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Live and Express


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Encouraging Eco-friendly Commute/Work in Bengaluru

Corporates/companies in Bengaluru can look into encouraging environment-friendly commute/work options. Bengaluru needs individuals as champions to handle the challenges of bumper-to-bumper car traffic, as well as for taking care of the polluted environment.

In this direction, at a policy level, companies can think about facilitating the following



Bicycles to commute

  • Dedicated parking for bicycles/bikes at the campus.
  • Incentives/discounts/waivers for buying bicycle/bike related gear (personal body wear/helmets/hand gloves/guards etc.)
  • Recognize bicycle commuters through billboards/internal emails during company functions, etc.
  • Include a parameter in the performance ratings for CSR in which the employee is rewarded points for their bicycle commute.

Work from home

With the advent of cloud and desktop/laptop work monitoring apps, not everyone need to really come to the office. Many can work from home. This saves office space which can be allocated to newly hired people who need to be in the office.  This also increases productivity of the employee because of avoiding strenuous commute.  Dedicated work space at home with UPS and a steady internet connection can be arranged.

  • Facilitate Work From Home through Cloud technology (where the work does not involve physically handling hardware, physical signing in, etc.)
  • Include a parameter in the performance ratings for CSR in which the employee is rewarded points for Work from Home.

Public Transport

  • Incentives for BMTC and Metro users (free bus pass, free Metro refill upto a certain amount, etc)
  • Pickup buses from main Metro stations and BMTC bus stops by corporate buses
  • Include a parameter in the performance ratings for CSR in which the employee is rewarded points for using public transport.
  • Recognize public transport commuters through billboards/internal emails during company functions, etc.
  • Car pooling for employees going to the same area through cab companies
  • Company buses

Hope corporate/companies make these policies as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and make Bengaluru a better place to live in!


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My Tryst With Pune – 1

3:30 AM – 5:00 AM

On a wet Thursday early morning, my flight to Pune from Bengaluru landed like ‘Bump-bump…bump….’ like an auto navigating a Bengaluru speed-breaker, as my inner self screamed ‘Nahinnnnnnnn…‘ like a Hindi movie heroine chased by the villain. I still remember my first international flight from Mumbai to Frankfurt (Thank you Delta!), which landed in Frankfurt like a finger on butter. Sigh….How do they even give flying license to these ‘Yahaan ka local temperature hai Pacheezz degree Centigrade’ kids?

My Ola cab driver was polite and very human. I used my Hindi skills to navigate him through the roads, At the end of the ride, the driver was reluctant to press the back button twice in the app. to get to the ‘end the ride’ screen. When I asked him to, he said ‘app bandh ho jayegee’. I said ‘Bhaiyaa, aap vo nahin karenge tho kithna paisa kaise pathaa hogaa’. He blinked and agreed to tap the back button twice to get to the swipe button.

Finally there I was, at 4:00 am in front of a heavily locked Secured Hostel Base Facility (I should not see FBI/CIA themed Hollywood movies often). Thanks to the organizer, who didn’t leave a phone number to call the manager, I was stranded with my suitcase, my backpack and my sweet self in a foreign town, surrounded by 4 dogs.

The dogs immediately accepted me as part of their tribe (at least as part of THAT part of the street tribe), didn’t make even a bit of a noise, and start sleeping as though nothing happened.  I sat down on the platform, and started browsing the very useful Facebook posts that my ‘friends’ had posted, and there comes this dog from the OTHER part of the street, which wants to re-establish the boundaries using ME as a Trump card.

Then starts this war between the two brotherhoods, which almost woke up that section of the town, with me standing watching in amusement. You should see to believe how the ‘home’ tribe was trying to protect me from foreign aggression with fiery fury!  Finally, the foreign army backtracked and I was able to continue my world’s important work with spurious interruptions.

(To be followed)


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So much for Bangalore suburban trains…

Everybody knows that Bangalore has railway tracks that can connect to the nearby areas along the outer ring road periphery and beyond, and those tracks are under-utilized.  The citizens of Bengaluru have been demanding implementation of sub-urban trains on these tracks to ease the pain of commuters (even Metro infrastructure has proven insufficient because of the crowd) on the roads.  This demand has been there for almost 10 years now!

But South-Western Railways today says that it will take 10 more years to implement the doubling of tracks!  It clearly shows how disconnected the SWR officials are with the demand for sub-urban services.  It looks like they don’t care about the sufferings of the people. One reason or other is being quoted by them – funds, not getting co-operation, not enough land, and so on. But we all know that if there is a will, there is a way.  And SWR does not have exactly that – the will.

This issue has been raised at the Indian Railways level many times, and even the PM had been copied in the tweets. But to no result.

I hope that the necessary push will be given by the Central Government and through the MPs and MLAs to get this done as soon as possible.

 


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Spanish !

