Friday, July 24, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 8: Saving Kaliasot River

http://www.bagchiblog.blogspot,com

Kaliyasot River


Looks like Kaliyasot River has been saved. River Kaliyasot, as is well known flows through the city limits and is a tributary of River Betwa – an important river of the state. The builders, with the active cooperation of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation and the state government, had almost succeeded in killing it. It was only because of a petition in the National Green Tribunal that it seems like the river will take its original shape.

For this the entire city and the people who live downstream of the river ought to be grateful to one environmentalist, Dr. Subhash C. Pandey, who relentlessly pursued the matter and exposed the lies of the district and municipal officials. Fearlessly he pursued the matter despite the chief minister’s “mai ka lal” speech before the municipal elections. There has been anxiety among people who had booked flats in the up ‘n’ coming constructions essentially against which the petition of Pandey was directed. The chief minister, perhaps knowingly, extended to them an assurance in an election speech which could turn out to be false.

In its orders in March last the NGT had said that there would be a green belt of 30 metres on both banks of the river and no construction should be allowed within 200 metres from the banks. In order to overcome the restrictions the builders had not only erected 2 feet broad walls on both sides in the prohibited zone, they also tried to fill up the river with stones, rubbish and copra. The officials, apparently, were giving false assurances to the NGT that the sanctity of its orders had been adhered to but, not satisfied with their contention, the Tribunal ordered another investigation. The results of the investigations were placed before it the other day wherein the district officials admitted about the efforts of the builders to fill up the river. While admitting the builders’ irregular activities the district officials did not disclose their names. Quite clearly, they were in league with the builders or were, perhaps, even in their pay-rolls. They were naturally severely admonished by the two-member tribunal.

One feels that not only the builders but even the district and municipal officials should be prosecuted for perjury. They were all trying to mislead the tribunal the status of which is of no less than that of a high court. Unless this is done hoodwinking of the tribunal is likely to continue without any fear.
One doesn’t know how much harm to the natural assets of the city and its environment is being caused by the corrupt district and municipal officials. But for some spirited environmentalists and Bhopal Citizens’ Forum in tandem with an objective and impartial NGT the environment of the city would have by now degenerated to a very great extent. The builders are the most insensitive to the environmental needs of the city. What they know is only their profit and colluders in the official and municipal agencies care only for their spin-offs.


Copra seems to have become a handy material for the officials of the municipal corporation to create land where there is none. This is what they have been caught doing at Khanugaon where their plan was to create a tourist cluster in collaboration with the MP State Tourism Development Corporation by reclaiming a part of the Upper Lake. The officials of these agencies and of the government do not seem to realise the enormity of harm they tried to cause to the environment of the city and its people just for their short term gains. Enough harm has already been done to the lakes and the rivers that flowed through the city. One supposes that any further harm will cause irreversible changes that may prove to be disastrous. Eternal vigilance on the part of everyone is, therefore, the need of the hour

____________________________________
Photo above of Kalisot River is from internet

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 7: It takes three to kill a lake

http://www.bagchiblog.blogspot.com



It is highly disquieting that the local Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) which is the custodian of the city’s iconic Upper Lake is becoming an instrument of its degradation and death. The latest reports indicate that, egged on by the current Home Minister of the state and the State tourism Development Corporation, the municipal corporation has been indulging in construction activities in defiance of the orders of the local bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

A proposal had been floated for Lakefront Development under which a pedestrian walk-way, a cycle track, and a food zone at Khanugaon – a pretty well populated substantial piece of land that projects into the Lake from western end of Idgah Hills – were to be constructed. The pedestrian path way and the bi-cycle track were to be created, one presumes, from a point informally known as the “Viewpoint” and were to run along the VIP Road at a lower level and then move on to Khanugaon along the Lake to the proposed clusters of structures for parking and a food zone. A boat club on the lines of the popular one on the opposite bank was also in the works. In creating this facility, strangely, a large number of trees that were planted under the Bhoj Wetland Project (1995-2004) for conservation of the Lake were to be sacrificed. As reported, this was the brain-child of the then Urban Development, Housing and Environment minister and now Home Minister Babulal Gaur. An amount of Rs. 16 crore (Rs. 1.6 billion) was to be spent on the project.

