Kerala Police Harassment

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Following is a report of an incident that occurred on Nov. 3, 2017 at the check-post on the Tripunithura mini-bypass road. Even though the conclusions are based on one incident, the issues are systemic in nature that it must be prevalent through out Kerala Police.

The problem started with the practice of stopping moving traffic and demanding breath test by blowing into a device. I object to it as I consider it unhygienic, since it can facilitate the spread of germs, viruses or worse. Usually when I object, they let me proceed without the breath test. But on Nov. 3rd they insisted. Since I did not yield, they became argumentative, rude and started using abusive language. There were about 8 police officers.

Since I continued my refusal to blow into the device, they demanded my driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance. I produced the driver’s license, copy of vehicle registration, and previous insurance. I didn’t have copy of current insurance with me. They impounded the vehicle and said it will be released when I produce current insurance document.

I requested a receipt for the vehicle so that I can go and fetch the insurance papers. No one in the police station would give me a receipt for leaving the vehicle at the station, and wanted me to wait for the Sub-inspector responsible. The waiting took about an hour, and the Sub-inspector told me that he will not give a receipt.

I left vehicle at the station, came back with the insurance document and took possession of the vehicle without further aggravation.

Here are my observations about the incident:

  1. The breath-test is being used as an instrument for harassment and creating inconvenience.
  2. Since Kerala government actively sells and promotes alcohol consumption and depends on it as a key source of tax revenue, even to pretend that breath-tests are in public interest would be laughable. And the police have no business conducting unhygienic practices on the public.

  3. Based on some of their argumentative statements, it seems the traffic patrol team does not even have rudimentary understanding of “rule of law” concepts.
  4. Use of rude and abusive language seems to be their regular behavior pattern.
  5. The patrol team had a tendency to gang-up, with different team members making up facts and relaying to others so that they have a distorted view of the situation.
  6. Impounding a vehicle for non-availability of a document is abuse of power.
  7. Not able to fulfill the request for receipt for impounded vehicle indicate that the Kerala Police procedures are archaic, without established uniform rules.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Waste management

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Lately, lot of attention is being devoted to clean India. However, the various programs suffer from a serious flaw. Not enough is being done to build cohesive systems for waste management. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on awareness campaigns.

Garbage, waste and pollution are an intrinsic part of a modern economy. Consequently, systems to manage waste being continuously generated by the economy need to be matched with counter-balancing systems. A systemic approach is required for tangible results — ad hoc and piecemeal solutions will not work –  For more details, please see “Waste and garbage are intrinsic part of consumer economy“.

For example, the Kochi Corporation has been toying with a waste management program for a long time. There seems an obsession with waste-to-energy idea, while garbage problems going from bad to worse. In the humid and wet Kerala situation, any waste-to-energy is a non-starter.

What is required is integrated systems for managing and disposing waste, including bio- compost, recycling and incineration. In addition, the primary responsibility for waste disposal need to rest with local governments — not with individuals. Individual actions can only be supplementary because the scope of the problem is beyond what can be achieved at a personal level. Producing real results — not publicity — require systematic effort at the government level, since clean environment is a public good.

This is the approach used by countries that have implemented successful waste management and clean environment programs. A waste management framework was developed after studying successful waste management programs implemented by Nepal, Japan and Sweden. It is available online: “A framework for clean environment“.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Economic development assistance is debt trap

The Times of India feature, “A ‘Risky’ State of Affairs,” (Oct. 18, 2016) describes the dismal state of development projects in Kerala.

The report says, “A comparison of the World Bank’s rating for its projects in Kerala and other southern Indian states show that risk factor is ‘substantial’ for two categories in Kerala – ‘Political and Governance’ and ‘Institutional Capacity for Implementation and Sustainability.’

“What is worrying is the ‘substantial’ SORT (Systematic Operations Risk Rating Tool) rating for two aspects of the on-going World Bank part-funded Kerala State Transport Project – 2 (KSTP-2), a five-year project which began in July 2013. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) is funding $216 million of the total expected cost of $445 million.

“World Bank officials might downplay the substantial risk rating as the Kerala Government is their client and the bank couldn’t survive alienating its clients.” a policy maker commented on conditions of anonymity.

“According to the document, these aspects pose governance challenges to the current project: political interference in project implementation, poor quality of works, delayed payments to contractors, delayed decision-making, repeated termination and rebidding of contracts, poor sustainability arrangements for roads and lack of mechanisms for adequate citizen feedback and public disclosure.