I got introduced to Spanish in a very funny way. I was on a job break at that time, and I used to play some online games which were popular at that point of time. Through one of the games, I got a few regular acquaintances who were also playing the same game. Then, we became friends and started interacting over social networks. And some of those friends were from the Latin America.

The most frequently used expression by them at that point of time was ‘Donde eres’, and I was not at all tired in repeatedly answering them ‘Vivo India!’, and then to get the exclamation from them in reply ‘Ah !’.

After a few years, I got interested in exploring about Spanish language, and found that it is the second most spoken language in the entire world, next to the first Chinese Mandarin. I was surprised that English is not the first one or two. Or may be it is catching up, but then, as far as Spanish is concerned, it’s spoken in all countries of South America except Brazil (which speaks Portuguese), Mexico, United States of America, the Caribbean nations, Spain and some portions of North Africa.

There’s so much of trade happening between the Spanish speaking world and China. Latin population is getting much influential in United States of America.

Well, folks, isn’t that a good enough motivation to learn a language?

I could have chosen to learn Chinese Mandarin to start with, and even now I can, but Spanish felt sweet and lively to me than Chinese. May be some day, I will learn Chinese Mandarin too! But that’s later.

Hasta La Vista !


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#IRCTC woes of #India #Railways

Every grand stuff has a not-so-grand thing.

In case of Indian Railways, it’s the IRCTC’s online web-site for reservations & catering.

As a traveller and a techie, I am just amazed by the sheer negligence of the IRCTC authorities of how a simple thing of handling user traffic in their website has been ignored careless – leading to loss of revenue and discomfort of the passengers.

Recently, there was a talk in Twitter that Indian Railways passenger information is a great #BigData opportunity. The people who started the discussion were awe-ing about the new dynamic fare system introduced in some of the trains. Big Deal? Well, if I am not able to login to IRCTC web-site, what’s the point in even discussing about the features at the web-site?  Even during non-tatkal hours, I get communication failure many times.

It’s a simple matter of introducing cloud to the infrastructure. There was a time when server redundancy & traffic optimization was required.  Extra servers had to be installed, so that they can all share the traffic between them. This required buying additional servers, provisioning them, and writing the software logic to balance the user traffic.

With the advent of cloud computing, server redundancy has been moved to the cloud service provider. All IRCTC needs to do is to sign a service level agreement with the cloud service provider that the service need to handle whatever be the volume of traffic at any hour – the cloud infrastructure would do that by dynamically handling the requests with the servers at THEIR end – instead of IRCTC needing to invest in the physical servers. This way, capital investment is avoided – especially makes sense where in today’s scenario the server features getting outdated in 6 months because of bulkier hard disks, more powerful memory and processing power occupying lesser space.

Instead of investing in cloud service, IRCTC has recently launched a light-weight application, which will be launched during tatkal hours. Well, it’s a stop-gap quick-fix arrangement, but, it will also fail due to the ever-increasing demand of incoming user traffic. Also, who is going to handle the non-tatkal hours traffic which is also significant after 7:00 PM IST ?

I also saw a funny thing – one cannot register an ID between 7:00 AM and 11:00 AM. Why is this?

To summarize, I think the technical knowledge of IRCTC technical staff who are handling the web-site is outdated, and probably 10 years old. I don’t know if IRCTC has outsourced the technical part to a software service provider, but if this is the case, the service provider is doing a pathetic job, and need to replace their architects and engineers who are working on the IRCTC part – to upgrade to new software solutions which can handle the real time situations.

I told my friend – if I have to ever curse someone, I would say that their life be dragging for ever like an IRCTC user session! Hopefully, IRCTC will fix their web-site, and get out of the situation of being a laughing stock and a subject of online jokes in Facebook & other social networking sites.


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India passport issuance renewal – a few thoughts

The passport application & renewal in India has become relatively hassle-free and straight-forward, thanks to the new online tracking system. I applied on 20th and got my passport on hand on 31st.  The process is transparent – and stage-by-stage, the progress is updated in the web-site at http://passport.gov.in . No stage takes more than a day or two. Police verification stage proceeds smoothly and fast if you go to the police station and give your details with the photocopies of I.D. proofs and the documents that they ask for.

I do have a lot of concerns in the forms and the physical logistics of the passport seva kendra. This is true for the passport seva kendra in Lalbagh, Bangalore, and passport office in Kormangala, wherever specified.

1) Annexure F asks for the applicant name followed by S/O information, using blanks. Nowhere it says in the application or the associated instructions that the applicant’s full name (First name followed by middle name followed by last name) should be entered in the applicant name. Most of us tend to enter just our first name, especially since the S/O is asked immediately after the first name. If we enter just the first name, it is not accepted by the officials.

