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Sunday, December 27


...that's what I feel about this annual ritual of updating myself and you folks on the progress of the most important or much hyped up infrastructural/ industrial investments in Kerala.

We did it for a start in 2007, (A Happening Year, Dec '07) and got a carbon copy of it in the '08 sum-up.(Turning the void page, Dec '08). To be honest things don't appear any rosy in comparison to 2008, well that's what I feel when I look up at status of our development projects, or rather should I say 'paper tigers'? Let's take a different route this time and see if we could spot some light out of all this soot-black sky. Optimism, for a change...Well, I hope the light, if any, is not from a comet crashing down on us.

Now, the 'big' picture...Excuse the oxymoron.

Vallarpadam Container Terminal: We'll start on a positive note here. The rail-road links are well on way to completion and the terminal construction is on schedule.This one project is all set to rewrite the history of Kerala, and Cochin in particular. The image below is that of the 4.62km long Vallarpadam Rail bridge over Vembanad, which will be longest in India. pic courtesy:

LNG Terminal: Potentially a torchbearer for a second industrial revolution of Kerala, (though the first was a meekly affair) the terminal is well u/c.The 2000 Crore project rising up on 100 acres of land in Puthuvypeen is expected to be a shot in the arm for many industrial units in the Aluva belt as well as for new manufacturing industries.

Kerala Expressway: Still appears only on PWD maps, 8 years into fertilization. Labour signs still a bit far than Andromeda Galaxy. But then there is a streak of light on this front: Govt of India has actually proposed  an Expressway from South Tamil Nadu via Punalur-Trichur through the less densely populated regions of the state. The bad news is that the land acquisition will be the responsibility of our Kerala rulers. Is this the start of  another everlasting pregnancy tale?

Smart City:  I observed some movement in the premises at last...The official Opposition Party (have we ever got one?) conducted some drama at the site the other day in the name of  'protest against neglect'. Some people say that there is an ambiguity of role when it comes to the ruling and opposition parties in the Smart City affair. I wonder... Into the 3rd year of laying the foundation stone, the Dubai Sheikhs and the Kerala CM are playing Hide n Seek, making fool of the 3.5 crore Keralaites. The talk is that TECOM is very much like our own KSRTC, having to beg and borrow for even their daily chores as evident by the state of affairs in Malta, the 'other' over-smart city. The grass has grown tall n brown to cover the foundation stone, at least the cattle in the area ought to be allowed to roam the premises.

Technocity: Land acquisition well into year 4. This is one menace we face in Kerala; the pestilential protests and legal complications viz land acquisition and procedures. Nobody knows when the concrete will be poured into the ground but Technocity has remained another one with an elongated gestation period. The good news is that we have nearly 200 acres in hand for Phase I and the paperworks are going on. Will 2010 see the steel rise from the earth? Waiting sweetheart, waiting...

Vizhinjam Container Transhipment Terminal: After raising hopes to sky high level Lanco deserted the project, crashing down to crush the hearts of millions of Keralaites, especially South Keralaites who were gearing up to cash in on the port. The biggest disappointment of the year, if you ask me, but still GoK has been proactive in lifting the spirits up again. Works on road-rail connectivity, water and power facilities and associated infrastructure development are being vigorously planned. From a stock election manifesto, the name 'Vizhinjam' managed to cross oceans and generate investor interest and confidence from the likes of Singapore, Rotterdam et al. But we still have to wait a few more years to see the breakwater courtesy politics, regionalism and chauvinism.

Cyberpark, Calicut: Announced 2 years back. Land acquisition in progress. First envisaged as a 300 acre project, it is now a meekly 70-odd acre affair.And the Govt tells us that this will be a ' hub' as envisaged by the think-tanks of the IT Dept. May be the future plans are big, but doesn't Calicut deserve something better than this when we are speaking about a pivot to develop IT in the whole of Malabar?

Trivandrum Airport Developments: What did I say? The swanky new terminal which was supposed to open this month is still u/c. Now the authorities say that 2010 March is the holy date, third time the opening date is being deferred courtesy lorry strikes, militant trade unionism, red tapes and what not?. The 6 lane approach flyover is also stuck up behind the deadline. Anyway I expect to walk out of T3 this summer, anything else would be a huge disappointment. 

image courtesy Sudheesh Nair

Cochin Metro: Status quo. Files flying between Trivandrum and New Delhi, that's all. No decision taken upto date on how the project will be implemented and when. There has been no dearth of statements from the ministers that the project will begin tomorrow, next week, this moment and so on. Cochin-ites are damned to travel on the roads manifold times their capacity.And worst, the planners are too fixated on the glitz and glamour of Metro that other feasible and feeder projects like a BRTS are not even considered seriously.

Railway development: The general rail development is satisfactory compared to previous years. A handful of new trains, upgradation of major stations to International standards, surveys for new lines, all going on with a pro-active minister at the helm. Nevertheless, travel woes of Malabar still continues. The appalling connectivity of Malabar to IT hubs of Bangalore in particular, and also to Chennai and Hyderabad hasn't been addressed as it should have been. Incredibly everyone seems to have forgotten about the MEMU which was announced a few years back.

National Highway Development: After finally deciding to move on with the 'toll' , Kerala has now reached the sticky wicket: the land acquisition. That just means we wont be seeing the works kick start anytime soon.The main highways, NH47 and NH17 are getting more congested by the day. (image courtesy

Kannur Airport: eh? Isn't this another project exclusively for the real estate merchants? Some associated road developments are planned which may work in favour of the North Malabar city. This could well be an example of one becoming manure to another. This Airport, if ever materialize, will surely eat into the revenue and figures of Calicut International airport which has shown very impressive growth chart after opening its apron for Int'l flights. So we may well end up with two kids with growth retardation in one house.

