Thursday, December 28, 2017

Air conditioned trains and protests

I am sure that you must have read about the introduction of the first air-conditioned local train in Mumbai. Yes folks it is almost 2018 and we are getting our first air conditioned train. Wow!

Obviously, this introduction cannot be without drama, hoopla and insane protests.

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, let me point out my observation on the mode of protest in India. We have two broad modes of protest. Most protests, against anything, almost always fall in one of these two buckets.

Bucket one is what I call the “Exception should be the Rule”. Here the mode employed is to use an exception and protest that because of the exception, the rule should be scrapped. Let me give you an example. Take Aadhaar, this is a hotly protested issue. A small minority of people have worn out fingerprints. Reasons for this are many. For instance age makes fingerprints fade, as does manual labour. Out of the 1.25 billion people that we have, those with worn out fingerprints would be miniscule. But yet our die hard protesters will argue till blue in the face that Aadhaar in its entirety should be scrapped. This is what I mean that exceptions should be the rule. Needless to say, these protesters have perfectly readable fingerprints.  

Bucket two is what I call “there is another better way”. Take the proposal to have a Bullet Train. Cue to howls. Why spend so much money on the Bullet Train, you can have XXX trains with no air conditioning, dirty toilets and so on transporting the poor from Mumbai to Gorakhpur. Or, why have a Shivaji Statue as that money can be better used to maintain Shivaji Forts. Basically, in India we always have people who are poor, starving, diseased, and unable to afford medical care and uneducated. So whatever proposal is brought is met with an argument that there is a better way to spend the money, not this way.

Now let us turn to the air conditioned train. At this point the train has been introduced to run from Borivali at 12.42. As expected, howls of protest. A man who goes to work, yes folks, a man who goes to work at 12.42 has complained bitterly as his usual non air-conditioned Borivali train is now cancelled and substituted by this air conditioned train. He wants the grubby train back! Unbelievable. A man going to work at 12.42 cannot possibly, to my limited intelligence not be able to afford the higher fare of an air conditioned. But no, he will protest. He falls in bucket one. Also, and again to the best of my knowledge, there is a train from Borivali to Churchgate every 5-7 minutes. Mr Protestor, tomorrow try going in at 12.37 instead!!!

What has really intrigued me when reading of the imminent launch of the train was the absence of any noise from our Mumbai intelligentsia, you know who, the South Bombay chatterati and intellectuals. This lot has been saying, for years, that (i) in order to reduce vehicular traffic on our congested roads we should have comfortable air conditioned trains (ii) air conditioned trains across the city would further reduce cars as today we have several office areas and not just one CBD. You have seen the rise of commercial spaces in Lower Parel, the new commercial spaces in Kalina, BKC, Goregaon, along the Western & Eastern Highways, at Vikhroli. But, there is not a word of praise or appreciation from this lot. Of course, it would not be out of place to point out that none, and I mean none of these Bombay chatterati intellectuals have ever travelled by train in the last 10 years. But they are experts!

I think I know why they cannot get any praise out. Praising this would tantamount to praising Modi and that they cannot ever ever do. Of course, the truth of the matter is that all the work in starting the train was done way before Modi. But the Bombay chatterati intellectuals are still silent.

And the daft protests continue. We deserve the crumbs that we have. We deserve no better. The fault is our and our people. Just criticize. Remain in the gutter. This is sad.   

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