Sequel to Election-nama!

My previous blog was about Election results concerning the path taken by Indian Democracy post-independence! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/status-quo-election-nama/ 

But I could not write more things on the subject, as I limit my blogs to less than certain number of words. For want of a better title, I have given the title to this blog Sequel ….”! I had written about the Khan market gang, Tukde Tukde gang and others who were dead against the Modi regime. Somehow I was very uneasy with their extreme discomfort. Why were these people so uncomfortable? What is the difference between these people and others like you and me? 

I read a blog by Shobha De in Times of India dated 26/5/2019.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/politically-incorrect/how-liberals-living-in-la-la-land-misread-the-asli-hindustani/

She has accepted in the blog that she is from this group of people who thought Modi might just survive or lose the election. ( I feel that gang is too harsh a word). She felt that people like her have now become irrelevant. She has also said that she had hoped that all of them would wake up on 23rd May, the election day, with a big smile on their face. Shobha is one of the very few who have accepted what has happened. 

Some of the reactions from liberals on the election results were

  • Don’t underestimate ‘intelligence’ of voters! They had also voted Hitler, Mugabe, & Marcos to power! They have also voted Trump, Putin & Erdogan to power! 
  • It is a wave; it was always meant to be a wave. The hate wave has gripped India for a while. 
  • I clearly remember 16 May 2014. Everyone was rushing to JNU Students’ Union office to watch the Lok Sabha results. I had a naive belief that @ArvindKejriwal would become PM, that India would reject a mass murderer. That was the first time that I felt like a Muslim in India. 

I have nothing against the different views that people have. One of my closest friends is dead against Modi. I must have discussed election results with at least 50 people known to me. They are all professionals. They have been there and done that! Out of these 50, only one friend was against Modi. But he expected NDA to get 250 seats and he was not against everything by NDA. On the similar basis, I assume that comments above were from a specific group of people, who are in Media, who are in public eye, who had  enjoyed the government jaunts of foreign trips with Prime Ministers and other ministers in “olden days”. (Translated to preModi days). They have also been saying how much Modi is wasting money on foreign trips by taking a jumbo jet with very few advisors; he should travel in a smaller plane! (Translates into reporters don’t get free rides!)  

The 50 people I am talking of are very successful people in life, intelligent, smart and what have you. They were the CEO’s and owners and directors. Does it mean that all these liberals speaking diagonally opposite are better and more intelligent than my friends group? No way.  

Another thing I noticed was the discussion on the exit poll day. On a Marathi channel, there were many reporters as experts. The exit poll figure swung between 237 to 350 for NDA. All the “experts were unanimous in saying that figure would be much less than 237 and could go to as low as 137! It looked as if they wished it to happen. The reporters are supposed to be in touch with the ground realities; they are the knowalls! How can all of them be so wrong? When such vital predictions go wrong, does it affect their performance card? Are they demoted because of such blunder in the forecast? Are they forced to take a salary cut? Such project failures would, in any other job, could lead to people being terminated. I have not read any such news about reporters. 

Reporters, Liberal experts, along with the opposition politicians, have proved one thing during this election that they did not have the pulse of the masses. When they use the word masses, they mean to say, idiots. Other than these groups, no one else  knows what is happening in India.  

I am again quoting from Shobha’s blog because no one else has the guts to accept that they failed to predict the people’s verdict miserably.

The toughest thing people like me — like ‘us’ — have to face up to is our irrelevance. And do so, while keeping that stubborn chin up! Do we have what it takes to look within and find out what changed when we weren’t looking? When were we busy trying to convince ourselves, the past five years were nothing but an aberration? How wrong we were! Not just wrong in our assessment but wrong about virtually everything else! We were clinging on to our nostalgia — our over-romanticised idea of India — while refusing to accept the cold, hard reality that India had changed. It wasn’t even India anymore! It had become Hindustan!  

What by the way was an alternative to Modi? Naidu who could not retain his government? Banerjee whose workers created mayhem during the election campaign? Banerjee who refused to meet the prime minister (as per her- the “Outgoing PM.”) who wanted to discuss what help Central Government could give to cycloneravaged Bengal? Mayawati who asked a question, “If we can have Ram statues all over, what is wrong in having my statues too?Lalu Prasad who is languishing in jail with a 13year jail term. Rahul Gandhi who proved his merit by the Congress score of 0 in 17 states, including losing at Amethi.  This opposition governing us, was the “over-romanticised” idea of the experts!