Bingo, what do you see? Red or Green? The results are all for you to see but as they say, its history. The new decade can only be better, what you think?

There is the silver-lining when we look back at the noughties though! The words 'investment' and 'business' have started to appear less evil in Kerala. Also the state did make it into many 'preferred investment destinations' list, that's one major positive outcome I see from the past decade.

On a possibly related note, still no shore in sight for Mr. K. Muraleedharan as the decade comes to an end, dad Karunakaranji  managed to send Yamaraj and his water buffalo packing yet again, Abdul Nasser Madani and his marriage with the Reds have reached where it was headed: dead-end and Mr. Rajmohan Unnithan learned that this is a round round world, and what goes around comes around.

Whatever, may the new year and the new decade usher in prosperity and happiness to you all, your families, our state and country... HAPPY NEW YEAR folks :-)

image courtesy istockphoto

Sunday, December 20

Accountability, sir

News from The Hindu, 20 Dec, 2009.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The Museum-Nanthancode road was closed to traffic on Saturday evening after a boundary wall of the nearby zoo collapsed under the weight of sodden mud heaped against it. Much of the silt, removed from a pond inside the zoo, flooded the arterial road. A van parked on the road was buried under the mud. Residents in the area found it difficult to reach their homes.

A local resident said the mud removed from the pond was heaped against the decades-old compound wall of the zoo.

The previous day’s rain increased the weight of the silt heap. The Museum authorities had contracted a government agency for cleaning and deepening the pond.

The silt inundated the road. Local residents managed to remove two motorcycles, which were in the path of the heavy silt outflow. The Fire and Rescue Services personnel were engaged in removing the slush to a place inside the zoo compound.
And see all the mess for yourself, credits to the photographers from the respectives sites.

pic courtesy The Hindu

pic courtesy Keralakaumudi

 pic courtesy Keralakaumudi

pic coutesy Sujith John

Fortunately enough, nobody was injured in this 'accident'. Incredible, as this could well have ended up as a  Page 1 news.

This road, the Museum- Nanthencode Road is a frequent channel to Ministerial residences incluing that of the CM. Such a perilous situation has been allowed to develop putting into jeopardy the lives and property of many innocent citizens. This has disrupted traffic through this main road and incessanntly cut off many a families. And on top of that, this sludge, years of accumulated animal waste pose a serious health hazard to the residents.

Surely someone has acted in a gross irresponsible manner on a job they're paid for. About time such incidents are taken with enough seriousness and someone held responsible for this even though it passed off as a shake-your-head-and-carry-on incident.

I would like to share my experience re a similar occurrence here in the Republic of Eire. There was a makeshift smoker's den attatched to the administrative block of my hospital, which incidentally had the controls and set-up for the gas, oil connections to the kitchen. Nobody noticed the potential danger but it didn't evade the eyes of the Health & Safety Officer during the annual inspection. She immediately locked and sealed the den and severely reprimanded the Safety Representative and two floor managers for this serious oversight. Two of the managers were suspended and charged with unwillful neglect of duty. The smoker's den was moved to a safe distance, detached from the main building.

That Health & safety Officer didn't wait for a carelessly discarded cigarette butt to light up a gas leak and blow up the entire hospital. Sticthed right in time...

Unfortunately back home the word 'accountability'  has a less significant meaning. It is something which hasn't yet been embedded into our work culture and ethics. Someone allowed a mountain of mud to be deposited against this old, dilapidated wall creating an opportunity for it to cave in. The contractor or the Govt agency who did the work is direclty in line.

Then cometh the Zoo authorities who failed to plan a way to dispose off the sludge safely, after they had decided to clean up the lake. Afterall it is their territory, there is no handwash.

It also poses a question mark on the system and the way in which civil works are boing done in our state. It shouldn't be the unskilled workers but their supervisors who've to take the blame.

What if the lives were lost? The news would've made it to the front page and on more editions of our media, a few tears dropped, some emotional editorials written, an enquiry is ordered as a hogwash, the incident forgotten and the chores fall back to old ways.

Square One!

The result? Perumon, Kadalundy, Thekkady et al. Safety takes the backseat or the boot in our daily life may be becuase India is 'full of life', 1.17 billion to be exact. We take things for granted, we consider life to be cheap, we still wait until there is enough blood, we won't budge unless it is one of ours who pays the price...

Be it anywhere in the progressed societies, the Zoo authorities, concerned Govt Dept heads, the contractor, the Ministers and even the city Mayor would have been taken to a Court of Law and made to sweat it out. Nobody is/should be allowed to escpae from their responsibilities.

This incident in Trivandrum is a triviality all right, may be nothing to whinge about here. So read,chuckle  and move on because it didn't wash a school boy down the drain, but how easily it could've!

Tuesday, December 15

Superbrand Kerala

The folks up there in Park View need some serious pat on the back for the job well done in selling the Superbrand Kerala to the whole world.

Kerala pipped the iconic Taj Mahal, the symbol of the India for billions, to take the spot behind Rajasthan as the country's top dream destinations. The survey, which appeared in the November edition of the Traveler Magazine was conducted by the National Geographic Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations. Of the 133 global locales surveyed, Kerala procured a stupefying 23rd spot while the Taj came 30th. Rajasthan topped among the Indian destinations at rank #19.

Kerala Tourism Dept immediately cashed in on the feat and rolled out their ad campaign in style, and in no time after the NatGeo announcement!

