Tomatoes or Tacos for Rs. 100? Did I hear it right?

In a country where the life of a common man holds no value, it is tomatoes which have turned into the most precious point of discussion, as they are now being ‘guarded’ in the literal sense of the word.

Tomatoes- the new jewel to rob?

The news of tomato prices shooting up to Rs. 100 has been the talk of all the towns from Mumbai to Delhi but the latest progression involves how the fruit is being protected by armed guards in Madhya Pradesh. This happened after a recent robbery of 300 kg tomatoes at a wholesale market in Mumbai.

Bank for Tomatoes to Bank upon…

The opposition (Congress) has found a rather unique way to seize the opportunity and protest against the hike by establishing the State Bank of ‘Tomatoes’ in BJP led UP. Cashing upon the helplessness of the common man, the bank offers a 5x return on the deposit of the fruit within a period of six months along with lockers and loans.

Well, the rain seems to have washed off a lot more than crops and livelihood of people across the country. It has also washed off BJP’s efforts to continue pleasing people post the slashed fruit prices after demonetization. Though the government has given an assurance of the prices soon dropping down, but for now, the situation reminds us of the satirical dialogue from 3 idiots, “Paneer to beta, kuch dino mei itti itti thailiyo mei sunaar ki dukan pe bikega”- the only difference being the replacement of ‘paneer’ with ‘tamatar’ in this case. Indeed, as ironical as it may seem, one can afford Mexican chicken Tacos priced at Rs. 50 at a cost lesser than a kg of tomatoes.

‘Happy’ and ‘Independence’ Day, is it?

On the grand day when  the entire nation is enthralled with feelings of celebration, oozing with patriotism and enjoying a day off, there occurs an incident which questions the entire conceptual privilege around the feeling of being ‘free’ or ‘independent’ in India itself.

I am talking about the gruesome rape of a 12 year old girl in Chandigarh, on her way back home after having attended the Indian ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at her school. Not something new to have happened in our country, but on a day like this when social media, phone texts/ messages  are filled with talks of patriotism, of freedom struggle, there lies an under shadowed reality where the struggle continues. It was in Sector 23 where a man  stopped her, pulled her aside and raped her. He also held a knife to scare the little girl.
Sadly, being a multi-party country, what we are best at are talks, lengthy speeches, but no serious execution. The Union Home Ministry recently held a candle-light march to assert the right to safely access public spaces but where does this end? The march was preceded by nothing but a similar incident just days later.

“According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, 8,800 cases of rape on children were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). In 2,227 cases, or 25.3 per cent, the offenders were found to be employers or co-workers”- source: NCRB

These statistics  raise a few questions in mind about How free are we?

Are we free to stroll alone outside our homes?

Are we free to travel alone during the day, let alone night?

The answer is Yes, we are free- but sadly at our own risk! So, what use is this dreaded freedom’ of?

This news neither made me happy nor did it make me feel independent- 70 years down the line, even small children, let alone women, continue to face the same forms of sexual assault and plight which they faced during the British rule and partition.

We indeed are slaves unless freed from crime and the perpetrating criminals. We need to ponder and so do executive, legislature and judiciary- not just for formulations and implementations but also for severe deterrent measures of punishment. By the way, Happy India Independence Day?

 

India-Where Rain Halts Life…

From East India to the West and from Northern parts of the country to the South, the rains this monsoon have reignited the questionable drainage patterns of the country. It indeed is not just the Global Warming which needs to be blamed but a lot more.

Significant Several Killed/ Stranded due to Floods

Gujarat- The NDRF has come up with the latest statistics of the death toll in Gujarat, the state with the longest coastline, owing to the flood condition since the past few weeks. The alarming number is approximately above 120. The Meteorological Department confirmed that the state’s expected rainfall this monsoon was not more than 900mm and the state has already received more than half of the predicted quantity which is 555mm. With 2 more months remaining for the monsoon to leave, the government faces a strict challenge to not let the death toll multiply further.

Rajasthan- As much of an oxymoron as it may sound, even the ‘driest’ state of the country doesn’t seem to be spared by the menace of monsoon rainfall. State officials have come up with certain latest figures which are suggestive of 25 deaths in the past week.  Tourists also faced the brunt as they remained stranded while Mount Abu recorded the highest rainfall in its history on July 24, 2017, resulting in a flood like situation.

Assam- More than 13,000 people in Assam were left stranded and terribly affected as the flood like situation continues to last since the inception of the rainfall season. Till now, it is an alarming figure of more than 75 lives which have been lost.