I will share with you how people think, differently. A family friend, an excellent mathematician, has different views. She said, “It is the pharma and weapon lobby in the world who made sure that Modi, the hawk, won the elections. Modi will make sure that their products will be bought by India as Modi will definitely go to war with Pakistan.” I do not argue with such brilliant ideas.

All these wise, bright, sharp people were hoping to get the alternatives that are mentioned above. Had this group of politicians won the election to form a government in Delhi, where would they take India? Consider each persons expertise, and we can imagine that they would have been squabbling, fighting all the time with each other; each state trying to steal the projects irrespective of  whether they were useful for India. Yes, the foreign jaunts of the reporters in Jumbo jets would have started. Politicians and business people could have continued to try and loot the institutions and banks without fear.  

All the “experts” sit in their ivory towers in Delhi. Has anyone travelled to villages in Assam? Has anyone seen the bloodletting happening in Bengal? Following a few TRP story of Gau Rakshak killers make these people think that these incidents are controlled from Delhi. Yesterday when all channels were showing Modi’s speech, one channel showed breaking news Video of some horrible beatings in MP. I am all for Exposés! But we should not forget that bad things have been always happening in the world.  There is no extraordinary increase in these numbers during Modi’s time.

Social media and TV has its pluses and minuses. When a bad incident is telecast repeatedly for TRP we feel that the world is bad. Same is the case with WA and FB. But what people actually have in their minds will be known only by direct contact with them. So let us hope that the media, the opposition, the gang all learn their lessons and become responsible and thereby more effective.  I also hope that they stay away from their romanticism and live in the real world! Amen!

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Elphinstone Station Tragedy!

22 people died in stampede on the foot bridge at Elphinstone Road railway station on western railway in Mumbai. This sort of tragedy was waiting to happen! The blame game has already started, starting from railway administration to Mumbai Municipal Corporation. Activists have started blaming politicians depending on their affiliations. I am sure major part of blame has to go these agencies but the apathy that we as public show, the way we accept everything and anything is unbelievable.  First a bit of history about Suburban Railways in Mumbai then known as Bombay.

The Mumbai Suburban Railway is an offshoot of the first passenger railway to be built by the British in India, and is also the oldest railway system in Asia. The first train ran between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and Thane, a distance of 34 km, on 16 April 1853 at 15:35. The 14-coach train took 1.25 hours to complete the 34 km journey, with a halt at Sion to refill the train’s water tanks. Since 1991, it has been expanded rapidly. (Wikipedia)

I have lived in Mumbai till 1975 and in those days, except for rush hours, going by trains was fun. In fact when I was in school we used to go by train for picnics! Things started changing after that. Infrastructure in those times was ok. To my understanding infra would include rakes, platforms, over bridges, ticketing windows, toilets, signaling and many such systems. This would also include exits from the station and entry to the station. The bridge where the event occurred was built in 1972 with maybe about 20 years projected traffic. Now it is 45 years!

My “latest” travel by these trains, maybe once or twice, was “about 18/20 years back. So I am not an authority to comment on the same. But I will share my experience with you. I went from Dadar station to Kandivali, it was a Sunday and I boarded the train at 7 pm. There was heavy rush and I somehow managed to travel, profusely sweating. When I reached my friends home, he said you are looking tired! I said there was so much rush on the train. He said, “Pramod today was Sunday that is the reason I invited you, Sunday’s are reasonably rush free days.”  I had no comments. I once also traveled from Andheri to Dadar to go to VT. I caught a train around 4.30 am, reached Dadar; then for switching from western train to central train I walked the foot over bridge at 5 am. I could never imagine that at 5 am there could so much rush! Walking itself was a big deal. That day I decided that I will never travel in suburban trains in Mumbai, ever! Infrastructure was bursting through seams already. That was 20 years back.

