Our bad air quality and Indo-Pak relations and what it says about us?

I got out of office earlier. In the day ending light conditions I could manage to see the horrible haze in Andheri at around 6pm on the New Link Road housing Infinity mall. I guess it must be the same around the city. Had I been travelling an hour later a dark skyline would have hidden the haze.

It was a repulsive sight raising concerns about the impact on collective health and our priorities. I was in a taxi on a call I could not keep aside and hence did not stop to take the photos.

Shamelessly opportunistic thoughts came to my mind riding on a recent big talking point in our country. I began linking the recent Shiv Sena misbehaviour with Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni and the high security having to be provided to Mr. Kasuri and the event around his book release.

I wish Mr. Fadnavis and others would take a “principled stand” on air pollution and public health. I which this could become as big a talking point as Indo-Pakistan ties, disturbance in which hardly takes any lives as compared to bad air.

Its great to have good relations between India and Pakistan but far more important is to ponder why citizens in both countries are not concerned about the most basic of issues affecting them and demanding better services from their governments? What does it say? And in the indifferent situation when people do speak and take interest what issue(s) is it?

Earlier in the year I highlighted the horrible way in which the resurfacing of Marine Drive was taking place raising criminal amounts of dust and it covered very prominently in the Times of India. I used the occasion to highlight the need for an overall work area management policy in all road infrastructure projects and buildings demolitions and constructions. It is a subject I have been raising concern over forever having written on other occasions on my blog.

I have stopped expecting any body – individual or institution – to read those kind of news reports and get in touch to support in any way or at the bare minimum such reports or videos or images to become a great talking point in the city like the recent fracas. I took a number of shocking videos of the resurfacing and the number of views it got are there to see.

Not to forget half a dozen other interventions to improve air quality beginning with improved public transport.

Far more people are dying from bad air than with any violence with Pakistan. Cardiovascular diseases have a strong linkage with air quality and lung conditions. Which means that a lot of deaths being registered as cardio vascular failure have been exasperated due to air pollution leading to mortality. But that can never become a talking point. Sena speared oil paint on Mr. Kulkarni and air pollution smears far more tar and other toxics on the lungs of millions. I wonder whether Mr. Udhav Thackeray is ever concerned about the state of the lungs of Mumbai’s citizens and the condition of which can be linked to the kind of decisions his party takes in the municipal corporation.

Where should be the focus of intellectuals and activists and concerned citizens?

In the end it does say something about how to garner public attention towards attaining political power. It is because people give a damn to real issues or have become too numb that there is a need to have such fracas and stunts. Talking sense on important public issues in straight forward ways never got any any body any where.

Points made during deposition on Coast Road Project in Mumbai

Independent Peoples Tribunal for Environment organised a Public Hearing on Mumbai Coast Road. The public notice for the same is at the end of my deposition.

Below are the points I submitted in my written deposition. I made a separate set of points in my spoken deposition, which is found in this presentation.


Deposition before Commissioners by Rishi Aggarwal
Friday, 9th October, 2015

I would like to place the following points on record for the consideration of the Commissioners with regards to my objection to the coastal road project proposed by the MCGM and supported by the state and national governments. The project in my opinion is symptomatic of bad governance and my points below argue against the project on governance grounds.

I am an environmental and civic issues activist for the past 15 years and have been closely involved with impacting numerous issues which would lead to a better quality of life in Mumbai. I take keen interest and involve myself on a continuous basis with aspects related to the good governance of Mumbai. I have been opposing the coast road since early 2011 when it was first proposed and have been expressed my views at numerous governmental and public forums till now.

I am attaching two different letters sent by me regarding the same and also a petition which I started in 2013 against the project. Some key points are below

Points for deposition

1. It pains me that a few politicians have chosen in their wisdom to call the coast road project as one of national importance. The lifeline of Mumbai, the suburban railway network carries 8 million people daily, it is a global marvel. Almost ten people lose their lives daily on this network. I would imagine that a project of national importance would be to find a solution to put a complete stop to these deaths. This would confirm with the tenets of good governance. The coastal road project will make absolutely no difference to the conditions on the suburban system or to saving the lives of those who die on it every day.

As per estimates the coastal road would have a capacity of transporting a maximum of 300,000 people every day (with a lot of doubt) as compared to the 8 million on the suburban system. The coastal road project has been projected to cost Rs. 13,000 crore in 2015 costs. A reasonable level of improvements in various aspects of the suburban system would cost less than Rs. 1000 crores from what I gather through various readings in the papers and official reports.

