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Wednesday, September 17

The Corporate Marxist

The Communist Party of India-Marxist appears to have developed their own unique way of industrialising Kerala: start their own business.

Thats the message I got after the seeing the inauguration of the Vismaya Amusement Park in Kannur, wholly owned and operated by the CPI(M) under the ''people's'' co-operative society named Malabar Pleasures India Ltd. Not finished, the 'peoples organisation' is now planning to construct and operate a 5 star Hotel in Calicut city!

Guess what's next?

Probably a people's airport at Kannur along with a Comrade's Airlines, people's Shopping Mall at Payyannur or may be even a people's Medical and Engeneering Colleges all around Malabar. A revolutionary idea, is it not?? And it all belong to the people, bcoz it carries the 'peoples' tag...When MY own party is going to run schools and colleges, provide jobs in its own IT Parks, Hotels and industries, operate MY own Airports, harbours and Airlines, entertain me in MY own theme parks, malls, resorts and television channels, take care of MY health in MY own hospitals and protect MY life and property with MY own red force called SFI/DYFI, why musn't I be supremely happy? Because I am the people!

Oh, and this is the place on mother Earth I want to be born, live and die...

Jokes or sarcasms apart, the respectable Commie leaders in India clearly appers to be in Ideology Crisis, and a serious one at that. Whatever the archiac doctrines drive the Comrades here, it appears to be translucent, or best described, opaque. The leaders are all at sea with regards to the policies they adopt when it comes to National matters. And the contrasts get even worse at regional levels; Kerala and West Bengal being the perpetual samples.

Recently when the West Bengal CM Mr.Bhattacharya raised his voice against the hartals and bandh, the Party was quick in condemning him, forcing him to withdraw his statements. Even a State leader isn't aware of his Party policies has created a laugh out of the CPI(M). The blah blahs of his Kerala counterpart kicked off much dust and dirt in the Party think-tanks. The recent Singur-Nandigram episodes have exposed the Party stand on their traditional support group- the labour class, and it has dawned on the public that the Party requires some serious treatment.

Treatement for the Cataract, that has clearly blinded the pompous party from seeing where they are going.

In Kerala this policy predicament has led to the common public, as always, being the casualty. The Achutanandan Govt wasted 2 long years rubbishing against the tolled National Highway development by the Central Govt. Kerala was the lone state to be left out of the NHDP due to this drivel by the State rulers. The ubiquitous hartals and bandhs are striking tha last nails in Kerala's industrial aspirations, worse, it is slowly turning the common man against the so-called people's Party. The Party is hell-bent on an never-ending and nowhere-reaching discussion on the SEZ (Special Economic Zone), forgetting that the cream of the idea has actually been derived from the successful Chinese model of Free Trade Zones. These insipid debates have commenced almost a decade after the SEZ ploicies were drafted and adopted. Over a dozen SEZ applications lay biting the dust on the Kerala Premiere's table for an year, before it was forwarded to the Central Govt.
The SEEPZ, Mumbai. India's first SEZ

The transformation of CPI(M) from a Political Party to an aspiring Corporate House raises even more questions. When Anil Ambani became the Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh the Communist spokesperson quoted that ''businessmen turning into political figures creates a dangerous precedent in the democratic set up''. So how about Political parties turning into Business Houses?

It is imperative to suggest that the Comrades are at Crossroads now. They have to abandon the age old marxist policies and move on the Chinese way. China has long discarded the original Communist doctrines and is now a Capitalist nation, extinguishing some of the evils of Marxism. The only thing that binds the Indian and Chinese comrades together is the anti-American policy.

The other way is to hold on to the crumbling pillars of the Marxist dogma and get extinct with it, as history has repeatedly exhibited in other parts of the world. As of now, once you leave the Valayar pass the chance of meeting a comrade exists only after 2000km to the north-east.

Interesting to see which way the Reds are gonna go...

Wednesday, September 3

Setting the Standards- Part II

This is the sequel to the earlier post on No Man's Land; a scrutiny on the gauges set for ongoing and proposed infrastructural works in Kerala. When in Part I we saw how myopic criteria is going to handicap the state, now lets have a look as to how political double standards, procrastination and Ideophobia have started excruciating it.

July 9 Avenue, Beunos Aires, Argentina

Industrial development in Kerala seems to be at a crucial point now...Vallarpadam International Terminal is moving at breakneck speed towards commissioning. Between the two 'love-birds' of Cochin and Trivandrum, huge Tech Parks are turning to reality, promising to create lakhs of new hi-tech jobs. GoK pitches in hard, to develop an extra 3-4 IT parks in between these cities. And to crown it all, a colossal mother port is all set to break the calmness of the azure Vizhinjam waters...

So, all happy and sober?

The last time I travelled from Cochin Airport back home, it took me 6 hours and 20 min to cover the 250km 'highway' to Trivandrum, courtesy my 2.6 L SUV and a desperado driver. Out of that, 1 hour and 40 min to negotiate the unruly Cochin rush-hour, a chaotic toll-plaza(toll hut, to be precise) and a half-finished Bypass to reach Aroor, just 40 km from CIAL.

Vytilla Jn, Cochin, on NH Bypass pic courtesy The Hindu

All this at a time when the industrial growth is only about to begin...