From the famed sun-kissed shores of Kovalam and Varkala, history and enigma of Fort Cochin and the quaint hillside hide-aways of Munnar, the USP of Kerala Tourism has quietly shifted to its best kept secret: the backwaters. Kumarakam, Ashtamudi, Kappil et al have become household names within the country, and also across the oceans.The Traveler recognition is received for the tranquil charm the backwaters of Kerala and the way business is done in the state.

Kerala was a touch late to realize its potential but now the giant is fully awake, agile and kicking ass! The "God's own country" slogan, borrowed with thanks from the Newzealander's, opened the sluice-gates for Tourism revolution in Kerala and now it is a top-drawer Superbrand of India, so illustrious that it has now overtaken the Taj! is a trailblazer, in that they manage to market anything and everything in Kerala. Even the monsoon... Edavapathi and Thulavarsham , coupled with Ayurveda, were sold to the rain-fed up and sun-loving souls of Western Europe through some ingenious marketing.. Talk about selling a refrigerator to the Eskimos! Monsoon Tourism has caught the attention of the whole country. This has virtually led to the extension of the tourism season into the turbulent months when things were rather idle.

Monsoon is rejuvenation time, say Tourism Kerala, for they've found a peerless way to trade our rains to the honeymooners! Rain, storm and the familiar bollywood cliche, ah! Who needs a king-size waterbed? Love is in the air, err, the outside air... ;)

Kerala owns some pretty robust trademarks, and the fact of the matter is you needn't sweat out like any marketing executive to sell the brand. Just be honest... Last spring, I had a casual chat with a relative of one of my patients, an Irish-German, who was just back from high up in the Himalayas, after a fortnight of yoga-meditation and chores. She was talking about Ladakh being so distinguished from the common Indian stereotype. Kerala, inevitably sprung up during our chat and I didn't have to fabricate a bit to convince her that my home-state is a place worth visiting.

Didn't National Geographic Channel say something similar a few years back? Well, I just had to repeat it to her. And she is flying in this month to experience the one among the 50 destinations to see before you die :-)

Kerala has managed to market itself better than any other state in India. Even the Incredible India campaign  lagged behind the Kerala brand for a while but some buzz marketing techniques gave the spring boots to the Incredible !ndia guys. Kerala still relies on road shows, travel meets and so on, even we're the first state to approach Google for search and banner advertisements. Smart thinkers you got there Kodiyeri, well I'm not talking about your Home Dept.

Still an Incerdible !ndia Campaign will have direct and spill-over benefits for us; afterall Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan and the Taj are the major selling propositions of Incredible India. Kerala remains one of the heavily searched items on the net and the Kerala Tourism website one of the most frequented. I did a Siteanalytics comparison on the 3 most popular tourism websites of India and here is the result.

Click on the image for a bigger graph

Kerala website attracts some robust traffic but still the ground numbers w.r.t. tourist arrivals stay with Rajasthan. May be we can exchange some brownie points with our North Indian counterparts but I feel the geographical advantages surely hand them the initiative. Taking nothing away from the palaces, lakes, forts and heritage of Jaipur, Udaipur or Bikaner but Rajasthan's close proximity to a major Int'l Gateway like New Delhi is a definite advantage. Kerala still depends on the charter carriers for direct air-link. Western tourists would ideally want a direct connection and they tend to avoid long, bothersome transits, especially via Mumbai/ Delhi to reach Kerala. Our direct competitors to the beach tourism, the South East Asian nations have direct air connections to major US/European destinations and this is a major fillip.

A tourist train akin to the Palace on Wheels or the Golden Chariot is sure to provide a major boost to the pan-Kerala expansion of tourism industry. Currently int'l tourism is mostly confined to Travancore-Cochin areas and a luxury tourist train could yield rich dividends for the whole state.

Nature is not the only selling point of Kerala. The authorities are trying hard to tap the multi-billion dollar Health Tourism sector and the coming decade is sure to see this concept taking wings. The Medical Tourism is not just limited to Ayurveda, modern state-of-the-art hospitals like KIMS and Lakeshore Hospital are upgrading themselves to cater to this new generation of consumers.

Initiatives by the Govt to promote home stays and eco-tourism have taken the benefits of the industry further down to masses. Thoughtful planning has made sure that tourism hasn't degraded into a something which threatens our culture and practices. We still could make the 'spirits' rise, without giving an opportunity for the traditional-fanatics to raise their voice.

Now since the traditional avenues are busy enough, the Dept. of Tourism has trod into some very serious territories to make some very serious cash: to turn Kerala into a Cruise Destination. Already the Jewel of the Kerala crown, the Cochin Port is a port-of-call to may Int'l Cruise ships. The Govt has recognized the opportunity this kind of aristocratic tourism could bring to the state. Plans are being chalked out for an International Cruise Terminal cum Public Plaza on Bolghatty Island to cater to the demands of this new and elite breed of tourists. If things go according to plan, then we may well create a desi Miami out of our own Cochin.

Hi-profile events like the Volvo Ocean Race, which had a stopover in Cochin last winter has been another augmentation for the tourism industry. Events like the Kerala Travel Mart, a B2B event organized by the Govt of Kerala has also become a torch-bearer. Cultural festivals like Trichur Pooram, the International Film Festival in Trivandrum which is gaining prominence with every passing year, the Tourism Week celebrations in conjecture with Onam has all been aiding the build of the Kerala Superbrand.

Meanwhile the beaches still remain pristine inspite of severe backlash for this kind of destinations the world over, courtesy the economic downturn. Kovalam, Varkala and co has got some serious competition from the SE Asian countries which have gone a few miles ahead as themed beach destinations. Sadly our Tourism Dept is lacks innovation here, which is slowly killing the beach-based tourism. The glaring lack of facilities at our beach destinations is always a point of fretting for the media, but nothing has changed. The black-tinged sands of Kovalam and the umpteen luxury resorts around it still act as a powerful magnet and still shows off the numbers in the state. But neglecting our renowned locales may turn out to be the act of killing the goose laying the golden eggs.

