Friday, November 21, 2014

"The Unity Run" and the later controversies

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After Modi’s lionisation of Sardar Patel the Indian National Congress sat up and tried to put the latter back to where he belonged – a high pedestal. In the latest issue of its official organ “Sandesh” it has paid homage to him.

 Modi must have been aware that he would be courting controversy if he gave pride of place to the Late Sardar Vallabhai Patel on the 31st October last. The 30th death anniversary of Indira Gandhi, the Late Prime Minister and the 139th birth anniversary of the Late “Sardar”, the first post-independence Home Minister, coincided on that date. All these years the Centre, marginalising the “Sardar”, had marked 31st October as “Martyrs Day” in commemoration of Mrs. Gandhi’s tragic death at the hands of two of her security guards in 1984. This year, however, Modi decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of the “Sardar” in a big way. Not only was it designated as the “National Unity Day”, a “Unity Run” too was organised in acknowledgement of Patel’s role in unifying India after the British left in 1947, amalgamating 600-odd princely states within the Indian Union. Mrs. Gandhi’s “martyrdom” was reduced to a sort of foot-note to the celebrations.

The inevitable happened and an unseemly controversy raised its ugly head. The Congress accused Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) government of not only marginalising Indira Gandhi but also appropriating a Congress stalwart like Vallabhbhai Patel only to “downplay the traditional Congress heroes Nehru and his daughter, former PM Indira Gandhi”. Congressmen voiced their anger at the lack of plans to adequately venerate the anniversary of assassination of the former PM. Prominent Congressman Shashi Tharoor tweeted “Disgraceful that government is ignoring the martyrdom of our only prime minister who was killed in office in the line of duty.” Officially though, the Congress had no objections to the government’s plans as they too revere Patel. However, a top Congress leader was quoted as saying “no one can overshadow the legacy of anyone.”

The BJP had, in fact, not exactly painted itself in a corner. After all, Narendra Modi, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, had already initiated plans for erection of the tallest statue ever to be erected anywhere in the world only to honour the “Sardar”. He, apparently, has enormous respect for Patel because of the latter’s role in unification of the country. The statue is going to be almost 600 ft tall and will be called “Statue of Unity”. On the latest controversy, however, the BJP says, “There is no question of anyone being pitted against anyone else”. Senior journalist, MJ Akbar, a new entrant in BJP, said on the controversy, “...the row is quite unnecessary. It is not necessary to forget someone to remember another...” He also said that there was a concerted effort to portray Patel as a leader who took anti-Muslim stand. Akbar said that Patel was against Muslim League for demanding partition and not Muslims. It is true, Patel was vehemently against partition but he agreed to partition only after the “Direct Action Day”, also known as the “Great Calcutta Killings”, initiated by the then Bengal chief minister Soharawardi.

 Patel and Mrs. Gandhi defy comparison. Both were, undeniably, great patriots but they lived and worked in different eras and circumstances. While Patel was an important figure in the national struggle for freedom, Indira Gandhi had very little to do with it. The simple reason was that she was much too young to participate in it.  However, the legacies left behind by each could be a basis of evaluating their respective contributions.

It will not be way off the mark if one says that if we are one big nation today it is largely because of Sardar Patel. Had it not been for him India would have not even been like the “moth-eaten” Pakistan that Mohammed Ali Jinnah cribbed about after the Partition. Patel went about meticulously and tenaciously persuading 600-odd princes soon after independence to join the Indian Union. On India’s independence with the lapse of suzerainty over them of the British Crown they had become free to decide either to remain independent or to join one of the two newly-emerged countries. Besides, had it not been for him we would have lost Kashmir as it was he who forced an indecisive Nehru to send troops to defend the state from Pakistani-supported marauders after its accession to India. Likewise, it was he who forced a vacillating Nehru for the so called “Police Action” against the Nizam of Hyderabad and his “razakars” led by Qasim Rizvi. Earlier, Patel had ensured assimilation of the princely state of Junagadh after its Nawab and Divan fled to Pakistan. With determination, tact and sometimes brute force Patel created a unified, monolithic India which exists until this day. But for him this would not have been possible. It was a gift of great significance to his beloved people who cherish it to this day as his most constructive, valued and abiding legacy.

