21 August, 2015

Forget Smart Cities, Lets have Twin Cities

While you wait for benefits of Smart City Mission to reach your city, please read this :

Municipal corporations in India are sick, at every possible level (planning, decision making, execution). They do not have capability or will to provide world class municipal services (including basic services as mandated in the Indian constitution) for thousands of new citizens joining the city. Still they keep increasing/expanding the municipal boundaries.

  • Lack of town planning and regulations is leading to thousands of illegal housing projects.
  • High cost of decent housing for low income groups, leading to illegal slums.
  • No focus on providing public transportation leading to explosion in trips using cars, no wonder this leads to traffic congestion.
  • Corruption eats away significant portions of the budgets and expenditures on things that do not solve any problems (like Flyovers at busy junctions/squares) 
  • They have no grand vision to leverage the culture, heritage and to building a different identity for the city (like Paris has).
  • People are being fooled by buzzwords like "Smart city" without having any plan and funds on ground. It is business as usual.
Once of the root causes behind current situation is monopoly of the single sick municipal corporation on geographical location. The sick municipal corporation has monopoly over all natural resources (land, water, hills, gardens etc.) and they can do anything with it. People and genuine businesses are forced into submission due to this monopoly.

We must work to break this monopoly. How?

Remember the times when you had to bribe or wait for months to get a telephone land line connection at home? Govt. agencies had monopoly over telecommunication and they forced you in submission. Mobile phones created the competition that freed people from the shackles of this monopoly.

So point is that there MUST be a competition to the monopoly of single sick municipal corporation over a geographical area. This is possible if we divide the geographical area in to two parts and have two municipal corporations compete with each other. 

People working in factories, IT parks, offices should have a choice when the spend their money on buying property. Two corporations will compete with each other to do efficient tax collection and proper spending money on infrastructure. Corporation which does bad job will be punished by less investment and falling property prices. Also people will be able to compare performance of two and demand results from their representatives.

Does this guarantee world class municipal services? Perhaps no, but it gives people choice to choose lesser evil.

31 March, 2015

Striking Similarity between India Against Corruption Movement and Free Software Movement

Recently there was split in India's new political party AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) due to irreconcilable differences between co-founder Arvind Kejriwal (now Chief Minister of Delhi) and more idealist co-founders of the party Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. 

AAP party was born out of India Against Corruption movement to fight various forms of corruption at all levels of Indian government. All other well established political parties in India (BJP and Congress) have taken more "practical view" on corruption as "necessary" evil to run party operations. There was no pressure, will power and perhaps capability with established parties to fix cancer of corruption in Indian politics.

India Against Corruption movement spread quickly in all parts of urban India, thousands of people came of the streets to support the movement. People were tired of phony politics of Congress and BJP and their tolerance of corruption. 

Aam Aadami Party (AAP) was a side effect of this
movement. Arvind Kerjiwal was the poster boy. He became popular over time overshadowing more idealist members of the movement. 

Apparently Arvind Kerjiwal found it too difficult to adhere to pure values and ideals of the movement. With AAP winning Delhi elections with Kejriwal elected as Chief minister, the distance between AAP leadership and the original movement grew. Specifically AAP believed that winning Delhi election anyhow was important and providing good governance to Delhi is the top most priority. Arvind is famous for his apparent arrogance and dictatorial traits.

On the other hand, more idealistic leader believed on much large vision of taking the movement to all parts of India and do so without any compromise on principles/values of the movement. The movement should spread all over India and it is much bigger than success in a state election.

Arvind Kejriwal (Poster Boy)

Yogendra Yadav (Idealist but not popular)

Having participated in both Free software movement and India against corruption movement, for me similarity of striking.

Richard Stallman initiates Free software movement based on principles of "software freedoms". Software users and developers were suffering from the monopolist practices of Microsoft and cumbersome software licenses regime. So many people supported free software movement. It grew in many parts of the world.

Open source software projects (under various licenses including GNU GPL) was a side of effect of this movement. Linux Kernel project was born out in the fertile environment created by Free software movement. Linux and its creator Linus Torvalds became poster child of this movement. However Linus never fully supported the ideals of software freedom and refused to help the movement spread. He decided not to call Linux distributions as GNU/Linux. Linus is famously known as "Benevolent Dictator".

Richard Stallman always appreciated Linus as a good engineer, but criticized for compromising on principles of "software freedoms". Stallman believes that movement is much bigger than a single project.

Linus Torvalds (Poster Boy)

Richard Stallman (Idealist but not popular)

27 February, 2015

What Hinjewadi IT Park employees are doing to solve traffic problem?

Hinjewadi IT Park in Pune is now known for notorious traffic jams on weekdays. Hundreds of thousands of employees (including me) work there. Many vent their frustrations via social media.

So what are we doing to solve the traffic problem. Is there anything more than can be done?
First of I would like to quickly mention what is being already done to solve the issues.

Public Transport

You will surprised to know many employees regularly use PMPML buses even though they own cars.

Company Provides Buses

Thousands of employees (probably up to 40 %) use company provides buses instead of cars. We should also appreciate company administration managing bus services (in spite of many challenges).

Car Pooling

Many employees have taken efforts to car pool to save cost and indirectly reduce no. of cars on the roads.
One employee even quite his job to create car pooling app: http://www.mebuddie.com/home/carpool
We also hope that Olacabs will come up with some new ideas to encourage car pooling.

Hinjewadi Industries Association

The association has got a very clear mandate from companies to work on issues faced by employees (traffic, safety etc.). Although they are bit slow (lack of resources) they have take efforts towards solving many problems. They also act as official interface with political leaders and representatives,
See their initiative MetroZip.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HIA.Pune

You need to contact you company Admin head for any suggestions/ideas for HIA to work on.

Improving Public Transport

There are so many activists and organisation working to improve PMPML and in general state of public transport in Pune. Following is partial list:

What Next?

Political Action

Small changes are possible if we common people co-operate, help, suggest government administration. But big changes are possible only if we actively participate in politics and influence decisions and policies and more importantly how tax payer money is used.

One example of Political action is signature and awareness campaign arranged by Hinjewadi IT park employee Ashish Mishra.

A meet was arranged at Shivar Chowk, Pimple Saudagar. Lots of people working in Hinjewadi IT park stay in this area. We had a very good discussion and exchange of ideas and took few signatures of people supporting the campaign.