Saturday, December 29, 2007

Two's company, three's a fine, and six's an accident waiting to happen

Click on the photo to see a larger image.

I shot this sign at a traffic signal under a flyover. According to it, "Triple Riding" has a fine of Rs 250. It is very common to see three youngsters riding on a motorcycle, or a family of two adults and two kids, usually without a helmet. I don't quite know what "Lane Crossing" is in the sign above. I assume it means you are crossing the line at the signal, not really "lane". There is absolutely no lane discipline anywhere.

The building in the background is the Secretariat, where the state government offices are located. The other day there was quite a scare in this building as one young man was seen throwing his cell phone and three small paper bags. People who saw the man dump his cell phone ran fearing there must be a bomb somewhere as cell phone activated bombs are used in most bombings in the country. Police ran after the man and apprehended him outside and everything became clear. It turned out that three people had lost their jobs somewhere in the state and they had come to the Secretariat with some cash in paper bags in the hope of getting their jobs back. Two of them had left their paper bags with this one young man and went off for a cup of tea. The remaining young man was watching a blue film on his phone and when he saw some cops he got scared that they would catch him with it. So he dumped the cell phone and the bags along with it.

In the photo below, which a reader of the popular local newspaper Deccan Chronicle shot, not three but SIX people are riding on one motorcycle, none of them with a helmet. I wonder if there is a fine for this, or they just confiscate the license or bike....... Anyway, the fines are usually "settled" on the spot by paying a smaller amount and you don't get a receipt.

"Do you know anything on earth which has not a dangerous side if mishandled and exaggerated?" -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Land of Mist

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Auto Rickshaw

This Times of India photo shows auto rickshaws waiting in line to get digital fare meters installed. December 31, 2007 is the last date after which they will be fined if they don't have digital meters. According to a court order this should have been done by Dec 2006! However, as things stand in India, the auto rickshaw drivers unions protested and dragged out things till now. The auto rickshaw is used by many in most Indian cities because public transport such as buses are not convenient or are too crowded. The new digital meters are supposed to be tamper proof, but some auto rickshaw drivers themselves say that they are not. Auto rickshaw drivers all over India are known for using tampered meters, charging exhorbitatnt rates. Now that they are legally forced to install digital meters, which will show not only the fare but also the distance traveled, the auto rickshaw drivers want their minimum fare and the fare per kilometre increased quite a bit!! These auto rickshaws, called 'auto' for short, are chartered to ferry school kids back and forth to school. According to law maximum 6 kids can be seated (crammed) into these autos, but it is common to see 9 or more hanging out, which has been responsible for many an accident. Policemen are stationed near the schools to fine auto drivers if they carry more than 6 kids, but the auto drivers "outsmart" the police by dropping off the excess kids a little distance away from the school. This tendency of skirting the law can be seen in pretty much all aspects of life here, but most of all in traffic rules. The autos have different color schemes in different cities. You can read a lot more details about the autos here.

A variation of the auto rickshaw is the tuk-tuk, which plies in Thailand. Some foreigners who come to India like the auto rickshaw so much that they buy one to take home! If you are the adventurous type, you may want to participate in the Indian Autorickshaw Challenge.

For language enthusiasts, as mentioned in my World Tourism Day blog entry, the word
rickshaw is short from Japanese jinrikisha. jin = man, riki = power, sha = carriage.

"We cannot solve out problems with the same level of thinking that created them." -Albert Einstein

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings to all my online friends!

You have all enriched my life by enhancing my knowledge of the world, and by your kind and encouraging words. I am grateful for this!

Taking a break from the usual series of photos, here is a photo of a huge cake in a local bakery. The photo is from Times of India. Isn't it mouth-watering? :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hazardous job

A young man painting poles. These poles are 30 foot or more in height. This guy was sitting on a makeshift swing. Another guy is holding the other end of the rope and lowered it bit by bit. This guy climbed up the pole with his bare hands and feet. The rope was swung over the horizontal bar that houses the lighting unit at the top of the pole. He was not wearing any gloves, helmet or eye protection. His hands and arms were covered in the silver paint he was using to paint the pole. He was using some rags instead of a brush. He dipped the rags in the can of paint and within a few seconds he was painting almost a couple of feet! It is common to see young guys painting the rapidly growing new buildings without any safety harness.
Some of the reputed builders provide their employees safety harnesses. Due to the rapid growth, all the skilled people (electricians, carpenters, plumbers) and even most unskilled people are able to find jobs easily. Some of the skilled people are able to upgrade their skills because the bigger companies that employ them use modern equipments and tools which they would not be able to learn otherwise. I am not sure if there are safety laws, but from what I have seen around, it seems that there aren't any, and even if there were, it would be extremely difficult to implement them.

"New legislation has just been adopted by the International Labor Organization on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, such as bonded labor, prostitution and hazardous work." -Carol Bellamy

"Some companies now have their own codes of conduct against the use of child labor. The problem is monitoring their implementation." -Carol Bellamy

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moving House

Looks like someone is moving to another house. The auto rickshaw has "Horn Please" written on the tailgate. Most, if not all, goods transport vehicles, such as trucks, have this written on the back. On the left side you see a scooter and an auto rickshaw moving on the wrong side of the road. Increasingly, the roads have dividers now, so people have to travel to the next intersection and make a U-turn. But some people just drive on the wrong side of the road and go in the other direction endangering pedestrians (there are hardly any sidewalks), other vehicles and themselves. People do this even if there is no divider, if the distance they are traveling in the opposite direction is "short" (in their view). What we need is spikes!

