Thursday, October 25, 2012


Mafia’s are still controlling our waste

The garbage dumps and solid wastes are increasingly becoming up-for-grabs between contractors and mafias, who are competing with each other like never before for share of a larger slice of the pie. In doing so, they are leaving no stone unturned to retool their tactics in escaping the existing laws and manipulate the establishment, in their pursuit of solid waste maneuvering.

In Bangalore, for instance, the mafias who had sole dominion over garbage collection met with a jolt when BBMP (The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) attempted to do it in a better way, by recycling procedures done through increasing awareness for segregation at source, i.e., the households. In retaliation, the mafias have dumped heaps of garbage in prohibited and clean zones. The situation is further mired by the conniving nexus between politicians and contractors in a business that can be described as ‘black gold’ worth Rs.430 crore annually in Bangalore alone. The partisan obligation of the BBMP officials was busted in 2008 by BMTF (Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force) enquiry, where as many as 80 officers and 40 contractors were found in the tangle of financial wrongdoings. Bangalore spends Rs.430 crore a year on garbage disposal, which is way ahead of many metropolitan cities of India like Mumbai (which has double the population of Bangalore) with Rs.191 crore, Delhi with Rs.177 crore and Chennai with Rs.135 crore.

The mafias are in thick in their strive to control the garbage knolls in the country’s national capital too. The prerogatives and the style of operation in Delhi by the garbage mafias are ditto to Bangalore. Th at is the reason, why Delhi government is trying to endorse the privatisation of the business so that mafia-recruited 3.5 lakh waste pickers (mostly children) can also be dealt with simultaneously. Also, on Delhi government’s agenda, waste-to-energy plants, for which the neighbourhood solid wastes are burnt by the government – comes as another blow to the powerful mafia lobbies.

Owing to garbage mafia and cartel, the entire drive of segregation of waste by the civic authorities comes to a stand-still. The rag pickers don’t comply by the governmental/ civic authorities norms and eventually end up picking even the recyclable waste. What’s worse is that these children do so to make living out of paper, plastics, bottles and other similar products at meager price while their employers making millions out of it by selling it to corporations and industries.

The dominance of these unorganised gangsters in garbage collection business can only be weakened throughout and out privatisation which will be a win-win situation for society and local municipal authorities. As it happens across the world, private companies, if given contract, can directly pick waste from the city and eventually use the recyclable materials for their own use. Consider this: 80 per cent of the raw materials for paper industry are consumed from waste paper, the bulk of which is imported with an annual bill of $750 million. Surprisingly, India is likely to use only 20 per cent of the recycled fibre as compared to 40 per cent in many developed countries. Comprehending the same, companies like ITC, Antony Waste Handling Cell Pvt. Ltd. and AKC are trying to retrieve the same before it gets lost permanently as landfills.

The government must come forward and at least release this business out of their fist and allow corporate with high level of expertise and professionalism to handle the same. Th is will also work as incentives for motivating environment-friendly corporations and will reduce loss of reusable waste. Above all, it will keep the roads clean and finally will free rag-pickers from the clutches of these mafia’s who after all lead an unhygienic life and later on carry multiple diseases with them.


Thursday, October 18, 2012


Auto/taxi mafia is taking a toll on the drivers

Auto strikes are now an integral part of this highly unorganised transport industry. Every other month, some or the other city in India experience this blackmail from either the auto-rikshaw or taxi drivers. Here, the moot point of debate is not whether these auto and taxi drivers are ethical in their deeds or are they taking the entire nation to ransom. The point here is why on the first place are they calling for such strikes and that too so very frequently?

The answers for these two questions that is the biggest cause of concern among auto and taxi drivers. It’s on the account of one issue that has been lingering since years – fare hike vis-à-vis fuel price hike. The recent decision of implementing a GPS based fare meter has resurfaced the entire debate all over again. The on-going strike again raises the issue on how the feasibility of such instrument especially after the fact that the cost of such installation would be borne by the auto drivers. If one goes by the entire business model of this highly unorganised industry, almost all apprehensions would get answered.

