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Tuesday, April 27

Kerala NH development: Back to bullock-cart era

This newslink tweeted by a friend has given a rather clear-cut caricature of Kerala's history of shooting ourselves in the foot.

T.V.R. Shenoy on Rediffnews

A journalist in Delhi, K T V Raghavan of the Railway Board called me over, chuckling, to his office to show me a letter from the Calicut Municipal Corporation.The city fathers were requesting the railways to refrain from building their proposed rail overpasses.

Like most other cities in India, Kozhikode had grown by leaps, so that what had once been countryside was now well within the town.

This meant the gates were often shut at railway crossings when a train was due. The Railway Board in Delhi thoughtfully decided to build two or three overpasses so that road traffic would not be inconvenienced.
The municipal corporation politely demurred. The city fathers' point was that a lot of people were making a livelihood out of the bus and car passengers left stranded until a train roared past -- those selling everything from lemon juice and coconut water to flowers and magazines.

Calicut has paid more than enough for that decision. The city, which is depended on by people of over 6 districts of Malabar still has railway lines criss-crossing the urbanscapes and suburbs on numerous points. All for lemon-juice wallas, coconut vendors and Ma-gazine boys?

The article also mentions the history behind one of the proud-standing avenues of Kerala: the M.G. Road in Cochin. How the visionary in Sahodaran Ayyappan was brought down to his knees by the idealistic morons of the times, leading to a cut down in the width of M.G. Road from 100 feet (30 meters) to 70 feet (21 meters). Now the authorities are contemplating the Metro, BRTS et al on the avenue but the shortfall of that badly needed extra meters dwindle all plans.

The rise of NH Bypass is Cochin is a classic example. The spacious road is going to replace the MG Road as the state's major commercial avenue in a few years time. Space crunch has really started to take toll on the MG Road, and the NH Bypass provides answer to all the problems faced by the former. The reason: Bypass Road has enough width to accommodate an 8 lane carriageway, service roads and a median wide enough to think of the skyway or whatever they're thinking about.

The article points a finger at the incredible imprudence of our leaders and organizations and inability to learn from old mistakes, the saddest thing that they keep on committing the same old mistakes time and again. The suicidal proposal to curb the National Highway development from the initial 60 meters to 45 meters and lastly to 30 meters is an example.

The argument is that the the thousands of small-scale businesses and residences along the highway would have to be displaced throwing a question mark over their future. T.V.R. Shenoy rightly points out to the humane angle of the argument but if the shoe won't fit, fixing the foot is the solution?

Here the matter is simple. The Govt, nor the opposition wants to take on one of the biggest unions of our state: the Trader's Union (Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi). The state will suffer, but who cares? It's the vote-bank that matters folks!

I have nothing more to say about this ridiculous decision by the all-party-honchos to arrest our state's progress. The article below pretty much sums up why those few extra meters matter.

Roads to nowhere from Trivandrum Rising. Ajay Prasad explains the heart of the matter in consultation with a specialist in Highway Construction. I quote, with thanks:

"Within 30 m, one can only think of 4-lanes without service lanes. This necessitates 24 m of Right of Way (RoW) but does not include such critical things as a utility corridor (necessary to prevent the road being dug up every week or so) or the gradient needed to correct dangerous bends. Once this is taken into account, we need at least 32 m.

Once the essential service roads are brought in, the minimum RoW needed goes up to about 45 m. (This was the minimum figure agreed as an exception only for Kerala).

Finally, wherever grade separators - flyovers or underpasses - are needed, the minimum RoW width goes up to 52 m."

With 30 m RoW only, we will be left with no service roads, no utility corridor, no drains - in short, poor roads. Forget widening to 6-lanes!

And this is not rocket science. The width is calculated in very simple terms. For example,

RoW = Carriageway width + median width + shoulder width + drain width"

Kerala is dreaming tall about Techparks, container terminals, International Airports and all sort of hi-fi things by forgetting the most basic of the infrastructure: the roads. I doubt if we are heading towards becoming the first space-age state in the world where aam citizens use flying saucers and rocket ships for town-to-town transit and even to go to the local fish market. Or else we all should get the technology behind the Iron Man thing...go whoosh, and you're there!

