Posts tagged ‘mumbai’

12/10/2016

What’s a slum? In India, Dharavi’s thriving informal economy defies the label | Reuters

Malik Abdullah’s plastic recycling business in Dharavi, the sprawling slum in Mumbai that is among the largest in Asia, has survived fire, building collapses, and the criminal underworld for decades. Now, it is threatened by development.

For 35 years, Abdullah has carried on the business built by his father, pulverising used plastic cans and bottles into pellets, then selling them to factories to refashion.

Thousands of small businesses like his thrive in Dharavi, creating an informal economy with an annual turnover of $1 billion by some estimates.

Now, plans to replace the ramshackle workshops and decrepit homes with office blocks and high-rise apartments threaten the businesses that employ thousands of its 1 million residents.

“The city doesn’t care about the businesses here, which are our livelihood,” said Abdullah, 52, standing in an alley crammed with towering stacks of plastic containers.

“This is where we live, this is where we work. Where will we go if they only build flats and offices?” he said.

During the past two decades, there have been several attempts to develop Dharavi, which sprawls over 240 hectares (590 acres). However, residents have opposed many of them, saying they do not consider their interests.

Real estate in Mumbai, India‘s financial hub, is among the most expensive in the world. The contrast between rich and poor is stark, and about 60 percent of the city’s population of more than 18 million lives in slums.

Dharavi has always been a magnet for migrants from across India. Many have lived there for decades, their one-room tenements and low-rise homes dwarfed by the gleaming glass and chrome office towers and luxury hotels that dot the city.

Amid Dharavi’s narrow alleys, open drains and canopies of electric cables, migrants who came in search of better economic opportunities have created a community of schools, temples, mosques, restaurants, tailors and mobile phone shops.

Tens of thousands work as potters, leather tanners, weavers, soap makers, and in Dharavi’s massive recycling industry.

Most homes double up as work spaces, the whirr of sewing machines, the clang of metal and the pungent odour of spices mingling with the call for prayer and the putrid smell of trash.

“People think of slums as places of static despair as depicted in films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire‘,” said Sanjeev Sanyal, an economist and writer, referring to the Academy Award-winning movie that exposed the gritty underbelly of Dharavi.

“If one looks past the open drains and plastic sheets, one will see that slums are ecosystems buzzing with activity… Creating neat low-income housing estates will not work unless they allow for many of the messy economic and social activities that thrive in slums,” he said.

ROOF TOPS

Once a small fishing village, Dharavi was notorious as a den of crime in the 1970s and ’80s. Following a massive crackdown, violent crime is rare and Dharavi has featured in movies, art projects and a Harvard Business School case study.

Fed by two suburban railway lines and perilously close to the Mumbai airport, Dharavi has lured developers, too.

Recent plans by city officials envisaged private developers clearing the area and building high-rise flats in which each eligible family gets a free 225 sq ft (21 sq metres) unit. The developer in turn gets rights to build commercial space to rent.

Dozens of such housing blocks have been built over the years, falling into disrepair as facilities were not upgraded.

What these buildings also lack is room for work. The squat tenements are perfectly suited for businesses, with living and sleeping spaces sitting atop work spaces, workers spilling into the alleys, and material stacked outside and on roof tops.

In Kumbharwada, the potter’s colony, where migrants from neighbouring Gujarat state make earthen water pots and lamps, potters’ wheels can be seen through open doorways, while ready pots are stacked in the alleys awaiting pickup.

The colony is abuzz ahead of the Dussehra and Diwali festivals, when decorated pots and lamps are in demand.

With small televisions turned on low, women sit cross-legged on the floor in their homes, painting motifs in red, yellow and green, and gluing on sequins and shiny bits of mica.

Down another alley, a group of women chat and braid leather strips for belts and bags on the stoop of a home.

“We want new flats, but they are small,” said Sharada Tape, who earns about 100 rupees ($1.50) a day.

“There are no spaces like this where we can all sit and work. It will be difficult, but we need the money,” she said.

