Composting does not stink, Mr Minister! Our misconceptions do.

Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town planning K J George (Pic source: IE)

I wish we had a chance to ring in 2018 on a positive note, but our honorable Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town planning K J George’s statement leaves little to cheer for.

At a Smart City Mission meet held in the city yesterday, the minister announced that the state government was all set to opt for waste-to-energy (WtE) technology because “composting stinks”. Continue reading

Will Minister George’s new 1000-acre landfill quest solve City’s garbage problem?

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Minister for Bangalore Development K J George

Just like the curiosity surrounding the potential whereabouts of the Holy Grail refuses to cease, the Karnataka government’s quest for a new landfill does not quite seem to be coming to an end.

Once again yesterday, Bangalore Development Minister K J George revealed his latest trick of solving the City’s garbage problem based on Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa’s advice: To identify at least 1,000 acres of land for dumping and processing… Further, he stated that this would help “break the politicians-officials-garbage contractors’ nexus”. Continue reading

May Day tribute: 15,000 waste-pickers save Rs 84 crore for BBMP every year

ragpickers

Yes, it’s true.

In all probability, this number might be an understatement as there maybe be more than 15,000 waste-pickers in the City going about their work every day—building new hopes and sometimes little habitats and hoping that one day, they will live to live and not to repent having lived a life of drudgery amidst a sea of sheer callousness.

A study conducted by Hasiru Dala, Jain University, Bangalore and Solid Waste Management Round Table in 2012 analysed the data of 4,175 registered waste-pickers aged between less-than-20 and above-60. What came to light was a number that this hapless lot could hardly accommodate within the realm of its imagination: 4,175 of them save Rs 23 crore annually. When extrapolated, 15,000 of them collectively keep Rs 84 crore safe in BBMP’s treasury. Continue reading

Your mother could be your own homespun eco-champion

ecostuff

When my mother sat down to hem in the frayed ends of a handloom blanket, it took almost two hours for her arthritic fingers to cut off the extra threads gently and hem the ends in with near-perfect stitches. As she folded the blanket and placed it back in the cupboard, she said: “Handloom blankets are more comfortable than those useless (synthetic) ones. Why do you waste thousand of rupees for those you can’t even wash and reuse for long?” Continue reading

Solid waste management: Between ‘cleanliness’ and godliness lies hypocrisy

Ganesha festival and its after-effects at Sankey Tank in Bengaluru. (Pic source: The Hindu)

Ganesha festival and its after-effects at Sankey Tank in Bengaluru. (Pic source: The Hindu)

When Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan was kicked off on October 2 last, one of my Facebook friends reacted to this post and said, “Let’s first learn to put all the waste into one bin and then think of segregating it.” Continue reading

Delhi landfill crisis: Can AAP show the way?

delhi garbage

An image of the Hindustan Times article on Delhi’s garbage crisis published a few months ago.

From the current 9,200 tonnes or 2,300 truckloads, in less than a decade, the capital city of India will have to grapple with 19,100 tonnes or 4,775 truckloads of garbage. According to a parliamentary panel report highlighted by Hindustan Times, Delhiites living on the fringes are refusing to give away their living space to open new landfills. Four landfills have already become stinking heaps. This toxic legacy notwithstanding, the officials’ hope for fixing new landfill sites seems never-ending.

Sounds more like the tale our own beloved Bengaluru? Continue reading

Until the Nobel…

kailash

Kailash Satyarthi

Let’s face this: How many of us knew about Kailash Satyarthi before the Nobel? To be honest, I had read about GoodWeave perfunctorily, but knew nothing about the man behind the mission.

Now everyone is talking about “The philosophy and work of Kailash…” This is how the media fails itself perennially. It fails us, too. Continue reading

Swachh Bharath aftermath: Burning of plastic & landfill dumping worries activists

Picture source: 1group903.blogspot.com

Picture source: 1group903.blogspot.com

“Today, we were driving past this scene in a busy traffic junction near an underpass. Around five-six men were burning garbage and they had around six-eight big black bags and it looked like they came from an early morning Swachh clean-up job. Cleaning up, but creating environmental damage by burning or dumping of garbage is something that is bothering us…” Continue reading

Swachh Bharath: Please do not sweep the issue under the carpet

sweepbaby“I am scared of these ‘porake’s.” They are not going to solve the problem. Instead, this opportunity should have been used to create awareness on segregation because all this mixed waste is going to end up in Mandur.”

This is what senior activist N S Ramakanth of Solid Waste Management Round Table said in a panel discussion aired by a Kannada TV channel this evening as a prelude to the Swachh Bharath campaign to be kicked off on Gandhi Jayanthi tomorrow. Continue reading

What’s for breakfast today? Milk, butter, cheese & dioxins

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Buffaloes feeding on the garbage at Mandur landfill.

