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April 30, 2009

Bangalore metro plan and BIAL high speed rail link

Bangalore metro plans to link different parts of BLR with a partly underground, partly over the ground rail network. In the process, it has lead to significant removal of greenery. The metro by itself seems to have a simple route, and has been thought out with current congestion patterns. But it has ignored the airport- an important transit point in any major city. Oh well, the powers-that-be (In this case, the KSIIDC) have planned a high-speed rail link (HSRL) for that section. Some key figures for HSRL:

  • HSRL connects M G Road to BIA and traverses Cubbon Road, Chowdaiah Road, Ramana Maharshi Road, Bellary Road and corridor after Hebbal
  • Final cost estimated at Rs 5,767 crore
  • The 34-km rail link will cover distance from city to BIA in 25 minutes
  • HSRL will be integrated with Metro at Minsk Square; with Metro Phase II at Yelahanka and proposed mono-rail at Hebbal

HSRL conveniently forgets a few pertinent aspects (Other blogs: [1][2]):

  • Its nodal point is planned to be MG road, which is already chock-blocked with traffic; even Hebbal is not any better. And if I have to travel to Hebbal from South Bangalore to catch the HSRL, I might as well travel the extra few kilometers to get to Devanhalli.
  • Does an average traveler want to reach BIAL within 23 minutes as compared to 1 hour?
  • Connectivity to metro will be through a 200 meter walkway from the proposed Minsk Square Station. 200 meter walkway; with luggage. Nice. (Article on how HSRL can affect other transport)
  • Cheaper cost of HSRL was initially waved as a plus point. Cost escalations have now made this claim empty. Initial cost of HSRL was estimated at Rs 3,700 crore, revised to Rs 4,313 crore (excluding cost of government/BBMP lands), final completion cost: Rs 5,767 crore.

A travel system has to grow organically, providing for other transit options and allowing for area around the airport to grow steadily. What if they do the HSRL and the area around Devanhalli develops completely, needing more connectivity to the airport along stations between Hebbal and BIAL. HSRL is apparently not designed to have more than 3-4 stations. Would we need to develop another rail link or the metro? Map showing how the transit options could be:

My guess is that this is a mix of both bureaucratic confusion and petty politics; one guy comes along and implements the metro. Another guy needs a pet peeve and implements the HSRL. Both have something to say to their vote bank.

April 29, 2009

Political movement in India

Filed under: election, India, indian elections, politics, social change — neosurya @ 16:16

The Mumbai edition of the Times of India carried an interesting editorial by Tarun Vijay, the director of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (“Ideology is a casualty of today’s politics of expediency”). The full article can be accessed here; an excerpt from the article is below:

With the advent of the politics of expediency, a Gandhian ashram of ideas was turned into a mandi trading in votes, relegating ideological diversity to irrelevance and irreverence. Since political parties were no more than a conglomeration of certain interest groups, even ideology was defined in terms of material activity such as construction of roads and supply of energy. Political power became a goal in itself, not a vehicle to achieve greater purposes and execute visionary plans.

Though post-1947, there were stray cases of corruption in high places, like the jeep scandal and the Mundhra case, these were small yet created a furore. The guilty were not honoured in political circles and people would rise in revolt and revulsion against them. Not any more. With the breaking of the Congress and the games played with institutions like the judiciary and bureaucracy, Indira Gandhi institutionalised political corruption. It became accepted, normal behaviour for a politician to treat the issue as a non-issue. Self-interest and winning elections became goals in themselves; even a semblance of virtuous public behaviour became a matter for jokes and mockery.

Hence those who people Parliament, with charges of murder, extortion and corruption against them, become page-one politicians and secular symbols that define ‘grassroots’ politics. Except the Left and the Hindu right, there is hardly any political group that can claim to run on the basis of some ideological assertion and functional democratic inner-party norms. If it is father-and-son in the National Conference, the PDP is run by the Muftis, the BSP by Mayawati, the Samajwadi Party by Mulayam Singh, the DMK by M Karunanidhi and Stalin, the AIADMK by Jayalalithaa, the Congress by Sonia Gandhi and the Biju Janata Dal by Naveen Patnaik. The danger of such a fragmented polity becomes starker in times of crisis.