Population in Mumbai in late 90’s was 9.9 million and now the population is 18 million! It has doubled. Railway system carries 7.5 million passengers daily. I don’t think the overall infrastructure increased proportionately. I am only looking from passenger perspective. Improvement in signals does not really improve passenger comfort. Passenger ingress and egress is the most important aspect along with capacity of the compartments. Outside most railway stations, there is chaos of taxis, autos, hawkers and what have you! Hawkers of course sit on the bridges too! Whatever space was there 40 years back, probably same space is available outside most stations but mostly occupied by the usual culprits. Large number of taxis and autos and hawkers occupy lion’s share out of that space.

This obviously shows that such accidents were waiting to happen. My friend Shashikant Limaye who is an expert in this field shared on TV how many plans have been made to improve infra and shelved. There was special World Bank loan sanctioned but was cancelled due to no progress by authorities, in the year 2007. I feel that both Central and State governments discuss issues as if they are third party to the problems and say that it is Railway departments responsibility. There are some good experts with heart at the right place but with mouth at the wrong place! Yesterday one of them was demanding that Maharashtra CM should resign as it is his personal responsibility. He also claimed that it is Prime Minister’s personal responsibility! Probably he said such things out of sheer frustration at the sheer apathy shown by all concerned!

Now let us take a mirror, open it and hold it in front of ourselves. Do we have public awareness as a society? We blame the hawkers for occupying space on bridges and space around stations. Do we ever consider of stopping to buy from them? If nobody buys what will they do? But while buying we look for convenience. A society gets government it deserves. All political leaders are from our own society. Those in Mumbai surely know the conditions more than senior leaders. Some of them must be using railway system daily. Has anyone ever raised concern, voice, over these issues seriously and loudly? The “VIP’s” of the politics never “know” these things as they have “open” roads and “closed” vehicles. I can understand that certain jobs may be available only in Mumbai e.g. film/TV related. But there may be many that will be available elsewhere too! So why not shift? I know it’s a tough call but at least think about it! Why cling and stick to a place? I don’t think salaries are so high in Mumbai that people don’t want to leave Mumbai. A cousin my mine who has now retired, moved to Bavdhan, Pune from Hindu Colony, selling everything lock stock and barrel! When I asked how he found the change, he simply said, “Why the hell I was living in Mumbai, God knows!”

Every day in Mumbai railway system, 8 to 10 people die because of various types of accidents. I don’t think any government is responsible for that. It has become so routine that these are hardly being reported. Why this apathy from people? Hundreds of thousands of people cross rail tracks every day and this causes deaths. Imagine everyday 8 to 10 times the train system goes on hold, due to death, there is domino effect of delays and consequential pressure increases on the system, every day. There are many things which have started coming out after the stampede. Parel in olden days was an area where there were mills and mill workers lived around the mills. Getting down at Parel and Elphinstone station was never on your priorities. After mill properties got developed in commercial properties, it seems one million people come to that area every day! This has happened in last ten years so, and  system has started understanding it now.

I always hear of “Bombay Spirit”! It is a myth created by the media. What option do people of Bombay have? Once the Elphinstone station was “sanitized” after yesterday’s stampede, people started going on the same bridge, the same platform and same system! You have to go home is it not? Is this “Bombay Spirit”? What do you do? Stay in office for the day? Or walk home or what?

Let’s pray to God that better sense will prevail and people from various departments will sit together, plan and start actions. There are always immediate, short term, mid term and long term actions in any project. Something can always be started right away. For example if there are more than one bridge on a station with proper ingress & egress, out of sheer habit people will keep on using old bridge all the time. Make bridges “one way” where possible,  it will straight away increase capacity by 50%.  People will have to walk a little more. I see very long walkways in CBD area, and people prefer covered walkway; but they use this because there is no other option to cross the express way. Start merciless operation of fining heavily, people crossing the rail tracks! It is their responsibility “not” to cross the rail track! Removing hawkers from bridges and areas outside stations is possible but needs to be sustained over a period of time. This will need political will. Removing rikshaws and taxis from outside station is easily achievable.  People should form a movement at all stations “Not to buy from hawkers”, it is their responsibility too! All in all every department, person, officer, and commuter should raise their hands and start to act.

Latest news is that Central Government has come into action and a lot of things are planned for suburban train system with a specific time frame. Let’s hope it works out.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/sep/30/foot-over-bridges-will-be-mandatory-additional-escalators-cctv-sanctioned-for-mumbai-stations-piy-1664829.html