Monday, May 16, 2016

Gramin Seva - a good idea that needs stricter monitoring

If you live in a slum or village on the outskirts of Delhi, you will probably find yourself using one of these decrepit Gramin Seva vehicles for transport. 

The Gramin Seva (Village Service) vans were introduced in 2010. Licenses were granted to 6000 vehicles, mostly 3-wheelers, to ferry people from the villages and slums in the peripheral areas of Delhi. It was a great idea, to meet the needs of an expanding city. The vans offered poor people cheap connectivity to the major city junctions, from where they could further connect via metro, bus and train.

Ticket prices for Gramin Seva have always been low; they range from 5 to 10 rupees in most cases, and for longer distances it is 15 rupees. However, passengers routinely have to deal with overloading of vehicles beyond the permitted capacity of 6 adults. Owners of the vehicles say they cannot run a sustainable service, if they only take 6 people. Sometimes the vans are crammed with double the allowed capacity! The van owners do not invest in vehicle repair, and although there are norms for the quality of the vehicles, most of them are now old and falling apart.

In addition, some vehicles do not ply on their designated rural/outer routes. Instead, they choose more commercially viable routes where they are not authorised to ply (by law, they can ply only up to the Inner Ring Road; and they cannot cross the Inner Ring Road into the city). Several errant vehicles have been issued challans (traffic violation notices) by the Delhi traffic police. 
But if you live in a slum or farflung peripheral village, Gramin Seva is still one of the cheapest options, given the shortage of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses in such areas. The big DTC buses cannot ply these unviable far-flung routes. In many areas, private enterprise has also stepped in to fill the gap. Many private vehicles operate as vans. In some places, there are even private bus services. 

Recently the AAP government has checked and renewed licenses for 4200 of the original 6000 Gramin Seva vehicles. Hopefully some of the really decrepit ones have been thrown out. They have made it mandatory for the vehicles to be fitted with a working GPS, so that it is easy to track whether a vehicle goes out of its assigned route. Will things improve? We can only hope!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Evening gup-shup at Hauz Khas

The ruins at Hauz Khas are a happy place to spend the evening catching up with friends. Amidst the medieval architecture of an old university complex, you can find a quiet spot to relax.
After the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, Delhi became the most important place in the world for Islamic education. Many leading philosophers and teachers migrated to Delhi. The university at Hauz Khas was established in 1352, and became one of the largest and best equipped Islamic seminaries in the world.
They university came up around a beautiful Royal Tank (Hauz Khas). The tank was originally dug by the Khiljis in the 1200's, but it was deepened and improved by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1309 - 1338). Can you imagine how beautiful this university must have been? It is a green oasis even now. Firoz Shah Tughlaq's tomb is also there, in the building on the left.
On weekends, Hauz Khas is very popular. Here's a group that was playing the guitar when I went:
Another bunch of people were practising parkour:
There are usually lots of people around, but you can still find quiet places to sit and chat. Or have a romantic moment. See these photos below, for glimpses of a Sunday evening at Hauz Khas.

So many people, each lost in their own world :) Perhaps just a handful of them knew the history of Hauz Khas; or that algebra was once taught here, and astronomy, and poetry, and calligraphy and geography.