Live and Express

Live and Express


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Does #India have space for illegal immigrants?

A touchy, sensitive issue of the illegal immigration from Bangladesh, which has been raised several times. I am hoping that in the recent meet between Indian External Affairs minister and the Bangladesh Premier, this would have been brought up by the Indian minister.

Why is this a big problem? Because India has enough resource issues already in the Indian states surrounding Bangladesh, with average 5 times more population than the ideal according to this Wikipedia source. Out of the 8 Indian states near Bangladesh (Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram), the immediate neighbors of Bihar and West Bengal have very high population density above 1000 persons / sq.km (Note : ideal for India is 197 persons / sq.km).

Source: http://populationmatters.org/documents/overshoot_country.pdf

The problem gets compounded multi-fold, because once the illegal immigrants get into India, they can spread out to other states very easily because of the ubiquitous availability of Indian trains.

If you look at the Indian railway maps and the traffic, you will see that the corridor between Assam and NCR is the most densely traveled in the entire India.  This leads to illegal immigrants getting into states like Uttar Pradesh, which already has high population density of 828 persons / sq.km. Not only this, these people travel to states as far south as Kerala to do labor work. A typical example is the Guwahati-Trivandrum express (Indian railways train no. 12516), which I have personally traveled in from near Chennai to Kerala, and witnessed the migration (illegal or not). Mind you – not even ticket checking in even reserved compartments, forget about identification).

Doesn’t India have enough population to deal with, on its own?  Does India need this additional head-ache?

Some measures of eradicating this issue have been considered – like National Population Register and Aadhar card, which are good, and need to be fast-tracked.  The identification schemes should be implemented in the Indian states neighboring Bangladesh at the first place on priority, as that’s where the illegal immigration needs be contained.

There are challenges like lookalike of Bangladeshis with Indian Bengal people, cultural similarities, same language, which are impediments to effective implementation, but modern technologies like fingerprint, retina and genes identification should be implemented, and mere photo identification and signature has not proven sufficient!

Will the Home ministry take fast action before the problem gets out of hand? It’s a very necessary step towards containing India Population.

 

 


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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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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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The Grand Indian Railways

It was 4:30 AM, and I had just got out of Guwahati Express at Arakkonam junction. The driver of the train was waving the green lantern signal to the guard signalling that the train is ready to depart and sounded the 10 second horn. This started a series of thoughts in my mind.

I wondered if we ever thought about that driver, or the guard or the support staff on the lines, at the station, at the manned level crossings and the control rooms which enable the train to run smoothly, while we sleep like babies. In fact we don’t. This is a regular scene for us – trains coming in the station, we getting out in a hurry carrying the luggage and look forward for the next connection or meet the person who is waiting for us, or just lay off for a while before we go home. We take for granted the things that enable us.

We restlessly pace in the compartment and curse the staff when our train get delayed by 15 minutes. But do we thank the great job they do every time when the train reaches on time? Yes, they do it for a salary, but they do it with dutifulness…

These small acts of importance – like waving of a flag, or manually adjusting the track lever so that the train moves to the right track, or switching the right switch in the control room…These acts affect us – the lives of so many who travel in the trains. If they don’t do that properly, our lives are in danger, but they do it precisely every time, except for a few instances in the long history of the Indian Railways.  A network of so many trains. I recently counted the no. of trains between Katpadi and Jolarpet, and I counted 3 trains within a span of 7 minutes on the opposite track. It’s that densely used. Still with precision. Every train. Without an error.

As I crossed to the other side, there was an oncoming goods train on the other track coming at great speed. The railway protection police personnel started running on the platform along the track with white flash light on, checking to make sure that none of the passengers from the train that I just got out from, got into the track of the oncoming train…

And tears of gratitude started rolling from my eyes…