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Tuesday, January 29


We salute you, Sreekala, the new face of the brave Kerala women. She is the woman who exhibited distinguished courage in taking her groom to the court on her wedding day for insulting her father & family over the dowry issue.

A little known simple girl from the coastal town of Kollam has become the toast of the state overnight. The whole issue has, for the umpteenth time, openly exhibited the social evil that is embedded deeply in our society: the dowry system. What was more interesting than the Sreekala's story was the attitude of the youth towards this system. When the fairer sex was swift in hailing Sreekala and declaring that they wouldn't concede to an an alliance which demands such nuptial endowments, the opposite division of species had some interesting questions to ask back.

Some of the rather curious points which were put to debate in the public gatherings following the incident are listed below.
1. How many ladies are prepared to enter the husband's home without such 'socially enforced wedding gifts'?
2. If the bride can place demand for a stable(read wealthy) groom, why can't it be otherwise?
3. Its the girl's family who offers to buy a man based on his job, social status, family background and salary package; with weightage on each of the 'qualities'.
4. Isn't a dowry essential for the financial stability of the couple?

Well, if you think these are tough nuts to crack, then it is not! Firstly, this dowry set-up is illegal and it is punishable by law. So that takes care of many doubts.

Marriage is a mutual relationship between two individuals, and in India between two families as well. So it obviously becomes more complicated. And since money is at the heart of all matters it is not possible to erase this system hastily. But as it will always, things are changing with time. Women are becoming more independent with flourishing careers, and it will bring down the necessity of a dowry. Many young men now look for educated women with a respectable employment as a way to safe family life rather than a housewife with hefty dowry. Increase in the percentage of love marriages would also serve in minimizing this menace.But the root of the disease still lies in the economically lower strata of society where a substantial sum is the only way for a life for young women.

So the good news is that the essentiality of dowry is stipulated to decline in the coming years.. And the worrying news is that this story of Sreekala wont be a one-off. But thats encouraging in itself! We need more Sreekalas to treat this social morbidity.

Thanks to her, people will think twice before embarking on such misadventures, as her heartless husband-to-be did.

As a happy ending to the story, Sreekala has married a relative of her, Kannan, in a social function blessed by family, friends & neighbours, community and political leaders and delegates of press.

Let love be the word that frees you from all the weight & pain of life!

Thursday, January 24

Another one down the dumps

Ah, just when I thought things were getting better...

The new cynosure of Kerala media: HDIL Cybercity. After the kick starting of the Smart City project by Dubai Internet City, this was a new and bigger proposal to create another world class destination for IT industry in the blossoming Cochin techno heartland. Well, for a period of time there seemed to be no hassles as the foundation stone for the project was laid and the eye-catching futuristic township model appeared in major dailies. I was joyful, at the same time surprised at the absence of media interest (in terms of creating controversies) surrounding this big idea. Just for a moment i thought we are seeing a new media culture..or may be Rakesh Wadhawan (HDIL Chairman) must have filled the pockets of everyone concerned..

Alas, how wrong I was!

Here comes Asianet with a special report about the dodgy land deal between HMT, on whose land Cybercity was proposed to be built, and HDIL, the principal promoter. The catch immediately caught the attention of the local media, who might already be miffed at HDIL sidelining them in the advertisement of the project. Then appeared a jobless MLA from the opposition group, claiming that "this is the largest land scam after Munnar" and "HDIL has poor track record" in development of IT Parks. The CM, who was to lay the stone for the project backed away saying that even his all-efficient and omnipresent IT Dept didn't have a clue about this project. The Industries Minister retaliated that he had indeed informed the CM, who handles the IT portfolio. Now the Revenue Dept is going to investigate thoroughly about the HMT-HDIL land deal, which was openly conducted through world wide tender. The situation is now full blown into a political-bureaucratic scandal, which will soon be entangled in a hopeless bundle once the Judiciary is also involved.

The journos now have a full time job on their hands, just when their life was becoming dull after the IIST land issue seemed settled. The opposition party is also happy, they have got another opportunity to make life tough for the Govt. Even the ruling party seems pleased by the turn of the events, as the Cybercity is a pet of the group opposing the Kerala CM, and the success of the project would be perceived as a blow to the CM-led-group. Kerala public appears to be the happiest of the lot, as they now have an all round action thriller on screen.