We are a nation surrounded by a failed state like Talibanised Pakistan (Hillary Clinton’s statement about Pakistan abdicating to the Taliban is unprecedented and also an alarm bell for New Delhi), Bangladesh where jihad churns, Nepal where the Maoists are messing around with the system, Sri Lanka which is mishandling the Tamil issue and, above all, China which looks over our shoulders. Add these factors to internal terror wars. If, despite these problems, we have not only survived but a small section has marched ahead, the credit must solely go to the resilience of the Indian people.

This is more reason why political parties like the freedom team of India (FTI) are needed. FTI aims to first create a set of policies that its members will agree upon. And then, and only then will FTI launch a political entity with a clear set of policies to be implemented. I urge interested readers to take a look at the site, and participate.

At the very least, participation in the democratic process by Indian citizen is urgent at this hour. Unfortunately, this is not happening, as seen by poor voter turnout.

April 25, 2009

Shiva temple??

Had been to the Shiva temple behind Total on old airport road. The temple also has a website, and you can see a few pictures at these blogs: [1] [2]. This was also known as the Shiva temple at Kemp fort. It features several unique offerings: One can see the 12 Jyotirlingas for Rs 10 (The lady stressed in no mean terms that one has to buy a ticket, and that this was a steal), a live bhajan troupe, a miracle spot *1, a special havan seva *2. The nava grahas are placed in a globe like structure.

Readers can draw their own conclusions about how the temple is. I will probably take my parents there once; they have to see this.

*1 You can get wishes granted if you pay about Re 10 or so, say Om Namah Shivaya 7 times and drop a coin into a pond.

*2 For a small donation the pujari will give you some wood, oil, and pre-prepared bowl of navadhanyas to put in a pre-burning flame.

A different blog seems to indicate that the temple was not always like this.

April 24, 2009

Only primates who need help during childbirth.

Filed under: nature — neosurya @ 23:36

Humans are the only primates who need assisted childbirth. There are several interesting observations about this, and it also seems to be recently gaining the attention of anthropologists: [1] [2] [3]. Despite the claims that we make about advancements, we still are a rather feeble species.

Voter turnout in Bangalore – about 50%

Filed under: indian elections — neosurya @ 18:21

Bengaluru has shown the door to participation by its’ pathetic turnout in elections (About 50%, Blr south: 44.73%, Blr Central: 45.25% as reported here). This, despite the media glare and the calls by who-is-who to “young voters”. The reaction is reflected in some of the articles and blogs here [1, 2, 3]. Previous year’s voter turnout in Bangalore was 49.36%, as reported here. Twelve villages in Karnataka have decided to boycott elections [1], [2], [3] (A village in WB did the same). Now, this protest is very different from not coming out for elections. Voters in Bangalore have clearly chickened out.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)N Gopalaswami is also concerned that urban voters are the ones with the least turnout.

April 23, 2009

V voted.

Filed under: election — neosurya @ 22:01

Jyostna, and I cast our vote today. I had checked our names in the voters list the previous night (ID 927 and 928). Our polling booth was a short walk form the house; we reached there at about 7:15 AM. Folks streamed in early on; there was a short line. Some people were listed wrongly in different polling booths, but at least in the morning voting seemed normal.

Jyostna trying to find our names on the list.

Jyostna trying to find our names on the list. Folks from different parties setup tables outside the polling centers to assist voters.


The polling center for our locality is in the background (Betheny school).This was after voting.

The polling center for our locality is in the background (Betheny school).This was after voting.

Two is a party.

Two is a party.

