Dawn of Safe driving in India: Doctor’s responsibility

Having driven and seen traffic in developed countries, when I come back to India it has been a burden in my heart to see Indians drive ‘safely and easily’.
Most Indians do not realise the stress that we go through when on the road, either as a driver or a passenger, because it is said “You cannot understand what a lie is, unless you have seen the truth”.
Todays Times of India carried this on the front page

Road crashes to be 3rd biggest killer
Malathy Iyer TNN
Consider this: India’s killer roads have been registering an increase of almost 8% in the number of road accidents every consecutive year, according to an IIT-Delhi report. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says that 1.3 lakh people died and over 4.7 lakh were injured on the country’s highways and side-roads last year. And the World Health Organisation predicts that road accidents will rise from its present position as India’s ninth biggest killer to number three by 2020.

India drive safe campaign

Clearly, road accidents will be the new epidemic that doctors and town planers will have to address sooner than later.

Not only that, Doctors could be held responsible for patients driving with cognitive impairments too! All the more reason why Doctors need to come forward and take the lead in instituting Road Safety and Good driving training seminars etc.
If you are interested in joining me do send me an email.

Now there is more action taking place:
17th November 2011 Times of India front page:
10-fold rise in fines for traffic violations
Dipak Kumar Dash TNN

New Delhi: Thirteen years since the last revision, brace for paying 10 times higher fine for violating traffic rules. The Union law ministry has given its assent for a quantum increase in fines to promote safe driving and curb soaring road accident deaths.
For instance, for commonplace offences such as jumping a red light, driving without wearing a seat belt/ helmet, the revised fine will be Rs 500 against Rs 100. If the same offence is committed again, the offender will have to cough up between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 each time.
A senior official of road transport and highways ministry said the revised penalty for violations will be incorporated in the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, which will be introduced in the winter session of Parliament that begins on November 22.
Though the ministry had prepared an expert committee report for overhaul of the existing Motor Vehicle Act in February, none of the recommendations will be incorporated in the proposed bill.
Road, transport and highways secretary said that they want to amend the Act since it been long overdue. “In subsequent phases, more changes can be incorporated,” the official added.
HC wants sr cop for traffic
The Bombay High Court wants a senior officer to exclusively deal with road safety and traffic discipline in order to solve the city’s traffic woes.P 6 Stiffer fines could deter violations
New Delhi: Stiffer fine could deter traffic violations. Hopefully, overspeeding can be checked by raising the fine from Rs 4,00 to Rs 1,000. While, the penalty for every subsequent offence is likely to go up from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000, efforts have been made to prevent drinking and road accident fatalities. The ministry proposes to hike the penalty up to a twoyear jail term and Rs 5,000 fine, or both.
The proposal focuses more on habitual offenders. For example, if a person is caught driving without registration or permit, he could face penalty of Rs 20,000 or one-year imprisonment, or both for subsequent offence. Experts are sceptical, arguing that nothing can change drivers’ behaviour. “Every offence is the first offence… there is no question of stiffer penalty for a subsequent one. We need to record the first offence and the enforcement personnel must have the details available while on the move,” said S P Singh of IRTFT, an advocacy group on transport issues. TNN


Add: 6/1/2012

The Road To Safety

Good governance is key to making traffic conditions risk-free and convenient for people