A full fledged golf-resort is something which we could look into, to remain head-to-head with Thailand and co. While in 2-3 years time, almost all the major hospitality giants will have their properties in Kerala, there are still no signs of such themed resorts surfacing.

Another effort is to promote the MICE tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) in the state which has been performing extremely well. The city of Cochin is a popular center in India for conferences of both National and Int'l varieties. During big events such as the Cardiology Society of India meet, star-rated properties all the way from Alappuza to Trichur is booked out. Such events also provide a major fillip to the retail businesses apart from touching the whole arm of tourism/travel associates like conducted-tour agencies.

GoK has taken measures to spread out the events across the state. The ICCC in Akkulam is going to be a massive venture which will put Trivandrum firmly on the MICE map. Presently, the Rajiv Gandhi Convention Center in Kovalam is the main arena for MICE events in the capital.

The current Govt has taken some quick solid efforts to weave Malabar into this tourism fabric.The Malabar tourism circuit consisting of beaches, backwaters and hill resorts are under contention. Lack of adequate quality hotel keys is one gray area, but with ambitious projects like the Bekkal the planners hope to find a solution to it. Who knows, Malabar may be the emerald waiting to be revealed on our crown, afterall its all a win-win situation.

This is one major feature of all Kerala cities. A beach destination, hill resort, backwater haven or a forest get-away;  nothing is more than a short hop from our major cities. You can have the best of all worlds in a whirlwind tour and this is one area where Kerala pips its contenders. The congested and badly laid out urban centers and environmental neglect are some of the downturns here, but that's nothing exclusive to Kerala ;)

But yes, the outstretched hands, robbed childhoods, garbage-dumped avenues, violated environment, all could be an embarrassment for India's showcase state. Similarly, a dishonest autowallah, a rude policeman, an impolite receptionist or a localite with an indecent gaze could do as much or more damage.

Still, Kerala sells! At the end of the day that's what matters more. And our Tourism Dept is cutting no corners when marketing out state, urging us all to keep our doors and hearts open for our distinguished guests! Its Superbrand Kerala!!

Monday, December 14


Yes, simple as that! This blog turns 2 today!

What started as an off-time hobby has now developed into a much more serious vocation for me. Strange, but it seems as if I've been on this platform much longer than this. My feeling is right in a sense, I've been an avid blog reader and commenter on many of the blogs I used to follow, like,,  and   The above blogs inspired me and convinced me that you need to speak on your own stage to be heard better. True, as a social animal the civic responsibility of getting involved with the issues of society I live in did help to keep the spark lighted, but the real impetus came from somewhere else.

I'll talk about it.

As any novice blogger I wanted my voice to reach as many as possible. Initial help arrived from various social  sites and forums. Trivandrum Rising was the first place where No Man's Land? was blog-rolled first, thanks a million to Ajay Prasad. The traffic stats started shifting to higher gears after being listed on Trivandrum Rising and then on blog-queen Silverine's page.

Going through my old posts, one thing struck me. I had put multitude times effort and time into my old blogposts compared to the ones drafted now. But I still doubt if posts like Birth of a new citySunrise at Vizhinjam or the CIAL post ever got read by more than a few dozen. Those remain my favorite write-ups, along with my personal jotting about the birth of my bundle of joy! How a small blog has given me a channel to open my heart!

Blogspace has given me many friends, and a few foes as well. I've learned that when you express your thoughts and feelings as honest as it feels in your heart, there could be repercussions. People are different and it is impossible to satisfy everyone in the world, which I never try to. What bothers me was the way some people responded to certain viewpoints by me or the commentators in the blog, by teething personal attacks.
I don't like moderating comments to be honest, but at the same time I don't like my turf a place for dung-slinging, who does?

This is a democratic country and we all are entitled to our opinions, and we all should agree to disagree, but in a gentlemanly manner... in a diplomatic way.

My thanks and gratitude lies with the visitors to my blog, and commentators in particular who has propelled the urge to do more with this. As a proud resident of the city of Trivandrum, I also happily contribute to the development showcase blog Trivandrum Fast Forward by dear friend and co-blogger Nishanth Nair. And Metro-blogging in its own sense is taking wings, so I also keep tabs on Cochin Square and Trivandrum Buzz, the Citizen's blogs for the two premiere cities.

The decision to have my own domain name from the old blogspot address seems to have paid dividends. And so has this custom template which I love, though it has given me and my readers headache at times. Sincere apologies, we'll tame the tantrums of the boy but for the time being allow me to persist with the mellow fellow.

An ounce of  fame does help the self-esteem. First the article Cellulloid and behind featuring on Reuters and then the real break of having my blog and pic printed on India's National Newspaper. Heah-ho, highly satisfying and truly rewarding experience, certainly the highlight of my blogging career so far.

image courtesy

Thanks a ton to all my guests, and keep visiting. For you're the impetus I spoke about earlier and which keeps me going. :)

Thursday, December 10

No India for Indians

The Union Govt has given in to the regionalistic TRS's (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) stormy tactics for the bisection of Andhra Pradesh to form a new state: Telangana. 

Though the leader of TRS Mr. K. Chandrasekhar Rao is acclaimed to have followed the Gandhian method of agitation there was nothing much "Gandhianism" to be seen on the streets, the way his supporters and students rioted on the streets of Hyderabad. The Telangana Resolution will be initiated in the State Assembly, which if successful, will lead to the formation of the 29th State of India, and hopefully also the 8th Union Territory.