The local vernacular newspapers were up in arms against the project. The Centre for Environment Planning & Technology (CEPT) based at Ahmedabad known for its impeccable credentials, engaged by the state government for preparation of a comprehensive plan for conservation of the Lake, has already submitted a draft report to the government which is sitting on it for the last two years for reasons for reasons that can be explainrd but not mentioned. It is not clear whether the CEPT was in agreement with the project. Reports, however, indicate that the former Mayor, the daughter in-law of Babu Lal Gaur was against it. Gaur was then reported to have asked the BMC to wait for the CEPT report.

The municipal officials, however, had little patience. While lying before the NGT they surreptitiously were working on the project and reportedly even felled some trees. A photograph also recently appeared of Gaur studying the maps of the project. When the matter relating to conservation of the Upper Lake came up at the last meeting of the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum I had mentioned (on the basis of newspaper reports) how under the camouflage of lies the municipal corporation was still working on the project without the approval of the NGT. My contention later got corroborated the other day by Dainik Bhaskar when it reported how blatant lies were used by the BMC to hoodwink the NGT. It followed it up by another report next day indicating the municipality’s attempts to reclaim part of the Upper Lake by dumping copra in it to enable it to create a pathway for walkers and a cycle track. Earlier, it had reportedly constructed a 2 feet broad retaining wall bang on the Lake and a community hall is also being constructed within the prohibited zone of 300 metres of full tank level.

The municipal corporation is curiously doing all that is necessary to harm the Lake instead of taking steps to conserve it and it is prepared to do it against the advice of the NGT breaking all financial and administrative norms. There is a heavy spin-off from civil works and it appears to be too much for various stake-holders to resist. Most surprisingly, the minister is also encouraging it. We have seen on several occasions that his idea of conservation of a water body is totally at variance with what it should be. He thinks construction and building of facilities to enable more and more people to assemble on the lake-front would lead to the Lake’s conservation whereas for its conservation access to the lake shores should be limited and kept within reasonable levels, more so as it is a source of drinking water. Numerous environmentalists earlier visiting EPCO had stated to this effect. But no, in willing cooperation of the Tourism Corporation the minister he got the Sair Sapata commissioned, which basically is an amusement park, that has since been declared, after all these years, to be a source of pollution of the waters of the Lake by the state pollution control board. Besides it has caused the flight of bird life from the Lake.

One tends to feel that if the waters of the Lake have not improved in quality over the last decade or two  despite the conservational efforts undertaken three agencies are primarily responsible and they are: the government of Madhya Pradesh, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation and MP State Tourism Development Corporation.. These three together have caused the maximum damage to a water body that has been in existence for  more than a millennium and have also threatened its status as a Ramsar Site and an Important Bird Area - a bestowal from Bird Life Internat


It is highly disquieting that the local Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) which is the custodian of the city’s iconic Upper Lake is becoming an instrument of its degradation and death. The latest reports indicate that, egged on by the current Home Minister of the state and the State tourism Development Corporation, the municipal corporation has been indulging in construction activities in defiance of the orders of the local bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

A proposal had been floated for Lakefront Development under which a pedestrian walk-way, a cycle track, and a food zone at Khanugaon – a pretty well populated substantial piece of land that projects into the Lake from western end of Idgah Hills – were to be constructed. The pedestrian path way and the bi-cycle track were to be created, one presumes, from a point informally known as the “Viewpoint” and were to run along the VIP Road at a lower level and then move on to Khanugaon along the Lake to the proposed clusters of structures for parking and a food zone. A boat club on the lines of the popular one on the opposite bank was also in the works. In creating this facility, strangely, a large number of trees that were planted under the Bhoj Wetland Project (1995-2004) for conservation of the Lake were to be sacrificed. As reported, this was the brain-child of the then Urban Development, Housing and Environment minister and now Home Minister Babulal Gaur. An amount of Rs. 16 crore (Rs. 1.6 billion) was to be spent on the project.