RESIDENTS WANT MORE SAY

City officials last month submitted a new 250 billion rupee ($3.7 billion) redevelopment plan to Maharashtra state for approval after previous plans failed to attract bidders.

The new plan, a public-private partnership, has ample commercial space for businesses, but only for the “formal, legitimate” ones, said Debashish Chakrabarty, head of the Dharavi Redevelopment Authority.

“All the licensed businesses will have space under the plan. It will be better, cleaner than what they have now,” he said.

It is this narrow definition of what’s legal and permissible that is the biggest challenge, not just to recognising Dharavi’s businesses, but also determining Dharavi’s fate, said Rahul Srivastava, a founder of the Institute of Urbanology in Mumbai.

“The biggest impediment to the improvement of many of these settlements is the misconception that they are illegitimate, because residents don’t own the land they occupy,” he said.

“Can settlements which are home to fifth-generation migrants be called ‘informal’? We need to transform our perception of these neighbourhoods,” he said.

Across the country, plans to build modern Smart Cities will force tens of thousands of people from their slum homes as planners spruce up central business districts and build metro train lines, activists say.

Campaigners say until authorities give Dharavi residents more power and recognise the vital role of their businesses, any redevelopment plan is destined to fail.

“If we don’t have these small enterprises, it wouldn’t be Dharavi,” said Jockin Arputham, president of the National Slum Dwellers’ Federation in Mumbai.

“This is a people-sponsored economic zone, and the redevelopment should be around the economic zone. It is a township, not a slum, and it should be treated as one,” he said.

Abdullah, the plastic recycler, is reconciled to his fate.

“We want development. We also want to keep our businesses,” he said.

“But we have to be prepared for any eventuality. We are not owners of the land, so we may have to shut down,” he said.

($1 = 66.5075 Indian rupees)

Source: What’s a slum? In India, Dharavi’s thriving informal economy defies the label | Reuters

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05/10/2016

Why are millions of Indians marching in silence? – BBC News

It is a unique protest: the silent marchers have no leaders; and they include the peasant and the professional. Women lead many of the marches; and politicians are not allowed to seize them. It is a sound of silence, says a commentator, that India can ill afford to ignore.

The protesters belong to the Maratha caste, one of India’s proudest – the warrior king Shivaji was one of them. Mostly farmers, they comprise more than a third of one of the population of Maharashtra, a relatively prosperous state, which is home, on one hand to Bollywood, thriving factories and farms and on the other, malnourished children and neglected tribespeople living in abject poverty.

Huge protests

The rape of a teenage Maratha girl allegedly by three low caste Dalit men triggered the silent marches in July. Then the protests expanded to include a demand for quotas in college seats and government jobs and a review of a 27-year-old federal law that protects Dalits and tribespeople from caste-related atrocities.

What is India’s caste system?

Why India’s farm communities are angryAfter more than 20 such rallies, the silent marchers – who call themselves the Maratha Revolutionary Silent Rallies – are expected to gather in the western Indian state capital, Mumbai, at the end of October. More than 10 million people are expected to participate in what could turn out to be one of largest protests in India in recent memory.

The upper-caste, largely land-owning Marathas have a handful of grumbles.

For one, they have turned their ire on the Dalits and tribespeople, alleging that the law to protect them has become a pretext to target the upper caste community, and lodge false cases against them. (The victims also get state compensation for as many as 47 offences against them.)

Image copyright VAISHALI GALIM

But this may not be an entirely truthful claim. Although dalits and tribespeople – India’s wretched of the earth – comprise 19% of Maharashtra’s population, but only 1% of the police complaints were filed by them last year, according to one report. Also the federal law was applicable in less than 40% of the complaints.

Social unrest

Clearly this disingenuous grievance masks a longer-standing demand: caste quotas in government jobs and seats in educational institutions. India’s Supreme Court has put a 50% cap on caste quotas, a limit that has already been reached in Maharashtra. Any concessions to the Marathas will mean that they will have to be officially labelled backward or less-privileged and the quotas will have to come at the expense of those for the less privileged castes. This could potentially trigger off bloody caste wars in the state.

