The Computer was a Bullet Train Once

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In India, the last time an international deal drew more attention than any other diplomatic aspect of the visit of an international Head of State was in 2006. US Prez George W Bush signed the Indo-US nuclear deal with Dr. Manmohan Singh being our PM.

This time around, Japan’s Shinzo Abe’s visit has been somewhat overshadowed by the Rs.1lakh crore project which is the Bullet train. It will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, cutting the travel time from 8 hours to 2 hours.

And, it has already run into opposition. Judas Priest Bullet Train, that Grammy nominated heavy metal number comes to mind:

Sunrise showing every flaw
Paying for the night before
Dark eyes, scanning every vein
Exploding – cannot stand the strain

With each new mile
They death defy me
Standing on trial
Scrutinize me

And questionize my

Strong denial

Bullet bullet train
Piercing through my brain

The Indian Bullet Train project has a strange bevy of people voicing their opposition: the educated lot, at times the highly educated lot that traditionally always seemed to want more education, more modernity, more technology. Less chaos, less noise, less tradition, less superstition… less of India, to be quite clear. So today if you’re asking what’s new in India? It’s this: 

The same lot that applauds, as it is supposed to, India’s might in the field of space engineering, launching of satellites, Mangalyaan, etc. are now asking if a country where a large population goes hungry to bed every night needs a bullet train.

Changing my course
Blurred and scorched
Breathing exhaust
As we distort

By gravity

Of such G-force

Bullet bullet train
Piercing through my brain

Breakdown close my eyes

Today, the so-called scientific, educated, progressive lot have taken over the jobs of the conservative, orthodox lot who they themselves used to frown upon for exactly this: In a country where people don’t have food, children don’t have schools, the sick don’t have hospitals, do we need a space program?

The question remains the same, the people that are asking it have changed. I have heard of a time when people asked why we needed computers in a country where people don’t have food, children don’t have schools, and the sick don’t have hospitals. Decades later now, political leaders are crediting their party with bringing in computer technology.

Computers came. What has stayed? People who are hungry, children who don’t have schools, the sick who don’t have hospitals. 

In fact, Uttar Pradesh children have been gifted laptops for free, in a state where 4-hour power cuts per day every day are absolutely routine (this observation predates Yogi government but I think it unlikely for the scene to have changed tremendously).

Voices talking many lies
Stained glass bursting in
Shattering my world again
Free fall but never can
Ever reach the ground again
Dark eyes scanning in
Feel my mind explode within

Before this, there was a time when people asked why we needed foreign car manufacturing technology, steel manufacturing technology, and so on. Perhaps, these people are the reason why India depends on others for every flipping thing under the sun: technology for agricultural growth, food storage, defense, computers, education, health, and much more. Because every time that somebody tried to do something in these areas that required any major investment, they brought forth the present: mouths to feed, bodies to clothe and house, sick to care for. Not realising that transforming technology was the one way to actually doing something about it.

Once upon a time, this attitude was seen in other parts of the world. Those people were branded Luddites (In England, where the Luddites originally came into being in the 1800s, they destroyed machinery, particularly cotton and woollen mills, that they saw as threatening their jobs). That happened in 1800s.

But these Luddites of the ‘New India’ are not those Luddites. These Luddites would love going to Japan and rave about its tech infrastructure. They would love to say ‘This kind of progress can NEVER happen in India’. Thing is, when someone tries to bring this technology into India, they’re the ones trying to make their own pronouncements come true. These are the people who think that Indian traditional thought is somehow “not worth it”, not worthy of all these technologies: digital, artificial intelligence, automation, 3D printing, the bullet train.

Also, when they rave about Japanese technology and infrastructure, they forget Japan’s demographic issues and social issues, and uncomfortable history: the society is deeply mired in patriarchy, an ageing population, historic burden of war and guilt of comfort women. There is always a context to any story. It’s not always as linear as the geniuses around us would like to be.

Wanting much more
I implore you
Near to death’s door
To ignore

The screams of all

Who fall before

Bullet bullet train
Piercing through my brain

But, the geniuses have pronounced their judgement and that’s it. The nuclear energy deal wasn’t much of a problem; in fact, the same Luddites went gaga over it, calling it a product of a strategic relationship with a superpower that India needed on her side.

One is prompted to ask, therefore, is this really about the project or the man who is rolling it out? Sadly, those taking the credit for bringing into the country the two main technologies that have transformed our lives: telephone and computers, also the space research, have decided to draw the line – THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER. The Bullet Train is taking it too far.

Internet: yes

Technology: yes

Space research: yes

Bullet Train: NO. Because people don’t have food, children don’t have schools, the sick don’t have hospitals, the society doesn’t have tolerance.