Bornali Bhandari and Diya Dutta

The week is being marked as Road Safety Week. Ironically, India is the world leader in traffic-related deaths – 1.05 lakh in 2007, going by the WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2009. This number rose to 1.33 lakh in 2010, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. True, India is better off than some other nations: estimated road traffic deaths per 100,000 population were 16.7 in 2007 while the average number for low-income countries was 21.9, middle-income countries was 19.5 and high-income countries was 10.3. Also, 85% of the victims were male and 75% within the age group 15-49. And the total number of road accidents was high, at 4.3 lakh in 2010.
Why is the situation so bad? The main reason is lack of governance on Indian roads. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development defines weak governance as governments that are either unwilling or unable to assume their responsibilities. In the case of Delhi, this argument may be viewed as a stretch given recent policies undertaken by the government, including introduction of the use of Facebook by Delhi traffic police, increased police presence, proposals to prosecute drivers caught drunk etc. But none of this is enough.
Rather, good governance should be defined to include efficient planning; transparent laws and their implementation; planned roads taking into account the behavioural patterns of users and traffic flows; consistent width of lanes; working traffic lights with sensible signalling; properly trained drivers; and monitoring by well-trained, well-informed and well-mannered police.
Poor governance has led to formation of traffic-related habits that are hard to change. For instance, many drivers do not drive in a lane nor signal their intention to change lanes. First, do clearly marked lanes even exist? Second, have these drivers been trained to change lanes in a safe manner? Evidence from a paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (2007) shows that
using an agent to get a licence is encouraged in Delhi and it is possible to get a licence without taking a driving test. People pick up driving skills later.
Even assuming people are formally trained to drive, does the training manual go into details about, say, changing lanes? The Oregon (US) Driver Manual 2010-11 says, “Before you start to pass, be sure you have enough room to complete the manoeuvre. If you have to cut back into your lane too soon, you risk sideswiping the vehicle you are passing.” Ill-trained drivers, however, think driving just involves rotating the steering wheel and honking to manoeuvre a way through traffic. Even with driving classes, training manuals need details. For example, Delhi traffic police’s list of road signs on its website is woefully inadequate. And how many of us are even aware of the website? A related point is that most trainers are themselves ill-trained.
The 2009 WHO study shows India receives a low 2.0 score on laws related to drink-driving, motorcycles and helmets – the irony is that 21% of road accident deaths involve two-wheelers. Clearly, policing is a joke. At major intersections, traffic police merely stop people from crossing red lights. There is need to mark lanes for particular directions at every conceivable point, teach people how to drive properly and penalise them if they don’t follow directions. But just penalties or the mere presence of police on the roads are not deterrent enough.
As for crumbling infrastructure, road lights often do not work and traffic lights, symbols or road directions are often hidden behind trees or posters. A crucial point that the authorities miss is that urban planning in India is inefficient. A common feature seen in both Delhi and Bangalore – the worst cities in terms of share of traffic-related deaths in India – is that they have built stretches of roads with flyovers but forgotten to build infrastructure for pedestrians. This, despite the fact that 9.1% of road accident deaths involve pedestrians. Yes, some places have subways – which are often dark or flooded – and overbridges along a stretch. But these are limited in number or unenticing. Habits are hard to change when the assumption is that existing infrastructure is crumbling.
Government intervention – that is, good governance – is the key to combating the menace of chaotic road traffic. People, for instance, will always try to beat a red light because they want to reach their destinations faster, not thinking about its negative impact on society. So, policymakers need to recognise that time is a resource constraint and road planning must address the issue of making optimal use of time spent on the road.
Public policy including road planning must reflect ground realities taking into account users’ behavioural patterns. Lanes need to be sensibly marked, and road signs, speed limits and traffic lights placed everywhere, including neighbourhoods. In fact, people need to get into the habit of expecting good, sensible infrastructure and planning. Moreover, there is need to systematically train people, both users and the police, in laws and regulations. A carrotand-stick policy should be used to encourage good behaviour in both motorists and pedestrians. Information about laws and rules pertaining to driving and related issues should be made available at accessible sites and people made aware of this. Finally, the government must operationalise these policies. That will mark a true transition point for road traffic in India.
Bhandari is fellow, National Council of Applied Economic Research, and Dutta is research scholar, JNU.

Stop, look and especially listen

Who can make India shine?

What went wrong?

Why do some fall?

Chetan Bhagat wrote this in the Times of India today, the 7th of November 2011. He has understood to a certain extent what is the problem in India. I liked it so am putting it up here:

Being Rich, Being Good
If the American system can punish wrongdoing and reward merit, why can’t we?
Chetan Bhagat

