Tuesday, December 17, 2013

As outdoor fitness movements like walkathons and cycling become popular in Indian metros, the idea of car-free zones is finally finding more takers

Publication: The Times Of India Delhi;Date: Dec 15, 2013; Section: Sunday Special;Page: 18
Padmaparna Ghosh | TNN 
Audi's Gurgaon showroom is its biggest in India. And that's not the only luxury car showroom hawking its wheels in Gurgaon, Delhi's border cousin and a poster-child for urbanization. Nothing about the development of Gurgaon or its vision of a future can ever be free of one of its principal cheerleader — the car. Yet, the unthinkable has happened. Every Sunday, a 10-km section of the prime suburb is out of bounds for motorized transport from 7 am to noon to no particular end except to give space to residents to do what they want with it. Called Raahgiri, it has let people cycle, walk, skateboard, hold fitness and yoga classes and mini races and skateboarded here. 

    In a country where pavements are demolished to increase parking, flyovers are preferred over bicycle paths and pedestrians languish at the bottom of the traffic food chain, keeping roads car-free needs gumption. In India there are now 200 times as many motor vehicles ( including two-wheelers) as there were 50 years ago (from 0.7 million in 1961 to 142 million in 2011). City authorities all over the country are struggling to control the number of vehicles and the problems they create. 

    Yet, a few Indian cities are now confident enough to pull off carfree zones despite strong opposition. The good turnout at Gurgaon's Raahgiri, in fact, prompted the Delhi government to look at a possible vehicle-free road in the India Gate area every evening. Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, Fazilka (Punjab) are all experimenting with such no-carzones in an attempt to introduce an alternative to its residents. Last year, Visakhapatnam introduced a car-free zone on the Beach Road between 5.30 and 8 am every day and cycling, walking was promoted. It created three more such zones later and is now planning to set up more. 

    MV Satyanarayana, commissioner, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, says that the response has been really positive. "Initially we needed police personnel to make sure that cars did not come in but now the residents are so habituated that police presence is not needed. In fact, now there is a demand to make it car-free even in the evenings," says Satyanarayana, who is attempting the impossible task of making sure that pedestrians get first right on the 

    road followed by cyclists. 

    Ahmedabad's vehicle-free Sunday evenings, on the other hand, faced trouble because of lack of adequate police personnel to keep the roads car free. 

    Cyclists and pedestrians have always been there on the roads. But unfortunately, they have been invisible because these are mostly daily commuters who can't afford more expensive modes of transport. It is only recently that urban fitness movements like running, marathons and cycling events have made the middle class notice the lack of footpaths and cycle paths, and the lack of concern for anyone who is not in a car. 

    "Thanks to walkathons and cycling movements, the middle class and rich are beginning to value pollution-free and congestion-free public areas. They are asserting 

their rights to these spaces," says Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director — Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based NGO. "But it is important to catalyze public imagination, passion and emotion so they can transform how people look at transportation and slow down this relentless demand for road infrastructure." 

    But can these intermittent movements wean cities off their addiction to cars? According to Henrik Valeur, a Danish architect-urbanist who is writing a book on the urban transformation of India, it seems like a faint hope. Valeur has suggested a car-free sector (19) to the Chandigarh government as part of his proposals for the new master plan.The idea was to build parking lots at the sector's borders (over- and underground) and have a mix of cyclerickshaws and solar-powered rickshaws and bicycle lanes so that residents can move around without cars. 

    "About 25% of the total surface area of the sector is currently used by cars, and much of it is covered with asphalt, which contributes to the overheating of the city. The liberated space instead could be used for communal activities, such as playgrounds, sports fields and community kitchen gardens," says Valeur. 

    The plan was submitted in December 2010 but did not make it to the final masterplan. Instead the administration in 2012 chopped down 60 trees in the sector to facilitate the construction of an overpass for motor transport in the middle of the sector. But Valeur still believes that small movements for car-free zones can be incremental. 

    "The Copenhagen experience shows that even temporarily closing roads helps in convincing people (of the need for car-free zones)," he says. "Initially, they will be annoyed but this is why it is important to have actual examples in such areas." 

    Fazilka, a town in Punjab, also freed its main market area of cars between 10 am and 7 pm. Predictably, shopkeepers opposed the move but today, Fazilka has a thriving car-free shopping area. It even introduced a dial-a-rickshaw service. 

    Roy Chowdhury cites the example of Dehradun which pedestrianized Ghanta Ghar and Paltan Bazaar completely. "European examples have shown that when you go in a car, it is targeted shopping — park, buy, leave but when you walk around, you browse and tend to buy more. People are not against walking. They just want a better experience while they are walking," she says. 

THE WHEELS ARE TURNING: The middle class is beginning to value pollutionfree and congestion-free public areas, and is asserting its rights 

BREATHING SPACE: Starved of open areas, city dwellers use open roads like they would a park 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Making the cookie crumble differently

For SilverPush, which tracks users as they move from browser to mobile apps, the biggest challenge comes from the big guns of internet

Hitesh Chawla from Fazilka, Punjab, hadn't heard of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, the technology school he graduated from, till he was 15. Now, his start-up, 
SilverPush, is pushing back the frontiers of technology.

The company has just won a round of funding from Dave McClure's 500 Startups, after being nurtured under the wing of Rajesh Sawhney-backed GSF Accelerator with Siddharth Puri of Tyroo as angel investor.

On being a successful applicant to GSF, Chawla, 30, says, "I wasn't really expecting I would get in, though I hadn't given up on the entrepreneurship dream."

SilverPush is one of the many companies trying to perfect the technology of mobile ad re-targeting and among the 50 companies the world over that are known for cross-device re-targeting. "Expect mobile re-targeting to be the next big space for innovation, investment, and acquisitions," said an October piece on AOL-owned technology news website TechCrunch. Forbes listed ad retargeting in the top seven online marketing trends for 2014.

For most advertisers, re-targeting is the Holy Grail, and mobile is the road to it.

Demystifying ad re-targeting
If you search for shoes on Snapdeal, leave the site without a transaction and then log on to Facebook to view a friend's latest display picture, chances are the picture will be followed by a shoe advertisement, as you scroll down. This concept draws more customers and accounts for more sales than banner advertisements on websites, which is why companies and brands are increasingly focusing on retargeting.

Large companies such as Drawbridge and Tapad, with revenue run rate of $20 million and sales of $100 million, respectively, are the big fish of cross-device ad retargeting, following consumers as they move from desktops to tablets to phones. This is done by dropping a cookie on a website a consumer has visited and matching these cookies. The Wall Street Journal describes cookies as tiny pieces of code that marketers deploy on web browsers to track people's online movements, serve targeted advertising and amass valuable user profiles.

The problem becomes more complex in trying to track consumers on mobiles, as these devices don't accept cookies. Increasingly, though, it will be important for brands to have a mobile strategy, as Indian users increasingly access internet through smartphones. About 20 per cent of online transactions are through smartphones.

This is the technology SilverPush is trying to sharpen - tracking users as they move from browser to app on mobile.

No clear answers
"You've heard the phrase 'it's not rocket science'. Well, this is rocket science," says a senior marketing executive of a mobile phone company, requesting anonymity as he isn't authorised to talk to the media.

Since cookies do not exist in mobile retargeting, everyone's fishing for a way out. Social networking giant Facebook launched its own mobile retargeting last month, a year after launching its ad exchange.

On SilverPush, Alok Mittal, a venture capitalist who has invested in location-based mobile advertising company AdNear, says, "In mobile, there are no cookies. So, I am curious. Expenditure will shift to the mobile advertising area, as mobiles are available to 600-800 million. The Indian market, however, is still very slow."

SilverPush founders say they identify a smartphone device (read user) through 50 parameters, based on data collected through ad exchanges, app owners and advertisers. This data is crunched to arrive at a smartphone's profile. "We sanitise the data; we segment it," says co-founder Mudit Seth, 27. "We come out with the intent of the user, based on which we come out with user behaviour."

So, a person who browses photography sites will be shown camera advertisements on games she plays.