2) Lalbagh PSV, Bangalore: The place where they issue the tokens and the enquiry area is pretty crowded. Officials don’t realise the fact that every applicant is carrying sensitive documents with them like I.D. proofs and the queue system does not work. Everyone tries to push and fall on each other. If anyone’s document is lost, it is a big problem for them.  On the other hand, there is plenty of space inside the seva kendra allocated for the first stage of application processing called the ‘A’ section in the right side of the office, which is not used at all. This space should be around 5000 sq.ft. Why not use this space for receiving the applicants in a well-managed fashion, in a queue or a token system, so that people don’t fall over each other?

3) The no. of people attending to the tokens in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections are just 4 people each on a typical day, wherease ‘A’ section has 20 people. This leads to ‘B’ and ‘C’ section applicants waiting for a long time to be served. On the day I went for the interview, 100 applicants were sitting for around 7 hours waiting to be served in ‘B’ and ‘C’ sections.  The tokens were being issued even after 4:30 PM, which lead to heavy crowd.  It was sad to see the Assistant Regional Passport Officer herself doing the ‘B’ and ‘C’ verifications on the day I went. Her role should be to monitor whether things are moving smoothly in the office and to take actions where required.  Token issuance should be stopped once the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section no. of applications become unmanageable. No. of officers processing the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section should be increased.

4) There is a wonderful token issuing software algorithm to manage the applicants category like women, children, senior citizens, tatkal and normal quota, but at the end of the day, we all feel the crunch as the algorithm’s speed does not match with the no. of officers serving the ‘B’ and ‘C’ section. Talk about smart machines managed by not-so-smart people!

5) In the Kormangala passport office, applicants are forced to stand outside without cover in the queue though some limited no. of shaded seats are available, but they are not sufficient.  The token issuance windows look like a foreign embassy where applicants are asked to stand outside their office for visa stamping ! (Everyone know the Chennai scene near Gemini flyover!). If India itself treats their citizens like this, how will other countries respect India’s citizens ?

5) Securities manning the exit gate at Lalbagh PSV are openly asking to write their name and mobile number in a form that solicits Tata AIG insurance. This clearly falls in the borderline of illegal marketing. I don’t know who pays the securities – the Ministry of External Affairs (or) Tata AIG. Action has to be taken on this front.

If space and the monitoring and servicing of crowd is done properly in passport seva kendra, things will move a lot faster and smoother. Will the Ministry of External Affairs look into these points and take action?

 


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And so he starts thinking…

It was a hot day in mid March. I was travelling in a train from Bangalore to Chennai.

I was in a non-AC reserved compartment. I take books with me to kill time, but books also fail me at times, as it gets too boring to sit at a place for long.  Though I stare out and let my thoughts wander – and it usually lets the time fly away – I sometimes still feel bored.

I have always thought about the no. of people travelling in the Bangalore-Chennai sector, especially between Vaniyambadi and Chennai. It’s a whole lot. In spite of 7 trains a day, even the reserved compartments are full of standing people who  have not reserved their seats.  I see people cursing those who travel unreserved in reserved compartments, and the ticket inspector. But what they miss out is – how many people can the ticket inspector drive away from the reserved compartments, and for how many days?  It’s simply not possible. Also, the problem is not of irresponsibility, but of demand. It takes half the time and money to travel in train than in the buses, and hence people just hop-in into the reserved compartments and travel.

I have had my share of arguments and discussions with RTSO (the research wing that designs the railway compartments). I have argued with them that they should design non-AC double-decker coaches, so that common man can travel in them and the demand can be met.  They can’t keep adding coaches to the trains, as already 6 to 7 coaches of a train like Lalbagh stand outside the platform in a station like Arakkonam. Their answer is that they can’t increase the height of the coaches because they have to re-adjust the electric poles that supply power to the engine, so they are lowering the ground level of the compartment, in which case, dust will come in if the coach has open windows, and hence they can design only AC coaches! Makes sense. So, the railways are doing their bit. So, where is the problem?

I went towards a door to stand and gaze out, and there’s this person who was sitting near the door. We start talking about various things. He says he is from Ambur and works in a petrol supply company. I bring up the crowd issue, and how people just hop in the trains in whatever compartments they could find nearby. He agrees it’s a problem, but says he does that all the time as it’s convenient for him.

I ask him, ‘But you know, how can railways cater for such a huge crowd? Not just railways, we need to provide food, water, electricity, land, jobs etc to all the people. So, why give birth more and more, while there are existing children which need caring and shelter?’. He winces. Probably the background and culture he is coming from is for more and more babies, or against adoption. But he sees the point. He laments ‘Who thinks about all those?’. But then I can see a change in his attitude. I am sure I had made him think. I’m happy that I happened to stumble upon one person who happens to live where there’s dense population, and made him think too.

Many more minds to think. Adoption could be a cure to our population disease. Especially in cities and towns where it is feasible.  If we need to experience being a parent for a loved one, why not adopt ?

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