In one of the most disturbing findings throwing light on the consequences of illegal dumping in open landfills, concentration of dioxins among people and animals living around the landfills has emerged to be the highest in India.

The reason: Dioxins, one of the most dangerous chemical compounds which gets released into the atmosphere when municipal and medical waste gets burnt in open landfills, finds its way into the cows and buffaloes that feed on the hazardous garbage. Continue reading

Drizzle at dawn, over-peppered pongal, a cup of tea and some random thoughts

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Modern comforts in the midst of a rural setting… Nothing beats it.

Our search for a home in one such setting ended in Yelahanka in a complex that has plonked itself amidst three villages. There are some aged green giants like peepal, banyan and neem settled on roadsides and also small strips of vineyards and coconut plantations. Two tiny lakes on either side of the building sparkle in sunlight but lose out to the heat during summer. Continue reading

Devastated by floods, but drowned by corruption

“When we tell them that the ration card was washed away in the floods, they say, ‘what can we do? If you want rice and kerosene, you have to show the card’.”

Bureaucratic response can be so downright callous! No wonder the scene was awash with such experiences when North Karnataka suffered the worst ever natural calamity in 2009.

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Continue reading

Everybody loves a good flood

The torrential rains battering Shimoga district have had parts of Hampi and surrounding towns and villages submerged. The Tungabhadra is in full flow. So is the suffering of the poor. It brought back the bitter memories of covering the 2009 North Karnataka floods. For those interested in reading first-hand field reports, here’s a series I wrote for ‘India Together’.

Cooking must go on even in this messed-up, roofless kitchen in Hiresindhogi of Koppal district.

Cooking must go on even in this messed-up, roofless kitchen in Hiresindhogi of Koppal district.

When all hell breaks loose, make merry.

This is exactly what some flood victims in Koppal district resorted to once they were distributed compensation for partially damaged houses—not because it was plenty, but too paltry to be put to good use. In the worst-hit Hachcholli of Bellary district, many poor people hit arrack shops or gambled away the relief fund. Paradoxically, amid its ruins stands a wine shop—all intact. Continue reading

Eid mubaarak, Khan uncle!

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“Long ago, I jumped off my ship which caught fire. Not a bruise or a burn on my body. I swam to the shore. But the land didn’t agree with me.”

As Khan uncle sat against the blameless blue skies on an extraordinarily beautiful sunny morning with that charming smile, it was difficult to agree with what he said. Continue reading

Packaging pollution: Taco Bell, can you reduce the burden on Mandur?

taco4

Food overloaded with fat can be a put-off especially when all you want is a bowl of salad and a bigger bowl of soup on a rainy afternoon. With those very few relatively healthier eating options shutting shops one after another in Mantri Mall, I had no other go but to drag my friend to Taco Bell for a fill yesterday. Continue reading

Pains of parenting amidst Vibgyor School rape incident & the like

Pic source: TOI

Pic source: TOI

So, it began all over again this morning. A “how to keep yourself safe from marauding rapists” session with my little girl.

I cannot define what the crime is in the four-letter word, no definitive answer to “why are you telling me this?” one-liners, can’t answer all her “whys?” each time I hold a ‘good touch and bad touch’ session, and cannot suppress the gut-wrenching pain when she starts giggling each time I tell her where strangers are not supposed to touch her. Continue reading

Katra gangrape & murder: Open defecation is only the proscenium. Gory scenes are on the backstage.

WTD

The recent gangrape and ‘murder’ of two teenage Dalit girls in Katra in Uttar Pradesh allegedly by upper caste men spews out multiple questions. To attribute the entire tragedy to open defecation alone would mean refusing to see the issue in its eye. Stubborn patriarchy, dehumanising caste system, honour killing of innocent victims (the hush-hush allegation amongst the villagers who think there couldn’t have been a better end to the girls’ lives) and everything else that finds it normal to let half of its human race out to defecate…

What a magnificent desolation India has turned itself into! Continue reading

Delhi gang-rape: Before, now and forever…

Nothing can explain what drove those criminals to subject an innocent girl to such unimaginable violence in New Delhi last year. The nation erupted in retaliation, demanding the worst-possible punishment to the rapists. “Death to all” brought solace to some, justice to others. In some cases, both. In some other cases, neither.

English: Edited version of File:Indiagatelight...

But to call it “victory” or “justice” would mean belittling the brutality that countless women suffer at the hands of criminals who walk around guilt-free in every nook and corner of this country. How do we explain the oppression Dalit women often suffer? These crimes never even find a mention in the National Crime Report Bureau. They have happened before, they are happening now and will go on forever.

Rape comes in many forms. Here’s one that happened on August 29, 2001. A Dalit woman was paraded naked in her village for allegedly encouraging an inter-caste marriage between an ‘upper’ caste girl and ‘lower’ caste boy.