Indira Gandhi’s legacy stands quite a distance away, at the other end of the spectrum. The foremost element of her rule that comes to one’s mind is corruption and its institutionalisation under her rule. Earlier too, there used to be corrupt politicians but those who happened to be corrupt then were milk-sucking kids when compared to her. Daughter of a well-regarded father, she took measures the fallout of which was copious corruption in public life. For instance, she banned as early as in 1969 corporate contributions to political parties. It opened the flood gates of political corruption. Over the years, corruption has got deeply embedded in India’s political and administrative psyche. Loot and plunder of national resources have become the norm regardless of the party in power. The “license-permit” “Raj” that she ran was a source of ill-gotten gains, as, indeed, foreign defence and other contracts. Every opportunity of making money was used to further her political clout.

The other significant legacy of hers is subversion of well-established institutions that ensured smooth functioning of our democracy. Ruthlessly ambitious as she was, she wanted to rule without any irritants like courts or the press or any public institution that happened to be independent of the government. The Emergency declared by her was an example of her relentless pursuit of power. She just bulldozed her way through subverting the parliamentary democracy with its cabinet system, putting the entire Opposition under arrest, amending laws with a brute majority to bend the courts and other institutions of the government to toe her line. Her party men lost all voice and were herded around like cattle. They even acquiesced to her dynastic ambitions and after she was gone sucked up even to her sons and daughter in-law. The political dynasts that later became prolific took the cue from her.

On an objective assessment, therefore, Patel’s legacy stands out as beneficent, while that of Indira Gandhi as baleful.

Photo: From the Internet


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thirty thousand and counting

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Crowd at the Boat Club last Sunday
Last reports said that on the 9th edition of “Rahagiri” in Bhopal last Sunday the kilometre and a half stretch of the Lake View Road was busting with “rahagirs”. As many as thirty thousand and more had collected there and there was hardly any space to move. People, obviously, couldn’t walk, cycle, skate or play any games for want of space. The road seems to have been overwhelmed by “rahagirs” and this after the authorities opened the roads along the RCVP Narhona Academy of Administration and the Campion School on the banks of Shahpura Lake were also thrown open to them where around 15000 collected to enjoy the vehicles-free roads.

Doesn’t all this prove something? Well, it does. It proves how people are fed up with vehicles clogging the roads leaving hardly any space for pedestrians and cyclists. We have too many motorised vehicles while the roads are few and generally inadequate. It takes time and needles money on avoidable detours to cover short distances. Only this afternoon my auto driver (I don’t
At Shapura infront of eponymous Lake
drive in the crowded Old City area) had to take a long detour as there was a big jam near the GAD Square flyover. It was a great nuisance. I couldn’t but pity the students sitting in those yellow buses taking in in copious quantities the noxious diesel fumes. If this is the fate of people in a developing economy I would rather not have this kind of development. I wouldn’t mind going back sixty years when we used to walk or cycle to the schools and colleges. Perhaps, all those who collect for those six hours on every Sunday are harking back to those good old carefree days when life was simpler and less complicated – the roads were free of these miserable automobiles.

One has to admire the spirit of these men and women, boys and girls and of course the children that they, on the weekly day of rest, pull themselves out of their beds travel over long distances to be at the Boat Club or the Shahpura Lake. Had I been younger, perhaps, I too would have joined them – after all I am not immune to the herd mentality. But that is now not possible. Nonetheless, sitting at home I ruminate over what is happening to the Lake with such a huge pressure of people, given the sheer incompetence apart from lethargy of its custodian which is none other than the Bhopal Municipal Corporation. Reports had earlier indicated that trash in large volumes had collected after every session of “rahagiri” and hawkers of food are still around to cause littering. Indians somehow can’t resist eating whatever is available when they are on an outing.

 One can only hope the new Municipal Commissioner, who has actively encouraged “rahagiti”, will take care of this aspect of the movement which seems to be on a roll. The Lake is in his charge and he must take care of it. In my opinion, it is now time cap the numbers of “rahgirs”.

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Photos: From the Internet


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

AN OPEN LETTER TO SHIVRAJ SINGH CHAVAN

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I am writing this only to convey to you the anguish of a large number of people and that of mine at the insensitiveness of your government. How could a responsible administration with hordes of bright bureaucrats could not think twice before conducting an hour-long session of fireworks from various sites around the Upper Lake the other day for which an unseemly crowd of a lakh or so had been asked to collect on the VIP Road? As if the Lake is not polluted enough; as if all the drains discharging pollutants into it have been plugged; as if the motorised boats plying on it have not been polluting it already; as if thousands who collect for the so-called “Raahgiri” days heaping litter on to the Lake were not enough that you had to go and shower enormous amounts of carbon on its waters. The Diwali fireworks this year had been prolonged and the government need not have indulged in another spell of fireworks in this ‘grand’ scale so soon spending massive amounts of public money, unless it was meant for mere self-promotion.