There seems to be apparently no losers.

A project with a 4000 Crore investment, promising life for 60,000 educated youth and thousands of other unskilled workers is on its way to history. Anyone worried? At the back of my mind I knew this scandal was coming, and I don't intend to carry on as to why all this happen in Kerala, because it hurts...very badly.

Ah, the obvious mistake is done by HDIL. How dare they chose Cochin, when Bangalore, Chennai and even Mysore, Coimbatore and Mangalore were all begging for the project?They must have shown the common sense to know that nothing works in God's own country.


Sunday, January 20

Service makes the difference.

The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons. Aristotle

One of my colleagues had an interesting experience last week which prompted me to put it on record. This may seemingly have no connection with the topic of my blog but I think it is most relevant when it comes to the public sector employees in Kerala.

My colleague, a charming young lady is new to the small island nation of Ireland. Last Sunday she decided to visit her sister and family residing in the southern city of Cork, some 200km from where she lived. She decides to take the 9.15am bus, one of the only two services by Bus Eirrean, the State-owned bus company, from our small midland town to Cork, the other service being at 5.30pm. Public transport is one of the very few woes in this country and without a private mode of transport you are stuck...well and truly stuck! And on public holidays and Sundays the situation is worse with less than half of the weekday schedules operational.

Well, my colleague reached the bus station in a taxi precisely at 9.00 am. She took her ticket from the automatic ticket machine by inserting a 50 Euro note and received the fat change, all in coins! And then, to her shock she finds out that the 9.30 service to Cork is not there since its a Sunday. The lone staff at the desk informed her that the only service from the station is to Limerick, a city on the western part of Ireland. The heavens decided to make the situation worse, opened up the sluice doors. Stranded on a deserted bus stand in an alien country, alone, amidst heavy downpour with the prospect of traveling to an unknown territory...not a very pretty situation for a countryside bred Kerala girl.

Now the man in the counter who perceived that the girl is in difficulty, offered assistance. After listening to her circumstances he contacted the driver of the ready-to-depart Limerick service. The only option for her was to travel to a town midway through Limerick, where there was a possibility to catch another service to Cork. They reassured her and calmed her nerves, offered her coffee, helped her to cancel the ticket & collect the refund, secure a new one in the proposed route, assisted to heave the luggage in the carrier and helped her to a comfortable seat in the bus. But 15 minutes before reaching Limerick, the driver came across the Cork service coming from the opposite direction on the highway. He signaled the other driver to stop, went over to him & briefed him about the circumstances. The two men came over to my bewildered colleague, greeted her, collected her luggage and escorted her to the bus to Cork, leaving her wordless to express gratitude.

I was not entirely taken aback by her story when she was narrating it to my wife, because this is just one of the innumerable pleasant experiences me or my friends had in Ireland. Remember, the Good Samaritans in the above story are Govt. employees working for Bus Eireean or Irish Bus, same league as our own KSRTC. How many of our aanavandi drivers would have done the same? Not more than a handful. Leave KSRTC, just go through these complaint forums to see how our National flag carrier Air India is defacing our country, with their appalling service.

'Service' has different meanings in different parts of the world. One who has been to Kerala Govt offices or travelled in our State owned transportation modes will understand the difference very well. The recent East Fort lightening bus strike in the capital city wouldn't have occurred if one would have thought about the hundreds of helpless people, including women and children, stranded in the late hours of the night.

But that's the way things go on in God's own country...

Thursday, January 10

Countdown to infinity: The Space Institute Screenplay


Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO) takes a landmark decision to set up a Space Institute to nurture the country's future space scientists. The proposed institute would be only the 3rd if its kind in the world. ISRO toyed with a few locations for the elite campus and in another landmark decision, zeroed in on Trivandrum, the very own capital of God's own country! The institute, christened IIST (Indian Institute of Space Technology), kicked off at the VSSC Campus in Thumba on September 14, 2007. Mr. Madhavan Nair, the ISRO Chairman, proudly proclaimed that a world class residential campus would be developed for the IIST on the picturesque Ponmudi hill station, outskirts of Trivandrum.