April 22, 2009

AID-Buffalo Newsletter, and the old days of starting AID-Buffalo

Filed under: association for indias development — neosurya @ 21:04

AID-Buffalo volunteers have now put together a quarterly newsletter. They have done a great job, it is a first for the chapter, and I mirror the newsletter here with great pride: sambhaavna_jan_mar_09

AID has come a long way from when we started in 2004. The first meeting of AID-Buffalo was held in Aug 2004 at the Flint Apartment Complex visitors center, across from the Jacobs management center. Karrishma used to stay in Flint vilage and helped get the place and organize the meet. I had sent out emails to some of my friends, organized a pizza party (Somehow felt that no one would come without food). Siva and Siddharth Bhat got sufficiently interested to continue being with AID.

I left for an internship in India, and returned in Jan 05 (Got engaged in the interim), and moved into an apartment at 55, Springville with Karthik, Amar, Amit, JC, and Sankalp. It was a totally excited, hyper set of folks; it took a bit of convincing, but once in, they did a lot of work . Anand Srinivasan walked into one of our CSH; he had recently come to Buffalo, and was looking for R&R I presume. He did get a lot of it in the years that ensued :). AID meetings were held in the CSE conference rooms in Bell Hall. Siva became the treasurer and managed our meager income; Amar took up printing of T-shirts. We had a couple of tables at the temple, and a table at the GISA event that summer. Kishore met us at the GISA event, saying his room-mate would be interested in joining AID. The roomie was Narasimha, or Rao as we call him. Girin and Ruchita also took good interest in AID.

Rao really put the next big change to AID. He introduced several things, including serving food at CSH :). The meetings moved to Cooke Hall, in Rao’s Biology dept. He pushed for selling Tops cards, we had a table at the Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in Winspear Avenue. I remember that we made daal for about 70 people at Rao’s house in Princeton court apts. At the Ganesh pandal, we got introduced to Sajay and Vidya. Vidya later became our secretary’s, and their house a regular hangour for AIDers. The Ganesh pandal hosts (Rupali and Abhijeet) were absolutely awesome; They donated the entire proceeds of that event to AID-Buffalo.

At about this time, I chanced upon the major find of “Vijay Loganathan Sambhandhan”. Seniors in Buffalo would pick up incoming students. I was assigned to pick up Vijay from the airport. The dude was ultra-disorganized. He had absolutely no clue as to where he should be going. I put my car in short term parking and met the man himself in the Buffalo airport lobby.

Me: “So, where are you going”

V: “I dont know man.”

Me: “oops. Let us leave your stuff at my house. How was your flight, you hungry?”

V: “Hungry man!!!”

Me: “You wanna come for a meeting, there will be food”

V: “Ya man, wats the meeting about?”

I really felt bad taking him to AID meeting; this was a young student who had come to seek dreams in the USA. On his first day off the flight, I take him to a meeting where we discuss India’s problems. But there was no go. The GISA president had not told me where to drop him; Vijay did not know where to go and was hungry. International flights can be terrible sometimes. And AID meetings after that, kinda bad. But man, did this guy rock in the meeting. He actually gave us constructive ideas. He advertised a get-together for all newly arrived students in his apartment and told everyone about AID. We got a whole bunch of volunteers. In due course, he also became the “murari of main street”. Abhinav also joined us around this time. He later introduced Anand Pandey to AID.

Abhijeet and Rupali later helped organize a dance program for us in the temple. Rao worked hard with Vijay and Swathi and a host of other AIDers to host Shobhana’s concert in Buffalo. Karthik got a whole load of money from Jaguar, BMW, and Ford.

AID grew. Jyostna and I cherish every moment spent with AIDers and hope that it will grow even more.

April 20, 2009

Comparison of electronic voting machines: India and elsewhere.

Filed under: election — neosurya @ 07:17

First off, Invisible ink in election ballots: In… USA, Where else??? The Chicago Reader carried an article about an incident during elections in USA, where the election judges thought that voters had been given invisible pens. Apparently, voters are given pens to write on ballots. When some of the pens given to voters did not work, one of the election judges (Equivalent to election officer in India) had said:

“It’s a magic pen that uses invisible ink.”