The local vernacular newspapers were up in arms against the project. The Centre for Environment Planning & Technology (CEPT) based at Ahmedabad known for its impeccable credentials, engaged by the state government for preparation of a comprehensive plan for conservation of the Lake, has already submitted a draft report to the government which is sitting on it for the last two years for reasons for reasons that can be explainrd but not mentioned. It is not clear whether the CEPT was in agreement with the project. Reports, however, indicate that the former Mayor, the daughter in-law of Babu Lal Gaur was against it. Gaur was then reported to have asked the BMC to wait for the CEPT report.

The municipal officials, however, had little patience. While lying before the NGT they surreptitiously were working on the project and reportedly even felled some trees. A photograph also recently appeared of Gaur studying the maps of the project. When the matter relating to conservation of the Upper Lake came up at the last meeting of the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum I had mentioned (on the basis of newspaper reports) how under the camouflage of lies the municipal corporation was still working on the project without the approval of the NGT. My contention later got corroborated the other day by Dainik Bhaskar when it reported how blatant lies were used by the BMC to hoodwink the NGT. It followed it up by another report next day indicating the municipality’s attempts to reclaim part of the Upper Lake by dumping copra in it to enable it to create a pathway for walkers and a cycle track. Earlier, it had reportedly constructed a 2 feet broad retaining wall bang on the Lake and a community hall is also being constructed within the prohibited zone of 300 metres of full tank level.

The municipal corporation is curiously doing all that is necessary to harm the Lake instead of taking steps to conserve it and it is prepared to do it against the advice of the NGT breaking all financial and administrative norms. There is a heavy spin-off from civil works and it appears to be too much for various stake-holders to resist. Most surprisingly, the minister is also encouraging it. We have seen on several occasions that his idea of conservation of a water body is totally at variance with what it should be. He thinks construction and building of facilities to enable more and more people to assemble on the lake-front would lead to the Lake’s conservation whereas for its conservation access to the lake shores should be limited and kept within reasonable levels, more so as it is a source of drinking water. Numerous environmentalists earlier visiting EPCO had stated to this effect. But no, in willing cooperation of the Tourism Corporation the minister he got the Sair Sapata commissioned, which basically is an amusement park, that has since been declared, after all these years, to be a source of pollution of the waters of the Lake by the state pollution control board. Besides it has caused the flight of bird life from the Lake.

One tends to feel that if the waters of the Lake have not improved in quality over the last decade or two  despite the conservational efforts undertaken three agencies are primarily responsible and they are: the government of Madhya Pradesh, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation and MP State Tourism Development Corporation.. These three together have caused the maximum damage to a water body that has been in existence for  more than a millennium and have also threatened its status as a Ramsar Site and an Important Bird Area - a bestowal from Bird Life International.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

India's scam of the year

http://www.bagchiblog.blogspot.com



Protesting against the scam
This is one scam that the Hindu right wing party ruling in Delhi and in Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh, will have to live through for a long time. It is so big that most parts of the country are involved in it and its reverberations have travelled far and wide. The media in the West have had occasion to report it in great detail. What is peculiar about the scam is that not only it is a multibillion- dollar scam and has been running for almost a decade some of its witnesses and accused are being systematically liquidated. So far 48 such men and women have either died suspicious unnatural deaths or have been bumped off. Even two deans of an university in a prominent town of the state, Jabalpur, investigating the matter died in quick succession one after the other – one was burnt, reportedly by a laser gun and the other was found dead in Delhi early one morning before. He was on his way to North-East of the country for inspection of another university.

The whole scam is about manipulations in examinations and recruitments by politicians, officials and businessmen of Madhya Pradesh. Known by its Hindi acronym “Vyapam”, the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examinations Board (MPPEB), a government body, was established 1982 to conduct examinations for recruitment to several inferior lower grade positions in state government and for entry into engineering, medical and other professional colleges in the state. Instead of being an establishment for conducting fair recruitments and examinations its officials, including politicians and the minister in charge, indulged in various malpractices to clear candidates for huge monetary considerations.