Now the drama unfolds...
Enter, the main characters.

ISRO:(to Trivandrum District Collector): Sir, we want 100 acres of land around 30-40km from Trivandrum City for our Space Institute.
Collector: Sorry, No revenue land available.
Xavy Mano Mathew:(to ISRO) I have 82 acres of land in Ponmudi, in my Merchiston Estate...Pretty, ideal and cheap! Only 3.5 crores...
ISRO: (giggles) OK! We have 275 crores allocated for this institute. Money no problem...
Xavy & ISRO shake hands
Enter Oommen Chandy, the out thrown Kerala CM.
OC: eh...The land deal between ISRO & Xavy is illegal. Xavy has encroached forest land. The Govt has shamelessly assisted this shady deal.
Malayala Manorama: Merchiston Estate Affair. Govt fails to protect environmentally fragile land.
Enter Cheif Minister Achutanandan!
Achumama: We will investigate the tycoons behind the land deal.
Forest Minister: Xavi's land is ecologically fragile. The estate will be evicted immediately
Xavy Mathew: What the heck!!? Its my own plantation! Doesn't belong to the Govt.
Forest Minister: It belongs to Forest Dept.
Revenue Minister: (simultaneously) It is Revenue land.
Achumama: (confused) All the same, it is Govt property. The previous Govt allowed your illegal encroachment.
OC: (stunned) !!!
Xavy: (stunned) ?????
ISRO: But what about us? Our Institute? We paid 3.5 crores for the land..
Achumama: My Govt will allow 200 acres of land, free of cost.
ISRO: The District Collector's letter tells that no land is available with the Govt...???
Achumama: What? Who is that DC? Dismiss him!
DC: (shaken) Sir, the Nedumangad Tahasildar informed me that.
Achumama: Suspend that Tahasildar!
ISRO: But the work on helipad has far progressed on Ponmudi land...We cant abandon the site now.
Achumama: (bewildered) Helipad? for what? Oh so you are going to make helicopters in the institute? I thought you will be making rockets...
ISRO: Sir, the helipad is for the Prime Minister's chopper to land.
Achumama: Who? The PM? But who told you he is coming? I didn't know that!
ISRO: It's your Chief Secretory who allocated 2 crores for the helipad.
Achumama: !!!...She will be dealt with severely...Doing things without telling me..
Chief Secretory resigns after hearing this.
Revenue Minister: CM, my department has identified 100 acres of revenue land for the project!
Achumama: Well done my boy! ok we will give it free of cost to ISRO.
ISRO: We need 125 acres, not 100. We also need 35 acres in the high range for our observatory.
Achumama: (after lengthy discussion) We will give 25 acres in Upper Sanatorium and 100 acres in Kambimoodu.
ISRO: Our experts have said that the Kambimoodu land is undulating and not suitable for our world class building.
Achumama: I will send another expert team to identify plain land in Kambimoodu.
Malayala Manorama: 800 acres of Govt land available in Ponmudi Estate. Govt not taking measures to provide land to ISRO.
Law Minister Vijayakumar: We will provide land from Ponmudi Estate for ISRO.
Forest Minister: But that also is forestland.. We will be in a soup if we give that.
Revenue Minister: No, it isn't forest. It belongs to my dept!
Achumama: Stop it! My team has discovered 125 acres of plain land in Kambimoodu! We have won, at last!
ISRO: But look here sir, the DFO has reported that your new site also is a notified forestland...
Achumama: (desperately) Who is that Forest Officer? He is an ally of the mafia against me. Transfer him to Kasargode..
Environmentalists: (in the background) This space institute is not a necessity. It will destroy our habitat to smithereens..
Fundamentalists: This institute is useless because only 3% of the students will be from Kerala.
Nature-lovers: It will turn Ponmudi into desert.
Animal Welfare Organizations: Ponmudi is famous for the lion-tailed monkey. This institute will destroy their habitat & they will become extinct.
ISRO: We are fed up...We will be going to Bangalore if we wont get land soon.
Achumama: Wait wait! My Revenue Minister has identified 70 acres in Valiyamala! We will hand over the land in 2 weeks...
Finance Minister:(To Achumama) Sir, from where will we get the money to buy that land? There are hundreds of families in that land.
Achumama: (wondering)But how much will it cost?
Finance Minister: about 100 crores!
Achumama: (stunned)-----
Revenue Minister: We will grab unused land from LPSC in Valiyamala!
Achumama: Great idea!
ISRO: LPSC land not suitable for the institute.
Malayala Manorama: 1000 acres of land available 12 km east of Valiyamala.
Achumama: We will handover suitable land for IIST in 2 weeks..