SilverPush claims to have profiled 80 million devices in India, virtually most of 3G/4G users, which mobile marketing resource site mobithinking.com pegged at 88.5 million, based on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India statistics. "We have collected this data in the last six months," says Seth.

Though feature phones outsell smartphones globally, the trend is expected to change by 2016.

The ad exchanges SilverPush works with - Smaato, PubMatic, MoPub (being bought by Twitter) and AdIquity - also have ad inventory from publishers or app owners such as Facebook and Angry Birds. SilverPush bids for this ad inventory through the exchanges. The cost of the ad depends on the popularity of the publisher; displaying an ad on Facebook is among the costliest.

"We process a billion ad requests a day for India alone; now, we are starting in the US as well," says Chawla. The company's clients have included Myntra, Jabong, Dominos, Airtel, Paytm, Firstcry and Samsung.

For Seth and Chawla, SilverPush is the second entrepreneurial venture. Earlier, they partnered an outdoor advertising company that failed to take off, as the two found the business non-transparent.

Now, both are excited about innovations in the mobile space. "In (every) six months, everything changes," says Seth. The two say their company is expanding its reach by working with ad agencies such as ad2c and Madhouse, which provide it work instead of going to clients directly.

Chawla says the company is rejecting buyout offers. "(The offers are) very enticing personally, a million-plus dollars in cash," say Chawla and Seth, almost in unison, seeming excited as they play with their mobiles in the cafeteria of their Gurgaon office.

Google, Facebook
For SilverPush, the big guns of internet are likely to pose the biggest challenge. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are developing systems to bypass software companies that place cookies on websites and develop data mining abilities on their own.

Microsoft has announced it will give marketers the ability to track and advertise to people who use apps on its Windows 8 and 8.1 operating systems on tablets and PCs. The company will do this by assigning each user a number - a unique identifier - that monitors them across all their apps.

Google's plans, which the company disclosed only in broad terms, would also use a unique identifier.

Facebook's new ad service, launched in October, got around traditional third-party advertising cookies by doing the tracking on its own, said the Wall Street Journal. When a person visits a website selling shoes on a work PC, a piece of Facebook code placed on that site - Facebook's own cookie - recognises the person has logged on to Facebook using that browser earlier. The shoe seller can then send the person an ad for the product on the Facebook mobile app, even if that person never registered with the shoe seller.


If you understand the online world, the world of desktop web, cookies are the secret sauce to everything cool that can be achieved through online advertising. Websites put cookies on you when you visit their pages, and these can do wonders when it comes to targeting.

On the browser-led internet, cookies for all browsers are common. Google will look at your cookie from a previous visit to a news site and show you an ad with a, say, Newsweek subscription. Naaptol will study your browsing habits, and if you are identified as, say, a woman, offer you cutlery deals.

The web is the only medium able to segment consumers by their behaviour, and allows advertisers to target customers. On billboards or TV, behavioural targeting isn't possible.

Mobile phones, however, don't store cookies; you need another identifier. For smartphones, while Android has its own ID, iOS (Apple's operating system) has not settled on a particular ID and so, everyone's struggling there. Luckily, most smartphones in the Asia-Pacific have Android operating systems.

That's what SilverPush has done - it has developed the ability to identify Android users. By identifying the sites you have visited, they can segment you in terms of female, age group, sport lover, etc. Because they have been able to identify Android users, they are going to advertisers.

For instance, when Gillette brings out a ladies' razor, SilverPush can say "through my technology, I can identify five million women users and re-target them for you". So, instead of Rs 2 a click for a generic ad campaign, Gillette may be happier paying double for reaching a targeted audience for better conversions.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fazilka residents recall battle of Beriwala : Pak General’s brother Maj Shabbir Sharif was killed in this fierce man-to-man combat in 1971

Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, December 1, 2013
The appointment of General Raheel Sharif as Pakistan army chief has revived memories of the 1971 Indo-Pak war with special reference to Fazilka. General Sharif perhaps may be unable to forget the bitter memories of one of the fierce man-to-man battles as he had lost his elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif at the hands of Indian Army Major Narain Singh in the Fazilka sector.

Pakistan had launched a determined attack in this sector to capture Fazilka town on December 3, 1971. Pakistani forces, led by Major Sharif, had advanced in the Indian Territory beyond the first defence line across the strategically important Beriwala bridge.

The B company of 4 Jat Regiment of the Indian Army led by Major Narain Singh was assigned the task to stall the heavy Pakistani invasion and recapture Beriwala bridge. In the ensuing battle, both Major Narain Singh and Major Sharif were killed after displaying exemplary bravery.

Pakistan honoured Major Sharif with its highest gallantry award Nishan-e-Haider while Major Narain Singh was conferred with Veer Chakra.

"Their tales of rare act of bravery continued to do rounds in the Indian and Pakistan circles for a long period," says octogenarian Mohan Lal Paruthi, the founder general secretary of 1971 Indo-Pak War Memorial at Asafawala. He had witnessed the collective cremation of 82 martyrs of 4 Jat Regiment, including Major Narain Singh. The cremation was held at Asafwala village by area veterans where the memorial was later built. "During the exchange of bodies after the ceasefire, Pakistan army personnel had saluted the mortal remains of Major Narain Singh", says Paruthi.

Significantly, Pakistan Major General Muqueen Khan in his book equated the bravery of Major Narain Singh with Major Sharif.

The memorial raised by Fazilka residents is a place of obeisance and pilgrimage, says Urmila Bhatiyal, the widow of Major Narain Singh, whose bust has been installed at the memorial. Urmila and her son Dr Narinder are frequent visitors to the place.

Dr Narinder says: "I am proud of my father Major Narain Singh whose name lives on. If I get a chance to serve the country I will not miss the opportunity."


Friday, November 29, 2013

District Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar gets India's first Non Motor Transport Government Society

District Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar gets India's first Non Motor Transport Society.

Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, a district with many distinctions has got one more reason to celebrate for being the first of its kind in the country. This time it is not for being the best administered district of Punjab with all top officials as female or where male-female sex ratio (1000: 913) is second highest among all the districts of Punjab but this time for Institutionalizing the priority for vulnerable road users like cyclist, pedestrians, cycle rickshaw and other forms of Non motor transport. Today district administration of SBS Nagar constituted "Non Motor Transport Society" under the chairpersonship of the Deputy Commissioner with executive members like Executive Officers of all Municipal Councils of SBS District, Leading Bank Managers, Senior Police Officers, Public Works Department and experts for the non motor transport.

Non motor transport is a State Subject but, as a matter of fact the same very important mode of transportations is being taken care by multiple agencies, varying from Local bodies to Animal Husbandry.  No one owns the direct responsibility for Non Motor Transport and as a result, the equitable allocation of road space for non motor vs. motor transport is very biased towards motor transport. The society has been formed on the principles suggested in two important statutes, namely, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012, and upcoming Non-motorized Vehicles & Pliers (Promotion, Regulation, Welfare and Conditions of service) Act, 2013.

"Each town and city of our country is facing urban mobility crisis, and priority for motor transport car centric development solution making it further worse for future generations. It is high time for the administration to act now, in order to achieve futuristic sustainable transport solution" said Ms. Anindita Mitra, Deputy Commissioner and Chairperson of Non Motor Transport Society, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. In the year 2012, 205 people died and 100 found seriously injured due to road accident in SBS Nagar District, which include large number of pedestrians and cyclists. "Repect for pedestrian and cyclists and more sidewalks are the symbol of any good democratic setup to tell people how much we respect our common man, who walks on the road for their bread and butter need.  Our move is a step forward towards the same mission", she added.  During her last posting as Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development) Patiala, she initiated the process of Training of 115 GreenCABS cycle rickshaw operators as Tourist Guides followed by free distribution of 288 cycle rickshaw trolleys from welfare funds.