The silent marchers of Maharashtra point to a host of structural infirmities afflicting India, which, if not resolved in time, could stoke widespread social unrest.

Growing inequity and decades of flagrant cronyism has meant that power and wealth continue to belong to a few.

The majority of colleges, cooperative banks and sugar factories in Maharashtra, for example, are owned by a clutch of politicians. According to one estimate, 3,000 families own more than 70% of all the farms in the state. The majority of the state’s 18 chief ministers have been Marathas. Half of its lawmakers belong to the community as well.

Image copyright MANSI THAPLIYAL Maratha farmers have taken their lives after they failed to repay debts

But caste and class don’t often coalesce in India, and the Marathas, like other upper caste communities have mixed fortunes: they are the educated elite and the rich farmers, but they are also the struggling small and landless farmers and farm workers. More than a third of Marathas are landless, according to one estimate.

It is the “lower and middle-rung Marathas who feel isolated, neglected, marginalised in the job market and denied opportunities in higher education,” in a fast-changing country, as commentator Kumar Ketkar points out in this perceptive essay on the ongoing protests.

The silent marches also shine a spotlight on its looming farm crisis as farmer incomes plummet due to expensive feedstuff, fertiliser, labour and erratic crop prices.

Frustration

Plot sizes have also shrunk, making farming unrewarding. Most of India’s farms are rain fed, and irregular weather changes are playing havoc with crops as rivers are drying up, and drought is common. Farmers are often left to fend for themselves and have no skills for jobs in India’s services-based economy. Aspiration is turning into frustration.

The Maratha protests also point to how India is veering towards what sociologist Andre Beteille called a “populist democracy” where social and political life are influenced by group identities and loyalties. “Problems arise when the loyalties of kinship and community are allowed to distort and override the demands of constitutional government,” wrote Professor Beteille.

Image copyright MANSI THAPLIYAL Farming is becoming an unrewarding profession

Many believe India’s quotas for seats and jobs are in a sordid mess of its own making.

It is indisputable that affirmative action is essential for communities like dalits and tribespeople who have been historically wronged. But extending it to other castes recklessly can distort matters.

How much burden of quotas can a state bear without being weakened irreparably? India needs jobs – and fast – and skills training if it has to avoid the social unrest that could blight a developing nation. Otherwise, the marchers of Maharashtra may not remain silent for long.

Source: Why are millions of Indians marching in silence? – BBC News

23/09/2016

Guns and ghee | The Economist

TO MANY Indians, their country’s strategic position looks alarming. Its two biggest neighbours are China and Pakistan. It has fought wars with both, and border issues still fester. Both are nuclear-armed, and are allies with one another to boot. China, a rising superpower with five times India’s GDP, is quietly encroaching on India’s traditional sphere of influence, tying a “string of pearls” of alliances around the subcontinent. Relatively weak but safe behind its nuclear shield, Pakistan harbours Islamist guerrillas who have repeatedly struck Indian targets; regional security wonks have long feared that another such incident might spark a conflagration.

So when four heavily armed infiltrators attacked an Indian army base on September 18th, killing 18 soldiers before being shot dead themselves, jitters inevitably spread. The base nestles in mountains close to the “line of control”, as the border between the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of the disputed territory of Kashmir is known. Indian officials reflexively blamed Pakistan; politicians and pundits vied in demanding a punchy response. “Every Pakistan post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire,” blustered a retired brigadier who now mans a think-tank in New Delhi, India’s capital.

Yet despite electoral promises to be tough on Pakistan, the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi has trodden as softly as its predecessors. On September 21st it summoned Pakistan’s envoy for a wrist-slap, citing evidence that the attackers had indeed slipped across the border, and noting that India has stopped 17 such incursions since the beginning of the year. Much to the chagrin of India’s armchair warriors, such polite reprimands are likely to be the limit of India’s response.

There are good reasons for this. India gains diplomatic stature by behaving more responsibly than Pakistan. It is keenly aware of the danger of nuclear escalation, and of the risks of brinkmanship to its economy. Indian intelligence agencies also understand that they face an unusual adversary in Pakistan: such is its political frailty that any Indian belligerence tends to strengthen exactly the elements in Pakistan’s power structure that are most inimical to India’s own interests.

