get a Rs.1 revenue stamp. I really don't understand the purpose of both the revenue stamp & the requesition letter. Anyways, I got both and took it to the Bank manager. He collected all the docs + the DD and said, it will take some time and asked me to take a 'token' and wait in the queue. I took the 'token' and waited for about 30 minutes in the queue. When my coupon number was called, I went to the teller's counter. The lady in the counter said that the manager had gone out and I have to wait for him. I waited for another 30 minutes and lost my patience completely. All the folks in the queue were serviced. I was the only one left out. I went to the teller again and asked her how long it would take for the manager to come back. She said he'll come back soon (the same response she gave me previously). However, she said she can process the application for me. She took the application letter from the manager's office and processed it for me. If I had not gone back to the teller again, I would've waited for another 30 minutes or so for the manager to come back. The manager wasn't courteous enough to let me know that he is stepping out and it would take some time for him to process the application. Otherwise, I would've atleast gone back home and come back. I had a really bad experience at SBI, Gill Nagar branch.

I gathered some address proof documents in the evening and sent my wife to the Passport Office, the next day to submit the PIO card registration application + docs. They've accepted the documents. Hopefully, my daughter would get her PIO card registered without any issues. We've to wait and see.

Recommended Reading:

Extending stay of a PIO card holder

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Share Autos - Boon or Bane?


One of the biggest inventions of this century to solve people's commute problems is 'share autos'. You can see them almost everywhere. There is a lot of interesting stuff to share about share autos.

The drivers of share autos can patent "How to squeeze 13 people into an auto rickshaw that is legally entitled to carry just 5 people". They can throw people into every nook and corner. If you are overweight, don't worry. You'll get squeezed to half your original size. "All men & women are treated equal" in share autos. Irrespective of whether you are a man or women, rich or poor, young or old, lean or stout, tall or short - you get the same treatment. You have to squeeze yourself into that 1 feet slot given to you to sit.

Share autos are also incubating a cultural change in our society. Unknown men & women wouldn't share a seat in public transports (like buses). But, in share autos women and men sit close to each other without complaints.

Share autos compete with our local MTC (Metropolitan Transports Corporation) buses in all possible ways. In old days, MTC buses used to stop when you wave your hand at the bus - no matter where you are. But, MTC buses now stop only in designated bus stops. Share autos fill the gap. Just wave your hand & the autos will stop right close to you. At times, share autos wait at or near bus stops to drop/board passengers. You can see the MTC bus drivers getting annoyed & honking non-stop. Share autos are also eating into the market share of 'regular' auto drivers. Share auto drivers know how to maneuver the vehicle in busy traffic, which at times is a threat to pedestrians & to folks who ride cycles/bikes.

Though I'm happy that I have a good option to commute to work, I'm very sad that our government cannot solve our commute problem in better ways. I'm not sure how safe it is to overload that little metal box that runs on our roads. I would not be surprised if someday, we see air-conditioned & bigger share autos.

Also read:

Heavy Rain made Chennai into Venice