Now this Telengana movement did have a long history, but was in the freezer for a long period of time and it was the "keep-on-charming" tactics of the succeeding Central Govts that led to the worsening of the situation and the resultant cave-in.

An even-handed Constitutional process has been transmuted into a turbulent tumult, which in the end leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. There are fears that what had transpired with Telangana may be an archetype for other partisan advocates in India.

Oh, we have more than enough in our country, haven't we? There are subdues demands for new states for Suarashtra (Gujarat), Vidharbha (Maharashtra), Gorkhaland (West Bengal), Bundelkhand (UP & MP) and numerous others, and the Home Ministry has set a very bad example. Lest not we forget the local-extremist outfits like MNS and Shiv Sena who can now tear Mumbai apart, demanding for its special status and then kick out the non-Marathis out of the nation's financial capital.

Oh Chidambaram! You, surely could've done this in a far better way. The country is fragmented yet again, first on the basis of language and now on the basis of slang!!!

Well, tomorrow some crack politician could revolt for Malabar State as it has a dialect of Malayalam different from the rest of Kerala, it is under-developed because of the intrusion of the South, and there may be takers for all this crap. It will never happen in Kerala but it's almost the same case, only that Telangana has some history behind it.

TRS Chief has a headload of rosy dreams for his new state. Of course he owns it now... He and his son, K.T. Rama Rao MLA are head-supremos and demi-Gods for people speaking Telungu, but in a different tone. He argues that the forced marriage with Andhra after Independence is the core reason why Telangana remained backward and that most of the resources from Telangana were used up to develop the other 2 regions of the state, the Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. He conveniently forgets that Hyderabad city, the 6000bhp engine of the Andhra Economy is politically within Telangana and is the main reason why the previous 2 Chief Ministers could foster development to a much broader region.

K.T. Rama Rao goes a crucial step forward claiming that "there would be no Telangana without Hyderabad." This has put the city back on a revolving pivot again after it entered the Indian Union under volatile and unique circumstances post-independence.

Hyderabad owes its progress to the former CM Chandrababu Naidu, ironically from Rayalaseema, who propelled the city from an undistinguished Indian town to a throbbing IT destination renowned the world-over. Thousands of crores were pumped into the city to develop its infrastructure and naturally the city took giant strides. It is now the 6th largest city of India, bestowed with the Metro status and home to over 4 million people. Hyderabad's growth came at a price, the dissent of the peasant community in rural Andhra who were unhappy about their drought-affected, dried up farms when their capital city parks & road-dividers grew greener.

The succeeding CM Dr. Y. Rajashekhara Reddy managed to realign this urban-rural balance while funding development, without neglecting Hyderabad. And now Chandrasekhar Rao and TRS is looking forward to milking the city to its limits which was built at the expense of the whole Andhra-ites.

Let me tell you, there wont be one soul outside Telangana happy to let go their Capital, which the whole state gave their sweat and blood to build. This could well be another thorn in the flesh for the Union Govt, bestowing a Union Territory status to the Metropolis is said to be an acceptable option. At least until the divided Andhra builds their new Capital, but that'll burn another 10k crores, minimum.

Good in a way... India needs more planned cities. Perhaps this could be an opportunity to follow the Chinese model and create novel urban centers.

KCR squawks that Telangana and Hyderabad have been spoiled by the "intrusion of Andhra folks" and he would now toil for the development of the whole Telangana region. He talks about irrigation projects, utilizing the Krishna/ Godavari headlands, electrification and associated developments, but is a new state quintessential  for all these developments? True, smaller states are better for governance and for pooling investment but being an arid landlocked region how KCR plans to realize his dreams is anybody's guess. Obviously, Hyderabad becomes crucial here.

KSR ends 11 day fast image courtesy The Hindu

But KCR and Telangana is a case study of how a stock politician, a ploy exploiting regional sentiments and a misguided guile-play by the Center could adversely affect the nation. In a sense, politics is diplomacy but something much more sinister than the latter. Congress has been toying with TRS and their leaders and this one has backfired badly. Worryingly, this could be a precedent for similar separatist movements in the future.

I wonder who is now licking their lips, hope its not the Thackareys.

The story of the tormented is the same all throughout the world. Indian Homemaker has something to tell about the most unfortunate human beings of our times. Read about it here.

Wednesday, December 9

From Copenhagen to Kerala

The Copenhagen summit is the best time for us to have a peep-in on this menace which looms over our heads threatening to push the world to anarchy, the Global Warming.

Fact or fiction, science or pseudoscience, Global Warming issue if tackled will well lead to a better world for gen next. It is not possible to close our eyes to the frequent freak weather phenomenons across the sphere, and the balance has been shifting away consistently from the conspiracy theorists.

The pie-chart below augments India's argument that the developed world should dip more into their pockets rather than bullying those crawling their way out of poverty. India holds 18% of the world population and produces just 5% of the world's carbon emissions... not a crime. Its no fable that India would be the hardest hit by climate change and we do have an obligation to Mother Earth. We are among the 'big four' polluters, still the average Indian's carbon footprint is eight times smaller than the average person in Britain. Nevertheless, India has pledged to curb its carbon intensity by 24% by 2020. Fair enough.

I wonder how candid is this on India, especially since this is the time when we need some serious energy to boost up the economical growth and curtail the poverty problems. The US and Europe have gulped down hydrocarbons en masse to build their muscles but there seems to be not many options available for India.

Whatever we do, the Earth would still be 2'C warmer in 2050 or earlier, (much earlier as per recalculations) which puts a question mark over these figures and facts. A 0.6'C rise in temperature over the last century has been accused of the current weather fluctuations across the globe like flash floods, fierce hurricanes, draughts etc. It wouldn't be a nice thought to have a look at the world map where my kids are going to grow, especially these NatGeo and Discovery documentaries are like full blown horror movies when dealing with this topic.