But there is another, less obvious reason for reticence. India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest. Puzzlingly, given how its international ambitions are growing along with its economy, and how alarming its strategic position looks, India has proved strangely unable to build serious military muscle.

India’s armed forces look good on paper. It fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations (see chart).

It has topped the list of global arms importers since 2010, sucking in a formidable array of top-of-the-line weaponry, including Russian warplanes, Israeli missiles, American transport aircraft and French submarines. State-owned Indian firms churn out some impressive gear, too, including fighter jets, cruise missiles and the 40,000-tonne aircraft-carrier under construction in a shipyard in Kochi, in the south of the country.

Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained. “Our air defence is in a shocking state,” says Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs. “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.” On paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly. A report earlier this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%. They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.

Such delays are far from unusual. India’s army, for instance, has been seeking a new standard assault rifle since 1982; torn between demands for local production and the temptation of fancy imports, and between doctrines calling for heavier firepower or more versatility, it has flip-flopped ever since. India’s air force has spent 16 years perusing fighter aircraft to replace ageing Soviet-era models. By demanding over-ambitious specifications, bargain prices, hard-to-meet local-content quotas and so on, it has left foreign manufacturers “banging heads against the wall”, in the words of one Indian military analyst. Four years ago France appeared to have clinched a deal to sell 126 of its Rafale fighters. The order has since been whittled to 36, but is at least about to be finalised.

India’s military is also scandal-prone. Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight. In July a military transport plane vanished into the Bay of Bengal with 29 people aboard; no trace of it has been found. In August an Australian newspaper leaked extensive technical details of India’s new French submarines.

The deeper problem with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Mr Shukla. Bizarrely, there are no military men inside the ministry at all. Like India’s other ministries, defence is run by rotating civil servants and political appointees more focused on ballot boxes than ballistics. “They seem to think a general practitioner can perform surgery,” says Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has worked as a consultant for the ministry. Despite their growing brawn, India’s armed forces still lack a brain.

Source: Guns and ghee | The Economist

15/09/2016

Can India really halve its road deaths? – BBC News

For a crash course in India’s car-crash culture, go to Mumbai. There are more accidents here than any other Indian city. You’ll witness a dangerous mix of pedestrians, scooters, cars, buses and lorries jostling through choked junctions. Many ignore both signals and the traffic police.Officers can do little about such rampant law-breaking.

“We can catch a maximum of two offenders at a time – maximum,” one shouts at me above the horns and revving engines at one particularly busy junction. “The rest,” he says flicking his wrist, “just go. There are no consequences.”

Mumbai: “A dangerous mix of pedestrians, scooters, cars, buses and lorries”

Mumbai’s commissioner of traffic police, Milind Bharambe, says this will soon end. From his cool office, flanked by monitors with live CCTV feeds of notorious accident spots, he explains how cameras will enforce the law electronically, targeting those who speed and run red lights. Combine that with the recent introduction of stiff new fines and within six months, he promises “a sea change” in driver behaviour.

Milind Bharambe, Mumbai’s commissioner of traffic police

But bad driving and weak enforcement are only part of the problem. Another aspect of it is the rapidly growing number of vehicles – a new one joins the chaos every 10 seconds. It adds up to almost 9,000 new vehicles a day, or more than three million a year.

This means that the streets are increasingly choked. It’s almost impossible to leave a safe distance between vehicles, and when space does open up, frustrated drivers often respond by putting their foot down.

Neal Razzall presents Fixing India’s Car Crash Capital on Crossing Continents, at 11:00 BST on Radio 4 – catch up on BBC iPlayer Radio

The problem is perhaps most acute in Mumbai, which is surrounded by water on three sides and has little room to grow. Officials here have in the past responded to the crush of cars by tearing out pavements to make room for more.”The government still thinks the major issue is ‘How do we move people in cars faster and quicker?'” says Binoy Mascarenhas from the pedestrian advocacy movement, Equal Streets. In reality, he says most journeys are local and, in theory, can be done on foot.