This cancer has been festering since mid 1990s. But actual action commenced in 2007 after an audit team came across large number of administrative and financial irregularities. Later as many as three whistle blowers had complained about massive irregularities and corruption in admissions for tests and then rigging up of the results. The scale of the malpractices came out in the open in 2013 when it was detected that several politicians, officials and gangs were involved in the scam. By June 2015 around 2000 people were arrested including the State’s education minister, several petty politicians, officials of Vyapam including its System Analyst, bureaucrats, middle men, students and parents. A First Information Report was also filed against the State Governor who survived arrest claiming immunity because of his constitutional post.  However, his days as Governor seem to be numbered.

The modus operandi of the scam was varied and it included bribing officials and politicians, forging answer sheets, allowing impersonators to write the examinations and even manipulating the seating arrangements in the examination halls for facilitating impersonators to write the exams. For pre-medical tests (PMT) practicing doctors were engaged on payment of enormous sums to them and to fixers who maneuvered their admission at exams to write the answers. Another curious method was that the examinee would leave several questions unanswered which would eventually get written with the good offices of the officials, including the System Analyst of Vyapam. Among the tests rigged were the PMT 2008-13, Pre-PG test for postgraduate medical courses 2012, and recruitment exams for contract teachers, food inspectors, police constables and Ayurvedic medical officers


The entire thing blew up in the face of the local chief minister when a TV channel reporter died soon after interviewing the father of a girl whose body was found on the railway tracks two years ago. She too was an accused in the scam for having fraudulently cleared pre-medical tests (PMT) but was done away with. Soon, thereafter, another girl, once again an accused, was found dead and floating on a lake. A police constable too committed suicide by hanging himself after he was questioned by investigators.  Recently another suspicious death of a dean of an university in another town in the state was reported from Delhi. His body was found in a hotel where he had checked in for the night. He was to leave for inspection of another university in the North-East of the country. He too was an investigator in the scam and was reported to have submitted around 200 reports to the investigating authorities.

The chief minister claims to be the whistleblower in this case as he appointed an investigating team in 2011. But there are three other whistleblowers that include Dr. Anand Rai, an Optholmologist, Ashish Chaturvedi, a social activist and Prashant Pande, an IT professional hired by the Special Task Force investigating the scam. They have had an uneasy life, living as they do under constant threats of attacks. One of the whistle-blowers claims to have evidence of involvement of the chief minister in the scam

There have been around 2000 arrests and 45 unexplained deaths of people connected with the scam generally in the north of the country. With so many suspicious deaths in quick succession the matter attracted national attentions. The TV news channels – English and vernacular – went to town reporting every facet of the scandal. The Indian National Congress, currently out of power in the State and at the Centre, is crying hoarse for the blood of the chief minister who is in his third five-year term and runs a Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state. It also has questioned Prime Minister Modi’s silence in the matter.

So far the Special Investigating Team appointed by the Special Task Force created by an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court was investigating the mess. As the details of the scam continued to unfold, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition was filed in the Supreme Court which, after a hearing, ordered that the matter was serious enough for the Central Bureau of Investigations to investigate it. It has also agreed to the petitioners’ demand to monitor the investigations.

That is all well and good. But the scam has fanned the generally prevailing atmosphere of distrust against government institutions. No one knows how many fake and undeserving candidates were recruited over the years for entry into professional institutions or were appointed teachers. While the fake engineers, medical and dental professionals are practicing their professions either privately or in colleges and institutions or in private and government hospitals playing with the lives and wellbeing of the innocent persons, the fake, unqualified and undeserving teachers are playing with the future of school-going children. They are all misfits in their trade having hardly any credentials to practice the highly evolved professions. For a country, people of which suffer from malnutrition, ill-health and several kinds of diseases, such ignorant and unscrupulous professionals like medical doctors pose a threat to their lives. Likewise the undeserving and unqualified teachers are damaging the future of the indifferently tutored, ignorant and incompetent school pass-outs who might eventually be of no use to the country.

The only remedy would seem to be to hunt them down wherever they are after an extended investigation and strip them of their ill-gotten placements and appointments.

