Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Apathy Chronicles

Science may have found a cure for mos evils; but it has no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings." -- Helen Keller

Today's Indian Express has a telling cover story on the state of governance in India. It is a classic case of adopting the proverbial ostrich-like attitude: pretending that a problem does not exist, and hoping that, somehow, it will disappear on its own.

I just thought it would be interesting to list some of them to see if there is a pattern that could lead us to possible solutions.

First, the IE story today:


The Central Pollution Control Board identifies a potential problem area and commissions an independent agency to examine the air quality in Delhi, through an exhaustive study involving 11,000 schoolchildren from 36 schools, across three years. Yet, despite detecting an alarming rise in pollution levels, everybody is still busy "studying the report".

- Landmark study lies buried -
- Chatterjee, Pritha (31Mar'15), IE: Seven years ago, everyone saw Delhi’s air take a deadly U-turn but no one did a thing


Over past two decades, hospitals across India have been witnessing a sharp rise in new and re-emerging diseases: Chikungunya, bird flu, swine flu, monkey flu, Ebola, MDR TB and Malaria, etc., This year along we have lost over 2000 lives to H1N1 swine flu.
What have we done about it? The health ministry had figured well in advance that our total dependence on imported diagnostics and medicines would hamper containment efforts. So it decided to develop indigenous technology and succeeded in getting entrepreneurs to produce test-kits for a tenth the cost (Rs. 400 vs. minimum of Rs.4500/test). And then, amazingly, after handing out the necessary regulatory clearances, it does nothing to encourage states to adopt cheaper, more affordable diagnostics and medicines.
Predictably MNCs like Applied Biosciences are quite pleased with the state of affairs. While low-income patients balk at the cost of getting reliable tests and drugs, the MNCs are laughing all the way to bank, happy to serve just those who can afford it.

- Nagarajan, Rema (18Mar'15), ToI: Two Indian firms develop cheap H1N1 test kits, but find few takers
- Singh, Jyotsna (31Mar'15), DTE: When flu turns fatal -


Inspired by Curitiba (Brazil) and Bogota (Colombia), and goaded by IITD academics, the Delhi government decided to ease the urban transport problem by building a BRT corridor in South Delhi. The first phase of construction (2008) was so haphazard and unplanned that vehicles kept crashing into unmarked barriers that had come up overnight, constriction of road space forced bikers on pedestrian pathways and VIPs appropriated the bus-lanes for themselves.
Now there is talk of just scrapping the whole project. So what if the project cost a few millions?


Why is it so rare to find 24x7 piped water supply in Indian cities? Because the amount of water that would be wasted from taps that are left open would leave us very little to supply the next day!
In suburbs like Noida, the municipality has fixed a "flat-rate" for monthly consumption of water. This amounts to a measly Rs. 25 to Rs.150 per month. Since there is no incentive or costs to careful use of this resource, enormous quantities of water overflow into the drains every day. Picture this: Everyday, Noida Jal processes and distributes about 100 cusecs (244 million litres/day) of water. Water is pumped from the holding stations to overhead waterttanks in each sector, and from here, it is supplied to users twice a day for about three hours.
Water quickly fills up the overhead tanks in all the buildings, and since the supply is not metered, most users have an overflow pipe that spills excess water into the drains. For at least an hour water just goes down the drains. Has there been any effort to calculate and control this huge, daily wastage of clean water? Who cares!

- BRT May be Scrapped -

No comments: