Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Metro Trouble

I believe that a Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) like the Delhi Metro is not a feasible, long-term intra-city transport option.

Here’s why.

As an entirely electricity dependent MRTS, the Delhi Metro naturally consumes a considerable amount of electricity. Nonetheless, there seems to be no general consensus regarding its exact consumption- a paper on the Institution of Railway Electrical Engineers website claims it’s the largest power consumer in Delhi, a May 9, 2006 report on the Tribune website puts the same to 45MW, or 1.15%, of the average demand of 3,200MW and a write-up on the Metro’s website fixes total consumption to 75+45=120MW or 3.75% of the average demand of 3,200MW. Now, as anybody who’s spent this summer in Delhi knows, the last figure cannot possibly be accurate, for, first, as the channels and papers have been publicising, the total demand at the peak of summer in June was a staggering 1000MW more at around 4,400MW and second, since this figure is so patently obsolete and the Metro’s network has increased considerably since then, its net consumption of too must’ve gone up. There is, unfortunately, no clear figure for that.

Be that as it may, one thing is totally unambiguous: an over-whelming percentage of the Metro’s electricity comes from either non-renewable fossil fuels like coal and natural gas or from ecologically unsound hydroelectric power plants in the lower and middle Himalayas. This crucial fact has till now been consistently ignored by media and civil society alike, for even as we rightfully applaud the DMRC for installing a solar power plant on the Connaught Place station and justifiably take pride in it been awarded carbon credit validation by the German TUVNORD for the use of the innovative regenerative breaking technology, we simultaneously forget that at its core the Metro still functions on hazardous, toxic and ecologically unsafe technologies. Like a majority of successful corporate establishments, all the DMRC does is to stay on the right side of public conscience by adopting small, piece-meal green methods with great fanfare without changing it’s core base of unsound energy generation technologies.

What is urgently required, therefore, is a holistic scientific analysis by an independent, unbiased agency on the overall environmental impact of the Metro’s creation and its unfettered expansion.

First of all, it must be found out to what extent electricity generation in thermal power plants offsets the Metro’s commendable achievement of preventing emission of around 2,275 tonnes of vehicular carbon-dioxide. Indeed, even as we in Delhi celebrate the supposedly modernising influence of the Metro and felicitate it for it’s role in the reduction of vehicular pollution, we overlook the fact that the DMRC characteristically follows conventional Western wisdom of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ by increasingly buying power from a NPTC plant in far-off Orissa. All this happening in the National Capital acquires another, ironical dimension when we consider how the Indian Government cries itself hoarse in every international climate change forum about developed Western nations relocating all their dirty work to developing countries and so making them victims to their insatiable hunger for resources.

Similarly, a detailed study on the multi-nuanced ecological impact of the construction of the Metro too is in order. The DMRC claims to be “one of the most eco-friendly projects in Delhi” so it will be worthwhile to find out whether or not it sources construction material like bricks, cement, concrete, girders etc from clean, green and ethical firms instead of the popular run of the mill profit-maximising, unsound businesses. The affects of exposure-whether adverse or not and if so, how much-to fine concrete dust to construction workers and those living near construction sites too must be conclusively established.

Moving on, one must also consider the costs involved in maintaining the DMRC’s entire network. Whether or not the Metro makes profits, maintenance costs are bound to go up each year as its assets age. Gradually, in about a decade or so, it’ll be bound to phase out a majority of its existing rolling stock if it still wants to maintain its current high standards and afterwards major changes and upkeep would be required in all the stations as well. It is not wholly inconceivable that as time passes maintenance costs would slowly become a considerable amount of its expenditure so that the DMRC’s huge infrastructure and unmovable assets might just end up as an encumbering public liability. Once again, an unprejudiced investigation is in order to determine whether or not these will eventually become equal to or override the net income.

On the whole, I think the DMRC can really not be fully blamed for not being far-sighted enough to anticipate these issues: it is, after all, just a modern replica of a century old transport model carried out under the guidance of a smart and efficient yet aging man. What is surprising, however, is that nobody in Delhi seems to have realised that the Metro, in its current avatar, is only repeating old mistakes and so seems to be going well down the way of becoming an embarrassing liability for the city. Indeed, had even a fraction of the will and money spent in erecting the humongous Metro network been spent on refurbishing roads and revamping the bus system the need for the Metro would never have arisen and the transport problem solved without so much exertion. The very induction of air-conditioned buses in the DTC’s fleet, which will make available to the common citizen a facility till now the Metro’s complete monopoly, coupled with the increase in road space and, so, vehicular traffic raises serious question marks over the very existence of the project as some of its basic objectives get gradually defeated.

All of this is not to say that I am against the Metro. No, like all Delhities, I too have more or less enjoyed the Metro experience and do sincerely believe that by setting enviable professional standards it has brought about a sea change in and contributed immensely to the evolution of public attitudes and consciousness, creating, in fact, a whole new ‘Metro culture’ of discipline, responsibility and patience. Nevertheless the Metro is no holy cow and, more now than ever before, we need to evaluate the whole project in a radical, all-encompassing manner and ascertain its viability for the moderately long-term. That alone will be beneficial for the city.

- Anubhav Pradhan
B.A.(Hons) English; Third Year

Monday, August 17, 2009

The first lesson

Once in the realm of theatre, the first step is to impersonate -to act. The first step of acting is to understand that the term itself is a misnomer .The performer does not just mouth lines , he lives the character .On stage a performer's first duty is to let himself go , lose his own identity; in fact not just his identity but also his own circumstances . A character has some identity of its own and the actor is its bodily representation. If the performer, let's his own identity interfere then he inflicts injustice to the character - however this must not be misunderstood as a step away from improvisation.

Every performer has his own methods of enacting a character; but no matter who you are, an amateur or a veteran; nor does it matter, if you are playing the protagonist, the antagonist or a tree in the background - the primary step is to adopt the identity of the character, his space and his circumstances. Every character comes with a set of traits, good and bad. You gain the character's identity only after you lose your own; once that is done; these traits help the performer to step into the character's shoes.
Improvisation though is a tough cookie. One might question, on how can one character be enacted in many different ways without disturbing these set traits? To answer this, we must understand that these traits are guidelines and not rigid rules. A child who is modeling some clay is fascinated by cars, but it is his wish on how his car would be; what color will the clay will be and what shape the car will be. The child is the character, fascination to cars - his trait, the color of the car for instance is the improvisation.
But traits aren't the only constraint, which a character has - there are circumstances. A situation with which the character will deal. The actor's primary job then is to analyze , how the character will respond to these circumstances with the constraint of it's traits. Again , to keep in mind , there might be several ways to respond within this constraint because circumstances might and do have an effect on application of traits . Let's add a circumstance to the earlier example, the boy now needs the car to be such that he can race with. Now, won't the perception of color and shape change?
To finish, it is important understanding that the ultimate aim of the actor, is neither just to please the audience nor is it gain respect in the eyes of critics - it is to do justice to that character by living it. The actor must also be willing to shun his identity like everyday clothes to adapt to that life, to that space and time for a brief moment. That brief moment is sheer joy.
Arpit Kumar, B.A.(Hons) English, I Yr.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

THE ELECTION THAT WAS

Elections 2009 were in many ways a celebration of indian democracy , the 16th of may saw the indian national congress emerge as the single largest party and ending an era of regional caste-religeon based politics. when the first general elections were held in india , the times were tough - the country had undergone a painful division and had inherited an odious future . Few would have put their money on India as a successful democracy , but the people have proved time and again that this seventh largest country inhabited by the second largest population of the world is the ideal model of democracy .

In a broader view of space and time 60 years are as good as nothing . America has been a free nation since long and for the sake of study if considered an utopia has taken its time . India's growth in these 60 years of hard earned democracy is not just commendable but remarkable. The subcontinent continues to be in a state of anarchy and lawlessness yet india has been able to drive away these hindrances and has paved it's path to gain respect in the eye's of the world as an upcoming superpower .

One reason of this sucess is the clarity of India's voter who inspite of hate speeches , irrelevant issues and filth in Indian politics has had a simple vision for India . The three demands they put up should be fulfilled roti , kapda , makaan and the modification given this election season of bijli , sadak , paani . Everything that's between and else is all but flawed - communal and political in nature . Mandir , rath yatra , dalit ki beti and hate speeches are nothing but nice crispy entertainment for the educated middle class and crass useless for the rural Indian.

Many saw and predicted a hung parliament this time around and few could have imagined the real outcome. with the upsurge of the elephant , emergence of the volatile third front and a quite a comical fourth - the regional parties were all set to eat away a large share of vote of the two larger parties . Mayawati was garnering hopes of the PM's post because till the D-day everybody thought that she was the queen of UP if she had swept it , things could have been different but the congress's resurgence there and the left's debacle paved the way for singh to be king once again .

But one does raise a question was this verdict a disapproval towards the extremist-communal opposition or a verdict for the UPA's five year term ? Political commentators are united on it being the former but one cannot deny the credit that this government deserved , history is proof that the indian voter has voted for stability , for the assertive and not the aggressive , for dynasty as the lesser evil than for the power hungry.

Hence the elections 2009 were a victory for the INDIAN and DEFEAT for all others. JAI HO!


Arpit Kumar, B.A.(Hons) English, I Yr.