.

Bhopal Notes - 6: A new eatery and cheap Chinese electronics

http://www,bagchiblog.blogspot.com

An offering at Chi Kitchen

It has been open for some time and seem to have become pretty popular. I am talking of Chi Kitchen – an outlet at the DB Mall for what they call Pan-Asian food. It is a full-fledged restaurant unlike the food stalls of the food court on the third floor and one can have sit-down lunches and dinners inside its pretty well done-up interiors.

Our entire family visited last Sunday and found some of the dishes pretty good. The South-East Asian prawn ensemble was pretty good as was the dish of fish crispies. On an earlier occasion I had found the Thai Yellow prawn curry eminentyly edible with rice. Like in Thailand, they have three colours in curries – red, yellow and green. The green is not supposed to be hot, the yellow one is mildly hot and the red one is like fire. For those who are not the fire eating type the yellow one with a little tempered heat should do and the green one perhaps will be more likeable for those who give a wide berth to chillies. The food on offer is generally good but not the kind about which one could write home.


 Chi Kitchen, nonetheless, fills a long-existent gap - the absence of authentic South-East Asian food. Randezvous, a good outfit on the first floor of the stores by the side of Ravi Shankar Nagar Post office was inexplicably wound up far too soon. We had very good  South-East Asian curries, especially prawn curries there on many an occasion. Though the Rice Bowl is also around, but Chi Kitchen is located in the very centrally located DB Mall that now is a haunt for most of young and old of the city.

                                                 *******

In the Hyper City, while browsing through the spread that was on offer in the electronic section, I came across a pair of head phones made by Intex at an incredibly low price of only Rs. 200/-. Some of the reputed brands sell their head phones for thousands of rupees. Of course, much depends on the degree of sophistication in the unit. This one was a simple, matter-of-fact headphone with the only sophistication of having a button for volume control. Intex is an up-‘n’-coming Indian electronic firm selling a wide range of electronic products that are far cheaper than those of the established brands. One guesses, it currently is competing with Micromax which has become pretty big – so much so that it even sponsored a whole international cricket matches series.

The only snag, however, is that the products of both, Intex and Micromax are manufactured in China and that is how these are remarkably cheap without compromising on quality. The product designing is done in India but, apparently, we do not have the wherewithal to manufacture them at low cost. This is precisely why China is now known as the “factory of the world”. Every firm desirous of finding a stable place in the world market gets its products manufactured in China, whether it is Japanese cameras or touristy ceramic curios for the US markets or electrical kitchen appliances of our own Bajaj Electricals. All this happens because of the incredibly depressed labour costs.


But, the Intex headphones set me wondering how they could sell them so cheap. There must have been some production cost, then the cost to move it after payment of local taxes, if any. There also would have been a handler for its export who would have incurred some shipment costs. At this end there had to be an importer who diverted the product to a dealer to be sent to a retailer. There must
Intex headphone
have been hordes of men and institutions involved who had their respective cuts and yet the product is so cheap. So how much would it cost in China? May be Rs.30 or Rs.40 ? Long ago (it now seems so) before the advent of smart phones we used to buy basic Nokia cell phones for Rs.1300 or 1400/-. An acquaintance who had been to China around that time told us that such phones were available there for Rs.80 to Rs. 100/-.

That is why one wonders whether Modi’s “Make in India” would ever be successful. Our products, with our kind of labour laws and tax regime would hardly be able to compete with Chinese products under the current dispensations of the World Trade Organisation. We could perhaps produce goods to meet the domestic demand but in international markets Chinese would hammer us out unless, of course, something extraordinary happens and China loses steam or Indian labour and tax laws are drastically changed.

 That, currently, seems like a pipe dream.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 5: Restoration of Chowk

http://www.bagchiblog.blogspot.com


The other day the Mayor decided to restore the heritage look of Chowk, the medieval market of Bhopal that teems with life and is a nerve centre of business. The Mayor promised that all encroachments would be removed, the heritage buildings would be restored and the roads will be done up in such a way that people would be able to use them as dining full plates swiping their daal and roti off them. This appears to be his figurative and fovourite way of indicating that he aims at really very good roads. About four months ago he said the same thing while visiting Ridge Road on Idgah Hills but till today there has been no move and the road is deteriorating by the day.