“There is a substantial likelihood that weak institutional capacity for implementing and sustaining the operation or operational engagement may adversely impact the project development outcome. The implementing agencies have limited experience with bank and other multilateral development partner operations. The implementing agencies have some in-house capacity, but external consultants play an important role in the design and day-to-day operation implementation. Staff turnover is substantial and they have limited access to relevant training. There are significant gaps in the agencies’ monitoring and evaluation of arrangements, and the lines of accountability are somewhat unclear.”

“How many of bureaucrats have the expertise to see these projects thought?” asks D Narayana, director, Gulati Institute of Finance Taxation. “First thing they need is this expertise and then commitment.”

Even in the World Bank’s restrained language, the problems facing development projects in Kerala are clear: institutional capability deficits, lack of expertise among bureaucrats, lack of management skills, lack of dedication, and corruption.

It is not difficult to trace the causes of these problems. The problem starts with education. Kerala Government has full control of the quality of the education in the state – and the goal is to ensure uniform mediocrity. For example, recently there is a new initiative to offer WiFi in schools. However, such cosmetic efforts will not result in the skills needed for a vibrant economy. Studies have found that computers, smartphones and internet can be an inhibitor for learning. Fundamental education reforms are essential for effective functioning of the state economy. For instance, OECD recommends, “Governments should develop smart innovation strategies for education with the right policy mix to give meaning and purpose to innovation, including creating an innovation-friendly culture.”

Kerala Government and its agencies need change of mindset to bring real benefits from development projects. Here is an outline of a typical process for a development project.

  1. Target an agency to get loan from.
  2. Find a consultant who can prepare a proposal that will be accepted by the funding agency.
  3. Once the loan is approved, find another consultant to manage the project.
  4. Hire other consultants to implement the project.
    (In practice, there may be additional creative steps.)

The result of this process is that the supervising agency does not have the skills, know-how or expertise needed to supervise the project successfully — a problem identified in the World Bank report. In addition, the process inhibits the supervising agencies from acquiring essential expertise and know-how for effective project implementation (institutional capacity).

Kerala Government has so far received development loans from World bank, ADB, governments of Japan, France, Germany and others. Some of them are in the early stages. Projects that are due for completion share the fate of the World Bank KSTP-2 project or worse.

The situation with these development loans is all the more deplorable because there is no need for these loans in the first place. Kerala has huge amount of bank deposits and gold holdings to finance these projects and more. The problem is people (depositors) don’t trust the Kerala Government with their money. Instead, Kerala Government goes to these development agencies for loans to squander away, without accountability — as the World Bank has identified.

The economic development agencies — World Bank, ADB (Asian Development Bank [2]), governments of Japan [2], France [2], Germany [2] — are doing a disservice to the people of Kerala by giving loans to Kerala Government and its agencies by helping politicians and bureaucrats escape accountability.

What Kerala needs is assistance with institutional capability and capacity building. The priority for the economic development agencies need to be helping with institutional capacity building, not loans. Otherwise, they are just helping Kerala Government get deeper into the debt trap it is in.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

A breakthrough strategy

According to The Times of India report, “Path-breaking economic strategy” (Sep 27, 2016), the finance and coir minister, Dr T M Thomas Issac stated, “My first objective is to find the resources for government expenditure. All available funds are now being used run the government and with the salary arrears for government personnel due next year, it is even more critical. The next target is bring revenue deficit below one per cent. The third and the biggest mission is to source loans and investments on the budget of Rs 20,000 crores ($3B) for the first year.”

That doesn’t read like a “path-breaking strategy,” but a desperate effort to continue the failed Kerala status quo activities. Here is a breakthrough strategy for reviving Kerala economy.

Bruce Katz at the Brookings Institution provides an effective formula for regional economic development. He says, “The development of new platform technologies benefits entire economies, but the big winners are the cities and regional ecosystems that invent them and become centers of entire new industries.” Couple this formula with a historic trend to act as effort multiplier, and you have a true path-breaking strategy.

The historic trend to take advantage is internet adoption. Internet adoption has greater potential for economic transformation than the developments that followed postal mail service, telephone or printing press by enabling rapid exchange of information that aid economic interactions. However, focus in the developed economies have shifted more to entertainment applications [2, 3, 4, 5] of internet. The net result is that currently available network products are entertainment-centric. Deploying fully capable networks for economic development targets (such as e-payments) with currently available products incur excessive costs, since they are designed for high bandwidth entertainment applications.

This has created a market gap for economic-development enabling network systems and solutions. The author invented and patented underlying broadband technologies – US Patents: 6,674,749 / 6,807,169.

Developing economic-development-enabling network products will help fill the market gap, create new product categories and help emergence of a sustainable industrial base in Kerala.