Delhi-NCR- As far as the national capital is concerned, the incessant rain around Gurugram and Delhi NCR Region is giving a tough time to the daily office commuters as it is taking them as long as 4 hours to cover a stretch of 20-25 kms.  Besides, the helplessness of the commuters is being cashed upon by various cab service providers as the prices surge up to a high of Rs. 150 for a mere distance of 5kms.

Recurring annual problems- Solutions, maybe?

Having an Un-Blocked drainage and an accountable system could help: The various road management departments in all states of the country must come up with a common Pre-Monsoon Action Plan for the purpose of monitoring the same.  In Delhi, for instance, the PWD, the NDMC and the NHAI must adopt a fresh stance for desilting. Perhaps what can be done is that the trash from cleared drains is put in landfills to solve unnecessary clogging and  dirt, instead of leaving it open as it ends up choking drains once flown back.

Better road designing: A set pattern of roads needs to be followed. Examination suggests that despite having several arterial roads, rain seems to clog water as most of the roads have an error-ed slope construction to be blamed which does not allow the rain water to recede naturally. Slip roads on the other hand tend to flood in the easiest way. While population seems to be on an incessant rise, more stress needs to be laid upon improving the drainage system.

Green patches to be encouraged: The authorities also need to understand the importance of growing green grass patches around trees, local parks and along the roadsides. These green patches act as natural sponges which absorb water that pours down on the planet but what is being done is cementing which takes away a simple effort towards minimising water retention on the roads.

Improved traffic management: The biggest nightmare associated with rains is the traffic ridden roads that comes along with it. Currently, we just have 1,200 police strength as against 5,500 population on the roads.  An improved deployment would enable better water management resulting in less chances of floods.

While the pace of business is at a standstill in various states of India, it is the routine life of people which has come to a halt- whether it is going to school, earning a living, or more so making their ends meet.

Cab/ Taxi rides- Services or Jeopardised Convenience?

By Naina Sharma

GLOBAL PERIL OF CAB DRIVERS 

Incidents of cab drivers acting as assailants, raping or kidnapping passengers is not only common in India but on the foreign land as well. An Uber driver in the city of Florida was recently arrested for indulging in  rape and kidnapping of his female passenger. The driver, who was 57 had centrally locked the car doors even before the passenger tried to jump out.

In similar incidents in India, there have been multiple cases where women have been raped or sexually assaulted by cab drivers. If not that, cab drivers tend to tease passengers by saving their numbers in the contact list and then they end up calling or texting the passengers at odd hours.

The threat isn’t restricted to women alone, quite recently, on July 6, it was a 29-year-old doctor in Delhi who was kidnapped by an Ola driver and his accomplices. He was kept in hiding for a period of 2 weeks post which the police arrested the Ola driver along with other kidnappers.

ANALYSIS OF THE EXISTING PROCEDURES

Since I am a regular rider myself, the curiosity bug within me compelled me to question Ola/ Uber drivers daily about what exactly were the requirements which they had to meet in order to become an Ola/ Uber driver. Ola drivers mostly stated the presence of a driving license as an imperitive while the Uber drivers said it is quite simple to become a Uber driver in the Indian capital. They said that the only requirement essentials for them were their driver license and manageable english speaking skills. There were no background checks involved and a single ID proof along with a few passport sized photographs was more than enough to start driving the Uber cabs.

MANDATORILY STRICTER HIRING PROCESS

The fact that there are hardly any drivers’ licenses which get cancelled in India despite criminal records, there arises a requirement to have a peripheral check. Perhaps, the need of the hour lies in conducting a transparent and multi level hiring process of the cab drivers as a few pointers need to be freshly adhered to-

  • A proper medical checkup analysing the mental state of the applicant is a must as it would ensure minimization of mentally unstable drivers. This is essential since a considerable proportion of rape and molestation cases are triggered through a sick mindset.
  • Examining the habits of the applicant is also essential and if there are even the slightest of implications of him being a frequent drinker or stoner, then the job application must be rejected at the earliest possible instance.
  • A background check which refers to a family scan pertaining to a cross examination of members/ relatives and if there is a police case running against any of their names.

Meanwhile, as passenger safety continues to haunt customers as a key issue, the cab companies have waived off an assurance towards adopting more stringent processes while signing up new drivers as it could have an adversely reverse impact on their business in the longer run.

How much ‘Milk’ to be wasted at this Mahashivratri festival in India?

A print release by the Government suggests- “India ranks first in milk production, accounting for 18.5 per cent of world production, achieving an annual output of 146.3 million tones during 2014-15 as compared to 137.69 million tonnes during 2013-14 recording a growth of 6.26 per cent.”