If an average speed of 40km/hr I managed on that highway is a luxury, then imagine the condition when all the proposed developments are realized. Kerala is fast heading for the concrete wall, without a helmet or even a brake to help us. The only answer to get out of the mess is to resuscitate the almost dead Expressway plan.

I'm not going into the extremely ridiculous accusations against the project when it was conceived half a decade back. The only flick which always runs well in Kerala, the politics, once again spells doom for our state with the Expressway being the culprit this time.

Kerala Expressway was conceived by the old Nayanar Govt, taking into consideration the huge container traffic load on the highway post Vallarpadam. When the A.K. Antony Govt continued with the same plans, the Leftists cried foul and sabotaged the project. Rising public opinion against a big project in Kerala is just like plucking a flower from your own garden, and the leftists successfully buried their own brainchild; without a pinch of regret or shame. And now when they are back in power, the project is back, but in a rechristened form.

Check out this news quote in Manorama...

Our Road Transport Minister has 'discovered' that Kerala will need an expressway in future.. Wow, that's a big improvement, i must say, and he takes one step further in naming the road: Friendshipway...(He claims Russia uses that term for their expressways). Now Mr. Minister, you can call it Freeway or Comradesway(yeah, we have no objection) or North-South Highway(that was what his predecessor Joseph called it before he went on that airplane) or whatever you want, but give us a new access controlled road running the whole length of the state as soon as possible.

You've the plans, the budget studies, the alignment and the expertise...All you now need is to show the guts to make this a reality; for the 38 million inhabitants of Kerala.

Your party has shown the green signal as well... West Bengal has already built one, the Kolkata-Durgapur Expressway, and is planning more. Hey, China, your best pal builds 24km of expressways a day! Ah, we dare not try beat them (and hurt you), but why not join them?

We may not need a 100m wide road as envisaged earlier. Considering the demographic and topographic features of Kerala, a minimum for the standards could be adopted here. A standard width for a lane on an expressway is 3.5 m. Considering the heavy container movement expected after Vizhinjam and Vallarpadam, this is the bare minimum for a container truck.

A 8 lane carriageway ( 4 lane for a start) would require a width of 28m plain. An emergency or parking lane would augur for another 3m on each side, necessitating 34m of asphalted/concrete surface for traffic movement. An outer shoulder of 3m and an inner shoulder of 1.5m is recommended on both sides of the dual carriageway. A central median of at least 5 m is essential for the safety of a high speed corridor, where kinetic energy carried by a swift moving trailer could easily swipe away a small-sized car on the opposite tracks.

An Expressway in Beijing

In total, a 60m wide road would still leave enough space for drainage and utilities ducts, avenue trees, crash barriers and safety features after all the above mentioned essentials. The earlier idea of a central canal and facilities for a bullet train along with the expressway appears a bit too far fetched. Oh, may be inspired by the world's widest avenue in Argentina (the first picture in the post), but let's have a modest beginning.

Good ideas though, but let the most indispensable take shape now...Lets stop throwing up more dice to catch for the detractors.

Developing the existing NH 47 and NH 17 to take place of the Expressway is out of question, the simple reason being those two highways cannot be access controlled. There are commercial establishments and residential enclaves all along the highway, not to mention the big towns appearing every 70 odd km. What we need here is a dedicated high speed corridor for heavy load traffic. Anyone who traversed the Ernakulam- Palakkad highway knows well how the container trucks and lorries trail the traffic.

Mumbai- Pune Expressway

Allegations that an expressway divides the state into two is as ludicrous as claiming that Periyar separates Kerala, so silt up the river. Planners have mooted a crossover every half a km to one km, so this separatism theory obviously sprouted in some retarded brain. Well, if it holds water, then firstly we should annihilate those railway lines; it passes through the heartland of our fields and plantations and denies the right-of-way for our ducks, dogs, cattle and politician's cars...exactly in that order...

Another point against the expressway was that it will be financially non-viable. Speaking about Economics, there are already a few agencies willing to take up the project, who knows exactly what they are doing. So why dint we leave it out for the experts?

'Expressway is built for the rich; it does no good for the poor'; this was the funniest argument I heard during those revolts against the project. Ok guys, lets go and close down our Airports and ban Rajadhani trains...after all its also not for people who cant afford a day's bread. Roads are built for common public, goddammit, and time is the most important commodity in the modern world. If a child from Kasargode could be brought to the Sree Chitra Neurosurgical Centre in Trivandrum in 5 hours time, it would be the most important role of this project. For that child, time may have been the factor running against her, not money.

Well, when your bus cant shift into 4th gear on our highways and the average speed is nothing more than a gentle breeze, then we will start to rue our decisions. Exactly as how we are kicking ourselves for all the 'missed buses' of industrialisation.

Minor alignment changes could be adopted in the plan (seen here) including the extension of the expressway from its present endpoints at Pallipuarm(Trivandrum) and Chalinkal(Kasargode). It doesn't need an expert to figure out that Vizhinjam must obviously be the starting point. It would also be better if the Expressway is extended to join the proposed Mangalore Bypass near the state border.

If one project is going to turn the tables for our state then its the Expressway project. There are a hell lotta hurdles before the asphalt is laid for this road, but if those hurdles keep on distracting us we may never touch the finishing line.

Related posts: Setting the standards- Part I