It was a kind of height of irony. Your own government had engaged CEPT in 2011 for recommending measures for conservation of the Upper Lake, the report of which has not been (deliberately?) worked upon yet. And, here was the same government going about polluting the Lake by its own indiscreet action. For God’s, sake, don’t you know that we use its waters for drinking purposes? With the heavy metals released from the immersed effigies of gods and goddesses, the waters are not what one could call potable, the Corporation’s treatment being hardly effective. And instead of improving the quality of water you take steps to needlessly pollute it more with loads of carbon.

You must have blown a crore of rupees, if not more, on the fireworks. Last year, as much as 5 crores were spent on “Jheel Mahotsav” but not a pie was spent for its conservation. The government refrain before the National Green Tribunal has been that for want of money its directions could not be acted upon. The heavily silted Lake bed needs to be de-silted but the government has no money for either buying or hiring a dredger. But there is enough to be blown up on activities harmful for the Lake. It is being exploited to the hilt only to degrade it every day by the thoughtless actions of your government. The Sports Authority of India and the Sair Sapata have already forced the birds to quit their traditional roosting place and damage the Lake’s ecosystem. Now your government is ensuring unmitigated harm to its waters.

 We, who feel for the Lake, agree with the three university researchers who had said last year that by the end of this century the Lake wouldn’t exist as we know it because of the way it is being degraded and allowed to decay. We, however, now feel that this may happen much sooner than that because, given the way your government is hell-bent in destroying it, the Lake will remain a couple of decades from now only as a shrunk and shrivelled small spread of filthy water, unfit for human consumption. A millennium old inheritance is going to be lost to posterity, thanks to your government’s uncaring and mindless actions.


Lastly, a city which is starving for basic civic amenities, where roads are in a shambles, where sewer and water pipelines constantly leak or overflow, where garbage piles up without being cleared and where the landfill in Khanti is burning polluting the environs rendering several people sick your government, according to us, had no business in staging this expensive show. These are only opiates it is trying to administer to the people to make them forget their otherwise miserable quality of life. Remember, people are not fools. They can and will see through these ploys.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Indian coalitions are treacherous

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Prithviraj Chavan
Prithviraj Chavan, the erstwhile Chief Minister of Maharashtra, gave an explosive no-holds-barred interview to a Kolkata newspaper as the campaign for the last Maharashtra elections came to an end earlier this month. It was a tell-all interview and the revelations made presumably were born out of disappointment and frustrations of having been ditched by his seemingly corrupt coalition partners. The interview clearly reveals how unscrupulous have a field day in coalitions. It happened at the Centre and it also happened in Maharashtra, both being ruled till recently by congress-led coalitions.

Chavan agreed to be interviewed late in the night after campaigning ended during which he happened to confess that he did not take action against two of his predecessors, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan for allegations against them in the now (in)famous “Adarsh” building scam as, he thought, sending them to jail would have “decimated the Congress in Maharashtra”. Curiously,, he expected the Congress to be returned to power despite its wrongdoings – a hope that predictably proved to be false. The party has tumbled down to a miserable 42 seats from 82 it had in the outgoing Assembly. In protecting the two of his predecessors (the third was being probed by CBI) he hoped to save the Congress and expected to survive as chief minister. But voters seemed to have had other ideas and jettisoned Chavan and his Congress from the government. Only time will tell whether the party will survive in the state as a political entity

Likewise, Chavan also confessed that he did not initiate action against Ajit Pawar, his deputy chief minister from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), only to save his coalition government. Pawar, also a nephew of his party chief, Sharad Pawar, was involved in a serious irrigation scam that is yet to be properly investigated. Chavan said, “I did not order a police inquiry, I did not ask for a judicial commission report — all for the sake of keeping the alliance intact…” It is such a nice repeat of what Manmohan Singh did, who too remained a mute and blind spectator to all the shenanigans of several of his ministers, saying his inaction was because of the “coalition compulsions”. However, despite Chavan’s good turn, the NCP walked out of the coalition, pulling down the state government. Curiously, this happened almost simultaneously as the years-old compact between the BJP and Shiva Sena, too, broke down. Perhaps, the NCP had sniffed an opportunity for foraging in new pastures.