While milk production is on a steady high, so is milk consumption. Though research suggests a huge disparity between the amount of milk consumed in rural areas and the urban areas, an average consumer in north western states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana spends more than Rs. 500 per month on milk. Undoubtedly, milk is the nation’s favorite since it is not only associated with being a source of nourishment and protein, but also as a means of displaying appreciation and dissent.

GENERIC OBLIVION NEEDS STATISTICAL WAKE UP CALL – TEMPLES AND ACTORS EARLIER, ROADS NOW!

The tradition of offering tonnes of milk to the ‘Shivling’ (during Mahashivratri which is almost on the cards) and other idols of Gods and Goddesses has long been under the baits of discussion. Reports are suggestive of how gallons of milk is wasted in the name of offering it to Gods while millions die of hunger each day. The World Bank estimates India as one of the highest ranking countries in the world in terms of malnutrition statistics.  Another startlingly alarming fact is that 10 million people succumb to death every year, owing to chronic hunger and various other hunger-related diseases. And to put facts under a clearer slate of reasons, 92% of these deaths are a result of hunger prevailing under normal and ‘celebratory’ circumstances of the land of festivals. Only eight percent are the victims of hunger due to calamities such as high-profile earthquakes, floods, droughts and so on.

When temples weren’t enough, we jubliated towards decorating milk on the posters of God-like celebrities such as Rajnikanth just prior to his film release. And still when our obsession with milk didn’t seem enough, we came up with downpour of gallons of milk all across city roads like those of Ahmedabad on 6th July since a bunch of farmers wanted to protest.

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MERE HYPE OR CAN MILK INDEED TREAT MALNUTRITION? 

According to experts, carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamins are the 4 essentials which save us from mal-nourishment. Surprisingly, just 250 ml cup of milk per day contains 8.38 g fat, 11.65 g carbohydrate, 8.3 g protein and is an excellent source of Vitamin B12, has 5% Vitamin A and 29% Calcium. Furthermore, 87% of milk is water and hence a vital indirect source of nutritional solvents.

I can now quite confidently say that my argument is not just another plain one hanging in the thin air, but yes, even a cup of milk per day can facilitate the inherent battle of the internally plagued and malnourished India.

A single metric tonne of milk is equivalent to 1,000,000 ml. This quantity is sufficient enough to feed 4,000 people Below the Poverty Line. Though there isn’t a confirmed statistic on the number of tonnes of milk wasted annually in the name of Mahashivratri season and protests, the fact that there are thousands of huge temples across the country, reassures that the milk wastage is definitely beyond a single unit of metric tonne. Just imagine! How many malnourished children can be treated with this amount? 4,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 or more?

WHAT’S BEEN DONE ISN’T ENOUGH!

In 2014, Madras High Court had passed an order over a PIL that sought to hold the wastage of  milk. The court bench said: “The commodity should be used for the benefit of young children besides offering to the deities.” The bench however, conceded that it could not put restrictions on the rituals under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.

On the other hand, some are not willing to give up. Care takers of Saketri Shiv Temple in Chandigarh came up with an initiative to utilize the offered milk in 2015.  The officials stated that people usually got milk in pouches. The temple collected these pouches only to distribute after heating the milk. The temple volunteers collected 170 quintals of milk at the rate of Rs 38.35 per kg for offering. About the same quantity of milk is donated by the devotees which comes up to be 350 quintals. Besides this, 60,000 bananas were also arranged for devotees.

Though an impressive step, it hasn’t been replicated by many. The stress must lay on prohibiting the wastage of milk, it can save lives and it has been validated enough. Ours being a progressive society, must save its millions of kids who die of hunger, when its completely in our hands to move beyond our religious obsessions. How progressive is our India where 10 million hungry people die annually? And, how much milk do you plan to offer to idols this Mahashivratri?

Time, Environment and Resources: ‘Public Transport Days’ can save all

By Naina Sharma

Gustavo Perto rightly quoted, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport“. 

From this, let’s come down to calculating the average number of cars a family in South Delhi owns. Well, having reduced the sizes of roads to half,  the average number of cars parked outside the multi-storey houses is 3. And then, we hear people cribbing over calls for reasons like, “Its taking me too long to reach. Delhi traffic sucks!”. From being the reason behind getting late to reach your destination, fatal road accidents to being accountable for cause of stress among majority of the population, traffic is no less than an epidemic which needs to be desperately dealt with.