Bullet bullet train
Piercing through my brain

In effect, THEY want to be the ones to decide how much technology is enough. How much public good is good enough. The only thing that they fail to answer is how is it then, that people don’t have food, children don’t have schools, the sick don’t have hospitals? Even after 70 years?

Have you seen a more inefficient lot? 

Why should the people listen to such an incompetent, inefficient bunch?

You could either use the Bullet bullet train… to understand or we can all quietly chug along the merry old ‘chhuk chhuk chhuk’ and enjoy the ‘Chhaiya Chhaiya’ of these Luddites of the New India.

Unless they take matters in their hands and decide to feed, clothe, protect, educate, and employ the poor, build hospitals and schools that we need. Now that’s a fine thought! Bullet Train

Full circle: Looks we’ll have to revisit civil disobedience

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‘I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilisation’ – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Yes, taxes are meant to make civilisation possible, affordable, and practicable. In India, though, they only end up being victims of corruption.

Only 3% of India’s population pays taxes. The minorities, the business class, the farmers, and politicians, absolutely do not. Many a flourishing CA can take the credit for facilitating this. But that would be doing them injustice. It’s actually the lawmakers who create policies that gratify, indiscriminately, businessmen, and rich farmers, by creating policies and laws that eliminate the need for them to pay taxes. Don’t even get me started on Vijay Mallya. Taxes are the burden of the salaried class, unfortunately.

Anyway. A ray of hope. However anecdotal this may seem, Premlata Bhansali has burst on the scene in Mumbai, time will tell if this was just a flash in the pan. Read here: http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/crime/Ticketless-traveller-tells-TC-Arrest-Mallya-first/articleshow/51504447.cms

But for the time being, she’s made a point. The woman in question was returning on train from Elphinestone to Bhuleshwar, and did not buy a Rs.10 ticket. She was stopped by a Ticket Checker, who imposed a fine of Rs.260 on her. And our lady, she did what? – Refused. Point blank. Saying what? First ask Vijay Mallya to pay back the Rs.9,000 crore. And what I truly admire is, she argued with the cops for 12 hours straight.

Apparently, even her husband’s counselling her was to no avail. She wanted them to arrest her so that she could go on a protest like Anna Hazare. She is a mother, and she lives in a well-to-do community and family. When taken to the magistrate, she still refused to pay the fine and chose to go to jail for seven days instead.

I feel sorry for Ms. Bhansali on one hand, since her civil disobedience, while truly full of spunk, will predictably go unnoticed. Ours is a society of ethical, environmental, moral, social, logical disobedience. Civil disobedience is far out. However, this woman taking such a strong step, all by herself, is nothing short of inspirational on some level. Yes she wilfully committed the ‘crime’ of not buying a ticket. She resisted paying the fine when caught.

This news is close on the heels of one on February 3 that spoke about a High Court judge Arun Chaudhuri saying citizens should stop paying taxes if government fails to curb corruption: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Dont-pay-taxes-if-government-fails-to-curb-corruption-HC/articleshow/50826888.cms

To quote Justice Chaudhuri, who was giving verdict in a case of embezzlement of funds at banks, “Terming corruption as a “hydra-headed monster”, the judge said it is high time citizens came together to tell their governments that they have had enough. “The miasma (unholy atmosphere) of corruption can be beaten if all work together. If it continues, taxpayers’ should refuse to pay taxes through a non-cooperation movement,” said Chaudhari.

“The taxpayers are in deep anguish. Let the government as well as mandarins in corridors of power understand their excruciating pain and anguish. They have been suffering for over two decades in the state. There is an onerous responsibility on those who govern to prove to taxpayers that eradication of corruption would not turn out to be a forlorn hope for them,” stated Chaudhari.

His words not only on the point but also extremely auguish-ridden.

I wonder what inspired Premlata’s taking such a stance.

And finally, why I am talking about it. That’s because these mandarins in our political power circles have now decided to shave off the only large chunk of forest around this big melting pot that is Mumbai – the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. 22 acres of forest land that acts as the lungs of this crazy supermetropolis called Mumbai and quite simply, keeps it sane and functional. And the Mumbaikars’ silence has been priced at – A train station and some “DEVELOPMENT”. And guess who’s paying for it all? The taxpayer of course. And many times over too. Because our politicians forget that there’s an infrastructural cost and there’s environmental, social cost too. Because “Development” costs big. Unlike civilisation. Civilisation is a quality. Development is measured in things.

They won’t “DEVELOP” the existing tracks and trains or build flyover or install CCTVs or provide clean toilets and clean drinking water. They will cut off trees. Because that will not bring them moneybags.

Time to do something about all this crap.