So it is a situation where there is enormous enthusiasm in the government to spend Rs. 13000 crores on transporting 300,000 people daily but almost zero enthusiasm in spending Rs. 1000 crores on improving a system which is transporting 8 million people daily. How can this be justified on a good governance parameter? Would not a government interested in delivering good governance have a balanced approach?

2. The National Urban Transport Policy 2006 by the Government of India explicitly states that the focus and priority of transport policies and investments in Indian cities should be to move people not cars. For a decade and more we have only seen a violation of that policy in Mumbai. Having received no resistance MCGM became brazen and has leapfrogged but not in the way the NUTP would expect.

3. The land use and mobility patter in Mumbai has undergone a drastic change in the past three decades. A large number of people who work in Greater Mumbai need not be staying within. These are people staying with other municipal corporations within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Mobility, residence and work patterns increasingly have an inter-regional pattern and our transport planning has not kept pace with the requirements. Multi-modal integration is still not convenient in the region. For these purposes development of functional Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) has been suggested for Mumbai for very long. Robust institutions as we know are the fundamental tenet of good governance.

Again the government has shown abysmal commitment to establish an UMTA for MMR. Enthusiasm for the coast road by releasing full page advertisements, carpeting the city skyline with self-congratulatory messages on hoardings has been there for all to see. The same politicians and administration shows a zero concern for addressing the day to day mobility challenges faced by millions in the region.

4. The coastal road proponent – the MCGM – is offering the coastal road project as a solution to the traffic congestion being faced in Mumbai. A city the size of Mumbai and with intentions of becoming world class does not see a functional and well equipped transport and traffic planning cell within itself. It is unimaginable a megapolis of this size in the developed world to not have a well functioning traffic and transport planning cell in its local self government.

The coastal road report alludes to the presence of similar roads in developed countries and uses them to build a case for the coastal road. But what about a traffic cell, which is a fundamental requirement if you want to handle traffic congestion? Why no interest in having a traffic cell? All of these world class cities have world class traffic monitoring departments staffed with the best trained staff and with budgets and facilities to match. There is an unmistaken sincerity in the way some of these global cities are governed, which is woefully missing from the governance of Mumbai.

Is the coast road a case of having cake when we do not even have bread?

End of deposition


Public Notice about the Public Hearing

Public Hearing on Mumbai Coast Road

Organiser: Human Rights Law Network, Mumbai

Date: Friday, 9 October 2015.

Registration: 9.30 am; Tribunal hearings commence: 10am

Venue: St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE)

The Independent People’s Tribunal on Environment aims to conduct fair and credible investigations focusing on issues concerning human rights and environmental justice and give voice to the struggles of grassroots organizations and affected communities.

We are setting up a Public Hearing to deliberate the feasibility of the proposed highway on the Rs 12,000 crore, 35-km long Coast Road on the western sea front of Mumbai that will connect Kandivali to Nariman Point on Friday October 9, from 10 AM to 6 PM.

At the Public hearing persons from various backgrounds ranging from the fishing communities, architects, town planners, governance, environmentalists and experts will be deposing on the effects of the coast road on the environment, fishing communities and on the financial viability of the project.

Justice (Retd.) Hosbet Suresh, former Bombay High Court Judge; D.M. Sukthankar and Jamsheed Kanga (former Municipal Commissioners); D.T. Joseph (former Urban Development Secretary); B.C. Khatua, Director of the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU, a parastatal body); Gerson da Cunha, Action for Governance & Networking in India (AGNI); Shirish Patel, civil engineer and one of the three proponents of Navi Mumbai; Shabana Azmi, actor and activist; Prof V. Subramanyan, former IIT-Mumbai geologist; Sunil Shanbag, theatre director; Rambhau Patil, President, Maharashtra Machhimar Kruti Samiti; Dr Rakesh Kumar, Chief Scientist, in charge of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Mumbai; Ajit Ranade, economist, Nikhil Wagle, journalist, Major General S. C. N. Jattar, President, Nagrik Chetna Manch and Meenakshi Menon, media and communications expert and founder of Vanashakti NGO, are Commissioners.

