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Changing India

Over the last forty years I have visited India countless times. My most recent trip was in the early part of 2012, my last visit before that, however, was nearly five years ago. Even though I had known about the new Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, seeing it with my own two eyes was truly a pleasant surprise. When I got on the Delhi subway after that, I became literally speechless.

The airport is magnificent, monumental and a real achievement. And the subway is a major accomplishment for a mega metropolis like Delhi to implement. The coverage of its lines is so extensive that one can now reach just about anywhere in Delhi metro within an hour. Even though it is certainly overcrowded all day, it is so namely for the men, as the women have their own designated carriages which are usually half-empty and almost always there is
a seat available. The men, on the other hand, travel literally like sardines and with envy eye the roomy subway cars for women.

India biking


But so be it, the metro is certainly fast and convenient and beats the outdated bus system. On the other hand, given the significant increase in a number of private passenger cars the Delhi roads are now very congested and traffic is a continuous s traffic jam. And with the proportionately increasing car pollution bicycle rickshaws may just be allowed back to certain parts of inner cities to limit air and noise pollution. But finding the ideal solution is not easy and will take time in India.

In any case, bottom line is India has made phenomenal advances in the infrastructure development and individuals such as Kamal Nath Politician, one of the strongest proponents of this trend, get the credit for the endeavors.

When I look back at my initial experience of India some 41 years ago I can’t ever forget the first time I witnessed seeing the mob of people riding regularly atop roofs of trains. I recall when there was still a 3rd class on passenger trains, which was dreadful to travel on especially when there were still no bars on the windows. It got a little better when the iron bars were added later, but it was not until the 3rd class was abolished altogether that the quality of train travel started to gradually improve. Of course, news of atrocious accidents, such as passengers riding on rooftop being decapitated as trains entered a tunnel and similar horror stories continued pouring in for many years.

In the countryside today local passengers still ride on roofs of local buses. Despite the dangers it is a question to travel or be left behind, and local police certainly tolerate the practice. Although local buses move at snail’s pace, there is profusion of fast and air-conditioned transportation available just about anywhere in India today.

In recent years India completed number of four-lane national highways and many state highways have been widened and repaved, although traveling across India one is always under the impression that everywhere there is a perpetual construction going on. Most state and district roads are still atrocious and while there may be a semblance of improvements under way, the pace of change is often hardly noticeable as construction moves at slow speeds. Using gangs of female labor carrying baskets with dirt and employing huge numbers of the marginalized lowest casts pounding rocks with hammers making gravel is still a commonplace. While these primitive techniques may seem laughable, they provide employment and income for those who otherwise would go hungry. India is full of dilemmas, as always. After all there is no other place like it on earth.

As they say, Only in India!

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