The Congress, especially its President, Sonia Gandhi, has always been accusing its political opponent, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of having an acute hunger for power (satta in Hindi). But the revelations of Manmohan Singh a few years ago in front of the national media and now Chavan’s confessional interview clearly indicate that the lust for power is more evident in the Congress than in any other political party. As has become evident, the Congress permitted loot and plunder of the nation’s resources without any qualms just for the sake of wielding political power and authority. The loot need not only be by its party men; even its allies could help themselves and make unscrupulous money. Manmohan Singh’s regime was exposed doing it in Delhi and now Chavan has gone and confessed doing the same in Maharashtra. A very poor commentary for a party that has wielded power at the Centre and in the states for most of the post-independence period! Presumably, whenever it had to relinquish power it probably bequeathed its expertise to its successors who also made merry. No wonder the political class is so rich today. And again, unsurpringly ambitious people would give away their right hands to be in politics only for its power and consequential pelf

Although Chavan expressed regrets for the interview, yet its candidness was remarkable. Politicians are generally circumspect with journalists and mouth inconsequential inanities, taking care not to be offending anybody, especially a political partner with whom a government was run till only the other day As they say, there are no permanent friends and foes in politics and nobody knows when today’s enemy becomes a political supporter tomorrow. And, yet the interview was marked by its forthrightness, actually calling a spade a spade. Perhaps, hereafter the Pawar clan and its NCP or even Ashok Chavan, another of Prithiviraj’s predecessors, will think hard before associating themselves with the likes of the latter in the Congress.

Admitting during the interview that the “Adarsh” probe had brought as many as three of his predecessors, viz. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan under the scanner, Prithiviraj said that if he had sent all of them to jail it could have hit the Congress organisation leading to probably a “split”. He also said that as the Central Bureau of Investigation was already looking into Ashok Chavan’s role his government could not have possibly instituted another inquiry.

He literally nailed Ajit Pawar, his deputy in the government. The great Irrigation scam had been festering for quite some time – actually ever since Ajit Pawar got the charge of water resources department. Curiously, he was in charge of the department for as
Ajit Pawar
many as 15-odd years, apparently first as a minister and then as deputy chief minister during which, according to the government’s Economic Survey, there was nothing to show for the Rs. 42000 crore that were spent during his long tenure. Chavan, instead of ordering a probe, seems to have asked the department to produce a white paper with all the facts. This was construed as a charge sheet by Ajit Pawar. Then, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising, inter alia, all parties was set up the findings of which, too, were scuppered by Pawar. Chavan said, “
I could have been proactive and I could have insisted that it was a judicial commission and that Pawar should be summoned and questioned. But I was running an alliance… my hands were tied.” Pawar found setting up of SIT obnoxious and resigned but, as an afterthought, quite shamelessly rejoined the cabinet. “I could not have put my foot down. The government would have come down at that moment. I was also the leader of the alliance”, said Chavan.


NCP is known to be a corrupt party. Narendra Modi has described it as a “naturally corrupt party”, which is largely true. Sharad Pawar holding the Food portfolio for two terms of five years was never investigated for his wheeling and dealings. Even Prafulla Patel, allegedly the killer of “Maharaja” of Air India, too, was never investigated. Perhaps, at the Centre, too, the same considerations, as in Maharashtra, prevailed and the Congress too helped itself to part of the loot. After all, Congress has been a big-timer in corruption! The evidence that is, however, compelling  is that in India corruption is always embedded in coalitions and junior partners make hay keeping the major constituent under constant threat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

DESTINATIONS: MUNNAR (2003)

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The Hindu photo of Neelakurinji bloom in Munnar
The other day The Hindu published a photograph of the blooming neelakurinji flowers on the Neelgiri Hills. The very name of the Hills suggests something to do with a blue hue. The blooming neelakurinji flowers have a light blue hue and they bloom in millions giving the hills that distinct bluish colour. Perhaps, that is why the Hills have been named "Neelgiri". The flowers do not bloom every year, nor even in alternate years; they bloom approximately every twelve years and they do so in different regions of the Hills in different years.


Neelgiris are the southernmost end of the Western Ghats, also
A small herd of elephants encountered on the way to Munnar
known as Sahiyadri Ranges in Maharashtra, that runs for 1600 kilometres parallel to the west coast of India covering five states of Maharashtra, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The Ghats are one of the ten hottest biodiversity hot spots of the world.  The Nilgiri Hills, constituting the southern edge of the Western Ghats close to Kanya Kumari (earlier  Cape Comorin) are flanked by Kerala in the west and Tamilnadu in the east  The hills have an elevation of around 3000 ft barring a few peaks that could be as tall as 6000 or 7000 ft.


