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Showing posts from August, 2005

"I Work For The Government, So I Don't"

Would A Good Work Ethic Have Helped ?

Killing the mandatory half-hour to 40 minutes stuck in the mandatory traffic jams on the Airport road driving into central Bangalore is much simpler now. For one, this writer is mentally reconciled to it, second, there is a spare book or an extra set of newspapers. No longer is one engulfed in the `state of panic leading to despair' syndrome that usually accompanies such unexpected waits.

The Indira Nagar flyover which will ease the situation considerably is still under construction. A court order should have cleared some litigation and work should have been under way, a month ago. Not quite. On the three occasions one has passed this site in the last three weeks, on one I counted three workers who seemed engrossed in, possibly, counting the number of steel rods that were used in the previous attempt to build the flyover.

A largish crane stands silently near by, its not even clear whether its in the building, renovation or destruction business. …

Save Our Soul (Ourselves)

Sorry, The Cops Are Not Part Of The Plan

In an earlier post and article elsewhere, this writer had cribbed about how, on the way home on the night of 26th July (and morning of 27th), he failed to spot a single policeman on the road. Citizens, as always, rose to the ocassion, doing everything from directing traffic to helping people wade through their respective localities.

It now transpires, going by a most insightful interview (in of Maharashtra Director General of Police Dr P S Pasricha by Archana Masih that the police are not even part of the state's disaster management plan ! Well, well, who then is part of the plan, you might ask ? Search me. The correct answer is nobody. There is of course a plan on paper and has been there for 7 years or so. Don't worry, a committee has been formed to `look into it'.

As this writer has pointed out in the past, it was not just a failure of systems on 26th of July but also of leadership. At a recent disaster management me…

Learning To Be Safe, At Home

Survivors From The Fire: Even The Best Disaster Management System Can Fail

The ageing Dauphin helicopter takes a full circle before coming around to land on the iron-mesh helipad, high above the somewhat turbulent seas - as we look out, a fully `cloaked' fire fighter waits aside a hydrant, ready to `fire' powerful jets of water in case something were to go wrong.

Nothing does. The helicopter settles down with a light thump and we alight. As we walk towards the metal ladder that descends below to the deck, the rotors are still spinning, sending powerful gusts of wind in our direction. As we walk down somewhat gingerly, the helicopter revs up again and lifts off.

This was ONGC's Bombay High North oil process platform, some 160 km north west of the Bombay coastline. Was because, a month later (July 27th), an offshore supply vessel collided with the platform, setting off explosions and a fire that raged till next morning. A total of 22 people (12 missing) died in the tragedy.

As …

Are We Missing The Point ?

It's a failing administration's dream come true. Localise the issue that everyone is making the loudest noise about, make it appear that this (issue) was the cause of the entire mess, set up not one but two committees to study the problem and then sit back till the next crisis erupts.

Mumbai's 13km long Mithi River is a disaster that was waiting to happen, like countless other disasters in the city. It does not take an expert in urban planning or perhaps, more appropriately, toxicology o determine where the river was going or not going or how badly it was stuffed with effluents and garbage.

A 10-year-old looking out of a local train while crossing the bridge over the river between Mahim and Bandra suburban railway stations in north Mumbai could have concluded the same; that its an utter failure of urban governance, if it ever existed to begin with.

The slums that mushroomed up around the mouth of the river on the Mahim side didn't appear out of a magician's hat. Someo…

Build Systems If Not Leadership

The Event That Should Have Created A System

August 25, 2003: An otherwise normal, warm, Mumbai workday was shattered with news of bomb blasts ripping through the city. For several hours pandemonium reigned as panic-struck citizens jammed phone networks in an attempt to reach other. News reports suggested several bombs had gone off across the city, killing or maiming hundreds. It was only in the evening that a clear picture emerged. Only two bombs had gone off, one at the Gateway of India parking lot and at the other, at the Zaveri Bazaar gold market in south central Mumbai. The death toll was high though, at 44.

A few days later, Mumbai joint commissioner of police Javed Ahmed called up television news channels in the city and sought a meeting with their senior editors. The ostensible reason was to understand how to work together and disseminate information effectively. A dozen or so journalists made the journey to the grand stone Mumbai police headquarters in the bustling Crawford Ma…

Get Angry, Dammit & Stay So..

That's How High The Water Was (Courtesy: Rediff)

"How can we allow them to get away with it?" my colleague screamed. It was past 10 pm in the office, two days after the great Mumbai flood and another colleague had got off a phone. He had heard rumours that the sluice gates at Vihar (a large lake supplying water and located in north-east Mumbai) were to be opened. Residents living near and around the lake were panicking.

My colleague was furious. "Why isn't the BMC (BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation) issuing a clarification? Surely they know about it by now." As it happened, a private television channel was on air in minutes with a statement from Mumbai's municipal commissioner, around the same time we began calling other officials there.

My colleague then called up someone she knew at one of the FM stations and told them about it. Admirably and quite instantaneously, as they had through the previous two days, they picked it up and relayed it.

Millions of M…