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Friday, December 31

Windup 2010

You know it, there is much ado about nothing. In short nothing has gone nowhere. But if foundation stones are the keys and proofs to success then we've the full Monty. 10/10!

So where do the ticks fall? Technocity? Tick. Vallarpadam Terminal? Tick. Cyberpark? Tick, with a half mark. I think the bucks stops there...not an inch more.

Now let's hit the ramp. Rolling out the drop dead gorgeous stuff, yeah the manikins.

NH Development

Stalled. Kerala is probably the last of the 28 states and 7 UTs to nod to the basic necessity to have their roads widened. Then we had lot of round table discussions, confusions, itches and gas trouble related to the alignment, toll, width, people and shops on both sides, ducks crossing the road and snake-charmers coming out of the toddy shops aligning the NH.

You know it, but I'd say this once again. These kind of idiotic and selfish rulers are the major sclerotic elements of our life vessels.

Smart City

I won't blame you if you've a "I've-heard-this-name-somewhere-before" feeling. 7 years is a long time to remember something, if fact E=mc^2 is the only formula I remember 7 years after college. To brush up our memory, Smart City was a colossal IT project roped in by our erstwhile CM Chandy, (or was it Antony?) which promised to turn Cochin city something into the present Dubai, Singapore and Silicon Valley, all rolled into one big thing! Gulp, so hard to imagine that, as now the brown blades of grass have long taken over the piece of granite stuck into the marshy land. Not very smart.

For the record, Dubai Sheikhs and Kerala comrades are on and on at the yo-yo game. Nobody appears to be in a mood to give up. So, how 'bout another Foundation Stone Mr. CM? Make sure this one sears above the coconut trees.

National Waterway Development

This Central Sponsored project has also been sacrificed at the altar of our bureaucratic- political mismanagement. Multi-hundred crore plans for TS Canal renovation from Kovalam to Kollam have lapsed because nobody at the administrative circles were interested. What a great mistake I made thinking and wasting my time blogging about the TS Canal at my backyard turning into something like the stuff up there in Amsterdam or somewhere. (TS Canal: A passage through time) All dreams gone in a thick puff of big black smoke. Muddy, messy, mucky Puthanar continues to expunge nauseating odour poisoning the olfactory nerves of the unfortunate residents.

T3 @ Trivandrum

No more comments on this one. We had a chat early this month in this blog. (The Trivandrum Airport Saga) The tale has been evolving ever since the Terminal was ready for commissioning almost an year back. Let me Ctrl + C > V what I've written about this project exactly one year ago. (Link)

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. 

The Terminal is still not open. STOP.

My friend and fellow blogger Nishanth had promised a photoblog of the proud new terminal when he passes through it a fortnight from now. Now he has replaced the 'when' with 'if' and thinking about other city landmarks to test his photography skills. I don't blame him.

Kannur International Airport, Aranmula International Airport, Kottayam International Airport, Idukki Airport, Guruvayoor Airport (Now, did I miss anything?)

Who is too bothered about the old ones, lets talk about the brand new ones and that too of the International breed. Foundation Stone laid for Kannur. Good. Land acquisition in progress for Aranmula. Good. I'm not too sure about Kottayam. Bad. What was that proverb we all were taught at school?

Winners don't do different things, they do things differently.

Precisely what Award-winning state Kerala plans to do. 2 laned National Highways, clogged up waterways, primordial railway services and tracks but hey, we will have 14 international Airports by the end of the world and we all will be flying around. From Pattikkad Int'l Airport to Vattappara Airport, from Kumbalangi Airport to Guruvayoor and from Chavakkad Airport to Valayar International Airport. There are even plans to connect Sabarimala via Choppers, wow!

No need of bhaang, cocaine or the black stuff to fly around in the clouds, catch my drift?

Vizhinjam Port

Good news first. The current Govt has done a lot of good, hard work for the project and things have come a long way forward. The bed news is that the project is still on paper. Some infrastructure development works have been initiated but when the first stone for the breakwater will go into the Arabian Sea is anyone's guess. Especially since the onus is on the next Govt to make sure things don't go back to square one as had been the fate of Vizhinjam a few times before. That could be a bad news for some pretty obvious 'historic' reasons, if the Reds go down the dump this new year.

And that's NOT a big 'if' given the see-saw nature of Kerala's political affinity.

Cochin Metro

Guess this one will be another Ganapathi wedding tale. Another project to make ass of the citizenry of Cochin to divert their attention from the original infrastructure related issues. This one seems to be on the trail of Vizhinjam, Smart City and the likes, projects with such incredible gestation periods that it'd put the longest pregnant dinosaurs to shame. Some folks appear to believe that Cochin Metro plans appear to build up muscles just before an Election, so the idea behind the project appears clear: take everyone for a ride.