The scenic beauty on the way to Munnar
My wife and I were in Munnar on the Neelgiris in the autumn of 2003. Some parts of the Hills bloomed that year. We couldn’t manage to see the sight but were shown a few flowers by the workers of the resort we were staying in. Munnar is a hill station in Kerala at an elevation of around 5000 ft on the Neelgiris just about 120 kilometres away from Ernakulam in Kerala which is in the east and practically on the Arabian Sea. Since we travelled from Bhopal we, instead, approached it from the west via Coimbatore, a very decent Tamil Nadu town. After staying
Devikulam Lake near Munnar
there for a liitle less than a week and a brief trip to Ooty (formerly Ootacamund and now Oudhmangalam) we took a taxi for Munnar. After covering 100-odd kms, the road hit the Western Ghat at the Indira Gandhi National Park. The journey was uneventful until we came up against a small herd of elephants. They had blocked the road and we had to wait for them to move away. As the climb for Munnar commenced the journey increasingly became interesting. Soon we came across tea gardens which only meant we had arrived close to Munnar. The landscape with green hills and valleys progressively became more and more beautiful.


The endangered Tahr of Nilgiris
We had booked ourselves into a unit of Mahindra Resorts which was about 500 feet above Munnar town and the studio apartment that was allotted to us was further up, say about a 100 or 150 ft. With its elevation it commanded a beautiful view of the tea estate which, we were told, belonged to the Tatas.

There isn't much to see around Munnar. It is a place where one could really unwind and relax, taking in loads of fresh air and the exquisitely beautiful landscape. Package tours are, however, available which take one to the nearby Tahr sanctuary. Tahr is a
A view of Yellapatti Tea Estate
species of goat that is endemic to the Neelgiris. At one time it was on the verge of extinction. The efforts of the government in creating the Rajamalai National Park have yielded good results and the species now seems to be thriving. We were able to sight several of them but only from a little far away as the animals are very shy. Our aim-and-shoot Canon, a film camera, had no zoom lens but the pictures are clear enough to give an idea of the animal and its habitat.


The package also takes one to the Munnar market where a shopping complex has been created for visitors. One can shop to one's heart's
Wife, Bandana, on the Balcony of the apartment 
content and buy Neelgiri tea or the famed Kerala spices. The spices are genuine and much cheaper than the prices that one confronts up north.


Our neighbour in Bhopal had a grandson working in one of the estates in Munnar area as manager. He came calling and showed us around various plantations. Our young man had taken us to the Devikulam Lake which was at a higher elevation. It had lovely surroundings and was serene with very calm waters. He fished for trout but after patiently waiting for the line to get a tug he could get two small miserable fishes. He also took us to the factory of his estate where we happened to see the entire process and the treatment the tea leaves
Another view of Munnar tea gardens
get before they are packed off to the market. Somehow Neelgiri or Assam teas do not match the flavour of our famed Darjeeling Tea. Even the Sri Lankan Tea, which I have had occasion to taste in our Oberoi hotel in Colombo, cannot match it and yet it stole the market-share abroad from Darjeeling Tea a few years back. To cap a long day the young man took us to his bungalow for the night thus giving us the experience of spending, if only a night, in a plantation bungalow with all its creature comforts.

While we had a pleasant stay, yet there was a little discomfort at the scarring of the Western Ghats. There are miles and miles of tea gardens that must have been created after clearing the dense
Another phtograph of tahrs
tropical forests causing disappearance of numerous species of flora and fauna. The exploitation of the Ghats continues till today and the environmentalists are up in arms. There is a well-defined movement which is named “Save the Western Ghats”. The integrity of the Ghats is crucial for people living below them in the east or the west as numerous rivers originate in it and flow down either to the Arabian Sea or to the Bay of Bengal hundreds of kilometers away, providing sustenance to the people. But not many politicians are inclined to protect the country’s environment. For them development and consequential votes happen to be more important.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Swachchha Bharat" & Bhopal Municipality

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It has been more than a fortnight since the "swachcha Bharat" campaign  was launched by the country's Prime Minister but the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, laggard as it has always been, is yet to get its act together. A little outing into the town would reveal how callous the Corporation is in removing garbage from the streets. True, the VIP areas where the minsters and other wielders of power and influence reside, are spic and span. But if one goes out and away from those areas one finds garbage scattered over large areas around the garbage bins. I saw the other day such clusters at Jehangirabad and MP Nagar Zone I. At Jehangirabad there was a huge dump near the Police Lines where garbage must have been collecting for days. At MP Nagar it was bang on the Board Office Square, a location that traditionally remains full of garbage, muck, construction debris and sundry trash.