Pavements are often non-existent on Mumbai roads

In theory. He grew up in Mumbai, and used to walk to school. His daughter now goes to school in a car because it’s too dangerous to walk. Pavements, where they exist, are often in such a poor state people have to walk on the roads. No wonder then that pedestrians account for 60% of road deaths in Mumbai.

There are dangers outside the city, too.

India’s first expressway, between the cities of Mumbai and Pune, opened in 2002. It has three wide lanes and room to move at high speed – a relief after the congestion of the city. But drive it with one of India’s few professional crash investigators, Ravi Shankar, and a quiet terror settles in. He’s studied thousands of crashes on this road and can point to dangers all around.

“There are small, man-made engineering problems that are actually killing people,” he says. Instead of rumble strips to warn drivers they’re at the road’s edge, there are black and yellow curb stones embedded into the concrete. Hit one of those, Shankar says, and your car can flip over. Then there are cliffs with no barriers, and guard-rails with tapered ends, which, he says, can send cars into the sky “like a rocket launcher”.

Things like this are happening all the time. The expressway is just 94km (58 miles) long but about 150 people die on it every year.

“That’s serious. That’s a very bad number,” Shankar says.

He and his colleagues at JD Research have identified more than 2,000 spots on the expressway where relatively simple engineering fixes, from better barriers to clearer signs, could save lives.Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.

“Road engineers are not serious about this problem,” Shankar says. “So we keep fighting with them on this point. How many deaths are you going to wait for, until you really understand that this is a serious concern?”

In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s plan for the biggest expansion of roads in Indian history is unnerving. In the next few years he wants to pave a distance greater than the circumference of the earth and there’s a particular push to build highways and expressways.

Piyush Tewari, CEO of the safety charity Save Life India, says without putting the country on a “war footing”, including a complete overhaul of road safety legislation and a modern road-building code, Modi’s new roads will only add to the number of dead.

“Road crash deaths will increase at the rate of one death for every 2km of new road that is constructed. That’s the average death rate on Indian highways – one death every 2km, annually. So if we don’t fix any of this, if we’re constructing 100,000km of highways, 50,000 deaths is what the average maths tells us will be added to the total,” he says.

Piyush TewariImage copyrightROLEX AWARDS/JESS HOFFMAN
Image captionPiyush Tewari believes the planned new roads could lead only to more fatalities

Modi’s government insists the new roads will be safer. “We are improving the road engineering; we are improving the traffic signal system; we are making crash barriers”, transportation minister, Nitin Gadkari, tells me.

There is progress in other areas too. When Mumbai’s commissioner of traffic police predicts a “sea change” in driver behaviour he is partly putting his faith in a new motor vehicle bill, now before parliament, which if passed would increase fines, toughen vehicle registration requirements and mandate road-worthiness tests for transport vehicles.

And earlier this year, a Good Samaritan Act came into effect which ended the crazy situation whereby people who helped crash victims could be held liable for the costs of treating them or even accused by police of causing the crash in the first place. That alone, campaigners say, will save thousands of lives.


More from the Magazine

A busy road in Delhi

When a road accident occurs, bystanders will usually try to help the injured, or at least call for help. In India it’s different. In a country with some of the world’s most dangerous roads, victims are all too often left to fend for themselves.

If no-one helps you after a car crash in India, this is why (June 2016)


Save Life India estimates that half of all road deaths are the result of treatable injuries. That means 75,000 lives could be saved every year just with better medical care.

One man trying to save some of those lives is Mumbai neurosurgeon Dr Aadil Chagla, who is working with volunteers to build a series of clinics along Highway 66, south of Mumbai – many of them in rural areas – to prevent victims having to be driven for hours to the city.

The first is more than half-built. It looks out over rice paddies and lush hills, but Dr Chagla estimates it will be treating victims from “one or two crashes a day, every day”.

“If I can have an ambulance service and trauma centres every 50 to 100km run by the locals it would make huge difference to this entire highway – with or without government support,” he says.