Address: Third Floor, St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE), TPS III, Near Tawa Restaurant, Opp. Duruelo Convent High School, Road Number 24, Bandra (West), Mumbai – 400050
Phone:022 2643 5709

The event is open to the public, who can also send written submissions to the Commissioners during the day’s proceedings.

We look forward to full coverage by the print and electronic media.
Anne Thomas Panicker,
Human Rights Law Network (HRLN),
First Floor, Jalaram Krupa, Janmabhoomi Marg, Fort, Mumbai – 400001
Tel: +91-22-2282 0109/2282 0192; 98924 61119 Email: mumbai@hrln.org

Manufactured outrage

I have not been much part of the discussions about some recent events which have attracted public outrage. Late August to most of September it was the Indrani Mukherjee case and off late it is the Dadri beef murder. I would have thought there would be far more important and deeper issues for the public to outrage over. These could be with regards to the functioning of the government in power or in opposition on issues of national importance or even far more important existential local issues.
For me it has been of great anguish to see the kind of ridiculous statements in the past eight months coming out of Indian climate hawks and the overall despondency over India’s climate change response. But clearly there is no public outrage over that.
It has been almost my continuous state that I generally am not interested in most of the public outrage issues. The 2G scam, the coal scam and so many others in the UPA government which made news ad nauseum in the past few years on television and print to me were well calibrated diversionary tactics. I would speak about it privately and sometimes publicly but clearly the mass media had been co-opted very well in a ‘manufactured outrage’.
At any given time there is always a certain capacity in citizens in terms of time and energy to experience outrage over public events and to engage in discussions over them. It could be X amount of hours a day or Y amount of calories that you decide you will give to outrage.
From the point of view of any political party it would always make sense if they were able to control where people expend their outrage. X hours of time and Y amount of calories a day. If you can direct this energy on your own chosen issues – decoys – then you succeed in the public not having any capacity left to express outrage on issues which threaten your political power and question your performance on critical issues.
There can be the following options
1) People read and follow important public matters through multiple sources like papers, TV, diverse websites, committee reports, journals and decide which are the issues which need to be outraged upon and accordingly spend their energy out of their independent volition.
2) There could be a political control room run by very intelligent people who closely analyse the psyche of the people and monitor their habits, time availability, sensibilities etc. This control room then develops a ‘stack’, an inventory of issues which they will introduce every few days into the public realm in a well coordinated sensational manner. This issue will then become the sole talking point for the bulk of the population.
People will share their thoughts and opinions on the issue on face book. Fight with those whose views are different or those who have attacked their own views. At one point get fed up of the fighting and retire away for a few days or having become hardened and cynical. All in all having expended their x and y.
The control room could either dig out forgotten cases and make them big like the Indrani case or create new events, which in my belief is the Dadri case.
This control room also has an important task at fire fighting. At any point there can be aspects of government/political functioning which have the potential to ignite widespread outrage and it is up to the control room to ensure they are able to quickly respond with diversionary events.
The first option is a rarity. As a norm citizens are a slave to the television and it is their sole source of information, opinion building and time spent. Most citizens are incapable of understanding public policy and issues which really matter but still possess the energy for outrage and it is important for political parties – especially those in power – to ensure that their energy is not tapped into by those who would like to make them intelligent towards the more important issues.
In my opinion issues like Indrani Mukherjee and the Dadri beef murder fit in exactly into point number two. Was or is Indrani Mukherjee and her doings such an important issues that it should be the sole topic of public discussion for 20 days? The Dadri beef murder though shocking is clearly a case where the control room could have directed the murder so as to ensure that all discussion on social media, print and television is swamped with this single issue. I don’t know which is the issue/issues being covered up.
It is up to people to be cautious and ensure that they the outrage that they are experiencing is not coming out of a factory and they are not just another sitting duck consumer consuming a product that has been well marketed to them.

The Grand Cosmic Plan – to annihilate all life on earth

In brief, the Grand Cosmic Plan is to annihilate all life on planet earth and convert it into a barren wasteland thus bringing it in consonance with the state of all celestial bodies in the solar system, the Milky Way and most of the universe as we know it. And human beings have been put on earth by the Cosmos to execute this plan.

