Bhuwan's Ramblings

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Privatization v/s National Security

Are we risking security by increasing privatization, especially, in areas like transportation and communications? It has been reported in the media that the recent bomb blasts in Hyderabad and Ajmer used mobile phones as triggers. This raises an important concern: are the private companies following all the security and identification procedures?

It looks like that the answer is in the negative. Usually the situation improves after an incident, but this time even the bomb blasts have not made any impact. The Times of India reported that they were able to obtain two SIM cards in fictitious names from Vodafone and Airtel. What is even more interesting is that it takes only a small amount of money (Rs. 150 – 200) to get a SIM car in any name!

I understand that any private company exists primarily for making money, but they have to also exercise their responsibility towards the country and its people. My wife tells me that this is what is taught in MBA schools as “business ethics”, but then how many people care about what classes they took once they get a job.

This situation becomes more alarming when I look at the transportation industry, especially the booming airline industry in India. I have no idea about the security lapses in the system. The areas where passengers are not involved are the ones of primary concern. I think the most important part is the baggage handling after check-in. I am not sure if the people handling the baggage are educated about the importance of security, or for that matter if they care at all!

But then, having seen the plight of government run systems we cannot go back to being pre-1993 India. Privatization is thus here to stay. It is ‘we’, the citizens of India, who have to become more aware of our surroundings (and belongings).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

bharatiya rail: aapka khushbudaar humsafar

I am sure that most of us have traveled in Indian Railways at least a few times during our lifetime. The level (or lack of) cleanliness is no secret and over time there are parts of every railway platform and railcar that develop a permanent stink.

The Railways has reached its innovative best to come up with a solution so that this stink does not bother the passengers: A perfumed railway ticket. Very aptly, the first ones to get the perfumed tickets are the regular travelers with monthly passes; after all, their stink-smelling quotient is the highest!

I am sure that over time railways will find more ways to use the perfumed tickets. A few years from now when you will enter a railcar, you will pass thru different fragrences.

“arre yeh to gulaab hai, aage chalo, yahan to Mumbai janewalon ki seat hain”.

If you ask a TT or a porter for directions to your seat they will smell your ticket and say,

“agle dibbe main chad jaao, aur phir santara aur kewra paar karke jab chandan ki mehak aane lage to baith jaana”.

The announcements on the public address system will be simplified,

“kripaya dyaan deejiye, jin logon ke paas mogre ki khushbu wali ticket hai woh platform number char par aa jaayen”.

And above all this will be a big boon for the illiterates in the country as there would be no need to read the ticket anymore!

Isn’t this called a win-win situation?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Statue of Liberty ...

After standing in long lines for tickets and ferry to the island, making a payment and getting x-rayed you end up at the foot of the fat green robed torch holding mom signifying liberty! And if you think that at this point you are liberated, take a step back, two friendly guards refuse entry to the monument building unless you have a monument pass, which is only possible to get if your visit was part of a 5-year plan. This is the time to rejoice for the nerdy net-savvy ones who used the internet and paid a convenience fee to order the free monument pass.

Feeling like a winner and carrying the trophy (the pass) in your hand you walk past the guards and enter the monument building. No points for guessing what comes next: an advanced security check in which you enter a phone-booth type enclosure to get jets of air on your body to dislodge explosives particles from clothing and skin. This is just is case you obtained something dangerous in the middle of the ocean on an island whose only access is thru ferries. And did I mention the helicopter hovering over the island keeping an eye on all movements to/from and within the island?

Now that you are really clean you are allowed to learn the essence of the statue signifying liberty from oppression. After passing thru a host of European names who designed the statue you find yourself at the bottom of 156 steps that need to be traversed on foot. Maybe this is how the fat mom holding the torch above liberates her kids from ailments due to lack of fitness!

The ordeal finally ends at the top of the pedestal from where you can see everything except the statue of liberty. You are, however, allowed to peep into her robe from below!!

At this time you have had enough of the statue and enjoy some good views of the New York City skyline and ocean waters full with floating structures ranging from small boats to multi-storey cruise liners.

You are liberated.