At present more than 2500 cycle rickshaw operators are operational in SBS Nagar district. This provides a source of livelihood of more than 13,500 urban poor. The Society will have a strong support for the promotion of cycle rickshaw as an eco friendly mode of para transit for urban and rural areas given the directives issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court related to implementation of Ecocabs in the state. As a primary function, the Society would work improve operational efficiency of Public transport system and support the livelihood people associated directly or indirectly with Non Motor Transport operations and other modes of Para transit Public transport. Society will also take care about the maintenance of footpaths and cycle tracks for safe pedestrian movement, along with promotion of cycle rickshaws and Ecocabs mainly in urban areas of district.

Apart from ex-officio members, the key external members have been taken on board - Mr Ravee Ahluwalia, from Patiala GreenCABS and Mr Navdeep Asija, founder Ecocabs. Both will advise the administration regarding the different activities related to Non Motor Transport, designs of footpaths, cycle tracks and sidewalks. This is a welcoming step and will set an example for the rest of district administration in order to institutionalize the process of recognizing importance of Non Motor Transport.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ecocabs on top five shortlist for Volvo awards

Hindustan Times, Bathinda Edition, 31 October 2013
Fazilka-based 'Ecocabs', an NGO working in the area of sustainable mobility and transport in the region, has made it to the top-five shortlist of organisations for 'Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award 2013'.

The winner will be announced at the Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar on November 7.

The Swedish embassy has been organising a Swedish-India Nobel Memorial week since 2007.

The organisation focuses on India's first Nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in the Centenary year of his Nobel Prize.

Navdeep Asija, founder of Ecolabs, said that the recognition was a result of hard work in the area of non-motorable transport solution.

The Volvo award, now in its 3rd edition, aims to motivate thinkers and organization working in the area of sustainable non-motor transport solutions.

Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) has also implemented Ecocabs in tourist cities like Amritsar and Patiala. The pilots running the Ecocabs are also trained to act as tourism guides.

In 2011, Ecocab had been awarded a national award for the best transport project in the country in the area of non-motorised transportation.

The Volvo award shall be conferred by his excellency Harald Sandberg, ambassador of Sweden to India. The chairman of the board of Volvo Buses Akash Passy will preside over the award function.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cycle rickshaws save 9 lakh litres of fuel everyday, claims study

The Tribune, 18th October 2013, Page 6

While the West Bengal Government has earned the ire of environmentalists for banning bicycles and rickshaws on 174 roads, in Punjab the humble cycle rickshaw continues to save 9 lakh litres of fuel and 13,680 tonnes of fresh air every day.
A common man's transport mode, more than 3 lakh cycle rickshaws help 6 million people commute to their destinations everyday without spewing any toxic emissions.
These are the findings of a study on cycle rickshaws by Navdeep Asija of the Institute of Development and Communication, Chandigarh. The cycle rickshaw is a source of income for 16 lakh persons and 3.2 lakh urban poor families of Punjab. Of the 5.5 crore commuter trips recorded in the state, 6 million are by the cycle rickshaws. It is undoubtedly the safest mode of transportation with the least number of accidents as compared to other modes.
"Each cycle rickshaw saves 3 litres of fuel every day. Since burning of each litre requires 15.2 kg of fresh air, 9 lakh litres would require 13,680 tonnes of fresh air," explained the study. Despite being a green mode of transport, the rickshaw is the only over-regulated mode of public transport in the country.
The study states: "All existing policies related to operations are either trying to control the number of people who enter this trade or abolish the sector altogether. The Seventh Schedule (Article 246), List II of the Constitution delegates' powers to make rules and regulations related to non-motor transport, especially the cycle rickshaw. "The existing Rickshaw Acts do not provide much attention towards the smooth and legal rickshaw operations, but an over-regulated licensing regime has been created, which only leads to exploitation of rickshaw operators and the trade itself."
It quotes a survey conducted by Manushi that states that in Delhi alone the "terror unleashed by the licence quota- raid-raj on rickshaw operators leads to a loss of income worth over Rs 200 crore through bribes and confiscation of rickshaws."
The study discusses how the applicable Acts restrict a rickshaw puller aged above 45 not to ply a rickshaw.
Ironically, the tax component of cycle rickshaw is about 20 per cent-22 per cent, the highest for any mode of transportation. The study has suggested reforms in licensing, relaxation in the upper age limit, allowing renting of rickshaw and VAT exemption.

Green wheels: No toxic emissions
  • More than 3 lakh cycle rickshaws in Punjab help 6 million people commute to their destinations everyday
  • It is a source of income for 16 lakh persons and 3.2 lakh urban poor families in the state
  • It is the safest mode of transportation with the least number of accidents Over-regulated mode of transport
  • The rickshaw is the only over-regulated mode of public transport in the country
  • An over-regulated licensing regime has led to exploitation of rickshaw operators and the trade

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gandhi Ji and Sustainable Transportation

Yesterday, India celebrated the 144th birth anniversary of its greatest leader, Mahatma Gandhi, a visionary whose fundamental principles and vision are universally applicable – especially to sustainable transport. As an individual working in this field, I felt I must share my interpretation and compiled wisdom about Gandhi, his philosophy, and its relevance to the sustainable transport sector.

Gandhi was strong supporter of cycling and walking, who can perhaps be credited with starting the sustainable transport movement in India. In his book Hind Swaraj, he defined the principle of sustainability as, “More from less for more”. I would like to share a few anecdotes about Gandhi, and some of his famous quotes, because they reflect his concern and vision for a great cause: sustainable urban mobility.

Gandhi’s daily routine embraced sustainable modes of transport

Gandhi’s daily routine included walking nearly 18 kilometers (11.2 miles). He averaged 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) during the Dandi march, and walked a total of almost 80,000 kilometers (49,710 miles) throughout his campaigns from 1913 to 1938. That’s enough to walk around the world twice! Gandhi loved walking and often called it the “prince of exercises”. As a student in London, he saved money by walking several miles every day.

Gandhi also had a strong passion for cycling. When he moved to Ahmedabad in 1915, he rode his bicycle from Gujarat Vidyapith to Sabarmati Ashram. In Johannesburg, South Africa, he was the first person to oppose and protest a law which discriminated against people cycling on the streets. He wrote in the journal Indian Opinion opposing a move by the Johannesburg Town Council requiring every native who held a cycle permit and rode a cycle within the municipal area to wear a numbered badge on his left arm. Interestingly, two post-independence laws, the Delhi Municipal Act of 1960 and Punjab Cycle Rickshaw Act of 1976, kept similar restrictions and licensing systems in place for cycle rickshaws until this year – they were recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India.

Using walking to organize

Gandhi’s famous Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha, began with the Dandi March on March 12,1930. This march became an important symbol of the Indian independence movement. As he traveled on the 24-day-long, 390 kilometer (240 mile) march to produce salt without paying a tax imposed by the British, a growing number of Indians joined him along the way. When he broke the salt laws at 6:30 am on April 6, 1930, it sparked widespread acts of civil disobedience against the British Raj salt laws by millions of Indians. Simply put, Gandhi used walking as a tool to organize his fellow Indians.

Gandhi continually emphasized the importance of walking and cycling. When asked for advice, he once told someone, “I hope you are careful about eating. You may use a bicycle, but you should also walk daily”. After a small incident on bicycle Gandhi wrote to his friend about bicycle maintenance, “The bicycle incident yesterday was not a happy one. A carpenter will always keep his tools ready for use. A typist will keep his typewriter in good repair and a rider will keep his horse in good stead. Similarly a bicycle should always be kept clean, oiled and ready for use. Otherwise don’t have a bicycle at all”. Another time, Gandhi wrote to a friend, “If, however, you are determined to work in the city, you should stay in the city. You are not strong enough to go to the city and return on bicycle”. With this comment, Gandhi referenced the size of cities and their human scale.

Applying Gandhi’s principles to urban planning

Today’s urban planning is dominated by motorized vehicles, and as a result, the distance we travel between work and home is constantly increasing. The quote above from Gandhi reflects his concern for better urban planning, and where people should live. Today most of our Indian cities face similar challenges. Gandhi’s principle, “More from Less for More” (MLM) is all about getting greater performance from fewer resources for more people, and not just for bigger profits – this principle should be followed with the goals of creating a more equitable society and realizing a sustainable future for mankind in mind. That’s what Gandhi would want us to aim for in today’s urban planning.