Not surprising at all, Kerala's geographical features mean we will be as badly hit by climate change as anyone. The heavily populated western coastal belt and the continuous cris-crossing waterbodies mean that even a slight increase in sea level could mean disaster for the state. All the 3 major cities are coastal ones, the main thoroughfares- NH47 and NH17 are at sealevel which are all exposed to flooding and related disruptions even in the present. 

Kerala Geographical Factfile

This Low Coastal Land (LCL) or areas with <8m elevation from sea level faces a real bleak future. Apart from being heavily populated, this area is a powerhouse driving the Kerala economy viz  fisheries, coir and tourism industries. Heavyweight industries of KMML, TTP etc, Ezhimala Naval Academy, Cochin Port, Naval Base, Trivandrum Int'l Airport are some of the major investments in this zone.

The predictions of Global Climate Change impacts on Kerala is not rosy at all, here are some excerpts from the Climate Change Catastrophe: Insulating Kerala  by Conclave of Senior Academics and Scientists:(COSAS). Mind you, these are not exhaustive predictions but a mere paradigm.

  • Severe degradation of wetland ecosystem. Saline intrusion into backwaters, canals and river channels will affect the flora & fauna including the paddy cultivation in Kuttanad.
  • Increase in mean temperature of the Western coast affecting the tourism potentials.
  • Severe erosion of beaches in LCL coastline affecting mass migration into midlands and highlands. Civic amenities in cities disrupted or rendered useless.
  • Long warmer spells and inconsistent wet seasons may spell doom for plantation crops thus affecting agro-biodiversity.

Too novel, do you think so? This is very much different from this cock 'n bull 2012 doomsday or the Planet Nibiru collision. This is one thing where our current state Govt could do nothing phenomenal, apart from a few Green initiatives w.r.t urban planning and design, we have to await the Central Govt drafts on how to go about this 24% emission cuts. But it appears as if the sea will be taking back a quantum measure of what it gifted us...

As one blogger humorously put it, Kerala is doing more than enough to tackle Global Warming, through hartals! 150+ days of standstill/year is more effective than dozens of Earth Hours, don't you agree? :-)


World after 4'C rise in temp: Interactive Map
Sea Level rise: Effect on Kerala   doc file
Climate Change Catastrophy: doc file

Friday, November 27

Speak to me, better :)

Hi all,

No Man's Land? comments section will be powered by DISQUS from now on.

Nothing big to talk about it here, but I hope the new feature will solve the problems you've been having with my comments section ever since the new template was uploaded.

A good few issues were raised in connection with the Embedded Comments from I had here in No Man's Land? Apart from the inconvenience in logging on, there were instances like the comments vanishing into thin air, not being published in spite of repeated attempts, inability to generate a preview and so on.

I tried a few suggestions from my techie-buddies but nothing seem to work. Even doing away with comment moderation didn't help. Enough is enough, I've decided to try out this specialised comments plug-in. I'm not sure if things will become worse but still let's give the boy a chance... :)

Things may appear a tad complicated and confusing if you're using it first time but I find it miles ahead of what our big-boss Blogger has been providing. Blogger Comments mechanism sucks, almost a joke when compared to Wordpress, and its about time Google listened to their users.

Apart from equiping myself with some serious musclepower of editing and keeping track of the responses I recieve, DISQUS provides you a few notewothy advantages:

Multi log-in options including Twitter and Facebook
Video Enabled
Ability to post direct links easily
Response to individual comments
Comment rating
Flagging troublemakers and much more...

In short, saves a lot of breath for technology greenhorns like me :)

So, keep me informed how the new lad is bahaving. Thanks ever so much...


Wednesday, November 25


The Hi-Tech Crime Enquiry Cell of Kerala Police rattled some modest cages the other day when they nabbed a couple of youngsters for allegedly 'defaming' Kerala CPM Secretary Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan.


Apparently, there was an email circulating on internet with the photograph of a palatial house allegedly owned by the Communist maestro. The owner of the house was actually a television serial producer based in the Middle East and the picture found its way to the internet through a popular social networking site.
Some adventurous ill-witted souls thought it would be a good idea to insult the leader by spreading the image with a tag "house of a humble communist leader."

This is what the Police has to say about all these:  Expressbuzz Newslink

Curious enough the Police has now arrested two individuals who are at the distal end of a chain. They did not take the photograph, neither did they upload it to the web nor create/edit the slanderous email. All they did was to forward the email they received to a few of their contacts without checking the source or validity of the mail content. According to the Cyber Police this is the heinous crime, serious enough to have their names and photos aired on channels and newspapers, akin to any notorious evildoer.

Well, its a hot trail for the Hi-Tech cops because the plaintiff is none other than Pinarayi Vijayan, the supremo of the party which rules Kerala.  The asses moved briskly and we have the 'criminals' in one week flat! It was almost as if the Cyber Cops were acting on a deadline but where are the originators of the scam?

The Hi-Tech Police states that it is a crime according to Article 66 A of the Information Technology Act (Amended in October 2006); screen-shot below:


The law states that propagating "any content which he knows to be false" or in other words any content which we don't know if true could land people in hot water. It is upto the person who forwards the communication, to verify the authenticity of the information he is spreading. Leaves a good few ambiguous patches in this case especially when you read it along with the clause under which one of the accused (denoted "A") has been arrested.

Excerpts from the above newslink

It is reliably learnt that (A) had not added any comments to the email. The police arrested him as he did not respond to a notice sent by the police to his email address. (A) told the police that he had not noticed the mail as it might have landed among Spam Mails.