The April 2015 issue of National Geographic dawned upon me the Grand Cosmic Plan, in a roundabout manner. It is quite pertinent that a magazine, which introduced me to most of my life’s strongest vocations should also chose to reveal this plan to me. There was a story about the pine beetle infection affecting millions of acres of forests in North America and how it is a fall out of a warming planet. It was sad to see the images of those lifeless stands of once lush forests. I could relate to the issue locally with the enormous sadness experienced at the rapid loss of a large number of rain trees in Mumbai to the mealy bug infection and the helpless bystanders that so many of us were left to become. Of course in the case of rain trees in Mumbai my strong hunch is that the mealy bug has been introduced on them selectively by a group to kill them, unlike a natural spread like in case of the pine beetle.

The same issue had a story celebrating 25 years of the Hubble Telescopes voyage and the fascinating set of imagery from the space that it has provided us with. Having myself chased the earliest of images in the 90s I could experience some distant excitement, which was soon to be overrun with a commentary about how there is always so much of funding for space research and exploration of life in space while we are hell bent on annihilating it all on the one celestial body which we know has enough of it. What could explain this irony?

I saw some of the images carried, the familiar red black golden hue to all the images, sparking stars, an experience of desolation and the realisation that we are talking of distances in light years here. In so many years of space exploration through millions of light years we have not discovered similar celestial bodies as earth brimming with so much life and diversity.

Those on the nature side agonize over what we have wrought on the planet and all the crimes we are doing as a species by defiling the only planet which has life and so much beauty in an otherwise barren and lifeless universe. These people find fault with many human needs, which are extractive and cause rampant death and destruction of nature. Many attach moral or religious overtones to this misconduct of humans, suggesting that what is happening is grossly wrong and nature or the gods will one day punish the species for such gross lack of respect for god’s creation.

But what if all of the death, destruction, lack of respect being brought upon nature and life on earth is part of the plan of these very gods or some other god more powerful than our own creations?

How is it that in the millions of celestial bodies we know in the universe it is only this small body called earth, which shows such an incredible diversity of life forms?

How can it be that there is absolutely nothing which exists on any of the other planets? It is not necessary that everything should be exactly as found on earth. Species and organisms conducive to environments found on other celestial bodies could have evolved, but we see just nothing anywhere.

How and why is it that efforts at saving the earth and a better environment are always such a struggle, difficult to motivate the masses, difficult to get funding, difficult on almost all fronts conceivable? While those on the other side have it all going well. Have a great idea to make it more convenient for people to consume more? You have investors climbing over each other to write you a check. And big amounts at that, while an environmental or social do-good idea will find you begging your self-respect out for even a small amount. The best of human resource on the other side compared to bleeding hearts on the environment side. Things should not be so difficult if you are doing something good; if you are really aligned with the Grand Cosmic Plan? So possibly all the do-good efforts are really not aligned with the Grand Cosmic Plan much as it will be disagreeable to the environmental minority.

The comic eye – as I will call this god – or the creator or a strong energy field which immerses the universe must at some point have taken a serious note of the rapid rate at which species were evolving on this particular speck of the universe. From being a large mass of molten gas the speck was cooling, solidifying and creating the right bio chemical environment for different life forms to develop. Slowly this entity called nature started showing up on this celestial body. As nature took root it developed enormous ability to propagate itself and develop newer forms of life, different climatic regions developed and a corresponding diversity of species developed as well which were adapted to these climatic conditions. As much life was there terrestrially, far much more developed in the oceans. The earth became one incredible ingredient rich soup bowl, standing out sharply and distinctly from these other specks of geology in the universe.

The cosmos was a mute spectator to this evolving drama, not able to register what was happening. Forests, grasses, fungi, bacteria and complex organisms, organisms which crawl, which fly, which run, some which are the size of nails and some the size of dinosaurs. It was all getting crazy and out of hand.

This presumably was not acceptable to the cosmos. Nature must have become the invasive species, which was rapidly infesting what was designed to be a desolate, lifeless landscape.

It can be argued that in the grand scheme of things earth does not even count as infinitesimal in the universe. Why take serious note of what was happening over here? Let an exception exist. Possibly there must have been a real threat that at some point the same process could transmit from earth and start on some of these other celestial bodies as well.

And this is when the cosmos took a decision to halt this invasion by nature. It was decided then to develop an anti dote to this poison that was spreading across earth. As with snake poison, the anti-dote would have to come from nature itself. And this is where the grand plan began to develop. It was decided to turn one of the species developed by nature against itself.