Dr Chagla's as-yet-unopened clinic
Image captionDr Chagla’s as-yet-unopened clinic to treat victims of road accidents

Since Dr Chagla started practising in the 1980s, the number killed on India’s roads has increased by 300%.

“I waited all this time and nothing has really come through so it’s important that I should do something about it,” he says.

So if transportation minister Nitin Gadkari is to make good on his promise to cut road deaths from 150,000 to 75,000 per year in two years, it will be thanks in part to the efforts of volunteers.

The state corporation that owns the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, meanwhile, says it will reduce deaths to zero – yes, zero – by 2020. It has accepted the list of essential improvements identified by crash investigator Ravi Shankar and authorised them to be made and then audited by Save Life India.

But there’s a snag, which suggests India is not yet on a “war footing” when it comes to safety.

Battered motorway barrier on the Pune-Mumbai expressway

The state government owns the road, but a private company runs it in exchange for collecting tolls. The two sides dispute who should make the safety upgrades. The official in charge of the expressway says the work will be done, even if it requires litigation to recover the costs.

While the dispute drags on, 100,000 vehicles use the expressway every day in its current, dangerous state. In the past week, it claimed six more lives.

Source: Can India really halve its road deaths? – BBC News

09/09/2016

Indian Domestic Flights Are the Cheapest in the World – India Real Time – WSJ

Air fares in India are the lowest in the world, according to a global transportation study, underscoring the intense competition between carriers in the South Asian country.

In India, it costs an average of just $2.27 to fly 100 kilometers (62 miles) on domestic routes on a budget airline and $2.67 on a full-service carrier, according to a survey conducted by Kiwi.com, a Czech Republic-based online travel agency.

The most expensive place to fly domestically is the United Arab Emirates where flights are 80 times costlier than India. It costs $181.38 for 100 kilometers on a budget airline in the UAE and $220.36 on a full-service airline, according to website’s 2016 Aviation Price Index, which analyzed more than one million flights worldwide.

Domestic budget airline fares in India are similar to those in Malaysia—the second least expensive country–which cost $2.32 per 100 kilometers. Fares on full-service carriers in the Southeast Asian nation are however more expensive, at $5.81 for a similar distance.

Indian fares are cheaper thanks to strong competition and comparatively lower jet fuel prices. The country also has a number of budget airlines, including InterGlobe Aviation Ltd.’s IndiGo and SpiceJet Ltd.

A Boeing Co. 737 aircraft operated by SpiceJet Ltd. approaches to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, India, Oct. 26, 2015. Spicejet is among a number of budget carriers in India.

Prices in India have fallen as competition increased with the arrival of new carriers. Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd. started a budget airline venture with India’s Tata Sons Ltd. while Singapore Airlines Ltd. began a full-service carrier with Tata Sons.

Russia is ranked third least expensive for domestic air travel, with prices at $7.02 for budget airlines and $6.32 for full-service, the survey showed.

On the steep side, Finland — where it costs $39.61 and $130.80 to fly 100 kilometers on a low-cost and a full-service airline respectively — is the second most expensive. Qatar is the third-most expensive costing $64.36 for a budget airline ticket and $85.31 for a full-service airline ticket for the same distance.

The website said China offered the least expensive international flights on both budget and full-service airlines, at $1.22 and $2.84 respectively for 100 kilometers of travel. International flights from Canada are the most expensive at $43.70 and $94.66 on low-cost and full-service airlines respectively.

Source: Indian Domestic Flights Are the Cheapest in the World – India Real Time – WSJ

02/09/2016

Crime Capital: Why Delhi Is by Far India’s Most Dangerous City – India Real Time – WSJ

Delhi is India’s biggest megacity, home of the country’s central government and, according to new police data, way ahead of the competition in the quest to claim the title as the country’s capital of crime.

The National Crime Records Bureau released its statistics for 2015 on Tuesday and Delhi left everyone else in the dust.Around 25% of the nearly 670,000 crimes recorded in India’s 53 largest cities were committed in Delhi last year, even though the megacity only accounts for around 10% of their combined populations.