Some good news out of all this is that someone had the right senses to think of a road development plan for Cochin on the lines of the Trivandrum project. Now that's something inevitable and sensible, no matter what lies ahead of the Metro tracks.


Into year #9, the 42km road development project in the Capital is 'promised to finish soon', as has been the case the last half-a-decade. Roads now certainly look better in Trivandrum, after 50+ years of State formation and we've to appreciate that. Clap. So that also means we ought not roam around Power House Road looking for that dreaded flyover which completes the inner ring road. Another 5 years? Yes, if we're lucky enough. But there is a new year feast awaiting the residents of the Capital, a plethora of road inaugurations are coming your way. Hold on to your knickers! (especially the ones living along the K'puram- Nalanchira corridor)

In a few months Kerala will enter the poll booths yet again to perform their civic sacrament, a new Government will surely take seat, may be the Reds again, most probably not but remains to be seen if there would be any significant alteration to the course our state appear heading. Dead End.
Wishing you all a prosperous 2011 ahead. Thanks for visiting No Man's Land?  :)

Remembering former CM K. Karunakaran who has at last succumbed to the order of life process, who has by far been the most progressive and development-oriented leader of Kerala, who possessed the vision and determination to bring about social development based on strong economic foundations.

Tuesday, December 14

IFFK: Opening to World Cinema

1055km down South from Goa where India's shambolic International Film Festival just reached its fag end, curtains have gone up in Kerala's capital city for a kindred fete which improves its outlook, reach and fame through every passing year. 

IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala) took wings in the mid 90s, with the inaugural edition in Calicut, providing opportunity for the serious-minded and educated movie geeks of the state to get a wide-angle view of the art-form on a global scape, and was later moved permanently to Trivandrum. Over the past decade it has grown from a local festival to something very much prominent on Kerala's yearbook, winning accolades for the modest but professional & spirited way it is organized. In fact what makes IFFK stand out from contemporary jokes of film festivals in our country, is the passion of people involved in the venture.

India's prominent film-critic Ms. Anupama Chopra has a strong point on what dodges the IFFI in Goa. The article, Doomed by babudom, provides an unintentional insight as to why the Trivandrum festival has been able to score more tick marks as opposed to the much older, bigger and costlier Goan edition. Excerpts:

our International Film Festival of India (Iffi), taking place in Goa from 22 November to 2 December, continues to be an amateurish, badly organised comedy of errors with the usual complaints, controversies and largely mediocre selection of films. Which might be forgivable if the festival was new, but this is the 41st edition. A cursory internet search throws up news articles that reveal a painful consistency of bungling over the decades: fights over who will be the chief guest; criticism of films included and excluded; bureaucratic myopia; charges of corruption; and the absolute lack of character and vision.

K, let's leave the mess and get back to the point. The IFFK, organized at a shoe-string budget, has been recognized and accredited by FIAPE (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films), 'FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) and the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema)and also has increasingly been successful in generating immense interest among local, national and international film-makers, critics, media and the general public and has acquired the premiere spot among the already glittering cultural calender of Trivandrum.

Signature clip from Technopark based Toonz Animation.

It's taken 15 years, short or long, for IFFK to cut a niche for itself. Starting from a more than impressive website, planned and put together by genera who love and care for films, careful selection of movies grouped into interesting, appropriate categories, citizenry who understand and appreciate quality reels, vibrant and educative open-sessions and interactions, IFFK's latest edition has not let anyone down so far.

Touch wood. Let it remain so...

Or perhaps the only conspicuous omission would be the red carpet? On second thoughts it may just be a good idea to have that carpet folded and stowed in the attic; the last thing we need is the Bollywood descending on it to take the sheen and class away from the festival.

For IFFK, the most important lesson is to learn how Goa has faltered over the years. While IFFI has descended into a tug of war between Goa state authorities and their New Delhi bosses, and of late threatening to turn into a Bollywood Circus, Kerala's premiere Festival is not without its fair share of ailments. One glaring aspect is that we are yet to have a permanent venue for the glorious event. And that's a shame.

Apart from the decade long promises that work on the venue will start tomorrow, next  week and so on, the films are still screened in the dozen-odd theaters in Trivandrum City. Robust plans of Tagore theater renovation was spoiled when heritage and preservation acumen got better of the construction plans. Of late there has been a promise to construct a multiplex on the Jawahar Balabhavan grounds, close to the sprawling Kanakakkunnu Palace in Vellayambalam, but we'll keep our fingers crosses on that.