Recently, Rajat Gupta, ex-CEO of McKinsey and one of the most highprofile corporate figures in America, was arrested on insider trading charges. He is accused of having tipped off Raj Rajaratnam, who once ran a hedge fund worth $7 billion. Rajaratnam, who at his peak had a net worth of $1.8 billion, is already sentenced to 11 years in prison. Thirteen others have been sentenced too. This would seem surprising to many who see America as a nation associated with relentless greed, materialism and consumerism.
When we were growing up, we were often told that ‘western values’ are extremely harmful for society. We Indians were supposed to be more humane, loving, caring, spiritual and genuine. The West was an embodiment of all things wrong – from excess consumption to decline in family values. We were the good ones (or is it G1 these days?).
Yet, it is America that comes down hard on people who break other people’s trust. Punishment for taking more than your fair share – whether through insider trading or corruption – is severe. In Gupta’s case, he may not even have benefited directly – he may have merely tipped off his friend as alleged, unaware how that tip would be used. If proven, that is reason enough for the American system to punish him.
Yes, America is materialistic. It is even greedy to a certain extent. However, Americans have created a system in which wealth is created with hard work, innovation, talent and enterprise. People who display these qualities move up. Every generation in America has thrown up several innovators and billion-dollar global corporations, made without government connections. Americans may have a hundred flaws, but they are extremely protective of their system. Anyone who tries to break it to come up in life using unfair means is punished severely. Schools and colleges have a strict honour code against cheating. And no
matter how high-profile the person, society doesn’t flinch in teaching the wrongdoer a lesson.
We, on the other hand, don’t even have good laws to prosecute the blatantly corrupt, forget insider trading. Many may not even see insider trading as wrong – we see it as a privilege of being in a position of status or power. Any Dalal Street veteran will tell you, despite regulator SEBI’s commendable efforts, insider trading is rampant among the high and mighty. It is not limited to the stock market. The real estate developer who finds out the zoning master plan of the government beforehand, and pre-emptively buys real estate, is also doing insider trading. However, such people are never punished.
In fact, our government attacks almost every anticorruption crusader. It is as if the current government has taken a mandate to protect the corrupt. The prime minister, under whom the biggest scams took place, remains in power using every excuse – from ‘he did not benefit’ to ‘he did not know anything’. In almost any other civilised country, heads would have rolled. Sadly, even our opposition parties have lots of corrupt people. Hence today, even if we want, we can’t vote in an honest government.
What happened? Weren’t we supposed to be the good ones? And yet, it is the greedy, western ‘baddies’ who seem to be doing a better job at being just, truthful and equal. They are not only richer; they seem better too. It is disheartening to face this ugly truth. After all, the poor person is supposed to be the better person – at least that’s what they show in the movies.
Well, we don’t have good leaders because in the past we haven’t cared. We’ve only wanted leaders from our caste or religion. We have been enamoured less by honesty, more by dynasty. We do not have a merit-based system that generates wealth, nor anything in place to protect it. They do. Hence they are richer and, in many cases, better than us. The system we have, in which there are a few kings and lots of common people, cannot generate wealth. It kills innovation and keeps the powerful as rent-seeking controllers of resources. It will eventually turn us into a nation of clerks for the world. Innovators will rule the world; we will be left to serve them. We may not get colonised politically, but will economically.
Can we change this? Of course we can. Society does change, even if slowly.

Burning widows was called Sati

There was a time we used to practise ‘sati’. We realised it was wrong and now we don’t. To change, first let us accept our shortcomings. We Indians lack some essential, good values. Being part of corrupt society has made us all somewhat corrupt. From copying assignments to faking our children’s ages in railway tickets – we have all done wrong or accepted wrong as part of life. We need to define a set of new values and propagate them in our social circles.
We also need to support positive initiatives, like the Lokpal Bill. Individuals don’t matter in Anna’s team; it is their cause that makes sense and needs support. The media and everyone should start calling Parliament’s winter session the ‘Lokpal session’, just so our rulers are reminded of what they are supposed to do. The new Indian quest has begun. It is to be rich, and to be good.
The writer is a best-selling novelist.

The price of corruption

Vishal speaks of an experience he had in Denmark. His host there took him to a diary farm to get some milk. They walked in, and Vishal was surprised to see that there were no staff there. His host filled a bottle with milk from the dispensing machine, took money from his purse, put it in a container kept for money, and removed the change due him.
Vishal was shocked. In India, the money and the milk both would have disappeared, he exclaimed to his host. His host just smiled.
As Vishal started thinking what would have happened in India…to prevent theft there would be a supervisor, to check the quality of milk there would be another staff, to counter check the quality of milk there would be a license inspector…and who pays for all this? You the poor consumer. And on top of it all, if the staff merely bribe the license inspector, you end up paying even more…and getting contaminated milk in the bargain.
That is the price we pay for corruption, bribe taking and bribe giving.

What is a way out? Why was Denmark so different.
As Vishal started going back in time, he realised that it was only due to the influence of the sixteenth century Reformation and subsequent emphasis on Biblical values like the commandment ‘Thou shall not steal’ which were taught weekly at all churches throughout the land via the Heidelberg catechism.
That is why a small nation like Denmark could become so rich that it could give money for India’s development.
Think about it.

Moral integrity is foundational to prosperity!

Vishal Mangalwadi’s book Truth and Transformation is available through Flikkart.com
I would recommend anyone interested in knowing how to tackle India’s problems to read…and act on it. God bless!