Laws are formulated for the betterment of the society but why do I feel that there has been a gross injustice in this case? Every law can be interpreted or twisted according to the smartness of your advocate but is it just me who feels that the Hi-Tech cell has turned up a blind alley here? The architects of the hoax are still at large and the Police has exhibited two unfortunate pawns just to satiate their masters.

At this juncture it would be appropriate to look back at the authenticity of many gossips and news broadcast via our channels and print media, which we all quote and disperse through the social network sites. How many cock and bull tales have we swallowed, which arouse from the sheer imaginative power of the journos these media houses employ to propagate their vendetta? I don't remember any journalist reprimanded for deliberate false reporting.

Meanwhile, can owning a decent house tarnish the figure of a Communist leader? Or did Pinarayi think that the house in the frame was too shabby for his liking? Or may be he wanted to put up a strong notice to his adversaries in the cyberworld...

I saw the house at the center of the controversy. It looked like a show house of a newly prosperous gold merchant in Trichur town but it would be curious to see how bigger/smaller Mr.Vijayan's house in Pinarayi will be when compared to it. Whatever, one will have to imagine that it will be rub shoulders with the NRI Producer's Kunnamkulam bungalow, when you think that Pinarayi could afford to send his kids to private professional colleges and to foreign Universities.

It is indeed an offense to abuse, threaten or defame individuals through any media, let alone a head honcho of a party-in-power. Those responsible should be brought to light. And this will also put an end to some of the ongoing wild and woolly practices in cyber-space where things were always taken for granted.

But how 'bout the scope of this defamation law? Pinarayi can publicly address a Roman Catholic Bishop a "wretched creature" and a "liar", and how close does it come to personal abuse? How eloquent has his co-comrade Minister G. Sudhakaran's tongue been when speaking publicly in front of the media? Here is a small sample of what stuff our Devaswom Minister is capable of spewing out.


Where have the laws been in the above cases? And why does it bend when approaching a certain breed of individuals? I thought the law breaks if it bends...

The youngsters who forwarded the email may or may not have had malicious intentions. But thanks to Sir Pinarayi and the doozy Cyber Cell, we the people, are aware of the law, at the cost of two scapegoats who just did the crime of clicking the "Forward" button.

image courtesy, yakuto

Thursday, November 19

Trivandrum BRTS

Perhaps a timely postlude to the introduction of a new class of public transport in Kerala, the classy Volvo 8400 low floor A/C buses conquering the regal roads of Trivandrum! Exclusive pictures and report on Trivandrum Rising blog! 

Volvo 8400 on MG Road, Trivandrum image courtesy Keralakaumudi

The Kerala capital has chosen to tick the BRTS option for the Mass Transit of its populace. Well n good! Its an appreciable step forward, and something I believe, every city in India must plan and implement.

So what is a BRTS?

For starters, BRTS or the Bus Rapid Transit System is a cheap, fast, efficient &systematic usage of Buses as a mode of transporting people from one point to another. It differs from the go-as-you-like road-rash set up currently reigning in our cities mimicking the F1 race-course, where all drivers are certified desperadoes. BRTS, in principle, lays out exclusive channels for the buses to ply, thereby segregating it from the regular traffic.

Simple? Not so quick mates, it could well turn out a disaster if you underestimate our citizen's ability to throw rules into the air. Look how the BRTS got screwed left, right & center in Delhi..

And Ahmedabad inaugurated their BRTS experimentation in a big way on August 15th 2009,and initial results indicate that they did their homework better. (Times of India newslink)

First things first, the BRTS as we see in Western nations cannot be implemented here. Forget it.. Look at Dublin and see how the BRTS functions as it should. Exclusive lanes, segregated bus bays, two-laned counter-flow bus-ways... Can our spar youth and the self-applauding biggeties in those swanky new cars resist that empty bus lane when in a choke-a-block situation? I'd bet most of them couldn't.

Dublin BRTS: courtesy

But even the author of the above New Delhi article and the media in general fail to see the picture in the long run.. The benefits of something like BRTS in the overall traffic scenario of a city. See the video below to get a clearer picture.

From the examples worldwide, sacrificing a lane or two for exclusive public transport has actually benefited the city in the long run. It was possible to inculcate more disciplined driving and the effectiveness of the system actually helped reduce traffic and improve the quality of life in the city. Trivandrum, hopefully plans to emulate such success stories.

Now can something like BRTS be successful in Indian settings?

Of course it could, provided you as the implementer do your homework well...

In New Delhi there are fines upto Rs.5000 for driving on bus lanes. Well, we have laws in place to check speeding, travel sans helmet & seat belts. And who checks these laws? If the authorities are lax in implementing the adherence to bus-lane laws strictly then I'd bet my house on the failure of this system. Fellow blogger and friend Nishanth Nair was elaborating on the BRTS system in his new city, Brisbane, Australia where the buses follow atom-clock punctuality. The BRTS in Brisbane has underground bus stations, exclusive roads, flyovers, tunnels and special lanes for plying. We as a less affluent nation cannot afford such luxuries, especially for experimenting, but it is a matter of using our resources most effectively.

Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of countries like Brazil  where the BRT system is implemented at a fraction of the cost of other MRTS. 

The most efficient BRTS system in the world is said to be in Curitiba, Brazil, which is replicated across the South American cities. I dug into the www for more on Brazilian road culture and sadly it is not like us, ie they're more ruly. Take a look at the above pic of Sao Paulo traffic and you can realize how hard is it to replicate such driving pattern in out cities. A huge improvement from the Curitiba system was implemented in the city of Bogota, Columbia, which currently sits as a reference to similar systems around the world. The Bogota BRTS, called TransMilenio has been such a huge hit that even the Mayors of New York, Chicago and the likes visited the Latin American town to get some lessons out of it.