Of course, the election judge was wrong and had goofed up big time. The full article is here. Much worse happens in our country to disrupt elections. However, the system “electronic voting machine” that was introduced in 1982 (How many of you were born then!!!) is simple, effective, and has drawn much praise. Here are websites comparing electronic voting techniques in India with those in USA: [1], [2]. This site outlines some of the advantages of the Indian EVM, and one of them is a pretty innovative method to nullify ballot stuffing:

Bogus voting can be greatly reduced by the use of EVMs. In case of ballot paper system, a bogus voter can stuff thousands of bogus ballot papers inside the ballot box. But, an EVM is programmed to record only five votes in a minute. This will frustrate the bogus voters.

The Indian EVM now has Braille support. Dieblod systems that are used in the USA have been criticised here. An article in wired speaks about the eVACS (Electronic Voting and Counting System) that the Australian Government uses an electronic voting machine, called The eVACS uses Linux, and at the end of voting day, votes are sent to a central agency by burning a disk, so that nothing is transmitted over the internet.

The Indian EVM was alleged to lose data if kept under a strong magnetic field. However, most engineers worth their salt know that a powerful enough magnetic or electric field can fry any circuit.

Comparison of Indian EVM specifications with Diebold from USA [source]:

Device type
EVM: Embedded with Assembly code
Diebold: Embedded with Windows CE, and C++ code

Visual Output
EVM: Single LED against each candidate’s name
Diebold: Color Touchscreen, with GUI software

Operating System/ Software
EVM: None, the Assembly code to register number of votes is all it has.
Diebold: Windows CE, and C++ code stored on the Internal Memory and PCMCIA cards.

Records/ Audits
EVM: The Voting unit doesn’t store anything, the control unit records the number of votes casted for each candidate against his serial number. No record to link person-to-vote.
Diebold: Internal ribbon printer. And PCMCIA storage for records and audit trials. Additionally the GEMS server also stores the votes and audits.

Accessibility
EVM: Blind people are allowed to bring an escort into the polling booth to help them vote.
Diebold: Optional Audio component to assist the visually impaired. “Magnify” feature to enlarge the text. I guess all Windows CE Accessibility features are available on these systems.

Control
EVM: Control Unit accumulates the votes, it is a device with flash storage and seven segment LED displays. They are connected to voting units with a 5 meter cable, the Unit has a switch to issue a ballot for a voter.
Diebold: Two GEMS servers one primary and a backup, for every polling station, that connects to the voting units to “load the ballots” (!!) and then voting units work independently. They are again connected at the time of results.

Security of Access
EVM: Physical security is ensured by the electoral officers. Unit is sealed during transport.
Diebold: GEMS servers have access through Supervisory Smart cards, and PINs, some users have login and password access.

Ballot Issue
EVM: Ballot is issued by Electoral officer by pressing a button on the Control Unit. It allows the voter to press one button on the voting unit.
Diebold: Voter access smart card is issued in an envelope for a terminal. Voter can put it in the assigned terminal and cast his/her vote.

Storage of Votes
EVM: In Internal Non removable memory of the Control Units. All control units are transported physically to the counting center.
Diebold: In a PCMCIA card hidden in the Voting Unit. Results are “transmitted” using modems to the counting center.

Cost of the System
EVM: About 10500 Rs. (230$) for 1 control Unit + one voting unit.
Diebold: About 3300$.

Power Supply
EVM: 6V alkaline batteries
Diebold: electricity

Capacity
EVM: 3840 Votes (the electoral process distributes one polling station for not more than 1500 voters) so its large enough.
Diebold: Over 35000 votes.

Localization/Languages
EVM: The Voting unit has a Non tear-able printed sticker, which is printed in any of the 18 (yes 18) constitutional languages, spoken in the region. The Election Symbol of the candidate allows people who cannot read that language or cannot read any language at all to vote by pressing the button against the symbol.
Diebold: Supports more than 8 different languages using GEMS software.

Developed by
EVM: State owned Defense Equipment manufacturing units.
Diebold: Private company.

Buyer/ Owner
EVM: Election commission of India buys it and ownes it to conduct elections everywhere in India.
Diebold: Individual states / counties buy the systems, and use it to take part in elections, each state can decide based on its law, which system to adopt.