IFFI Permanent venue in Goa

The IFFI legend also inexplicably exhorts the importance of whom you entrust with running the show. IFFK has been taking rapid strides just because it has people who're actively associated with movies and it's technicalities. Still at the other end of the spectrum when compared to glitz and glamour of Cannes, Toronto, Milan or Berlin or even to Ann Arbor or Pusan, IFFK commands its due share of respect among nouveaux all-over-the-map city-centric film festivals.

Just for record, Cannes' Festival Budget caps at a cool 20 million Euros (120 crore INR) , the disgraceful IFFI Goa smokes up 7.5 crores at its altar whereas Kerala State Chalachitra Academy organises IFFK at less than half that amount. No red carpet, paparazzis, reporters & journalists who travel first class on jets, expensive hotel suites, dress codes, valet parking, themed dining or even a multiplex to screen the films, but IFFK has got it right!

Film makers and critics concur. From Anupama Chopra's Twitter:

Cannes winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul on jury at IFFK. 1200+ delegates filling theaters. IFFK gets it right in 15 years. What ails IFFI?

German film-maker Werner Herzog (Newslink)
the festival had an incredible international scope and yet retained a strong cultural identity of Kerala.

So if you're in or around Trivandrum , anywhere close to a movie-fan and you've hard time filling the hours  then you know exactly where to be heading now.

IFFK 2010: Schedule
IFFK Website
15th IFFK Blog
IFFK 2010 in Yentha 
IFFKThe Hindu

Monday, December 6

The Trivandrum Airport saga

The curious, lengthy and irritating saga of Trivandrum Int'l Airport could well be summed up in two simple words: total disgrace.

Ideally we shouldn't be talking about the old international terminal (T2) here as we all expected it to be history long time back. The brick and mortar building, Kerala's first aerodrome terminal, has over time turned into an apology for modern International Airline operations. A new, third, city-side terminal was conceived in the late 90s as a befitting salute to the state capital, but things never moved an inch from status-quo until millennium-break.

UK based designers Atkins were entrusted the job and the product was nothing less than spectacular.

Details of the project:
*  Tubular, sustainable, futuristic design
*  Construction of a parallel taxiway
*  Peak hour handling capacity of 800 arriving passengers and 800 departing passengers
*  The departure area will have 30 check-in counters and 18 immigration counters
*  Arrival area will have 18 immigration counters and 18 customs counters.
*  Eight aircraft parking bays
3 aerobridges with provision for a fourth one
*  New cargo complex and a landbank of 88 acres
* Air India- Boeing Maintenance Base
New Terminal Interior photo courtesy The Hindu

Since then the proceedings  have been sort of a bitter-sweet affair.  Its been close to a year since the new terminal, called T3 by many, has been waiting like a fully dressed-up bride for her groom just to tie the knot.

One look at this timeline and you'll see why this tale stands out among our contemporary development tragedy tales...

December 2000: Central Govt agrees in principle for the development of a new Terminal for Trivandrum Airport. The existing terminal deemed outdated, congested and inappropriate for International operations.

2004 July: Civil Aviation Ministry includes Trivandrum as one among the 10 non-Metro Airports to be developed  with private participation

2005 December: Aviation Ministry allocates 256 crores to develop new city-side International Terminal for Trivandrum. It would coming up beside the new NH 47 Bypass and would be, numerically, the third terminal of Trivandrum after the Int'l and Domestic terminals (T2 and T1 respectively).

image courtesy Sreeraj K.R @ SSC-Tvm

2006 February:  Kerala Govt promise to initiate steps to acquire the required land in 2 phases. 27 acres for Phase I and II combined, and 130 acres in total. As of today not an inch of land outside these 27 acres has been acquired but time and again the authorities make complete ass of the public by announcing that the land will be acquired in 2 weeks or so when confronted by the press.

November 2006: Groundbreaking day for the swanky new terminal, by PM Manmohan Singh. Phase I kicked off and planned to be commissioned by September 2008.

October 2007: AAI decides to commence Phase II along with Phase I and open the terminal by May 2009.

December 2007: Works halt on Air India Engineering Base (Hangar) project as acquisition of Travancore Rubber Works land run into troubled waters.

Air India Hangar
June 2008: Over 18 months after the start of T3 works and just 10 months left for inauguration, KITCO decides its time to start work on the crucial approach flyover. The 30m wide 6-lane carriageway passes over T.S.Canal, connecting the terminal to NH Bypass.

September 2008: Cargo movement from TRV takes a dip ahead of T3 opening amidst fears of accessibility of the Air Cargo Complex from new terminal.

October 2008: KSIE earmarks 10 acres of land at Vallakkadavu adjascent to the new terminal for an International Cargo hub (Kaumudi news screenshot) at a cost of 90 crores. No noteworthy progress on this proposal, as land acquisition not yet commenced.