Nothing has changed in more than a decade. Not even the way we define rape and the degree of brutality. Because every case is “the rarest of rare” to those who have been subjected to it. Continue reading

‘English Vinglish’: Aren’t we permanently colonialised?

Sridevi

A script freshly out of the oven, albeit peppered with its own set of stereotypes. A beautiful cast spearheaded by an actor with gigantic acting prowess. The coming-together of a debutant director and a comeback superstar…

English Vinglish was set for an all-out success when Gauri Shinde’s keen observation of her mother’s predicament of being a non-English speaking woman began to verbalise itself. It seems the rest was all bound to happen: Gauri’s meeting with Sridevi, the latter falling in love with the script and the resounding success that should shame half-baked, dim-witted multi-crore and multi-starred melodramas into submission. Continue reading

Bangalore’s garbage explosion: Segregation at source is the only solution

Recycle-get this...

Everything is garbage until it is segregated. However, despite a never-before crisis staring it in its face, the government doesn’t seem to have realised that there can be answers to what seem to be gigantic problems. As for the one that has pushed Bangalore and of course, surrounding villages like Mandur and Mavallipura over the edge, the answer is simple: The problem has to end where it begins. Continue reading

The decline of Anna Hazare ‘movement’: why it is not surprising

English: india against corruption

Silence, an awkward one at that, is impenetrable especially if it is preceded by euphoria. It is often dense. It leaves one impossibly lonely.

The Team Anna that would stop at nothing to drag the entire nation (most parts of it reluctant) towards a superstructure—its own fixed version of cure to all the maladies faced by an over-populated nation—is now left with the same option of fighting corruption through political process that it refused to be a part of just weeks ago. Continue reading

‘Satyameva jayate’: Are our star TV anchors poor actors, or Aamir Khan a better journalist?

Aamir Khan at the 2010 Toronto International F...

The ripple effects of ‘Satyameva jayate’ are being felt all over the nation. Actor Aamir Khan has roiled up the stagnant system by picking out burning issues for his TV show. The nation, so drowned in trivial sitcoms, ‘reality’ shows and talk shows that can put street cockfights to shame, seems to be finally experiencing self-awakening moments.

What is it that Aamir doing to wake up a nation that prides itself on the pip-squeak number of flyovers and malls it builds, but shuts its ears when it comes to female foeticide, child sexual abuse—the issues that Aamir handpicked for his first two episodes? Did these episodes act as truth-finders? Continue reading

Nuclear energy: When the means are as alarming as the end itself

日本語: English: Fukushima I nuclear power plant ...

Fukushima I nuclear power plant before the 2011 explosion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dark days are ahead. A bright nuke future envisaged by the learned and the powerful, notwithstanding.

Looks like our policy-makers think those living in places like Koondankulam in Tamil Nadu, Jaitapur in Maharashtra do not know or, much less, understand what’s happening around the world. Continue reading

When doctors themselves become medical tragedies…

English: MedicineMedicine is perhaps the only sphere where we forget our social conditioning about shame. This is where secrets vanish. Morality dies. Theists find new gods, atheists turn agnostic and agnostics turn theists.

Some of these are possibilities, if not certainties.

Beneath all such life-changing events lies pain, something nobody can define convincingly. If you look up dictionaries for the meaning of ‘pain’, you will know what I mean.

We go to doctors with this indefinable pain, looking for a definite solution, succour and what not. But a lot of anomalies can happen in between because very few doctors admit their fallibility and thus, refuse to grow beyond generalisations to offer anything called diagnosis. Continue reading

Dumbing down: Reducing our children to a bunch of box-tickers

It’s out: Some Oxford University students cannot spell ‘erupt’, ‘across’, ‘illuminate’, ‘blur’, ‘buries’ or ‘possess’ correctly, said a news agency report recently. It was quoting the examiners’ reports who termed it a “worrying degree of inaccuracy”.

Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? Well, they can’t even get ‘bizarre’ right! Continue reading

Why we won’t see the last of BJP tainted Ministers Savadi, Patil & Palemar

“The video clippings had women dancing; they were later raped by four men. Palemar told me such things happen abroad at rave parties. Since the House was discussing Malpe rave party, I watched it.”

This is what BJP Minister Laxman Savadi told the media, defending what he did yesterday on the floor of the Karnataka assembly: watch porn.

Look at his commitment and sense of preparedness! Continue reading

Trash issues: Before we seek divine intervention…

Gift Wrap

If festivals are all about finding a means to get closer to divinity, then why is it that they are often associated with our irresponsible attitude towards Nature?

Last week I read about the unimaginable trail of pollution Christmas celebrations leave behind in the UK. Some estimates say that nearly three million tonnes of waste hits landfills by the time the festivities wind up. Continue reading