It’s impossible to imagine what might have happened if had India followed Gandhi’s ideals on sustainable transport and urban planning from its founding, and given support to the local informal sector, which includes non-motorized transport. Although it’s sad to see that none of the principles given by Gandhi are currently being adopted into India’s transportation policies, it’s not too late to implement them. It’s time for India to revive the spirit of our cities by examining the strengths and weaknesses our own existing transport system, rather than blindly accepting all western models. It is high time we act in order to create a sustainable future for our present and future generations by practicing the principles of someone whose vision was way ahead of his time.

Navdeep Asija
Founder, Ecocabs

"The educated man must realize that he has more obligations than privileges, more duties than rights. The educated man should be delighted to serve, and not desire to dominate. For, service is the best way to use one's skills, intelligence, strength and resources"

Picture Courtesy: http://plip.com/samantha/india/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/dsc06158.jpg

Saturday, September 21, 2013

HC bats for eco-cabs

Considering pollution free vicinity for city beautiful, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday made it clear that it was in favour of expansion of non-motorised transport system in Chandigarh. 

The court's observations came during the hearing of a petition on the running of eco cabs in the city. A division bench of High Court asked UT chief architect and Chandigarh Municipal Corporation to hold meeting with Navdeep Asija, instrumental in designing and introducing the eco cabs in Fazilka. The High Court has also asked the civic authorities to put a status report on the introduction of eco cabs and non-motorized transport system in the city. The case now would come up for next hearing on October 25. 

During a hearing on March 2 last year, the High Court division bench had also favoured for making Sector 17 a vehicle free zone to solve the chaotic situation here especially after 4 pm. The bench had also suggested making some parts of each Sector vehicle free zones on rotational basis. The administration could start from Sector 16, where VIPs including bureaucrats and judges live.

Later, in a bid to comply with the High Court directions the civic body constructed pedestrian paths between three parking lots in Sector 17. These parking lots connected with raised 10-feet wide pedestrian paths for shoppers to walk across the plaza, by crossing the parking lots.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Floods wash away claims of administration : Fazilka Floods

Gaurav Sagar Bhaskar, 16th September 2013



FAZILKA: All claims of the Fazilka administration to prepare the area to face floods are washed way every year, as destruction and submergence of villages remains routine due to the Sutlej river.

Indeed, it remains a huge question mark on functioning of the administration that flooding continues every year. When questioned, officials are usually found clueless or in search of a new excuse to furnish before the media.
This year, 20 villages in Fazilka sub-division and 11 in Jalalabad sub-division were flooded and more than 20,000 acres were submerged.
Maujam, Dona Nanka, Ghurka and Haskalan villages were the worst-hit and several schools remained closed due to the floods.
Mohar Jamsher village, encircled on three sides by Pakistan, was cut-off from the rest of the nation this year due to the floods.
In fact, the administration that claims to be working on a permanent solution to the floods issue struggled to even arrange adequate equipment for flood and relief. The situation took a turn for the worse and the National Disaster Response Force was called-in.
Flood victims and those hit by the disaster have demanded and will continue to demand a per manent solution to the mess.
Till then, the victims have demanded enhanced compensation from the Rs 5,000 an acre for damaged crop handed-out, if the damage is more than 75 per cent.
The damage paid seems especially light when we consider that only Rs 3,000 is paid for crop loss between 50-75% and Rs 2,000 for 25-50% loss.
No compensation is paid for damage less than 25%.
"The drainage system of the area needs to be streamlined. This year, more than 13 villages were submerged and 30 were submerged due to the overflow of a drainage channel," said Fazilka BJP block president Manoj Tripathi.
"A lot of money is spent on the so-called strengthening of embankments of the river Sutlej. Why is the state forest department not launching a special forest drive," said Navdeep Asija, social activist.
"A comprehensive plan worth Rs 5.32 crore has been chalked out to permanently resolve the issue of flood fury for the residents of the area." Surjit Kumar Jiyani, Punjab Cabinet Minister and MLA Fazilka.
"The union government should review the crop damage compensation policy by taking in view the welfare of poor farmers residing in border area" Manoj Jhinja, a local resident.

"Had government paid in time heed towards the importance of forest and save the local Badha lake, the area could have never bear the brunt of flood. Its Ironical that instead to come forward and save the Badha Lake, Punjab government had allowed the cutting of as many as 400 full grown trees to commercially exploit the lake area. It is a flood caused due to the apathy and rampant exploitation," Captain (retd) MS Bedi.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sukhbir asks admn to complete girdawari fast

The Punjab government has requested Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) to regulate the discharge in the Sutlej river so that further escalation of floods in this area could be checked. Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said this during a tour of the flood-affected villages of Fazilka and Jalalabad areas on Thursday.

Addressing the flood affected people after conducting the survey of 26 affected villages of this area, Sukhbir said that they had also requested the BBMB to warn in advance before release of water so that people could be evacuated to safety.

Asking the local administration to draw up a comprehensive plan for flood-affected villages, Sukhbir said that each village would have one nodal officer, who would coordinate the relief operations, distribution of compensation, besides providing medical aid to the ailing.

It would be the sole responsibility of the nodal officer to look after the needs of flood-affected village allocated to him/her, he said.

He also sought the expeditious completion of girdawari (estimation of loss) once the water recedes so that timely compensation could be provided to the affected.  He also issued instructions to assess the loss to property, livestock and human lives (if any).

Asking officials to ensure adequate supply of fodder, Badal asked the doctors to vaccinate the livestock. He also asked the health department to organise camps to provide immediate medical relief to the flood affected population.

Didn't want Punjab to cede Abohar-Fazilka to Haryana: Barnala

BARNALA: Failure of the implementation of Rajiv-Longowal accord is still haunting Akali leadership after 28 years. Surjit Singh Barnala, who was the Punjab chief minister at that time, said he didn't resign to force the Union government to implement the accord as he didn't want the areas of Abohar and Fazilka to be given to Haryana in return for Chandigarh being made the capital of Punjab.

Barnala had accompanied Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, the then president of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), to sign the accord with late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on July 24, 1985. The octogenarian is often accused of not resigning from the post of CM, in reaction to the accord not being implemented, for his lust for power.

Clearing the air over his decision, Barnala told TOI on Saturday, "I was not hungry for power; rather I wanted to save the Punjabi-speaking areas of the state from being transferred to Haryana. The then Haryana CM Bhajan Lal was making efforts to get Abohar-Fazilka belt to be transferred to Haryana. The Bishnois and other people from Haryana were sent to Abohar and Fazilka to join their relatives to make it appear like a majority Hindi-speaking area."

Third front deliberations on Longowal's death anniversary

Not too enthusiastic about joining hands with the Congress, former Punjab CM Surjit Singh Barnala said the Sanjha Morcha will explore the options of forming a third front on Sunday during the 28th death anniversary event being organized by his party SAD (Longowal). "Janta Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, former Assam CM Prafulla Mahanata, senior leaders of CPI and CPI (M), and PPP chief Manpreet Singh Badal will come to Longowal. A strategy could be devised to proceed further on the making of a third alternative in Punjab," he stated.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Swollen Satluj inundates border fencing, BSF posts in Ferozepur, Fazilka

FEROZEPUR: Water knows no geographic boundaries. This has been proved right with water overflowing from gushing Sutlej spreading across miles of land across the barbed fencing, erected at the international border in Ferozepur and Fazilka districts.

Flooding of border villages, situated along the Satluj embankment area, has damaged barbed fencing along the Indo-Pak border at several points. In certain pockets, floodwaters made the Indo-Pak zero line disappear in the Fazilka district, sources said.

Though the wire fencing has not suffered much damage in a large area along the border, sources said there were certain pockets, where it had suffered irrevocable damage and would need replacement. Nearly 10 border observation posts (BOPs) along the border have been surrounded by floodwaters while their bases have been submerged. These included BOPs at Pattan Wali, Bachiter, GG 3, GG2, MF Wala, Bahadur Ke and Samaske in Fazilka sector and Tapu, New Mohammadiwala and New Gazniwala in Ferozepur sector, they said.