The news papers are also howling about the colonies where garbage is piling up but the municipality, apparently, couldn't care much. After all, Modi has just got some respite after a hectic bout of campaigning. Not that people in Bhopal are bothered about him. The Mayor is indeed from the BJP but the municipal council is dominated by the Congress. Maybe, the Congress will play dirty and try and neutralise the “Swachchha Bharat” campaign. With the
municipal council elections due in December next one expected the councillors to look sharp and show some activity. But they seem to be not too bothered. Piles of garbage are seen all around and the roads are in deplorable condition.


The photographs alongside were taken by me this morning of the garbage on the road that takes off from the Cambridge School and takes one to the Idgah. While the roads on Idgah Hills are in terrible condition, the muck all over makes life miserable. Stray cows and dogs, however, are having great time, feasting on the stuff that has accumulated at short intervals on the roads  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Banishing cars & recapturing the streets

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Bhopal has been overtaken by a “rahagiri” wave. Every Sunday the Lake View Road that leads to the Boat Club, The Museum of Man and beyond, to the Van Vihar National Park is closed down for traffic of any kind other than that of pedestrians between 6.00 AM and 12.00 Noon. Organised by the road transport company Bhopal City Link and the Municipal Corporation it has been a huge success. Last Sunday was only the fourth one and gradually crowds of young and old, men and women, boys and girls have swelled to thousands. It is literally a crowd of enthusiasts for freedom to use the road any which way for physical activities without a care for personal safety. The opportunity is utilised for organising games, jogging, skating cycling, zumba, walking, yoga and other exercises right on the middle of the Road at their respective designated spots. The surroundings also contribute to the exhilaration of the ‘rahagirs’. It has the iconic Upper Lake on one side and hills beyond and on the other side it has soothing green of the Shamla Hills.

Adopted from what was first organised in Bogota, Colombia as “Ciclovia” in 1976 when on all Sundays and holidays about 80 miles of road network was closed to vehicular traffic for free and unhindered use by citizens, “Rahagiri” in India is gradually catching on. First initiated in Gurgaon, popularly known as the “Millennium City”, in November 2013 by a team of NGOs and citizens’ groups it has continued to attract more and more people and so far an estimated 200,000 have participated in it. Introduced in New Delhi by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Police, “rahagiri” quickly caught on and is now continuing for more than 4 months. The entire Connaught Place area has been made free of vehicular traffic for the participants on Sundays. Delhi Police remains available for assistance, if required.

“Rahagiri” is a movement for, as they say, recapturing the
streets by the citizens who hardly are able to “see and feel the tar on the roads under their feet”, riding as they do, in their vehicles most of the time. An exponential rise in the number of vehicles depriving the use of the roads, especially, to cyclist and pedestrians seems to have unwittingly spawned this healthy movement. This ought to be treated as a wake-up call for town planners and municipal authorities who have built roads and planned cities or extensions thereof entirely for the vehicle-borne population, overlooking the needs, and indeed the rights, of cyclists and pedestrians. “Rahagiri” is also an expression for cleaner air free of particulates that infest the atmosphere choking the people on account of the polluting emissions of rising numbers of personal and commercial vehicles, more so the highly polluting the dieselised monstrous and predatory looking sports utility vehicles that have of late proliferated on the roads. As the authorities, municipal and government, have failed to restrict the population of vehicles on the roads depriving access to them of cyclists and pedestrians, the increasing numbers joining “Rahagiri” is an antipathetic reaction and it is their way of banishing thousands of hydro-carbon burning vehicles from the roads, if only for a few hours every week.

While one would like more areas in the city to be opened for “ Rahagiri” – a movement that is healthy, promoting fitness and a kind of community feeling – one has that nagging worry about the health of the Upper Lake and its waters that are supplied to the townsfolk for their daily consumption. Numerous experts participating in seminars and workshops have had occasion to emphasis that collection of large number of people at the the Boat Club and thereabouts was not desirable. Only this morning one happened to see in the newspapers the reports of garbage and filth that accumulates post the Sunday forenoon activities. Unless quickly removed and disposed of, these are most likely to find their way into the waters harming numerous citizens. Perhaps, the organisers will keep this vital matter in mind and arrange to keep the Lake View Road free of garbage and filth.
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Photos from the internet