WHERE TRAFFIC HAS SLOWED DOWN LIFE

Research by road design experts and engineers suggests a drastic increase in the duration of time spent by Delhiites on the roads of the uber busy capital.   There has been a 50% decrease in the speed of vehicles in the traffic over the past 5 years. Calculations further validate the alarming traffic conditions.  On an average, a person travelling a distance of 40 km by a private vehicle ends up wasting 3.43 hours on the road today, in contrast to 1.3 hours in the year 2010. Also, the average travel speed has also cut down immensely from 42 kmph to 20 kmph (between 5pm to 7pm which are the peak traffic hours in Delhi).

Another form of research indicates that the average speed of Delhi will crawl down to 5 kmph in the next 10 years if the startling traffic rates persist. Strangely, 5 kmph is the walking speed of an average human.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT DAYS: A VIABLE ALTERNATE? 

The need of the hour has moved way beyond encouragement to use Public Transport, what we must rather order is the exercise of dedicating few days in a month as ‘Public Transport Days’. The main means of transport which could be used during these days could be buses, pool-in taxis and metros. Since its scorchingly hot in the country, the possibility to use cycle as a mode of commuting, gets negated itself.

car vs. public transport space

(Image: Press-Office City of Müenster, Germany)

FOREIGN COUNTRIES: A PARADIGM TO LEARN FROM

United Kingdom has cities such as Hove which have developed a ‘Talking Bus Stop’ system for helping visually impaired people to access public transport. The fact that India is home to 33% of the total population of blind people, which is an approximate of  12 million against 39 million globally, initiatives such as that of Talking Bus Stops coupled with the concept of Public Transport Days become highly imperative.

Other than this, cities like Cairo in Egypt offer metro services at a lower cost as compared to India. While the Indian Metro ticket cost ranges between $0.12 – $0.46, the metro ticket cost in Cairo is no more than $0.06.

Also, America comes in as a stupendous inspiration the number of trips taken by Americans in the year 2013, was an impressive figure of 10.7 billion. Besides, 450 millions of gallons are saved when people adopt public transportation.

POOR PAST OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT DAYS

It was in the month of April, 2010 when the State Transport Authority (STA) of Nagpur asked people to observe Public Transport Day on a particular weekend. But it was the tremendous and insensitive lack of awareness which resulted in poor response on almost all the routes and roads.

Perhaps, the requirement lies in observing such days on National Levels rather than State Levels. Further, it is essential for the idea to be publicized, promoted and have severe consequences if not implemented as per government guidelines. Also, the vision of Public Transport Day needs to accepted  by the rich and renowned people in India for it to be extensively adopted by  the masses. After all, a developed country is where the rich use public transport!!!

(With Inputs from Agencies). 

Death by Intoxicated Food vs Affordability: An Indian Dilemma

By Naina Sharma

“An Act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” This is the Food Safety and Standards Act of India framed in 2006. An Act dedicated towards ensuring healthier food consumption for people, stands helpless in front of the junk food packets or even the street food stalls serving across the country.

An inquiry by the KABP (Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Practices) study on food and drug safety in India surveyed 20,719 households from five regions spread over 28 states.
About 13.2 percent households reported that at least one person in each household
suffered from foodborne illness during the previous 15 days of the survey. At
community level 3 percent of the villages surveyed indicated that there was at least one
foodborne disease outbreak in the community during previous one year. It is reported
that distribution (%) of foodborne diseases according to food safety awareness and
practices by region wise (North, South, East, West and North East) indicated that
occurrence of foodborne disease was high in the western region (24.2 percent) from the
nearest region i.e. North East (10.9 percent).

 

The reasons are plentiful. There are innumerable bacterial pathogens which can be commonly found in street eateries. Many of these cause vomiting, diarrhoea, vomiting, appetite loss, typhoid, food poisoning, clostridium perfringens, abdominal cramps and in most severe cases, death. The presence of coliform in surveys conducted across the markets of the Indian Capital (New Delhi) over the past few years, indicate the absence of clean water giving way to unhygienic conditions during the food preparation. 

The fact that 22% of the Indian population lives below its official poverty limit of less than $1.25 dollars a day is quite an alarming peek into the reasons why the slum dwellers are forced to feed on food reminisces dumped as the street garbage. This is a reality which substantiates the reports by WHO (World Health Organization). WHO reports suggest that is mainly African and South-East Asia Regions which have the highest burden of food-borne diseases where 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 die as a consequence.

While schemes providing free and healthy meals to the poor is one of the keys to the problem, the numerous deaths of school going children due to intoxicated mid day meals puts a question mark on the credibility of the same. How I wish- food being a basic prerequisite to survival wasn’t something the Below Poverty Line Indian population required to ‘pay’ for to ‘buy’ a living!