The financial capital Mumbai was a distant second, recording only about 6% of the crimes. Tech hub Bangalore claimed about 5% of the crimes and Chennai looked to be the safest of the top five major metros, accounting for only 2% of the crimes.

This is not because Delhi–home of more than 16 million souls–has the largest population. Even on a per capita basis, the capital shined when it came to crime.

Last year it brought home the gold in theft and insulting the modesty of women, beating all the other cities with populations of more than 1 million,  according to the bureau’s data. In rape, only Jodhpur was worse. In the murder category, it was the bloodiest of the five major metros and well above average.

Delhi police attribute the high rate of crime in the city to their hard work. More and more cases are being registered every year as the force cracks down, said Taj Hassan, spokesman for the Delhi police.

“Delhi, being the national capital, witnesses a lot of law and order problems because people from all states live here,” he said. “The law and order situation is under control.”

More than previous years and in other cities, people are now being “encouraged to come forward and report” every incident of crime. “Not even a single complaint goes unnoticed,” he said.

There was, however, one area of hope.Surprisingly Delhi-ites were relatively law-abiding last year when it came to injuries caused by rash driving and road rage. Maybe the city’s notorious traffic is keeping cars from going fast enough to cause injury.

Maybe the city’s police force is too busy tracking down violent criminals to deal with bad drivers.

Source: Crime Capital: Why Delhi Is by Far India’s Most Dangerous City – India Real Time – WSJ

07/06/2016

Here’s How Indians Are Rating Narendra Modi’s Programs – India Real Time – WSJ

Two years into his five-year term, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is asking his countrymen to rate a series of initiatives undertaken by his government.

Among the top scorers so far: an effort expand and modernize the railways and a program to build more roads. Toward the bottom of the favorability rankings: Mr. Modi’s Clean India campaign, which, among other things, aims to get people to use toilets instead of defecating outside.

Mr. Modi has become known for introducing a series of high-profile initiatives, from Make in India, which seeks to promote manufacturing, to pledges to build scores of so-called smart cities across the country.Of 21,770 respondents who had participated in the online survey on the government’s mygov.in website as of Tuesday morning, 70% gave a five-star rating to the government’s efforts to upgrade the rail system. People are asked to grade programs on a scale of one to five.

In the latest federal budget, the government earmarked $17 billion to improve the state-run railroad. Wi-Fi services are being rolled out at stations. And late last year, a deal was struck with Japan to help build India’s first high-speed rail line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The government’s efforts to build more highways and improve the condition of roadways have also been popular with the people. More than 65% of the respondents to the survey gave these initiatives a five-star rating. The target this year is to build 9,300 miles of highways.People taking the survey also seemed satisfied by the government’s attempts to make electricity more accessible.

One of the worst performing programs, according to the current results of the survey, which is ongoing, is Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, or the Clean India Mission. Only 33% of the respondents gave it a five-star rating. About 16% gave it score of one or two.

India’s Competitiveness and Prosperity Rankings Rise Under ModiIn October, a year into the program, another national survey also hinted at the public’s disappointment with its impact. More the 70% of those polled in that survey said the availability of public toilets hadn’t improved and their cities hadn’t become cleaner.

Mr. Modi is no stranger to crowdsourcing. He regularly encourages Indians to submit their thoughts for his weekly radio show. Prior to delivering his speech on India’s Independence Day last year, he asked citizens to submit their suggestions on what they’d like to hear him speak about. And they did, in hordes.

Source: Here’s How Indians Are Rating Narendra Modi’s Programs – India Real Time – WSJ

05/10/2015

U.K.’s Marks & Spencer Is Aiming to Double India Store Count – India Real Time – WSJ

Marks & Spencer Group PLC said it is on track to double its store count in India in the next 15 months, an ambition that poses both risks and opportunities for the British retailer.

M&S has recently struggled in troubled markets such as Russia, Ukraine and Turkey and was forced to reconfigure its footprint in China, but India has emerged as a relative bright spot. Revenue climbed 23% last fiscal year.

“I think there is an instinctive understanding of M&S in India,” said the company’s head of international business, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne.