Keeping the incredible resilience of nature and ability to rebound in mind it was felt that it was necessary that the efforts made to contain nature were just not aimed at containing it but at completely annihilating it, leaving it with absolutely no ability to rebound back in anyway and make it similar to any of the lifeless, barren celestial bodies in the universe.

And what a wonderful job this anti-dote is doing. Humans are not just containing nature but working towards overwhelming it to not be able to rebound in anyways and paving the way for complete annihilation. And from the look of things the Grand Cosmic Plan will succeed. Though it must be a good two centuries to be anywhere close to completion, there is way too much life still on earth.

It was important to provide the anti-dote with a potent mechanism to counter the poison. Intelligence, emotions, desire, insecurity are those mechanisms which have made the anti-dote so potent. One can be quite certain that with all the doomsday scenarios played out about the effect of environmental degradation and climate change on the planet (and eventually on the human species) humans will be the one species that will last till the very end exiting only after it has accomplished  the Grand Cosmic Plan.

Will humans move to another planet after having annihilated all life on earth? I don’t think so as much as enthusiastic efforts are underway. If the cosmic plan is to bring earth to the same state as other celestial bodies then you don’t want the human species to end up altering another celestial body’s architecture. The species will find itself being the last life form to be extinguished from the planet. But yes possibly the last of the human species’ future could be consigned to be on a star ship Enterprise forever travelling into deep space.

Look at all the signs around; all of them suggest how the cosmos is supporting everybody who will support its plans. Environmental groups struggle for funding while prime ministers and presidents get heavy funding from the oil lobby and are completely subservient to their diktats on policy and administrative response to the environment and climate change.  Those who on the side of the grand cosmic plan have ensured that all political and social systems have been subverted and nothing can stall or slow the process.

America and China and Apple and Foxconn are all part of the cosmic plan. Those flattening the rain forests and those eating beef and growing palm oil plantations, the Indian establishments obdurate view on climate change, the Japanese hunger for whales and Chinese for ivory and tiger penises are all in absolute sync with the Grand Cosmic Plan.

One of the biggest evidence of the GCP is the fact that this is a species which is intelligent enough and can see the writing on the wall and yet incapable of doing anything about it.

So, now there is no need to feel bad about consumption and pollution. No need to listen to those advices of not changing phones and gadgets frequently. Let those rare earth minerals be mined more frequently. When the phone dies don’t throw dispose it responsibly. Make sure to go and fling it into the nearest dirty river. A million people doing it will help us achieve the cosmic plan sooner.

No need to be worried about nuclear energy and the problem of nuclear waste. From the cosmic point of view the nuclear waste is all coming from within the planet itself. If nuclear waste helps achieve the aim of a desolate poisoned, lifeless landscape faster, the better still. No point in lobbying for renewable energy. The cosmic eye never saw any need for energy in the first place, renewable or non-renewable. In a desolate landscape where is the need for energy consumption? The purpose of addicting the human species to all those energy guzzling needs is precisely to help achieve the plan.

It is time those who are trying to save nature and the environment hang up their boots, stop leading troubled agonizing lives. Their pain comes from the resistance to the cosmic plan. All resistance is futile in front of the almighty cosmos. It is foolishness and arrogance to not read the writing on the wall and to think that they are in fact on the side of the cosmos. Billions of people who go about enjoying or making two ends meet without any thought about saving the planet have been put there for a purpose.

Being positive about Smart Cities – look what I stumbled upon

There has been much ridicule about the Smart Cities concept in the urban community – the group of people who have been in involved with the many aspects of cities for years. While I would like to heed the suggestions and advice that we should give the government a fair chance but there clearly is an onus on the government side to also demonstrate by action and inspire confidence beyond the popular rhetoric with which it engages the masses and those who are too weak to bother about probing the truth and want to just feel good and ‘positive’.

I have been working on my own self also to not always be critical and work within existing systems etc. so I will be less critical of what I saw but try put it down matter of fact.