This story is still in anti-climax. Xavi Mano Mathew has moved High Court against the Govt decision to evict his land. The plantation workers at Merchiston Estate were left without jobs. ISRO has been alleged to sabotage Govt efforts to find earth for their space institute, fingers pointed at their clear-cut affinity for the Xavy Mathew land. The Government finds itself in a self-conceived labyrinth. With each passing day the knot has become tighter, strangulating all involved.

All too familiar story for Kerala public. We have managed to lose many proposed projects to neighboring states in the past and its happening all over again! IIST could give such an impetus to the aspirations of Trivandrum to distinguish itself as India's R&D City, and losing it would be a real blow to the face.

Thursday, January 3

New Year...Old Hopes...

It's a good start to the new year for the motorists of the state. The reason? Achumama has declared that his Govt. is going to make the traffic rules more stringent. How? Increase the fine for traffic violations by over 500%...source

I recollect the old super hit drama related to the helmet issue. How our public fought against a primary road safety principle, leading to its failure. Similarly rules about safety belts, yellow line crossing and parking suffered at the hands of the obstinate citizens & hapless administration.

Keralites need to take a leaf out of the way traffic laws are imposed in the Western world. Take for instance, in the Republic of Ireland, the stringent rules have made driving extremely easy and safe even in the busy, congested streets of its metropolitan cities. The Penalty Points System of the Irish Road Safety Act has ensured that Irish motorways, highways and city streets are among the safest in the world. For violators of road rules a hefty fine is imposed in addition to deduction of penalty points from the licence. Over speeding, crossing the continuous white/yellow line, not following lane discipline, driving in bus lane etc fetch heavy fines and penalty points. Once you reach 12 points, you are banned from driving for full 3 years. It doesn't take long to touch 12 points. A KSRTC driver could be banned here in no time..If he drives without seat belt(4 points) without indicating his turns(4 points) and park away from the bus bay(5 points)... (as he does in Kerala) he will lose his licence, pay a month's salary as fine and worse, can cool his heels in the prison if the court labels him as an 'irresponsible & dangerous' driver. It is even mandatory to help a fellow citizen in an accident scene, failure to abide by it is a serious offense. The authorities take considerable efforts to create awareness among people about the essentials of good road sense. The above banner is exhibited very frequently on Ireland roads, detailing the fine and penalty points. The result is all for you to see!

Does it take a fortune to implement similar rules in our country? The statistics about the road traffic accidents & fatalities are just appaling. In Kerala the situation is much worse. At least a dozen people lose thier lives on our roads each day. We hold 3% of the total vehicle polulation in India but account for >10% of the total fatal accidents! Diabolical figures oblige drastic measures...

Our roads need some very emergency treatment, that's the primary requisite for any action to succeed. We are not demanding Hema Malini's cheeks but a surface better than the lunar landscape we have now. The highways are set for development under NHDP, the MC Road is set to become drivable again, flyovers are coming up at major junctions on our highways and various projects are underway to improve the roads in our cities. Proper road markings and signage are also requisites for safe driving. All fine, but with the prevailing driving culture we wont be bringing the sickening numbers down, for sure.

The Govt must exhibit the determination to implement existing laws, including enforcing the use of helmets & seat belts, check over speeding, inspection and certification of vehicles. The Motor Vehicle License Tests must become more scientific and a system to evaluate the licence holder's performance(like the Ireland Points system) must come into practice. The public must get the feeling that you cant conduct on roads as if you are in your grand-dad's backyard. The importance of following traffic laws, respecting signage & fellow drivers and adoption of good civic sense must be encultured from school age. Shortly, it encompasses a change in the way we look at our roads.

It doesn't need crores, does it?