M&S is in 21 cities in India so far, with a focus on large cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Now, M&S is looking to deepen its exposure to India. It plans to open stores in less-developed cities, such as Vijayawada, Jalandhar and Vizag, during the current fiscal year ending in March, while also beefing up its footprint in larger cities.

The company—which operates in India through a joint venture with Reliance Industries Ltd., one of India’s largest companies—in early October will open its 50th store in India, in Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport.

Source: U.K.’s Marks & Spencer Is Aiming to Double India Store Count – India Real Time – WSJ

30/07/2015

India hangs Yakub Memon for 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts | Reuters

India hanged Yakub Memon on Thursday for his role in the country’s deadliest bombings, which killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993, after the Supreme Court threw out his final plea for a stay of execution.

Memon was convicted as the “driving spirit” behind the serial blasts in India’s financial capital Mumbai, then known as Bombay. He spent two decades in jail before going to the gallows on his 53rd birthday in a jail Nagpur.

The execution drew wide public support but has stirred controversy about whether the punishment adequately reflected the help Memon gave authorities in solving the crime.

Critics question whether Memon’s death serves India’s larger interests, saying it sends the wrong message to potential collaborators with justice agencies.

In the days before his execution, it emerged that Memon had helped Indian intelligence crack the case and establish a link to neighbour and arch-rival Pakistan over the bombings.

“It’s extremely sad that India has gone ahead, we had been hoping India will now call for a moratorium,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

“But it’s very welcome that now there seems to be a growing debate around this in India.”

In a dramatic sequence of events, a Supreme Court panel held an unprecedented hearing in the early hours of Thursday, before rejecting Memon’s last-ditch plea for a 14-day delay in execution. Several previous pleas had also been rejected.

Police consider Memon’s brother, “Tiger” Memon, and mafia don Dawood Ibrahim to be the masterminds behind the attacks, intended to avenge the destruction of an ancient mosque by Hindu zealots in 1992. Both men remain in hiding.

Memon’s body was released for burial in Mumbai, with police deployed in riot gear to guard against possible street protests and security tightened at the family home.

via India hangs Yakub Memon for 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts | Reuters.

29/04/2015

Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy…? Probably India – India Real Time – WSJ

If cities were stores, to find the best deal you’d be advised to shop in Mumbai for Levis and Coca Cola KO -0.15%, go to Rio for a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and stop off in San Francisco to buy an iPhone 6.

5.21
1.89
Mumbai
1.89
2.22
Johannesburg
2.43
2.77
Beijing
3.14
3.53
Singapore
4.25
Berlin
4.79
San Francisco
4.79
New York
5.21
Rio

Deutsche Bank research published last week compares prices for everyday items in cities around the world. Overall, across a range of products, India is “the cheapest major economy.”

Looking for a cheap date? A Big Mac, movie, cab, soft drink and couple of beers costs $24.70 in Mumbai – making India’s financial capital the least-expensive place in the world to show someone a good time.

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Try to do the same in San Francisco or Tokyo and you won’t get change from $100 – in fact, you’ll need to scrape a few more dollars together to cover the bill.

Need a man’s haircut? A short-back-and-sides in New Delhi on average goes for $2.40, a snip of the price elsewhere in the world. A trim in Tokyo costs 15 times more.

The study compiles prices posted on the Internet and from secondary sources, though it doesn’t say what they are.

“We have tried our best to use goods and services that are standard across countries or are close substitutes,” the authors of “The Random Walk Mapping the World’s Prices 2015,” wrote.

Such studies, including this one, do not reflect the true cost of living though because they ignore housing rents – often a person’s biggest monthly outlay.

Add on the price of accommodation in Mumbai, which can have rents as high as those charged in New York, and the city would suddenly look a lot less easy on the wallet.

*The price in each country.  **A Big Mac, movie, cab, soft drink and couple of beers. ***Two nights in a standard 5 star hotel room, four meals, two snacks, car rentals for two days, two pints of beer, four liters of soft drinks/water, and a bit of shopping (a pair of jeans and sports shoes.)

via Where’s the Cheapest Place to Buy…? Probably India – India Real Time – WSJ.

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