Times Mumbai salutes Forum


Mumbaikars battle to reclaim city

In 2010, Ordinary Citizens Had Authorities Perennially On Their Toes With Fervid Activism

— Linah Baliga

Milk adulteration racket busted

—Sukhada Tatke

Times of India Mumbai edition 27th December 2010 page 5

It started with the residents of Borivli, Kandivli and Dahisar complaining that the milk they got at home was not up to the mark. Soon, the struggle evolved and, in March, a milk adulteration racket in the area was busted.
The crusade against milk adulteration was started by members of the New Link Residents’ Forum, Dahisar. Fearing that the racketeers would get tipped off if they involved the police, they took it upon themselves to solve the problem. For 40 nights, eight members of the group patrolled the streets. “We used to step out of our homes at 2 am and drive around till 6am. We collected a lot of information and zeroed in on six locations where the adulteration was being done,” said forum secretary Harish Pandey.
Once they were certain of the racketeers’ whereabouts, the crusaders informed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One night, forum members got together with FDA officials and raided the places. As expected, the criminals were caught red-handed and bags filled with adulterated milk seized.

Milk adulteration busted

“Our work was not over. We had to ensure that the gangs don’t come back. That’s when we started keeping in touch with cops, who were by then very supportive and happy with our success. The two kingpins of the racket were finally externed,” Pandya said.
The residents feel the battle will continue until all such gangs are busted. “We can say confidently that the proportion of milk adulteration has come down drastically. But we will be satisfied when it stops completely,” Pandey said.

What the eye sees

A good camera is an essential tool to capture what your eye sees. And your eye can only see what your heart loves. So it all boils down to your heart, soul and spirit. Never thought of that, right? 🙂

I started photography rather late, when I was in my 20’s. I used the Fuji FinePix S 7000 series mainly for its ability to take photos and videos [640X480] in one handy package.  I enjoyed this prosumer camera for many years, till it stopped functioning after getting drenched at the Maid of the Mist.

Then I got a Finepix S2000 HD which had HD video recording too. The problem was its battery intensive zoom which used to drain 4 AA Ni MH cells in 2 days or less!  And also the fact that the picture quality was bad in low light.  That camera was stolen in an Environmental activism  related accident [more abt that later sometime].

After that I got my present camera in May 2010, a Nikon D 3000. I bought a Tamron 18-270 lens for it, and a Manfrotto tripod. I am extremely happy with this combo! It gives me the opportunity to faithfully capture what my eyes see. Ofcourse I cannot carry the tripod everywhere so usually steady my hands and use the Vibration control on the lens. Here is a photo taken at a museum recently.

Hand held low light Museum photography

Photography has given me a greater appreciation of the wonderful way our eyes capture the world around us, which seems so natural to us. Photographers have to really work hard to reproduce such effects especially in low light.

Thanks for reading! Keep shooting and learning.

Vegetarian India


‘Vegetarians can’t use court to lobby’

Rosy Sequeira TNN 6th Jan 2012

Mumbai: Vegetarians can lobby against meat-eaters anywhere but not before a forum like the court, it was argued on behalf of meat exporters at the Bombay High Court on Thursday.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Roshan Dalvi was hearing a PIL filed by Viniyog Pariwar Trust against the slaughter of cattle at Deonar abattoir and the export of meat. The petition said in 1983, the BMC banned the export of meat. “BMC has no authority to use the slaughter house for exporters,” said Viniyog’s advocate Praful Shah, adding, the abattoir had been running into losses of Rs 116 crore for a decade now. He said under the civic laws, it was clear that the Deonar abattoir was established only to cater to the “need of the locals and not foreigners and exports”.
National Treasure?
“Cattle are important wealth of the nation. We should not destroy it,” said Shah, pointing that Article 51 (g) of the Constitution stated that there should be compassion for all living creatures. “Cattle are being slaughtered unnecessarily for export.”
But BMC advocate Geeta Joglekar said considering the poor financial status, on March 20, 1985, it was decided not to implement the 1983 resolution, banning exports. She said slaughter was carried out between 11pm and 6am for local use, while the entire day, the machines lay idle. So, she said, exporters were allowed to use them. “We only provide space and charge double from exporters,” she added.
All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Associations advocate Zubin Kamdin argued that since Deonar abattoir was set up in 1972, export had been allowed till date. “Just because a person has a particular ideology, it cannot be imposed on others. This court is not a forum and a PIL cannot be used to impose ideology on others,” said Kamdin. Justice Dalvi said because a petitioner had a particular opinion, it did not prevent him from filing a PIL and the court would examine the case on merit. Kamdin said the trust’s prayer amounted to interference in the policy decision of the BMC. “According to them, meat-eating is a western culture,” he added. According to him, exports from Deonar alone accounted for Rs 226 crore annually.