Despite the price of auto being fixed by the Supreme Court (as per 1997 SC order, only 55,000 autos can run in the city), an auto in Delhi doesn’t cost less than Rs 6,00,000. As the number of auto rikshaw are fixed that can ply on the roads, a new entrant in the market has to first buy an old rikshaw, deposit the same with the officials and they would be given the permission to buy a new vehicle. The entire process cost him nothing less than Rs 2-3 lakhs. Even after obtaining the permission, he needs to swims through sea full of loan sharks. Most of the agencies that run as auto financers are actually small group of people trying to legalise their black money. During the purchase of permit, the financiers get the vehicle registered against the name of the auto drivers – who are paid almost nothing – and thus get rid of their black money and also get to own fleets of auto/taxis. And what the auto rikshaw drivers gets in return is a salary to the tune of few thousands. And here is why, these people are often seen protesting against any thing that kills their source of income or ask or any investment on a vehicles that is virtually owned by someone else!

It’s estimated that 80 per cent of all autos running in Delhi are under the grip of auto finance-mafia.

What is required is a new set of reforms for this industry. To start with, the entire industry has to be organised. The entire licensing system needs a overhaul wherein, the transfer of vehicles are made stringent which leaves very little scope for any dummy transfers and like. The capping on number of autos should be immediately removed, as it is the case of radio taxis where there is no capping for the same. Next the government should have fair price outlets for exchange of old vehicles with facilities to provide the new entrants with finance and loan facilities. Moreover, the government can start a telephonic booking service call center for auto booking, as in the case of radio taxis, that would eventually allow the market dynamics to decide the price and price slabs. Above all, the government should do away with auto stands (right now there are around 130 auto stands in Delhi), which again lead to cartelisation and small auto regional mafias. And finally, licences and recoginzation to the auto drivers through official registration, where in they need to register the details of the vehicles and the owner. This desk would further make sure that the drivers are paid a minimum salary and auto is being constantly upgraded as per the requirements.Obviously, these policies wont remove all the problems, but would surely make the drivers less hostile, more hospitable and would allow them to have better lifestyle with decent living.


Thursday, October 11, 2012


Water bodies should be brought under single ambit

Rivers have always been an agenda that has seen itself on the top of the list of political propagandas since time immemorial. The utilization of water and the economics associated with it makes it a potential ground for dispute between various stake holders. Be it disputes and conflicts between two local tribes or between two different states or may be between two different nations – rivers and water bodies have always been among the frontrunner when it comes to popular conflicts and populist agendas.

Kaveri river dispute in India is not at all a new agenda. But what is actually surprising is the age of this dispute. Decades have passed, but this one dispute is still as fresh as its inception. The refusal to drop the claims of Kaveri water by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has been major bumps on the road in a long standing stand-off that is yet to be resolved. The infighting revolves round the contention of Karnataka’s demand for more water, as they feel they are deprived of its due share, and Tamil Nadu’s counter claim that 3,00,000 acres depend directly on Kaveri’s water and millions of farmers will lose their livelihood if their allotted share is diverted. In a similar sign of locked horns, Punjab and Haryana are entangled in conflict of sharing the waters of Ravi and Beas. Both are agrarian states and depend on irrigation for their agricultural produce. The dispute commenced when Haryana was carved out of Punjab in November 1966 with four perennial rivers Ravi, Beas, Sutlej and Yamuna being crucial for sustaining their economy. In another case, Haryana is emboldened in a new conflict with Uttar Pradesh regarding share of Yamuna with the former accusing UP’s irrigation minister for being the prime cause of suffering of common men in Faridabad and Gurgaon. And the list goes on including Krishna water dispute, Narmada-Godavari dispute, Mahi river dispute, and Karmasana river water dispute.

Since, water bodies are interstate disputes; the center has no power to draw a line. The little role that it can play is to cast out an agreement amongst the stakeholders or constitute a tribunal. Sometimes it takes toll on the national stability as has been the case with Kaveri dispute. Therefore, to stop the states willing has to break the rules of the game, Center should come forward and take the mantle of river water usage on its own shoulder.

For the uninitiated, even during British rule, the water disputes were adjudicated by the central government as irrigation projects were under its supervision, which changed under the constitution of free India making it a state subject. However, under the request of state governments, a tribunal can be constituted that is composed of three sitting Supreme Court or High Court judges overseeing the dispute with right for a verdict under Voter Dispute Act, 1956.

The declaration of the rivers as national properties wills portent the union government to plan out national schemes to harness water prudently and distribute it judiciously. The welcome shift will also attract central assistance and funds for an overall development of the region. Not only it will allow the ministry to use and distribute water logically and judiciously but would also allow them to exploit the same for resources, energy and allied activities, at its best. A limited involvement of the state is acceptable as like Damodar Valley Corporation, which is a case in point in that direction and what it should be as the name of the game.