The Govt was seriously looking at Cruise ships (!!) between Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut; my plea is to implement them as soon as possible. Arabian Sea may be last hope for many of us, and it may appear a terrible cliche if you imagine yourself on our 30m wide NH 47 a few years from now, catch ma drift? :P

Because if this is the road we are going to take, then we'd better stop dreaming high. For, it's not us that build our roads, but its our roads that build our nation.

Tuesday, April 20

IPL-Gate: Pun unintended

[Statutory Warning: Some names and associated statements may create severe indigestion. Have some Gaviscon ready if you have]

The dust has settled on the MEA innings of Dr. Tharoor. And as a politically inevitable response, we're going to see the vacuuming of the the dust, dung and dirt from this IPL dinghy which effectively ran-out the minister. But some quarters have brought in the much needed fun-side to the fiasco by letting the world know what they felt about this all. Who else do you think? :P

Lalu Prasad Yadav is literally 'aghast' by the corruption he finds in IPL. He wants the Govt to take over BCCI and IPL, annex it into the Sports Ministry and perform an anointment.  I can foresee which portfolio Lalu will be interested in, if he gets in next time. But Sir, we're impressed by your honest attempt to sanctify our system. C'mon let's commence from Patna. Cattle-fooder for instance?

btw, Mulayam Singh Yadav is also reportedly 'shocked' and 'stunned' into submission by the rampant 'favouritism', 'money laundering' and 'unlawful activities' in IPL. According to the UP Supremo 'Cricket is a foreign game, it ought to be banned in India and Govt should promote desi games instead.'  Seriously, I'd like to know was this fellow is smoking.

"Yeh IPL kya hai, kya haaai yeh IPL" (What is IPL?), explains Hon. Minister Vayalar Ravi. Listen.

"IPL is a glorified gambling with black money. The Govt must look into it to see who is behind all this. Who are these people, where does the money come from? It is a matter of concern."

Moment of Eureka from Mr. Vayalar Archemedes Ravi! But why wasn't there no concern about all this before? Its not as if this IPL had suddenly mushroomed in the last summer rain. It took 3 years, and ultimately cost India a Minister, to open the can of worms that is IPL. I really hope something productive comes out of all this mess. Tharoor mustn't be made a scapegoat for nothing, especially when the High Court rejected a demand for a probe and the IT Dept has cleared him off any gain via this Kochi deal.

The third edition of the IPL is currently underway and in just 3 years its think-tank Lalit Modi has grown from a null-factor to a money spinner, ie in virtually no time. His growth chart, which looked like a rocket trajectory is all set to come crashing down like the WTCs of 9/11(yes, promising to bring down a few surrounding him as well). Someone who is not afraid to take on even the nation's Home Minister, someone whose career credits speaks for himself. Highlights:

The Telegraph

According to documents in possession of The Sunday Telegraph, Lalit Modi was convicted by a United States court in 1985 after pleading guilty to charges of possessing cocaine, false imprisonment and assault.
He was put on five years' probation.

From a school drop out, to a US University student acquiring a criminal record in drug-dealing and kidnapping, carrying on to become the all-in-all of Cricket India, Lalit Modi has it all in himself to make it to a Union Cabinet. What more could BJP ask for? He terminated UPA's poster boy, tainted the Govt and exhibits remarkable ability in multiplying financial assets in geometrical proportions. Oh, I almost missed out on the bollywood-ish traits. Look who is on the ramp, arms all over the former Miss Universe!

image courtesy

No surprise IPL has openly exhibited its liking for blondes, brunettes and the femmes of especially (and exclusively) the 'white' variety. Like the two black cheerleaders who learned it the hard way, as did Ms. Gabriella Demitriades, neither IPL nor Modi play by the rules of decency, transparency or dignity.

He always has a few tricks up his sleeve as that cock-n-bull tale on television about his Twitter account being hacked and 'some material' being deleted. What material dude, we've not lost our marbles yet hey...

Nevertheless, his business model impressed even the media-gods of our times!  Look at Pronnoy Roy showering the crook with praises when his New Delhi Television heralded him as the Businessperson of the Year 2008.