Two days later the chief minister himself did bhumi pujan to kick off the work of restoring the appearance of the Chowk bazaar. One doesn’t know what the bhumi pujan was about as no construction work is involved barring repairing of heritage structures and doing up the roads. But, bhumi pujan that has Hindu religious overtones has become de rigueur for kicking off any civil work although we claim to be a secular state. This has somehow become a tradition; Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi used to break a coconut (another Hindu ritual) on the deck of a ship that needed to be launched into the seas.

Coming back to the matter relating to restoration of the Chowk, ambitious plans seem to have been drawn up. The plans, inter alia, are to paint all buildings an uniform pink, with the signboards of all the shops in the same size and using the same type of font and all electricity and telephone lines will go under-ground . A parking facility, presumably of multi-level kind, will be erected, all the push carts would be pushed into hawkers’ corners freeing space for shoppers. Even if half of what has been conceived or envisaged in the plans is achieved it would be a great improvement. But one has serious reservations about the capability of the officials of the Municipal Corporation. They seem to thrive in confusion to secure their daily, weekly or monthly extortions.

I have, however, not seen anything in the reports about improvement in traffic management in the Chowk. The Mayor seems to have overlooked this vital point. The other day my wife and I took an auto to look for a few things in the Chowk and we found the traffic awfully messy with cars, autos, push carts and numerous two wheeler-riders jamming up the traffic. The two-wheeler-riders are always impatient and try to sneak through the narrowest of openings and in the process they create jams. We were in one and it was a horrifying experience, with the exhaust fumes stinging your eyes and throat, making it difficult to breathe. Years ago a shopkeeper-salesman had told me that every house in the Chowk area had four or five two wheelers and they keep going up and down all the time fouling up the air. It must be much worse today. Jams in the Chowk are dangerous for the commuters, the shopkeepers and the residents as the fumes from exhausts are unable to escape into the atmosphere quickly because of the narrow and confined spaces. We were there for only a short while but for those who have to be there for longer spells and, of course, who reside there it should be hellish.


Management of traffic is an imperative in the area and the Mayor must look at this problem. It needs to be streamlined – and pretty quickly too. Only clean vehicles – four, three and two wheelers – after having been subjected to PUC checks should be allowed in it. Now that electric rickshaws have been introduced in the city, these should be pressed into service in congested areas like the Chowk and its surroundings. It will be far healthier for the shopkeepers, residents and, of course, the shoppers if this is done. Heritage look or not, this is the most important improvement that is urgently required for the sake of health and wellbeing of all those those lakhs of people who live and run their businesses in the area.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

DESTINATIONS: SWITZERLAND (1987):EXCURSIONS (1)

http://bagchiblog.blogspot.com

VALLORBE


Near Vallorbe
Long years ago, perhaps in mid 1970s, I happened to be in Bastar – a district that was till then not fully explored. This land prehistoric as it is, is inhabited by the members of the ancient Gond tribe. During that trip I had occasion to visit the Kutumsar caves known for their stalactites and stalagmites. Only 38 kilometres from the district headquarters of Jagdalpur, the caves are pretty long and are underground – about 30-odd metres below the ground
Stalactites in the caves
level. It was quite forbidding as the caves had not till then been illuminated. But what I saw was amazing – parts of rocks streaming downwards and, likewise, others that were climbing up from the cave floor with accretion of minerals from water dripping down from the protrusions of the former. Taught to us in Geography lessons in the college, Kutumsar presented to me the first glimpse of
The river nd jungles near Vallorbe
stalactites and stalagmites – and that too deep within the bowels of the earth.

The Vallorbe caves are, however, overground in the Jura Mountains which is a sub-Alpine mountain range located north of Alps. It stands between the Rhone and the Rhine valleys forming watersheds for each. The mountain range extends from France to Switzerland and to parts of (south-western) Germany. In Switzerland it covers several cantons. The name Jura is derived from Celtic term for forests and it has lent its name to a “department” in France, a “canton” in
Stalactites and stalagmites joining up
Switzerland and to the Jurassic period of the geological timescale.