Besides, nearly 80% area around the barbed wire fencing has been submerged and partially damaged in the two districts. At some places, nearly 12-feet high barbed fencing has been fully submerged. "Floodwaters have affected barbed fencing in a 30-km stretch at the border falling in Fazilka sector while in Ferozepur sector, nearly 10 km of fencing has been inundated," sources said.

In Fazilka, Pakistani authorities have shut the gates of Sulemanki head works resulting in backflow of Sutlej waters near Sadiqi joint check post. This has led to submerging of the meeting hall on the Pakistani side, where flag meetings between officials of the two nations are held.

Sources said that in order to thwart any intrusion bid through the damaged fencing and swollen Sutlej river, the BSF has deployed its water wing to conduct round-the-clock patrolling in the river, running along the border, in the two districts. The wing comprises motorized fiber boats, loaded with floodlight system, weapons and other necessary equipment needed for patrolling.

Meanwhile, the headquarters of BSF, Punjab frontier, has increased the number of personnel in these border districts. "Boat nakas have been set up at strategic points. More temporary observation posts have also been set up to check intrusion as the water has spread to some fields along the international border," a BSF official said, requesting anonymity.

R P S Jaswal, DIG and senior PRO, Punjab Frontier, said the water wing had been doing an arduous but commendable job, safeguarding the border. In times of floods, boat nakas cannot be put up but boat patrolling continues, he said, adding that the water wing has been trained specifically to meet all types of challenges during floods.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ਮੇਰੇ ਰਿਕਸ਼ੇ ਤੇ ਬੇਠਿਆਂ, ਨਾ ਭੁਲਾਈਆਂ ਜਾ ਸਕਣ ਵਾਲੀਆਂ ਕੁਝ ਸਵਾਰੀਆਂ - Experience of Rickshaw Pilot from Amritsar

What a wonderful Start of the Day 

Today i met Mr Rajbir Singh, a a multifaceted rickshaw pilot from Amritsar, who is also a wonderful writer as well. He writes on various social issues. Three years back he started writing and publishing his conversation with his passengers in series . Very interesting experiences, few unforgettable moments and bond of love he shared with his passengers. True depiction how our society think about rickshaw. He starts his day with Gurbani and continue his journey in the narrow streets of walled city Amritsar...A very learned man additionally he offer his free services as Tourist Guide. All thanks to Zee Punjabi TV for facilitating this meeting. Sharing with you the copy of eighth episode of series "ਮੇਰੇ ਰਿਕਸ਼ੇ ਤੇ ਬੇਠਿਆਂ, ਨਾ ਭੁਲਾਈਆਂ ਜਾ ਸਕਣ ਵਾਲੀਆਂ ਕੁਝ ਸਵਾਰੀਆਂ " published in Rojana Spokesman on 4th August 2013. 

I am sure you would love reading it time and again.....

Will share with you couple of other episodes also.
Online You can see at : http://www.rozanaspokesman.com/epaper/fullpage.aspx?edition=main&yview=2013&mview=Aug&dview=04&pview=13

Monday, August 19, 2013

Independence vs. Dollar and “We the Indian”

Today, we all are worried about Price of Dollar vs. Rupees, but as a matter of fact, we are indirectly or directly responsible for it. Do you think, it's the American Economy which is booming, No, but our economy which is going down. Let me explain it here, just have a look at the Fortune 500 list of 2013, out of Top 10, 8 companies are either Oil or Car Manufacturer. This is as per their "New World Order" Plan. We all know, oil transactions are in dollars. In the recent past, our imports have increased up to 140% and our export are limited to just 30-40%. Major part of the import is oil and cars other energy needs. This is how some of the fancy economist fucked up to the name of "Globalization". Now, every Indian actually can contribute to set it right.  How?
Second Graph indicating that how cycling and walking trips have gone down, against the car occupant trips from the year 1998 to 2005 (Ian Roberts, 2011). Our policy makers, planners, engineers are actually working day and night to boost or support car centric development by making policies/infrastructure in order to support only motor transport. Our cities are expanding, we are forced to travel more and we call it as "Improved Mobility". They have totally changed our cities design from "Human Scale" to "Car Scale". As a result, our dependency on car and oil has increased in the recent Past like anything. The illusions, which we call it as development, 'globalization' or any other fancy name, is actually meant to kill us as well our country.  Valuation of our Rupees is in terms of gold but US currency is just a white paper. They can print as many as anyone needs to Purchase Oil, because long back they had an agreement with Gulf to sell petrol in Dollars only. You can do Google on "Derivative Trading" to understand it in a better way. So, I request my fellow Indians for the better financial health of our country and sustainability of this planet, Undo this "New World Order"; reduce our daily car usage/oil , use it wisely, start living in a neighborhood which provides you better access to Public Transport or not in a area, where  cars are parked on the footpaths. 
Let's Walk and Cycle…

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Living on the Edge... School Chale Hum...Mohar Jamsher Village School Flooded

School Children of Mohar Jamsher. Mohar Jamsher is Last Indian village on India Pakistan Border. Their School is flooded with water and now they are moving to some other place for Classes./Home. Hats of to the Students and Teachers of this School. We must learn lesson of Unity and Discipline from these Kids... 

Every year during monsoon they have to shift their school, celebrating 67 years of Freedom..every years few crores are being spent under emergency flood protection measures..rest is a story...(Few dams which are protecting cities, were made during British Time, Post Independence only repair)..

No matter what, we have dedicated teachers like Savikar ; you have won the heart of many of Us. Trust me, country needs dedicated Teachers like you....

"We The People" - Independence Day Celebration at Sadqui Border Fazilka

Independence Day Celebration at #Fazilka border. The Wire in front define India-Pakistan Border, the #Radcliffe line. The crowd gathered here giving us a very loud and clear message . Dear Politicians of both the sides, you are failed to represent and act upon the true sentiments of the people living across both the sides. We understand only one language and that is "Love". Improve people to people contact, Peace would be there. Be careful uncle Sam may not like this solution.


Picture : Sarhad Kesri
 — in Fazilka, Punjab.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Aslam and Shiv : A Story of Love - Chandigarh Ecocabs

आज़ादी के शुभ दिवस पर आईए मिलिए हमारे दो हिन्दुस्तानी भाइयो से, असलम और शिव, पिछले बीस सालो से चंडीगढ़ के सेक्टर 18 C में रिक्शा चला रहे है, इकठे रहते है, इकठे खाते है, बारी से हर रोज एक दूसरे के लिए खाना बनाते है । एक ही गाँव से है और यहाँ भी एक दूसरे के सुख दुःख के साथी । इनका मजहब सिर्फ प्यार और इंसानियत , मेहनत करते है अपने और अपने परिवार की रोजी रोटी के लिए । इन दोनों की महबूबा भी एक हे है, हमारा प्यारा "रिक्शा" । चलिए और कुछ नहीं तो इन्ही से एक अच्छे देशवासी बन के कैसे रहना है सीख ले, देश प्रेम के साथ धर्मी माँ से भी प्यार । शाम की खाने के महफ़िल में कभी जा के देखिये, सीवाए प्यार के कुछ और देखने को नहीं मिले । हमें गर्व ज्यादा कुछ तो नहीं लिए साहिर लुधियानवी जी की लिखी चंद लाइने आपके नाम;

तू हिन्दु बनेगा ना मुसलमान बनेगा
इन्सान की औलाद है इन्सान बनेगा ।

नफरत जो सिखाये वो धरम तेरा नहीं है
इन्सा को जो रौंदे वो कदम तेरा नहीं है
कुरआन न हो जिसमे वो मंदिर नहीं तेरा
गीता न हो जिसमे वो हरम तेरा नहीं है
तू अम्न का और सुलह का अरमान बनेगा ।
ये दीन के ताजिर ये वतन बेचने वाले
इंसानों की लाशों के कफ़न बेचने वाले
ये महलों में बैठे हुए ये कातिल ये लुटेरे
काँटों के एवज़ रूह ए चमन बेचने वाले
तू इनके लिये मौत का ऐलान बनेगा ।