The Ministry of Finance is going to probe into all sources of IPL funding. (Newslink) Mr. Modi way well take a good few of the team owners, proxys and well-wishers to his grave. The high-flier, I guess, would be hurt pretty badly by the incessant fall from such great heights. Gravity is a cosmic phenomenon, so is Newton's III Law.

Let's wait for the real names behind all these IPL franchisee to come out. Already head-honcho Modi is doing some explaining about his blood relatives and buddies among the owner's list of some franchisee. Something which has been given tax rebates in hundreds of crores may well turn out to be a 'family owned enterprise' altogether. Waiting to watch how many roads actually lead to Pope in Rome.

Down far South, and a li'l bit to the West, some of the local leaders have expressed their 'sadness' over Tharoor ouster. Ramesh Chennithala's feeble voice was the first to be heard AFTER everything was over. He feels 'Tharoor should have been more careful' and that it shows 'how committed Highcommand is about ethics in public life.'  Newsreport

A big rofl! Ethics in Indian Politics?? First time I'm hearing of such a substance existing, I sure hope this isn't the Dark Matter those space guys are searching for. I presume this Ethics roll is handed over to all the members elected from all Assembly & Parliament constituencies, Mr. Chennithala?

To crown it all here comes a Kerala channel with a 'Vision' which spread the nitrous oxide like wildfire... Someone created a fake Twitter account of the IPL lady 'Sunanda Pushkar' (which has now been erased) quoting that she was 'very hurt by the ongoing allegations'. Our glorious channel guys actually jumped in and made this fake tweet their 'Breaking News' by actually quoting the fakie!!

Seriously mates, who gave you your certificates? Any novice will pass that account as a fake, clearly indicated by the profile picture of the run-of-the-mill media shot of the lady and a multitude of other indicators.

Guys, please. This is enough. This will rank up there, among the now famous hot-dog crack-up of the listless commie paper and the persistent spoofs of Kerala's most circulated newspaper (gulp). Pity. 

As for the IPL-gate and the Pandora's box, open sesame!

Monday, April 19

Odd man out

Shashi Tharoor resigns.



And the lone loser...

Shashi Thaoor.  And the millions of men and women including yourselves and myself who rejoiced a bit too much (and a bit early) to see someone enter our political scenario who could clear a bit of stagnation and odour from it. Sad, the system is rigid and primeval than we thought, so are the ones who control it.

But why just Tharoor? Because the greenhorn didn't learn the ubiquitous hide n seek ploy? In politics they say, if you get a chance to strike down an opponent, grab it with both hands. That's exactly what the BJP did, credits to them. Moreover its their duty and obligation to come out tooth-n-nails, especially when it was their darling boy Lalit Modi who was in a corner. They played the politics well, and Congress caved in without a fight.

If our national party is honest about fighting the so-called 'corruption' then perhaps Kaangress should open up the knickers of some of their own men, co-alition partners and friends and peep inside. How about Sharad Pawar and A. Raja for a start?

Any citizen of this country would like to know how our politicians amass wealth in hundreds of crores whichever way you do the math with their salaries and perks.

Ah, you need balls mate. A political neophyte like Tharoor made a perfect sitting duck for the party's double standards. The whole of Maharashtra and Tamilakam will come crashing down if you dare touch the above mentioned boys. The equation: politics= business= money has become the anthem in those parts, not so much in Kerala.

Not to mention our great leaders from Kerala keeping their tongues securely zipped up inside the buccal cavity. Characteristic, wonder if the old Kerala crab tale is a bare fact afterall. May be a blackberry yielding, handsome, educated and trendy politician has given some serious mediocrity feelings to some of our khadar-clad netas.

But someone raised a very valid question. A successful UN diplomat who served nearly 3 decades in high ranking positions without ruffling a single feather has been such a glaring misfit in our system. May be the odd Tharoor-cynic is right afterall. Indian politics is not for the likes of him, give us more Pappu Yadavs, Shibu Sorens and Mayavatis.

The latter folks have got a glossy CV full dotted with exemplary qualities befitting an Indian politician. Murder, arson, rape, name it. And they've learned the fine art of  feathering one's nest without even God Almightly getting a wave of it. Tharoor may have been a touch injudicious in flaunting his lady friend who just had a major gain from something he was involved. Right or wrong, but certainly skulduggery and favouritism didn't reach India with Tharoor.