Whatever be the pardon for slow progress or no progress I really do not know what to make of what I witnessed today on the Ministry of Urban Development Website. Two days ago there was an announcement about the Cabinet approving the 100 Smart Cities Project of the PM – PM Narendra Modi’s pet 100 Smart Cities project gets Cabinet’s approval

I decided to go to the website of the MOUD to check if there was any circular to that effect. I found nothing in a quick glance on the ticker and so moved immediately to click on the Smart Cities tab and through some other clicks reached on the forums section where I had the misfortune to see what I have captured in the screen shot below (absolutely fresh post).
There couldn’t be anything more banal I felt and that too on one of the most important websites of a country which wants to be a super power. Visiting the equivalent websites in any of the countries that the PM is visiting is a joy and a learning experience and immediately provides solid support to those countries global power perception. The visits of their head of state then compliments rather than seem hollow.

Smart Cities - Feeding of citizens 30.04.2015

The mention of pork and ham and beef caught my eyes additionally. I thought beef would have been censored from such a post?

What a gem this other post is


I looked at the answers section to see if there were any responses (even manufactured) but none. Absolute silence. A graveyard would have more life than this forum. Considering this has been one of the strongest buzzwords of the new government one would have thought there would be more action here.

Looking at the index on the left of the parent MOUD website another tab caught by attention CPHEEO. I decided to check what such a long abbreviation would hold. More surprises to come.

A click opened into another website and the look itself gave away that this section was frozen in time and there should be no reason to be disappointed. Basically there was no management of the website since 2005. The earliest post I could locate was from 2000. Central Public Health & Environmental Engineering Organisation to me should be an extremely important body, since by its very name it has an important contribution to make to public health.

I clicked on the Technical Reports section and this opened up


Clicking on the Technology Advisory Group on Solid Waste Management brought me to this 266 page document (from 2005) with the fascinating cover. Swacch Bharat Abhiyan by another name (only a decade before). The report can be viewed here http://cpheeo.nic.in/tech-report/tag_swm.pdf


I then clicked on the tab CPHEEO Manuals and opened into this page.


Absolutely fascinating again. I am capturing two paragraphs from the preface below. Committees, meetings, round tables, reports are something we have mastered as a country.


The CPHEEO website is a wealth of archival information from the past giving an insight into what India was thinking and doing in 2000-05 and should absolutely be maintained for posterity. In fact when I look at the Smart Cities website http://indiansmartcities.in/Site/index.aspx it does not inspire confidence n comparison.

To the urban community the subject itself is important not the compulsions of the political dispensation to show themselves as the whole and soul of the matter and chest thumping. The institution of MoUD is important and from that perspective there need to be improvements in simple measures like having better discussion forums. I cant get over the banal post on the Smart Cities website which I have captured above.

I am sending this blog post to the person indicated in the Contact section captured in screen below and will await his reply and update on this post accordingly.


I can only conclude that there is absolutely no dedicated group within India’s nodal urban development body to maintain the website for such an important issue facing the country. Since the coming over of the new government nobody has bothered within the political setup also to go and check and improve on this. Nor have they faced any strong criticism over this from the community and the aam aadmi anyways never visits sites like these. Altogether about a 1000 people in the size of India must be visiting a site like this. And this is why I am never impressed with the PMs visits abroad. Foreign Policy and India’s perception in the global community is shaped more by the many serious trade people from the world who visit Indian government websites like these than the speeches its PM makes in trade fairs.

Separately speaking it is by now a regular comment in any forum on any issue facing the country that we are facing a dire human resource crisis in every field, from medical to education and urban issues. The irony of demographic dividend and such a crisis juxtaposed next to each other is a matter of deep concern with clear insight into the troubles we can face ahead.

Work Area Management 1

I have been talking on the need for a Work Area Management policy for Mumbai/MMR for very long and this is my first or so blog post. The government needs to look into the enormous inconvenience faced by people during civil works. Every year has some new requirement, utilities have to be laid, roads have to be repaired or remade. Dust, labour standards, noise, materials management are the four key components and every civic contract (using tax payers money) should abide by policy guidelines.

Two weeks back I raised alarm over the shocking levels of dust from the Marine Drive resurfacing and captured it in a video here, sent a letter and the issue was covered in a newspaper article as well. The video link is here

Marine Drive ToI article Marine Drive dust letter MCGM

The experience captured in pics below is from today. The whole Horniman Circle is being relaid, paver blocks being scooped out and asphalt coming in place. Pictures are below.

Following stands out

1. The existing paver block surface is/was exceptionally good. The case for asaphalt is valid but then paver block surfaces, which are laid out well (and have good ride quality) should be replaced only when the quality starts wearing out. There are hundreds of junctions which are in a bad condition in the city and priority suggests that they should be attended to first.