Chandigarh Ecocabs

Happy Independence Day : तू हिन्दू बनेगा न मुसलमान बनेगा

तू हिन्दु बनेगा ना मुसलमान बनेगा 
इन्सान की औलाद है इन्सान बनेगा  ।
अच्छा है अभी तक तेरा कुछ नाम नहीं है
तुझको किसी मजहब से कोई काम नहीं है
जिस इल्म ने इंसान को तकसीम किया है
उस इल्म का तुझ पर कोई इलज़ाम नहीं है
तू बदले हुए वक्त की पहचान बनेगा ।
मालिक ने हर इंसान को इंसान बनाया 
हमने उसे हिन्दू या मुसलमान बनाया
 कुदरत ने तो बख्शी थी एक ही धरती 
हमने कहीं भारत कहीं इरान  बनाया
जो तोड़ दे हर बांध वो तूफ़ान बनेगा ।

नफरत जो सिखाये वो धरम तेरा नहीं है
इन्सां को जो रौंदे वो कदम तेरा नहीं है
कुरआन न हो जिसमे वो मंदिर नहीं तेरा
गीता न हो जिसमे वो हरम तेरा नहीं है  
तू अम्न का और सुलह का अरमान बनेगा ।
ये दीन के ताजिर ये वतन बेचने वाले
इंसानों की लाशों के कफ़न बेचने वाले
ये महलों में बैठे हुए ये कातिल ये लुटेरे
काँटों के एवज़ रूह ए चमन बेचने वाले 
तू इनके लिये मौत का ऐलान बनेगा  ।

 (धूल का फूल-1959)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Green rickshaw ride a phone call away

Upgrade to the new cycle rickshaw. It is lighter, faster, bright green (in colour and benefits), has safety belts, low-floor footboard, FM radio and also the day's newspaper.

And this fancy rickshaw ride is just a phone call away. Radio cabs have been around for long, but now Ecocabs—a new initiative by an urban mobility expert Navdeep Asija—will provide dial-a-cycle-rickshaw service in Chandigarh.

Ecocabs seek to draw on the existing unorganised network of cycle rickshaws, which are the most preferred mode of short-distance travel in most cities across the country. The phone numbers of Ecocabs rickshaw pullers are available on the Ecocabs website (www.chandigarh.ecocabs.org) and there is an Android app available as well (Chandigarh ECOCABS on Google Play Store).

"Rickshaws are the most eco-friendly and economical mode of transport and in a world beset by environment degradation and pollution, they provide much-needed respite," says Navdeep Asija, founder president of Ecocabs.

Asija says around 25,000 rickshaws transport close to 5 lakh people in Chandigarh itself, thereby saving 75,000 litres of fuel.

The Ecocab rick is no ordinary cycle rickshaw. It doesn't use any wood and is made of hollow steel pipes, unlike conventional cycle rickshaws. Since it weighs only 65-70kg, (the traditional models weigh 90-95kg) it is easier to negotiate for the rickshaw operator as well. 

And then there are the fancy add-ons. Apart from an FM radio, each rickshaw has tourist information booklets and also a newspaper. The rickshaws have been designed keeping in mind the safety and comfort of the passengers and the rickshaw pullers, says Asija, who is also pursuing a PhD in transport systems from Delhi University.

Asija also pioneered Rickshaw Tourism in Patiala through his Patiala Green Cabs in association with Punjab Tourism. Under this model, rickshaw operators are trained as tourist guides who also escort tourists to popular spots in the city. Asija plans to replicate this model in Chandigarh as well.

"Non-motorized transport such as rickshaws have a great role to play in urban mobility, especially in a city like Chandigarh. We would welcome and support even more advancements in the rickshaw technology, such as solar-powered rickshaws and electric rickshaws," says K K Sharma, adviser to the Chandigarh Administration.

Asija started a dial-a-rickshaw service in Fazilka using traditional cycle rickshaws in 2008. "I hit upon the idea back in June 2008. My mother had to go to the market one day, but there was no one at home to take her out," he says.

"So she cancelled the plan. In the evening, when I got home she asked me to get her the phone number of some local rickshaw puller so that she can step out whenever she wants to. And I thought dial-a-rickshaw service would be a fantastic idea and a boon for all mothers who were dependent on other family members for mobility," says Asija.

The young entrepreneur, who has a degree in transport engineering, then did a basic survey and found Fazilka already had a network of formal and informal rickshaw stands. He then decided to connect them via phone and a network of call centres.

A similar survey was conducted when he started Ecocabs in Chandigarh. "I divided Fazilka into five zones mainly north south, east, west and central. Then with the proposal, I met the founder and patron of our organisation Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka. He like my idea and decided to take it up further," says Asija.

In 2011, Graduates Welfare Association, Fazilka, received the National Award for Excellence in Urban Transport for improving urban mobility in the town through the dial-a-rickshaw service.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of the scheme and ordered its implementation across the region.

At present the scheme has been successfully initiated in 22 cities of Punjab with the help of district administration and local NGOs.

There are 9 Ecocab call centers in Fazilka where a user can call for a rickshaw. Each rickshaw puller is equipped with a mobile phone for direct calling facility and the bookings can also be made through its Android phone app.

In Chandigarh—where Ecocabs was launched on June 25, 2013—however, there are no call centers. Mobile numbers of rickshaw pullers sector-wise (Chandigarh is divided into sectors) have been uploaded on the Ecocabs website.

 Close to 60 lakh people travel by cycle rickshaws in Punjab. The ubiquitous cycle rickshaw is the source of livelihood for some 3 lakh families in the state. The Ecocabs project is also one of the biggest employment generating and environment project in the city.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Friendship Day ?

यह कार्ड बेचने वाली और मोबाइल कंपनियो ने माँ, बाप के बाद अब दोस्ती जैसे पवित्र रिश्ते का भी व्यापारीकरण कर दिया है । भाई मेरे दोस्त तो जिंदगी भर के लिए है, एक-आध दिन उनके नाम पर सेलिब्रेट करना शायद मेरे दोस्तों और दोस्ती की तौहीन होगी । मेरे लिये तो साल के 365 दिन भी मेरे यारों के लिये कम है । सभी ने कुछ न कुछ लिखा है तो मेरी तरफ से भी यह चोरी की चार लाइने मेरे कमीने यारो के नाम .. 

यकीन पे यकीन दिलाते हैं दोस्त;
राह चलते को बेवकूफ बनाते हैं दोस्त;
शरबत बोल के दारू पिलाते हैं दोस्त;
पर कुछ भी कहो साले बहुत याद आते हैं दोस्त!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Need to install crash barriers, say experts

Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, August 2

The registration of a case against the bus driver has not gone down well with road safety experts. They have also demanded installation of crash barriers on all bridges in the state.

An expert, Navdeep Asija, said, "The driver alone was not at fault. Our roads are designed with zero tolerance to human error. One mistake and drivers as well as passengers end up facing a life-threatening situation."

About the construction of the particular stretch on which the accident occurred, Asija said, "The width of the road is enough but the bridges are narrow. No warning sign or reflective tapes are present on the bridge parapet or on its railing."

Moreover, a majority of the old bridges on canals and rivers in the state had iron railing, which should be replaced with crash barriers, he said. Another expert, currently working with the state government, said in the absence of reflectors, a driver may not be able to see the railing while driving at night.

"While the police was quick to register a case against the driver, who may have died, it did not take any action against the construction company for failing to install crash barriers," he said.

Fatehgarh Sahib Senior Superintendent of Police Gurmeet Singh said, "If found at fault, action will be initiated against the construction firm as well."


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

State team gauges tourism potential in Fazilka

Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, July 29
A state-level committee of the Department of Tourism, Punjab, visited Fazilka district to explore the possibilities of rural tourism here. The team comprising Vidya B Kumar, Executive Director, Punjab Heritage and Tourism Board, Department of Tourism, Punjab, brigadier (retd) Charanjeet Singh and Project Manager Alka conducted a survey to identify different places of interest to visitors to convert them into tourists spots in Fazilka district.