February 2009: AAI decides to widen and strengthen the perimeter road from the Air Cargo Complex to the tarmac of the new terminal to facilitate the smooth transport of cargo.

March 2009: Works on Air India Engineering Base start, after long delays.

GoI plans to develop 6 multi-modal hubs in the country; Trivandrum short-listed as one of them. (Economic Times link)  No further follow up on this project as of today.

New Terminal Phase I ready to be opened by May 2009. Works on Phase II, initially planned after commissioning of Phase I, now initiated and the deadline extended to Dec 2009.

July 2009: The State Government considering evolving a special package for the rehabilitation of ~350 families who will have to be evicted for next phases of development. Nothing solid has transpired so far.

September 2009: Hangar works expected to finish by June 2009.  T3 opening date for last week of December as an X'mas/ New year gift for the city.

November 2009: Scarcity of sand stalls approach road and flyover works. Meanwhile State Govt urged to acquire remaining land for the development of Airport while T3 opening postponed yet again.

 T3 Airside image courtesy The Hindu

January 2010: AAI says they're ready to open to open T3 but the approach road has reached nowhere. Plans to construct a temporary approach road from old Airport Road fall through. Date of opening pushed back, now March is the new deadline.

February 2010: AAI promises to take up strengthening works of the perimeter road to facilitate cargo transfer between terminals. 

May 2010: Newsreports confirm opening date as May 20, with the Prime Minister most likely to take the honour of cutting the ribbon. But the unavailability of the PM for the selected dates upsets the cart.

June 2010: AAI officially completes T3 works (Phase I & II) while KITCO drags on with approach flyover works.

July 2010: Union Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi to inaugurate T3. Stiff opposition from State Govt over political differences with Mr. Ravi led to cancellation of the date. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel deemed to open T3 on July 16th (Newslink) but postponed yet again. New proposals for linking the terminal via waterways and rail-link actively considered.

Qatar Airways join Emirates and Saudia to commence exclusive freighter services to TIA using wide bodied jets; a B-777 this time after the former two airlines flew in B-747s. 

April 2010:  AAI approves implementing a UDF (Users Development Fee) of  Rs.755 for travel through Trivandrum Airport.

July 2010: Gulf Air winds up Trivandrum operations.

 T3 Entrance (view from approach flyover) image courtesy Vivek S

September 2010: A new ATC Tower is proposed, pending approval from AAI honchos.

Air India board meeting decides to shift the headquarters if Air- India Express from Mumbai to Trivandrum. (Newslink)  This decision sets off a familiar chain reaction which Trivandrumites are all too familiar with now.

Air India raises technical issues and space constraints ahead of T3 opening, scheduled for second week of October. The deadline, as an effect, is pushed back yet again.

October 2010: An Air India Express B-737-800 docks with one of the T3 jetways as part of trial run. Thumbs up from officials and all those concerned.

Airport Director is literally sacked overnight, raising many eyebrows. Internal politics and dirty lobbying suspected behind the hasty and unprecedented decision.

Air India Express goes on an unprecedented cancellation spree of flights to and from Kerala; Trivandrum suffering the most. On top of it Air India shoots up its fares on domestic and international routes from Trivandrum.

Plans to make the airport a multi- transport hub mooted. 

November 2010:  Air Asia decides to wind up Trivandrum operations. (Newslink) The hefty users fee pointed out to be a reason for withdrawal of low-cost carrier. Meanwhile another low cost carrier, Singapore based Tiger Airways spread their wings to Trivandrum.

Air India Express drafts a settlement formula; decides to move Administrative Headquarters to Cochin and retain the Engineering Base in Trivandrum.

AAI decides to commission T3 on second week of December. New reports in prominent media that passengers are abandoning the capital airport because of high rates.

State Govt opposes to the idea of opening the Terminal without 'proper' inauguration. AAI duly oblige. Full stop.

December 2010: Of late, Dec 12 is rumoured to be the new date for opening T3. Newsreport that both Domestic and International operations will be from the new terminal perplexes many.

As 2010 draws to its last few days, an year after the first proposed date of opening, it's anybody's guess as to when the first passenger will be able to check-out of the new Trivandrum International Airport terminal. More than the infamous passivity of big-brother Air India, it is the I-don't-give-a-damn attitude of the people's representatives from Trivandrum that has been shocking and disheartening.

 International Terminal Panorama image courtesy Vivek S

What has been unique in this tale is that such a landmark project is yet to be opened months after completion of works, just because they couldn't shortlist an appropriate inaugurater! In the state-of-affairs prevailing in our country, I certainly feel its bewildering and bamboozling.

Will 2011 make a difference? Well, what else could one hope for?