2. The high level of traffic chaos is evident. The photos do not capture the incessant honking by the vehicles. This leads to point 4.

3. There are high dust levels on the road which is then blown up due to cars and pedestrians entering local establishments as well.

4. The whole work can clearly be carried out in the night since this is a purely commercial area with no residential population which would face disturbance. Work should be carried out in phases and minimal work during day time. The Additional Municipal Commissioner in charge of roads has in one of the news articles remarked that “….constructing or improving roads in Mumbai is like performing a heart surgery on a man who is refusing to even lie down.” There are enough locations where the complete work can be completed between 11pm- 7am. The processes and technology in use currently is clearly outdated and from an altogether different era.

Below is the chaos left over from the Reliance JIO optic fibre work across the city. Every road and by lane has this kind of a scene. I lodged a complaint on 1916 10 days bak but only got a complaint number and no redressal.

WP_20150401_005 WP_20150401_007 WP_20150401_001 WP_20150401_002 WP_20150401_003 WP_20150401_004

Below is an electricity cable being laid at 9:30 am at junction of S V Road and Amboli i Andheri (W). The work took up almost one lane. Being peak hour it lead to traffic pile up on all sides. Again should be done at night or between 6-8 am.

BEST Amboli-SV Road 2 BEST Amboli-SV Road

Thoughts from the Raj Thackeray meeting today

I was very upset with the way Mr. Raj Thackeray’s function to discuss the Development Plan 2034 and Aarey was organised. At the end of the function I expressed my displeasure with other members of the Save Aarey group and some members of MNS and left without exchanging in any of the superfluous pleasantries at the end of such functions. For those who wouldn’t know, today Mr. Raj Thackeray in his personal capacity decided to keep a function to discuss the draft Development Plan of Mumbai and the Aarey issue, which has got strong highlight as a result of the efforts of the Save Aarey movement.

As a prelude the Save Aarey movement members had met him when he visited the car shed site of Aarey, I had personally showed him around and explained the many issues. Even before, his wife and son had visited and Save Aarey members had accompanied them as well. Subsequently he had invited us to his office where he explained his plan for the program on 28th March.

The whole proceeding today did not see a SINGLE mention of the efforts of the Save Aarey movement and the enormous effort through much difficulty that a few citizens have made in the past eight months towards giving the character and scale to the public discourse over saving this important green lung of Mumbai. Not a single mention. It was as if Save Aarey movement did not exist. As if he knew none of us.

This clearly cannot be without design. Anybody who would discuss an issue which has been much in public discussion would by default mention the names of the key stakeholder(s). It is natural to have it on your tongue, as a means of either general comment or appreciation. You do not discuss the World Cup cricket without discussing specific teams and players. You do not discuss advertisements and spectators. And yet the entertainers (advertisements) and the naturalists (the spectators) were the focus of the function.

This can only happen by taking a conscious decision to not even mention, forget appreciate the efforts. Who took this decision I don’t know but somebody did. Possibly Raj Thackeray wanted his function to be all about himself and nobody else – facts be dammed or it was P K Das’s decision who really seemed to be the ‘architect’ of the program structure. My feeling is it is more of PK. Raj Thackeray showed up for less than 15 mins during the function.

I was not expecting to be welcomed on the stage or felicitated or anything but not to have even a mention of the efforts was downright insult. I had not come to fill the auditorium and clap at regular intervals or ogle at film stars whom I care a damn about. I found this in keeping with with this syndrome which is in India’s DNA to not give credit where it is due, steal from patents, reverse engineer and all that usual bullshit with which the national character is almost synonymous. People will not do original work but have the energy to build on others work with fervour and displacement.

Mr. Raj Thackeray’s video showcasing his blueprint on a vision for Maharashtra released in September 2014, among other things strongly emphasizes that it is not the role of elected representatives and government officials alone to change the despicable situation. It exhorts citizens to have a sense of belonging to their state and city and even go beyond the call of duty in changing the country. It commented upon how the youth leave the country for greener pastures in the west because of the better facilities there. I could argue that those countries and cultures have a stronger (relatively not absolutely)  sense of ethics with regards to recognizing individual effort and standing up against injustice, which creates the attraction for talent to migrate.

I could argue that some of the points or the theme of the film may have been borrowed from my book The Futility of Aam Admi Party versus the Promise of Active Citizenship published earlier in April 2014 but that would be conjecture and I am certainly not holding a grudge on that account.