This is from a letter I wrote some time ago, but the topics are ever fresh.
To: HT Mumbai Main <mumbailetters@hindustantimes.com>Sent: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 7:55:28 PM

Subject: Vegetarian Sinner?
Deonar abattoir closed for nine days! Some Jain vegetarians have their way, forcing their beliefs down the throats of millions.

Some vegetarians hate people more than plants

Politicians had successfully lobbied the impotent government to stop the main production center for meat in Mumbai for nine days as a Jain festival was being celebrated. Vote bank appeasement perhaps but this was a danger signal that I could not ignore anymore.The Jain religion and some other philosophies apparently believe that it is a sin to kill animals. I thought it is time to correct this view once and for all.

The whole question of vegetarian vs non-vegetarianism is rooted in emotions and so-called spirituality since time immemorial.There are two main aspects of this issue.

Firstly many people are of the opinion that if you are a vegetarian, you are more spiritual. I recalled meeting an elderly gentleman in Gujurat who proclaimed that the answer to India’s problems lay in everyone adopting a ‘satvik’ vegetarian diet. He, and many other sincere people think that what you eat determines your character. Was he right?

Centuries of vegetarianism in India and look at the condition of our dear country. B12 and Vitamin D deficiency over the generations have played havoc on our health, making Indians the highest risk population for Diabetes and Heart Disease.

So the question is, is non-vegetarian food bad for you spiritually? Does it make you s sinner or bad?

Jesus answered the diet-character question 2000 years ago. His disciples asked Jesus whether it was the food they ate that made a man do evil. Jesus said “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts”. The problem lies in the heart of man.

Secondly many people also think that there is no difference between humans and animals. That also makes them believe that it is a sin to kill animals. To think that we are no different from animals would amount to actually insulting the Living God who made us humans uniquely in His image and who longs to have a relationship with us much like a loving father would love his children.

Has anyone seen a praying monkey or goat? Doesn’t science itself marvel at the difference between man and all other created living beings? Does not even the law of India treat murder of a human being as a crime worse than killing a pig?

We humans are certainly made different from all other living beings! We have a soul and a human spirit which has the potential to connect to the Living God!

We humans have been made stewards by God of the entire earth [Genesis 1]. We are all answerable to God for how we have taken care of earth and its creatures. It is our duty to see that animals if at all consumed for food are killed as painlessly and humanely as possible, and when needed for food alone, not for fun.

As for the answer to who or what can save India, I believe that the answer lies in the person of Jesus Christ alone.The fallen nature of man’s heart is at once the most easily provable fact as also the one most denied philosophically. A casual glance through the events happening all over will tell us that we humans are sinners.

Why deny it? Real change of character in us humans can only come when we accept that we are sinners, repent with our whole heart, and believe that God has forgiven our sins through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross 2000 years ago, a fact easily proven historically.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. No amount of fasting or vegetarianism has or can cure our country of its many ills. Centuries of history tell us the same story.

But sometimes we prefer to re invent the wheel. Hope this article opens your eyes dear readers. Hope you would not judge people by what they eat, rather by what comes out of their hearts. Let us respect the rights of others and allow them to eat what they want, treat them as you would your own brother or sister. Are not all Indians your brothers and sisters?

I love my India. Long live India!

Are you in the 21st Century?

Prannoy Roy, a talk show host from India, asked a question to a leader in one of his interviews “Are you in the 21st Century?”

Times have changed!

The leader must have said something that to Roy seemed so old-fashioned.

Like going on a vacation in a bullock cart. Or sending your precious kids to an institutional school.

Hey, wait a minute! What do you mean, you would ask!

Exactly…..what do I mean?

Prannoy may have a certain concept of what constitutes 21st Century. Maybe fuel propelled vehicles with 4 wheels or more, instant communication with people around the world, medical advances etc.

In the same way most people at present also have a certain idea when they think of the 21st Century.

That doesn’t mean the majority is right, does it?

The majority thought the earth was flat 1000 years ago, so what?

The majority send their kids to school, so what?

What the majority are realising slowly now is that times are changing….and are seeing that more and more parents are taking a conscious decision to provide something better for their childrens future than sending them to instituitional organisationss called schools.

Are you in the 21st Century?

Let us look at the 22nd Century perhaps….when parenting and education would not be outsourced to so called experts.

When parents and children spend time together learning and having fun, developing bonds that will last a lifetime.

Times have indeed changed

When the Government and Commerce would stop trying to fit all individuals into uniform molds called ‘good consumers or useful slaves’ for their own benefit.

Let the movement roll on.

Jai Hind.