The team visited the area following a proposal sent by the general secretary, Graduates Welfare Association, Fazilka, (GWAF), Navdeep Asija.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Border Security Force (BSF), AK Sharma also accompanied the team.

The team first visited the sensitive border village of Mohar Jamsher, which is known for its different topography as it is surrounded on three sides by Pakistan and is cut off by the Sutlej river on the Indian side.

The team members were surprised to see the antique pieces lying at the century-old Goal Kothi (Virasat Bhawan) which was constructed for the recreation of British women in 1913.

They also visited the Asafwala War Memorial and the Sadiqi joint check-post

The team members also collected the statistics and met the activists of NGOs who are engaged in spreading the message of rich culture of this belt.

The leader of the team, Vidya B Kumar, said that there was potential for tourism in this border belt and a number of rural places can be developed. as tourist points.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

पर्यटन के नक्शे पर चमकेगा फाजिल्का

जागरण संवाददाता, फाजिल्का : पंजाब हेरिटेज एंड टूरिज्म बोर्ड की टीम ने रूरल एवं बार्डर एरिया टूरिज्म को डेवलप करने के लिए चलाए अभियान के तहत शनिवार को फाजिल्का का दौरा किया। टीम ने भारत-पाक सीमा की सादकी चौकी, भारत-पाक युद्ध में शहीद हुए भारतीय वीर सैनिकों की गांव आसफवाला स्थित समाधि, सीमा पर सतलुज दरिया के पार बसे गांव मुहार जमशेर का दौरा किया। इसके अलावा उन्होंने फाजिल्का की ऐतिहासिक इमारतों का अवलोकन भी किया जिसमें सरकारी सीनियर सेकेंडरी स्कूल में बना विरासत भवन भी शामिल है। 114वें वेतन आयोग की सिफारिशों के लिए पर्यटन पर खर्च किए जाने वाले फंड का अनुमान लगाने के लिए यह टीम दौरे पर है। बार्डर एवं रूरल टूरिज्म के लिहाज से फाजिल्का पर्यटन को बढ़ावा देने के लिए एक आदर्श जिला साबित हो सकता है। इन्हीं संभावनाओं को तलाशने के लिए बोर्ड के एग्जीक्यूटिव डायरेक्टर वीबी कुमार, चरणजीत सिंह, अलका व कंसल्टेंट वरुण कुमार ने सबसे पहले गांव मुहार जमशेर का दौरा किया। यह टीम यहां रूरल पर्यटन के साथ-साथ नदी पर्यटन को बढ़ावा देने की संभावनाएं तलाशने गई थी, लेकिन सीमा पर बसे होने के चलते संभवत यह क्षेत्र रूरल टूरिज्म के लिहाज से टीम को अच्छा नहीं लगा। 1वहीं टीम ने सादकी बार्डर और आसफवाला समाधि पर टूरिज्म को बढ़ाए जाने की संभावनाओं के संकेत दिए हैं। यह क्षेत्र रूरल टूरिज्म के लिहाज से भी बेहतर है। इसके चलते फाजिल्का के पंजाब हेरिटेज एंड टूरिज्म बोर्ड के नक्शे पर चमकने के आसार प्रबल हो गए हैं।जागरण संवाददाता, फाजिल्का : पंजाब हेरिटेज एंड टूरिज्म बोर्ड की टीम ने रूरल एवं बार्डर एरिया टूरिज्म को डेवलप करने के लिए चलाए अभियान के तहत शनिवार को फाजिल्का का दौरा किया। टीम ने भारत-पाक सीमा की सादकी चौकी, भारत-पाक युद्ध में शहीद हुए भारतीय वीर सैनिकों की गांव आसफवाला स्थित समाधि, सीमा पर सतलुज दरिया के पार बसे गांव मुहार जमशेर का दौरा किया। इसके अलावा उन्होंने फाजिल्का की ऐतिहासिक इमारतों का अवलोकन भी किया जिसमें सरकारी सीनियर सेकेंडरी स्कूल में बना विरासत भवन भी शामिल है। 114वें वेतन आयोग की सिफारिशों के लिए पर्यटन पर खर्च किए जाने वाले फंड का अनुमान लगाने के लिए यह टीम दौरे पर है। बार्डर एवं रूरल टूरिज्म के लिहाज से फाजिल्का पर्यटन को बढ़ावा देने के लिए एक आदर्श जिला साबित हो सकता है। इन्हीं संभावनाओं को तलाशने के लिए बोर्ड के एग्जीक्यूटिव डायरेक्टर वीबी कुमार, चरणजीत सिंह, अलका व कंसल्टेंट वरुण कुमार ने सबसे पहले गांव मुहार जमशेर का दौरा किया। यह टीम यहां रूरल पर्यटन के साथ-साथ नदी पर्यटन को बढ़ावा देने की संभावनाएं तलाशने गई थी, लेकिन सीमा पर बसे होने के चलते संभवत यह क्षेत्र रूरल टूरिज्म के लिहाज से टीम को अच्छा नहीं लगा। 1वहीं टीम ने सादकी बार्डर और आसफवाला समाधि पर टूरिज्म को बढ़ाए जाने की संभावनाओं के संकेत दिए हैं। यह क्षेत्र रूरल टूरिज्म के लिहाज से भी बेहतर है। इसके चलते फाजिल्का के पंजाब हेरिटेज एंड टूरिज्म बोर्ड के नक्शे पर चमकने के आसार प्रबल हो गए हैं।

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Take the Slow Lane

In the last one decade Gurgaon has been transformed from a suburb into a city. The population has grown exponentially, traffic has multiplied, and the number of corporates have grown manifold - but one thing that has refused to change is the bureaucratic system and a mindset that is painfully slow and inadequate to meet the growing challenges of a Millennium City in the making. Considering the dysfunctional way in which this City's Municipality operates, the residents would not be shocked to know that the authorities do not record and register the thousands of cycle-rickshaws that are operating in the City. Anyone, whether he is a criminal or a migrant from another country, can buy or rent a rickshaw, and start operating as a rickshaw puller, with the authorities not even batting an eyelid. It is not as if the MCG does not have a licensing procedure for cycle rickshaws, but it went out of vogue a decade ago; and since then the system has been lying defunct with no one knowing the reason why this happened. The situation in Gurgaon is the opposite of the over- regulated scenario in neighbouring Delhi, where NGOs like Manushi had to approach the Supreme Court to get justice for rickshaw owners and pullers from the draconian controls imposed by MCD.