Make no mistake, this is not the end of the road for him in any sense. Relieved of the duties of MEA may be a blessing in disguise for the suave diplomat-turned-politician. Now he will have apt time on his hand to sweat it out for his constituency and state. In fact, 4 years from now when he returns to the voters he would've been least judged by what he did at his MEA desk.

Talking about his constituency, Trivandrum may not have yet got a Burj Trivandrum or a Palm Island or a Mag-lev but steps for some realistic projects have surely been taken. My party has been spoiled in a sense, but nevertheless a folder of  Tharoor: The MP will be published here in a short while.

Monday, April 12

Pathways to future

The old and forgotten Expressway project appears to have received a shot in the arm with the Central Govt proposing to taking up the challenge. The report last month in Keralakaumudi talks about a fresh alignment from Kanyakumari to Trichur, passing via Trivandrum- Punalur- Kottayam and eastern parts of Cochin city and terminating at Trichur.

The project makes up Phase I of the project, and the State Govt has requested the Expressway to be extended to Mangalore through the Malabar regions.

Features of the project
  • 400 km long
  • 60 m wide with 4/6 lane carriageway
  • Total cost 5000 crores
  • 100-120km/hr design speed
  • passes through the East side of NH 47 and MC Road

The only flipside is that we won't have the 'International' tag to this project, unlike the other similar breeds propping up all over the small state, like the Int'l Airports proposed in almost all Municipalities.

Now the real challenge is only set to begin here. The report says that Central Govt will fund the acquisition of land, but still it's tricky...the onus of the process of acquisition falls back on Kerala Govt.

I've told all I've to say about the Kerala Expressway project here in this post: Setting the Standards: Part II, and I just wanna add on to that post. The Central Govt has also planned a few new highways in Trivandrum, except from the Expressway project. Here is a snapshot.

In a surprisingly far-sighted and appreciative move, GoI has envisaged development of a few new roads to augment the development of the Kerala capital. Two ring roads, both 30m wide, 4 laned highways connecting the suburbs of the city have been proposed. An outer ring road, 60 km long will connect Vizhinjam and Kovalam to the MC Road in Vattapara (via Aruvikkara) and from there connecting to NH 47 via the Film & Video Park. The 30km long inner ring road will connect the immediate peripheries of the urban district from Thiruvallam all the way around to Kuzhivila near Technopark Phase III.

Apart from this, a stand-alone bypass road is also proposed from Attingal to Parassala, which will re-route all the bypassing traffic without touching urban Trivandrum. It remains to be seen if both the projects, the Expressway and stand-alone Bypass are going to be materialized. Two tolled super highways vying for the same traffic may not be a great idea but I'd like to see the Expressway materialize here.

Instead of the stand-alone Bypass, the ring road projects could do much more benefits to the city. Once the Technocity, Technopark Expansion and various Industrial Parks proposed along the NH 47 are realized then it will become essential for re-routing the traffic or else we will step out of our houses into a 40km long traffic snarl.

Here is the rough sketch of the proposed road projects: The blue one indicates the stand-alone bypass and the red marks the route of the inner and outer ring roads. The proposed Expressway may well pass just inside the blue line and to the right of the MC Road.

There were also talks about connecting Trivandrum to the neighbouring town of Tirunelveli via the Ghats but given the nature and classification of the terrain that is likely to remain in paper. Too many environmental constraints, and who would like to waste their time and energy (and money) on that?

Talking about waste of money and time, here is a classical whacky one. Kerala Govt is going to undertake a feasibility study to connect Kesavadasapuram to East Fort through a 6km long flyover, and that too without ramps in between! The lightening quick mental calculations by Hon Minister PJ Joseph estimates the cost to be at around 500 crores. huh, the whole massive Trivandrum Road Development project  cost just over 250 crores, how many times effective and beneficial it would be for the city if that money is used for implementing a Phase II of road developments? You could build over 20 flyovers in the city with that money. Hmm, the only party which benefits from these dream-projects would be the consultants.

It is about time that our leaders and population see the wider picture that good roads are always the course to progress, instead of building Airports all over the state. Agree, airports are far glamorous than building a black asphalted road surface, but which one reaps dividends?

Mumbai-Pune Expressway image courtesy