April 19, 2009

Schooling… Sucks !!! Problems with modern schools.

Filed under: education, perils of modern schooling, social change — neosurya @ 20:54

I looked up a friend’s podcast, a talk by the writer, Paul Goodman. The podcast can be heard here. At about 26:30 (time remaining), he talks about the compulsory system of education as he had observed in Puerto Rico.

(I was) Sickened to ask myself – what do schools do about their claim to educate. It was quite evident, that after 10 years of intensive development – students who came from poor families to compound the native poverty – schools produced dropouts, more drop outs… Their life was stigmatized as inferior. Why was this counter-productive effect being overlooked. They could not learn on their own – promoted a new kind of self-inflicted injustice.

Creating a requirement for a society based on consumerism. For example, making you believe that learning could be quantified, it can be sliced up to pieces, for which you need a process where you are the consumer and someone else determines the organization.

Jyostna and I were reminded of our visit to the Center For Learning a few weeks back. A few related documentaries are: Vignyan Ashram (YouTube has a nice video on Vignyan Ashram at this URL), Schooling the World. Vignyan Ashram was started in 1983 by Dr. Shrinath Kalbag at Pabal in the Pune District of Maharashtra. He had a PhD in Food Technology from Univ. of Illinois, Chicago and came back to India to work for the Central Food Technological Research Institute till 1963. He also worked in Hindustan Lever Research Center till 1982, and later retired to start Vignyan Ashram. In his own words:

We want our students to start their own enterprises in their villages and thus reduce the migration to cities. There are many, who have done that, and are running their industries successfully. But these are not my success stories, they are their own. My success story will be when the system runs without me.

Schooling the world is a very interesting documentary that echoes some of the sentiments expressed in Paul Goodman’s radio interview. It is about how the modern schooling has bred a specific type of consumerism among children. One of the poignant lines that I remember from the documentary is a statement given by the founder of a popular NGO that works in the area of education. Cant recall the exact words, but the message was:

When I go to these villages, and talk to some of the elders there, they tell me –बेटा, हमें तो कुच मालूम नहीं है, आप हमारे बडे बेटे से बात करें. य़े पढा लिखा है. (Son, I do not know anything, please talk to my elder boy, he has studied in a big school). Somehow, education has instilled into people that someone who has not been inside the four walls of a classroom is incapable of any thought. People also introduce themselves as fourth fail, seventh fail and so on, and it has made more losers out of people than any other system.

The documentary also had these interesting interviews with Ladhaki parents, who lamented that their children are growing without an identity, and are being lured into a consumerist society. This section of the documentary showcased a prestigious school in Ladakh that focuses on English education, and forbids students from speaking in Ladhaki on campus. What was surprising is that several of the interviewed students (both teenagers and kids) also agreed that they cannot speak their own language and seemed extremely concerned about that aspect.

In reality, almost every system produces failures and successes. Schooling the world does not offer any solutions, but it does outline some of the ill-effects observed by people. I also feel that while the schooling system we have right now is not perfect, it was a good start; It has successfully allowed several people to break free of societal dogmas. As alternative schooling (vignyan ashram, CFL, Valley School etc) grows and improves, society will embrace the new and better.

Visit to Shekhars farm

Filed under: agriculture, personal — neosurya @ 20:36

The family went to visit Savandurga, and later to Shekhars’ farm. I had Sri Kruti touch one of Shekhar’s cow. Shekhar is a colleague from work who has gone down the agri route. His way is not the same as that of Srikanth and Priti, but it is close.

Buffalo??, Texas??, No - our very own Bangalore. Not that I am really hung up on good roads, but it helps to have them.

Buffalo??, Texas??, No - our very own NICE road in Bangalore. Not that I am really hung up on good roads, but it helps to have them.

Dad and daughter in their natural surroundings. Jyostna was taking the pictures :)...

Dad and daughter in their natural surroundings. Jyostna was taking the pictures :)...

Cows !!!

Cows !!!

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