Gurgaon today has almost 20,000 cycle rickshaws, which are being pulled by migrants from Bihar and UP - especially from the districts of Darbhanga, Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur. With each rickshaw at an average making 10 trips in a day, experts point out that almost 400,000 people use this mode of transport in the City, making it a crucial cog in the transport system – though it remains unacknowledged. Experts opine that if due importance is given to this non-motorized mode of transportation, then it could help resolve the problem of 'last mile' connectivity, which is acute in this City dominated by cars. Amit Bhatt, an expert on Traffic Management, says that the time has come for the City managers to realize the importance of cycles and cycle rickshaws, to ensure easier movement of people. "What is surprising is that 70 per cent of the population in the City is dependent on public transport like shared autos, rickshaws and now buses, but the emphasis still remains on cars. There has to be a balanced sharing of space, and respect must be given to cycles and rickshaws on the roads," says Bhatt. The members of the Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) Group, comprising City-based activists, have also approached the government as well as policy makers for making the City safer for pedestrians, and giving dedicated road space to cyclists and rickshaws.
In fact the Group recently invited Navdeep Asija of Fazilka Eco-cabs, to ask him to consider launching a pilot project in the City, as he has done successfully in Fazilka, and recently in Chandigarh. Asija told Friday Gurgaon that if the cycle rickshaw transport is combined with an innovative use of technology, then it could resolve the commuting problems of Gurgaon - particularly the movement inside large colonies, as well moving to and fro from Metro stations. "In Chandigarh we have used the power of crowd-sourcing and smart phones to connect the users and rickshaw pullers through a mobile-based interface. Almost 150 rickshaw pullers have been brought into the Eco-cab network in this way, and the Project is likely to be very successful," says Asija. The maximum benefit of the Eco Cab project is being derived by senior citizens and ladies in the family, who need to go to markets and schools, and travel for other chores. What the Eco-Cab project has ensured is that a cycle-rickshaw is available very close to the residence of a person who needs to take a ride, says Asija. The support of the citizens and civil society is very much needed to make the Project successful. They need to click the photo of a rickshaw puller, take his name and mobile number and upload it on the Eco Cab website, and share the information and link with the people who have the Eco-cab application on their phones. The issue with an unorganised rickshaw network is that these are not accessible near residential areas, tariffs are unregulated, maintenance is poor, pullers do not maintain proper hygiene and many use intoxicants.
Replicating the Chandigarh model in Gurgaon would be easy, because a large number of people in the City are connected through smartphones, and use Internet with ease. "To start, we can get in touch with a few colonies and ask them to provide some parking space for rickshaw pullers in front of their gate. The mobile numbers of the rickshaw pullers can be uploaded on a site so that people can easily call them. We also fix the fares, so there is no need for haggling," he says. Fazilka Eco-cabs would soon be launching a project in Delhi's Greater Kailash, with the Millennium City to follow.
While organising the rickshaws is one end of the spectrum, a strong need is also felt for creating an enabling infrastructure such as a dedicated lane for Non-Motorized Transport, foot paths for pedestrians, and cross-sections where people on foot and cycle can easily traverse. It has to be kept in mind that only 25 per cent of Gurgaon roads have footpaths, and these too are poorly maintained, and/or encroached upon by vendors. There is no space for cycles. The casual attitude of the authorities also makes matters more difficult as a senior official revealed that the 'Street Vendor' policy devised by the MCG is languishing in Chandigarh – as is much else. Deputy Mayor Yashpal Batra, when asked about the policy of registration and licensing of rickshaws, says in a condescending tone: "What do you want? You want that there should be a monitoring and registration process? We have taken up the matter and if you want it we will make it functional soon." In the absence of proper government regulation, the rickshaw pullers operate in a vacuum that is ultimately dominated by cartels. Another important function is highlighted by Prabhat Agarwal of Aravalli Scholars. His contention is that rickshaws play an important role in carrying small loads, particularly in large colonies as well as in the lanes and by-lanes of Sadar Bazar. "We need to encourage the rickshaw pullers, give them space and support. This will make the City less dependent on motor cars and bikes", says Agarwal. He also says that rickshaws could easily use the internal roads in the City, to ensure easier and faster travel for people. "The DLF Phase 1 residents find it difficult to reach Sikanderpur Metro Station, and have to use their cars. An internal road can be made accessible to the rickshaws. Many such short distance trips would not require the use of cars," he asserts. He also emphasizes the role played by street vendors, operating hand-driven carts, in making roads more secure and safe. 
The eco-friendly nature of rickshaws can be realized from the fact that one rickshaw helps save 3 litres of fuel daily. If Gurgaon has 20,000 rickshaws then it could mean a saving of 60,000 litres of petrol or diesel daily which is a significant saving, while also putting much less pressure on the environment. Asija of Eco Cab says that burning one litre of fuel requires 15.2 kg of oxygen. He also opines that non-interference by authorities like MCG could be a blessing in disguise as municipal authorities, if they are overly active, make it quite difficult for the rickshaw pullers to operate - as has happened in Delhi. In the National Capital, around 8 lakhs rickshaw pullers, the majority of whom operate illegally, have to bribe the law enforcers and police as well, because of the archaic municipal laws that make it very difficult to own and pull a rickshaw. In fact a rickshaw is the only vehicle for which one licence is required to own it, and another is required to pull it. Legally, a rickshaw owner can't out rent a vehicle but, ironically, across the NCR the operating model of this industry is based on renting. There are a large number of contractors in Gurgaon as well, who own a few to a few hundred rickshaws, and rent them out to seasonal migrants.
While the implementation of the regulation is lax in Gurgaon and other cities in Haryana, Asija says that Chandigarh has very stringent norms. "Registration of rickshaws there is quite an exercise. One needs to get certificates from the SHO and health officials yearly, which is a frustrating exercise for a poor man," he says. In his opinion, the government needs to promote this mode of transport, which can provide an immediate vocation to thousands of poor people. "It is the strong demand for cycle rickshaw services in Indian cities that has kept them alive; the authorities have done little to support this industry," rues Asija. Even the law ensures that rickshaw owners who come from the weakest sections of society are made to suffer, as rules allow the confiscation of a rickshaw, and even its destruction under certain conditions. While recently the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of rickshaw pullers, the law is seldom implemented on Indian road, particularly if it favours the poor and the meek.
The need of the hour, say experts, is for planners to design the road infrastructure and network keeping Non-Motorized Transport in mind. "The way we plan the cities we marginalize the pedestrians, cyclists and rickshaws on the road," says Latika Thukral of IamGurgaon. The need to sensitize the decision makers in the MCG, HUDA and State Administration is also being strongly felt. Sanjay Kaushik of Uthan, an NGO that launched a successful pilot project of Solar Rickshaws, says that if this transport mode is organized properly by a professional organization, in collaboration with the government, then it could be a game changer for public transport. "There is need for proper monitoring and regulation, to ensure that rickshaws remain safe for women, children and the elderly. This is not happening right now as any person, even a rogue, can enter this trade", asserts Kaushik. During his pilot project, Uthaan had tied up with RWAs, fixed the fares and monitored the service well - which made it successful. 
While civic activists bat for cycle rickshaws, the traffic police officials in the 'old' City opine that the slow movement of rickshaws as well as their proliferation causes a lot of jams on the City roads. ASI Om Prakash, while asking a rickshaw puller to move away from the congested chowk, says that there is need to put a check on the increasing numbers of these vehicles. "They move very slowly, do not have lights, and take a turn from anywhere, creating a traffic nightmare. Many times they move in the opposite direction of the traffic, which leads to accidents", claims the police official. The lack of proper identification of rickshaw pullers is also an issue that needs to be taken into cognizance by the authorities. Gurgaon based activist Sarika Bhatt, however, says that in her opinion the traffic intersections in the City, the road network and everything related to it, has not been designed with a proper perspective. She has high hopes on the Gurgaon Manesar Integrated Mobility Plan, which proposes to upgrade the transport infrastructure of the City in a major way. But sceptics argue that the majority of the plans, including the Gurgaon Master Urban Development Plan, have remained on paper to this day – and so it is unlikely that this document will see the light of day. Amit Bhatt of Embarq also says that the Integrated Mobility Plan, particularly in context of Non-Motorized Transport, has a lot of positives - but the need is to get it implemented in letter and spirit. 
Integrated Gurgaon Manesar Mobility Plan: A Project that could revolutionize Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) in the Millennium City
As a part of the NMT Plan under the Integrated Mobility Plan, suggestions have been made for the provision of foot paths, safe pedestrian crossing facilities (at-grade and grade-separated) and Non-Motorized Vehicles (NMV) lanes. It is proposed to build footpaths on about 500 kms of road length. The Plan also proposes an installation of 210 kms of dedicated cycle lanes on the roads of the City, as several cycle routes of upto 3 to 4 km can be made. The Plan also states that the development of this network must be integrated along with improvements in the public transport network. Pedestrians' safe-crossing facilities include at-grade facilities like zebra crossings and pedestrian signals; and grade-separated facilities include Foot Over Bridges and subways. As the volumes of pedestrians and vehicle traffic increases, more grade-separated facilities are warranted. 
In order to encourage and regulate cycle rickshaws in Gurgaon, the Plan suggests that the fare of cycle rickshaws and the registration of the vehicles must be regulated on the lines of auto-rickshaws. Cycle rickshaws must be asked to use Non-Motorized Vehicle (NMV) lanes, and the rickshaws must also be provided with parking stations at bus stands, railway terminals, and near commercial areas.