Efforts like those by citizens who are members of Save Aarey is what is in such grave shortage in the city and country today. As a shameless society and culture we do not provide any material support to such efforts but to not even have some gratitude at such a function needs some commentary.

P K Das hogged the stage for more than one hour with his hyper inflated architect ego (The whole Robert Moses and Hafeez Contractor combine kind of phenomenon to ruthlessly dominate the form and shape of a city) while trying to show empathy and a desire to serve the city. I am by now irritated enough with PK to put it publicly. I can never get to have a clear sense of who he really is, what values and ideology he really stands for, almost always left with this smoke and mirrors feeling and games within games. His unabashed ambition and aggression and moving and wanting to dominate every facet and discussion at the displacement of others is really ridiculous and irritating. Maybe I am also envious of his boundless energy and resources.

In this case he was no where in the efforts to save Aarey in the preceding months but realising that the oven was hot decided to bake his cake and then eat it too. First come in as a supporter and attend the meetings and organise meetings with Raj Thackeray etc. and then just usurp the issue and take over the planning of the area with the raw might arising out his financial strength and having half a dozen employees at beck in call in his architecture firm to generate high quality drawings and presentations.

PK clearly overdid his stay on the stage and was outdoing the entertainers in theatrics and repeating some information far too many times over but would not leave the stage or expend some energy in appreciating the efforts of Save Aarey.

With regards to Aarey there was a slot given to the work of Zeeshan Mirza, Rajesh Sanap and Nayan Khanolkar in the extensive documenting of the biodiversity of Aarey over the years. One slide showed them even standing behind the CM and Dy. CM of the previous government after having received an award and a joke that the same government then went ahead and gave permission for a car shed at Aarey. Nayan represented the trio and went about showing footage of the leopard territory being encroached upon by Royal Palms and about how the leopard is an integral part of the landscape. Besides showing species of spiders and scorpions and butterflies, some of which have been discovered by the duo and trio. There were videos and photos.

My argument is that this footage or documentation of Aarey is not what has contributed to the overwhelming public discourse in favour of saving Aarey. This follows from my disdain of the naturalist community of Mumbai, which displays Himalayan proportions of indifference and lack of courage in intervening in the preservation of the very ecological assets that they explore inside out, have earned their masters and doctorates from, made careers either from academic work or from photos, videos and writing prose and poetry about.

This category loves to exaggerate that high quality photos taken by them contribute to conservation. An earlier generation developed a great career on it and now another generation takes the tradition forward. Conservation happens by taking strong positions, by giving time and sweat and blood to campaign and make a noise about protection. All this photography is nature porn at the end of the day borrowing from the term food porn.

In the case of Aarey I have not seen any of the naturalists making the noises over the years. I have never seen a Zeeshan, Rajesh or Nayan themselves make any strong position or effort over the years, though they were in a far better and stronger position than me or others who have joined in the past six months. to save Aarey. And I know Zeehan and Rajesh well and enjoy a good relationship. But that is just the way – the norm – with naturalists in Mumbai. After their work in Aarey things took the usual trajectory, which has served well many before. There is recognition, invites from Western nations and then opportunities to be reputed research scholars and good funding for their works. Few ever save the habitat they worked in. Recently I pulled in (here) from past email records and my posts in Dec 2003 highlighting the urgent need to look into the many violations on the Goregaon side and the need to define the buffer accurately. The whole decade was an orgy of enjoying nature by the naturalists community.

Had some of us not taken such a strong non negotiable position first on the Aarey Road expansion and the zoo and then on the car shed the destructive activities would have just gone ahead with possibly little or no noise or usual chest beating about the degradation of the city from the naturalist community. There is enough evidence on that from past from Aarey itself not to mention many other locations.

And then finally came the entertainers. Six of them on the stage with some usual stuff, too boring to even right about. There were some women members from the party behind demanding that a particular star be called upon the stage, not knowing that he had left a lot earlier. People (including many in the Save Aarey movement) have this mistaken notion that by giving star power to campaigns there is a turbo boost and influences outcome. I am tired by now in arguing people out of it. These are the torments of having been in too many effforts over the years, having good memory and documenting history and trends over years. Better to have a short (public) memory, enjoy the stars and snacks and sleep peacefully.


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