I broke my arm folding bed. It wasn't the kind that folds." -Steven Wright

"Some guy hit my fender, and I told him, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' but not in those words." -Woody Allen

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'Near Misses' is not a term to unnecessarily worry about

Click to view a larger image.

This message issued by the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation - the equivalent of FAA in the US) appeared in the newspapers during "Air Safety Week". Air traffic has grown considerably in Hyderabad from just a few flights a day to over 125 per day. The current airport, called Begumpet Airport, is also shared by an Air Force station. In March 2008, Hyderabad is scheduled to get a world class airport (although the road connecting to it is not going to be completed by then!!) It is a well known fact that the current infrastructure is inadequate to support such a rapid growth. As airlines continue to buy more planes, they are trying various ways to find people to fly them. One of the ways this shortage is addressed is by hiring pilots from abroad. Some of the foreign pilots from Eastern Europe, Brazil and Indonesia are rejected because they are not proficient in English. On the other hand, pilots above 60 who cannot fly in their own countries find jobs in India because the DGCA has raised the age limit to 65 because of the shortage of pilots. (Just this week the US Senate also passed the legislation to increase the mandatory retirement age to 65.) Another way this is being addressed is by reducing the required hours from 250 to 200 to qualify for the Commercial Pilot License!! You would think you need more experience to deal with increasing traffic, not less! It is common to see reports of near misses in the newspapers. You also see TV images of planes that have skidded off the runway. Every winter (which is now) you see TV reports of hundreds of domestic flights grounded at the New Delhi airport which is fogged in because most of the domestic airlines don't have pilots trained in using the Category III Instrument Landing System which is used in fog. Once in a while you read reports of one plane clipping the wings of another while taxiing. The DGCA itself has less staff as compared to 4 years ago when there were fewer airlines and fewer flights. There is dissatisfaction among Indian pilots because foreign pilots are being paid much more (you don't want a dissatisfied pilot flying your plane, do you?) Many Indian students are rushing abroad to get a license (and a disproportionate number of them are dying in accidents). After they get a commercial license, they are required to get certified here. Recently, an "examiner" who certifies them was in the news who charged a hefty amount to these students and certified them without even asking them to get into the cockpit or to take an exam! If you knew all these things are going on, would you feel reassured by reading such "informational messages"?

This site has a lot of news items about Indian aviation. To read about the safety issues, enter "safety" in the search box there.

"I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather... not screaming and yelling like all the passengers in his car." -Unknown

"Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is what is dangerous." -Unknown

Tower: "Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o'clock, 6 miles!"
Delta 351: "Give us another hint! We have digital watches!"

Control Tower to a 747: "United 329, your traffic is a Fokker, 1 o'clock, 3 miles, Eastbound"
United 329: "Approach, I've always wanted to say this... I've got the little Fokker in sight."

Monday, December 10, 2007


A milkman with a can of milk on a scooter. Most people buy milk in sachets from the dairies now-a-days. Milk is not sold in bottles anymore. Either someone drops the sachets door to door in the morning, or people buy it at the grocery stores. But some prefer to buy fresh from milkmen such as the one in the photo. I have even seen a guy who brings his buffaloes to his customers. One of these days I hope to get a photo of that guy. Most milk is buffalo milk, although in some places cow milk is also available for a premium. Traditional Indian Medicine (Ayurveda) prefers cow milk for its medicinal properties. The scooter is an old one based on the Italian Vespa scooter which has the engine on the right side.

"Truth, like milk, arrives in the dark
But even so, wise dogs don't bark.
Only mongrels make it hard
For the milkman to come up the yard."
- Christopher Morley, Dogs Don't Bark at the Milkman

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Free Parking

A Deccan Chronicle photo

If you build, they will come - and fill it up in no time! The new flyover built for solving the traffic problem is filled up as soon as it was opened for traffic! The city is trying to catch up with increased traffic by widening the streets and by building such flyovers, but with the number of new two-wheelers and new cars coming onto the streets every day you sit in traffic jams for 1-2 hours. And even if you don't sit without moving, it is common to spend 30-45 minutes to travel 6-8 km. This picture is from the popular local newspaper Deccan Chronicle.

In spite of emission tests, vehicles (especially buses) emit a lot of smoke. It is just horrible to travel on two-wheelers and in auto rickshaws as the smoke from the exhaust hits you right in the face, especially when the traffic is moving very slowly. Things are really bad for the traffic policemen who man the street crossings. They are exposed to vehicle exhaust and blaring horns. Recently, I read a news item that said the traffic cops will be provided oxygen but they have to go into police stations to get their dose. There was talk of banning air horns but it hasn't happened yet. Even if they ban, it would be one of those laws that cannot be implemented, and there are quite a few of those. In cities like Pune, women who ride two-wheelers cover their head and face with a large scarf and they wear long gloves that cover their arms to protect themselves from the exhaust and dust, but for some reason the girls here don't do so.

"Modern technology
Owes ecology
An apology" -Alan Eddison

Sunday, December 2, 2007

You honkin' at me? You honkin' at me?

A Times of India photo

Traffic slows down with buffaloes on the street. The buffalo behind the car has a rope tied to its neck, the other end of which is tied to its foot. This is to prevent him from running away. It can only move very slowly in this position. Sometimes there is a wooden log or a wooden pole attached by a rope to the neck to slow the animal down. This photo appeared in the Times of India.

"The buffalo isn't as dangerous as everyone makes him out to be. Statistics proves that in the United States more Americans are killed in automobile accidents than are killed by Buffalo." -Art Buchwald

Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
..." -From the Official Song of the State of Kansas