 Situated about 100 kilometres away from Geneva, Vallorbe caves were discovered about fifty years ago and were opened for public viewing in 1970s. Later, they were also electrically illuminated making the insides more inviting in a constantly maintained temperature that is comfortable for the visitors. The caves have been the outcome of actions of River Orbe that originates in France and after entering Switzerland disappears underground only to come up on surface near Vallorbe. It was fascinating to see the stalactites and
A descending stream
stalagmites in brilliant illumination. The authorities have done a wonderful job of providing viewing points and galleries for visitors. Similar provisions in Kutumsar are needed to make it more tourist-friendly

SIGNAL DE BOUGY & LE PONT.

 We also had a day trip to Signal de Bougy, a park with some stunning views. It is supposed to be a great place for walks. Another day trip was to a place called Le Pont that
One of th two lakes at Le Pont
Brother and his small family at Signal de Bougy





is situated between two Swiss lakes and is supposed to be a starting point for hikers.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 4: MP government's homage to MN Buch and Charles Correa

http://www.bagchiblog.blogspot.com


MP Vidhan Sabha designed by Charles Correa
A few days back a report came out that would have gladdened the hearts of many. It said that the state government had taken a decision to maintain the basic identity of Bhopal as a measure of homage to the two departed stalwarts, MN Buch and Charles Correa, who had handsomely contributed to the identity of the city. One need not dilate on Late MN Buch; everyone who lives in Bhopal is aware of his contribution to the city. For those who do not know Charles Correa, he was the architect (engaged by the MP government on the recommendation of Late MN Buch) for designing the iconic Bharat Bhawan – a centre of arts and culture of national importance. Charles Correa, later, also designed the building for the state legislative assembly on top of the Arera Hill. By designing these two building Correa ushered in some kind of commonality between Boston and Bhopal. In Boston he designed several buildings including at least two in the world renowned MIT.

Greenery, hills, lakes and ponds of the town along with its heritage were close to the heart of Buch. He also tried to seamlessly connect the old and the new towns. The Master Plan for the city that he designed contained provision of maintenance of these elements to enable it to grow organically. Most of these, however, have been compromised by wrong planning or, perhaps, lack of it. He was unhappy about extension of the town in all directions without proper and convenient connectivity. He also spoke against development of Bhauri where, he said, there was inadequacy or even absence of water. That has proved to be true and a report recently had said that the government was thinking of tapping the Upper Lake for Bhauri’s water needs which would put the Lake under further stress. From the beginning he was against allotment of extensive agricultural lands for educational institutions in the catchments of the Upper Lake, including to the media house of Jagran which has now built an university there.

Now that substantial damage has been done precious little is possible. But one would be happy if the government, as a measure of homage to the two distinguished urban planners, is able to rethink its plans for the city and attempts to conform them to their visions as far as possible. It wouldn’t take much to actualise their visions for the city. It would suffice if greenery, apart from being maintained, is enhanced, the lakes of the city are scrupulously maintained and conserved observing the sanctity of its catchments and construction is banned on the hills around the city followed by a concerted effort to re-forest them.

But would the government be ever up to it? Although it seems to have taken the decision to act in accordance with the visions of Buch and Correa but one cannot really trust its intentions. For the last ten years or so we have been hearing the netas talking about conversion of the city into a Paris or a Singapore but it continues to be what it was – perhaps worse. It doesn’t take much to mouth assurances or talk tall. Ultimately, what matters is the achievement and that has been much, much below par. Although Bhopal is the capital of the state yet not one project has been successfully brought to fruition. Delays and corruption have been endemic and there are no perceptible signs of improvement. In fact, life of the denizens has progressively become difficult

 Not many would, therefore, trust the government when it comes to improvements in the city and in the quality of life of its people. The decision, therefore, can only be taken with bagfuls of salt.


___________
Photo: from the Internet