Friday, May 25, 2007

The changing face of the 'Public Transport' system

On roads of Bangalore now air-conditioned Volvo buses are plying, introduced by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC)- a first in the country. Despite transportation and traffic woes increasing by the day, Bangalore is the first city to have Volvo buses as part of public transport.
These buses operate with conductors, like the present buses. They are pleasantly coloured with spic 'n' span interiors, low-floor, disabled-friendly, senior citizen-friendly, cushioned seats, disc brakes that ensure passengers are not jerked forward, electronic system that provides vehicle data to drivers, these are just some of the features a Volvo offers presently.

Sleek, red coaches, fully air-conditioned and compliant with Euro-III environment norms, other special features include kneeling mechanism for the benefit of the aged and the physically challenged; wide, pneumatically operated doors to enable easy boarding and disembarking of passengers. All for a price though. Like an autorickshaw, the minimum fare on a Volvo bus is Rs 10.
With only limited buses it gets difficult to track a bus coming to your area & this is when an interesting service called 'Yelli Iddira' comes to your aid. To know the current location of the buses, send an SMS message to 99456-34666 reading ‘Yi V356C U', where 'Yi' stands for ‘Yelli Iddira?'‘V356c' is the route number ‘U' stands for ‘up' (buses heading out of the 'starting station' are designated to as ‘up', and buses heading towards the 'starting station' are designated as ‘down'). Now this is sure to evoke a 'cool' from most of us.
The minimum fare is Rs.10 and maximum being Rs.45, though a little on the higher end BMTC's argument is "All good things come at a price".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mockery-Freedom of Speech & Expression

An excerpt from the Indian constitution:
‘All people of India shall be guaranteed and secured social, economic and political justice; equality of status and opportunities before law; and fundamental freedoms - of talk, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action - subject to law and public morality.’
The recent spate of affairs in India does not seem to showcase the freedom of speech and expression. Let’s look at a few incidents that seem to be rocking the country and flooding newspapers/24x7 news channels.

Political turmoil that was caused by an opinion poll in a newspaper.
A family’s political ambitions were made visible, when the sons of political leader M.Karunanidhi took to damaging public property and killing a few innocent people.
The irony is that the loss of public life which was a result of the insecurity; lost visibility to the speculation about Maran’s press conference and Karunanidhi’s gimmicks to get his daughter into main stream Politics.
What surprises me is that the leaders of this country are willing to compromise on policies that will benefit the nation and lack the maturity to understand the know how of an opinion poll.

If media cannot plug in what they would like in their own publication – but need to get a sign off from the government about every article that goes ‘live’- may be it is time to abolish the ‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’ and amend the constitution accordingly.

Outrage in Vadodara about art that was considered Obscene:
The last I checked:
  1. We did not have a rule book that mentioned the difference between art and obscenity.
  2. Police had a restriction about entering educational institutions unless they had the consent of the head of the educational institution.
  3. Politicians also had to follow the rule of not being able to barge into a place of their choice – when the place was not open to public.
There is little attention paid to the aforementioned aspects, a politician who gate crashed into an educational institution has gotten away from the law enforcement agencies- but an art student who put expression of his imagination on canvas has been behind bars for 5 days.

Let’s understand that -views on public morality do change over time. For example, there have been proscriptions against eating in the street or allowing women to smoke in public. These examples show that public views on things which are unacceptable often move towards wider tolerance.
These incidents raise serious questions about our ability, or even desire, to protect the cultural freedom of individuals. I strongly condemn all attempts by communal forces to violate cultural freedom.

All of us are a witness to the current breed of leaders making a mockery of ‘The Freedom of Speech and Expression’; this also strengthens the fact that today’s leaders want to be perceived as being powerful and enforcing what they perceive is right- conveniently masking areas that actually need attention.

Even the media has become a puppet in the hands of our uncouth politicians; they want to ensure they have content to power 24x7 operations – but one should realize that politicians are getting away with murders and are conveniently breaking the law. May be someday we want to stand up for what is right.

Is the media shying away from reality because they are not free to speak-up or express themselves?
Or is being in the good books of politicians more important than delivering what the viewer/reader needs to know?