Watch the video, its awe-inspiring! A clinical proof of how such a system could actually rewrite the horoscope of a city, and I hope Trivandrum will walk the same steps... :-)


Trivandrum BRTS has a concerning handicap if you see the above videos. The roads are nowhere as wide as it is in Ahmedabad or Delhi, leave alone Bogota and Dublin. Throw in the haphazard driving and scant disregard for traffic laws (though not as disastrous as Delhi), there must be a serious effort to consider our driving culture before the BRTS is implemented. Otherwise we will have another Delhi on our hands with the public and media conspiring to bring the system down.

We have a handful of examples on our hand where perfectly legitimate and productive projects have been dismantled by the combination of ill-informed citizens, bad press, vested interests and political foul play.  BRTS Trivandrum could be a benchmark for the transport revolution in Kerala and we can't afford to mess it up to short-sight and bad planning. In Ahmedabad, a group of politically backed ruffians damaged the BRTS stations and buses just because they had to take a half-kilometer detour because the road in their locality became one way for the BRTS route! Such incidents must be dealt with iron fists and the sections of society including private buses, autowallas and taxi unions must be taken into confidence before the flagging off of the first bus.

So how about the plans for Trivandrum?

Trivandrum plans to use its 150 buses from JNNURM on 3 corridors. Presently a bus takes 20 min to traverse the 7km East Fort- Ulloor section, and at peak time it could be 45 min. Also keep a tab open for the ubiquitous marches, dharna, shakthi prakadanam and all sorts of jokes in front of that Secretariat, so its actually anyone's guess when you'll be able to reach your destination in Trivandrum on a given day.

In Phase I, the authorities plan to implement the BRTS system on the 29km long Kazhakkuttam (Technopark)- Ulloor- Karamana- Balaramapuram stretch, all along the existing NH 47. They plan to have exclusive flyovers for the BRTS on some reeches but not the whole length will have exclusive bus lanes for a start. Interestingly, only 10 km of the whole length have at least a 4 lane width. Karamana- Balaramapuram and Ulloor-Kazhakkuttam stretches are still modest 2 lane roads, that's about 2/3 of the proposed stretch.

Trivandrum BRTS Phase I: The 29km corridor is planned all along the NH 47 marked in blue, the red line is where the roads have 4/6 lane width.

A system like BRTS will be successful only if the other traffic are clinically segregated. So one would normally assume that the BRTS will be implemented on these stretches only after the roads have been adequately widened which immediately puts a big question mark on the time frame of the project. As for Kerala, land acquisition = court cases = stay orders = indefinite delay in projects. Those concerned say that not the whole stretch of the BRTS will have exclusive lanes, that means routine traffic and the buses will share the road width on approx 15km of the proposed system.

Another issue could well be the parking as businesses along the highly commercialized avenues would mind more than a bit when the street parking is sacrificed for bus lanes. Parking plazas, expanding the by-lanes for parking and similar options may well be explored to sort this out. We don't want more lobbies to work against the system, do we?

The Sreekaryam-Ulloor stretch of the NH 47 has become a nightmare, traversing that 3km was a pain in the backside even on my scooter, with a Delhi-like traffic, so how 'bout these supermodel buses? Flyovers are the plan here, say the authorities,but not all the 2-lane stretches will have the flyovers.

Pattom- Kesavadasapuram Road

It is not clear which stretches would be taken up for the next phases of the project but it all depends on how well Phase I  works out. Fingers crossed on that, but it needs a big mindset change for our motorists not to get intimidated by the big aanavandi zipping along when they're stuck at deadlocks. Remember, this ego played a good part in messing up the Delhi BRTS. 

It would also be a good idea to bring in some brand image to Trivandrum's Bus system. At present things are not so appealing. There are at least half a dozen varieties of KSRTC buses plying on the city streets, from that Yellow ones to the Green coloured so-called Fasts; there are some White coloured buses as well. Its all confusing when you see the Private buses with indifferent inconsistent colour codes. It is a chance to bring in some professionalism to the BRTS by constituting an independent transport body for the city, call it Trivandrum Urban Rapid Transit or whatever you like. Have a uniform colour code for the buses, modernize and synchronize the ticket issuing. Make things more appealing for the public, sell the WOW factor!

We should not be short sighted when it comes to visualizing the growth of the city as well, something which we have never done. Let the authorities plan and develop our roads with BRTS in mind and not leave us scratching our heads looking at the one-and-a-half  lane dual carriageways we got as a result of a hind-sighted road development programmes.

The Volvos lined up in Trivandrum pic courtesy Keralakaumudi

The BRTS should also be planned so as to evolve all along the city corridors and in future, may be as a feeder service if the city feels the necessity for a bigger and better transit system like the Metro. Not in the immediate future but still something to keep in mind when we plan for tomorrow.

This could also be a unique opportunity to find some fund to construct a decent City Bus Terminal on that sprawling space owned by the Corporation on Attakulangara Bypass. Currently that dilapidated and long bus shelter adjoining the Fort is called City Bus Stand. Now for a capital city of the #1 state of the fastest growing economy in the world, is it enough?

Perhaps this could be a showcase for the new face of Trivandrum to the outer world, a BRTS sure is fashionable!


#1. BRTS: A cost effective Mass Transit Technology pdf file 
#2. TransMilenio, Bogota, Columbia: A Facebook video
#3. Ahmedabad BRTS: Skyscrapercity Citizen's forum 
#4. Delhi BRTS  Wikipedia
#5. Trans Milenio, Bogota, Columbia: Wikipedia