19 FEB 2014
Mumbai airport terminal 2
The new terminal certainly deserves praise- it looks amazing. Unfortunately I won't be using it in the foreseeable future- hope they do a good job maintaining it.
India's airports have certainly seen a striking improvement in the last 5 or so years. I remember, living in Bangalore, when the new airport opened in 2008. The old airport had no real shops, dirty seats and was not an airport to spend much time in. What a change the new airport was! And now, a bit more than 5.5 years later, the airport is still strong.
Hyderabad and Delhi have also seen huge improvements in their airports. Now it's time for Mumbai to shine.
But one must wonder, how come airports are so eagerly tended to? It's not a bad thing of course, but why doesn't the other infrastructure improve as well? Why are roads so bad, improved, and then so bad again? It is understandable to believe that there is a mix of corruption and misaligned incentives.
One example: everyone who has visited Varanasi knows how otherworldly the city is- as if one stepped back to the independence era. As parts of the country raced forward, Varanasi stagnated or even dared to venture backward. Therefore, today there is a combination of slums and among the worst roads imaginable. But its airport- it is an oasis of cleanliness and modernity completely incompatible with the city it serves. The road to the city lacks streetlights. Wouldn't it have been a better decision for the public to have used those funds on the more pressing issues of the city? Clearly something else is at play.
We can only hope that other essential infrastructure is tended to just as the airports have been.
18 FEB 2014
The legacy of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)
It was understandable to see December 2013 as a period of transition for Delhi, and who knows, maybe for the entire country too, when Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the Aam Aadmi Party, became chief minister for Delhi.
We all would have hoped for the Jan Lokpal bill to pass, but, well- this speaks volumes about the major two parties in India- Congress and BJP.
Has Kejriwal done the right thing by resigning after the Jan-Lokpal bill didn't get passed? Only time will tell- in the meantime we can hope for greater national recognition of AAP.
11 DEC 2013
Homosexuality illegal in India
When I read the Freedom House's report on India, I thought there must be some social progress as it mentioned:
A landmark court decision in 2009 struck down Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which criminalized homosexual behavior. However, an appeal of the ruling was pending at the Supreme Court at the end of 2012, and widespread discrimination continues. At a May 2011 conference on HIV/AIDS, the health minister referred to homosexuality as “unnatural” and a “disease,” adding to the difficulties faced by activists combating harmful social stigmas regarding both issues.The health minister's remark was clearly unacceptable, but apparently so is the law today. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court today has set aside the 2009 decision of Delhi High Court, and now homosexuality is illegal. The Supreme Court has now given the Parliament the final say into this matter.
In economics they say the efficient output is when no one can be made better off without making someone else worse off. This implies that if an increase in output makes someone better off and no one worse off, output should increase. Basically an output which achieves maximum benefit to society is automatically arrived at by the market.
We all know that markets never work properly- the theory is beautiful but far removed from the real world. I, however, didn't think it would also happen in law in a democratic country like India. Let me make myself clear: this law doesn't affect me directly. But do I care if my neighbours are homosexual? No. Should I? Clearly, no. Should a person living in Mumbai care if some people in Delhi are homosexual? I would say, no.
A perfectly desirable solution, unlike in markets, is achievable here. Just keep it legal. Yes, there is discrimination- that needs to be worked upon. But you won't ban walking on the street if people lucky to drive a car discriminate against those pedestrians.
Trials in India usually are long affairs. Public confidence in the judiciary can increase if trial times are reduced. Must we waste our limited judicial resources on such no-brainer topics? India is, after all, a democracy. In name, at least. To be one in practice requires a little more effort. Ensuring citizens personal liberty is always a good way to show to the world that we are a democracy. This court decision calls for serious questions- and I can hardly wait for the 2014 Freedom House report on India. Its 2013 report gives a status of "Free" and a score of 2.5 out of 7, where a lower number represents more freedom. If we get pushed to 3, our status will change from Free to Partially Free. This doesn't bode well for the world's largest democracy.
It's all up to the Parliament now. More than a billion hopes rest on it. Social regression is completely unacceptable. Parliament, more than 2 billion eyes are on you know. Please don't disappoint us.