A similar effort was launched in the past with KELTRON, but was not successful due to insufficient preparation and less than optimum market conditions. Now, conditions are ripe for an industrial initiative using KELTRON as a base for creation of a world class network industry sector.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Pollution control is not a priority

The Times of India report, “Order industries to bear cost, CPCB requsts NGT” (Aug 26, 2016), illustrates the bureaucratic setup by the state and central governments for pretending to be doing something about the Periyar pollution, without producing actual results.

The report says, “The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pleaded to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to direct polluting industries to bear the remediation cost to save Periyar in Eloor area.” [2, 3, 4]

“The treated effluents should not be discharged through Kuzhikandom canal as it may continue to wash the sediments further down the creeks. The flow has to be contained to facilitate remediation activity. Therefore, the industries should be directed to submit a time-bound action plan to stop discharging treated effluents to the canal, the board submitted.”

“It said that multiple contaminants including DDT, endosulphan, chlorobenzenes and metals such as manganese, vanadium, zinc and chromium have been found in soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water and immediate steps need to be initiated to rejuvenate the river body.”

Apparently, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPB) do not have any real authority. KSPB appeals to the CPCB, and CPCB in turn appeals to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). If governments were serious about solving pollution problems, KSPB would have had real authority. (And provided an appeal process regarding its decisions.). An empowered KSPB would have been able to take action on its own. For example, shutdown a polluting plant. Instead, it has to go through laborious legalistic procedures, while the pollution problems continue to deteriorate. Even though it was determined that Eloor region is one of the most polluted places in the world in 2006, no real action to control pollution has been taken so far.

The CPCB pleading to the NGT is also meaningless. Most of the polluting companies are running at a loss. So even if the NGT rules that the companies to bear the remediation costs of the pollution, it won’t produce any tangible results. The current situation is the result of bad industrialization policies in the 1930s. And time has shown that chemical industries are a disaster for kerala.

So the logical course of action is to close down the loss making chemical factories, and the Kerala Government to assume the cleanup costs. In addition, implement an Eloor-Edayar Redevelopment Program. Anything else will be prolonging the misery of the people in the Eloor area, and further collapse of the Periyar ecosystem.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

An example of government inefficiency

The Times of India report, “Oppn gheraos mayor, alleges docu forgery” (Aug 26, 2016), illustrates the lack of common sense and petty mindset of the elected officials in the Kochi Corporation, and provides operation details of a “Red Tape paradise.”

The report says, “The LDF councilors led by opposition leader K J Anthony gherooed Kochi Corporation Mayor Soumini Jain on Thursday (Aug 25) alleging that the mayor forged a file a file related to the appointment of a clerical staff as coordinator for the Smart City project.”

“The file is related to appointment of a senior clerk named O V Jayaraj as coordinator of Union Government Funded Smart City project. He was officially appointed as the mayor as the coordinator on July 30, but the mayor misled the state government and the principal secretary that the appointment was made on July 20. Actually, it was on July 22 that the mayor directed the corporation secretary to to from a cell to look after the Smart City project. The secretary received the file on July 26 and order setting up the coordination cell was issued on July 30,” V P Chandran told the council. When Jayaraj was transferred from Ernakulam to Manjeswaram on July 22, he approached the Kerala Administrative Tribunal pointing out that he was the Smart City project coordinator and secured a stay order.”

“The mayor tried to explain details related to Jayaraj’s matter, but could not do so because of the din.”

The situation at the Kochi Corporation is an illustration of the pseudo-democracy in operation. The opposition leader, E J Anthony is misguided in his allegation of misleading the councilors. It is the Mayor’s prerogative to say when the Mayor decided to appoint O V Jayaraj as the Smart City project coordinator, without requiring confirmation by the appearance of relevant documents in the “Red Tape paradise.” The Mayor is occupying a position of responsibility and has the authority to make decisions of that office. And the Mayor’s role is not to dutifully follow the rules of the “Red Tape paradise.” If discrepancy in the dates in documents is significant (in the order of months), then probably a case can be made for forgery. Here the opposition councilors are quibbling about 2 days, wasting time and ignoring more important issues.

The issue actually reflects lack of professionalism on the part of councilors of the Kochi Corporation. This incident and similar such incidents can be avoided completely, if there is a rule in the “Rule Book” that the decisions of the Mayor and other officials of the corporation have to be documented within 2 weeks (15 days) of making the decision.

A related topic is why Kochi Corporation is operating with paper document files. If Kochi Corporation truly plans to become “smart,” it is high time Kochi Corporation implemented a modern online document management and workflow automation system, eliminating red-tape inducing paper documents and files. At present there is no coordination between the various government agencies, resulting in inefficiency and conflict-generating decision-making. In this example, the newly appointed Smart City project coordinator had to appeal to the Kerala Administrative Tribunal to cancel his transfer order. Whichever agency or official that decided to transfer him would have able to know that the Mayor was in the process of appointing him for the new position if there was adequate coordination. This is one instance of the complications due to lack of sufficient collaboration between various Kerala Government agencies. Imagine all similar conflicting decisions being made throughout the Government of Kerala, resulting in inefficiencies and unproductive efforts. These inefficiencies can be avoided by implementing an internet-enabled collaboration system for the Kerala Government and all its departments and subsidiary agencies.

There are political lessons to be learned from this example as well. At present, the political parties seems to think that they can “do as they please,” once they win the election. And the opposition considers it their duty to obstruct anything the party in power tries to do. All political parties and government officials need to understand the “purpose of government” and act accordingly.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Intellectual freedom yet to be won

The Times of India report, “Scientists and academics hit out at draft education policy” (Aug 23, 2016), highlights the regressive policies of the Government of India. It is a good sign that professionals in Kerala are able to see through the gimmicks promoted by politicians.

The report says, “The draft of the new education policy (NEP) 2016 has drawn flak from the state’s scientific community with many of the members pointing out that instead of addressing the real problems faced by the education system, it proposes measures which will further stagnate the education performance in the country. It also mentions that the proliferation of sub-standard institutions has contributed to the falling education standards. However, the policy is silent on replacing such profit-oriented private ventures with well-funded government schools and colleges, said Francis Kalathunkal, General Convener of the Breakthrough Science Society.

“The NEP 2016 document steers away from directly spelling out the Hindutva agenda of the NDA government but academicians point out that the preamble of the NEP 2016 says that the education system which evolved first in ancient India is known as the Vedic System.”

“Scientific methods and the lives and struggles of great scientists are not included in the curriculum. Naturally, students learn science just as any other subject, without understanding that it is a guide to thinking. That is why we see so many people who have studied science subscribing to all sorts of superstitions,” said a senior scientist.

“Our system gives no priority to value-based education. Instead, it looks at making education big business in order to reap profits,” said Calicut University’s life sciences department head Dr. E Sreekumaran.

“Science textbooks are overloaded but there are no facilities to conduct experiments. Science students should be told in the beginning itself that there is no Bible and no God in science. Only then, they can challenge existing paradigms and invent out of the box thinking,” said Praveen Raj, senior scientist at the SIR-National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology.

India sorely needs to improve its R&D capabilities to achieve the ambitious goals set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, such as Smart Cities, Make in India, Startup India, Standup India, etc. R&D means original thinking, which is in acute short supply in India. Probably, the best example of this situation is illustrated by the fact that the impressive achievements of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) are the result of mimicking or borrowing developments from America or Russia. And, in spite of access to practically unlimited funding to DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization), India is importing technology [2, 3, 4, 5] for its defense needs wholesale.

Mahatma Gandhi won political independence for India. But India is yet to achieve intellectual independence. Intellectual independence is independent thinking, unhindered by blind faith [2, 3]. It is similar to the situation in Europe in the middle ages, after the collapse of the Roman Empire (“Dark Ages“) [2]. Europe won intellectual independence through the Renaissance [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. What India needs is a similar transformation to achieve intellectual independence.

Education is at the heart of this problem, without which industrial development, a key component for economic development, cannot progress. Regardless of how glorious the Vedic System may have been, it is rooted in a world that no longer exists. We are in the process of transitioning from the Holocene Epoch to the Anthropocene Epoch, with increasing existential threats to humanity. To be a “superpower” today means having a strong science and technology industrial base in the economy. It also means having citizens with forward looking outlook and independent thinking, not hindered by blind faiths, or clinging to customs and traditions, afraid of today’s challenges.

The purpose of education is to prepare a person to face life effectively. In today’s technology-driven fast changing world, that means scientific thinking skills, and ability to learn new things throughout life. The education system should be helping people achieve intellectual independence, become forward looking, overcome inhibiting behaviors rooted in customs and traditions, in addition to helping learn subject-matter skills in various disciplines.

Unless such a transformation is brought about in the education field, Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious goals will remain just empty words.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Economic development enabling networks

(cartoonstock.com)The Times of India report, “Minimum broadband speed may be raised 4 times” (Aug 21, 2016) illustrates the lack of understanding of reality by Government of India regarding broadband.

“I propose to take up the matter with the communications ministry,” IT minister Ravi Shanker Prasad [2] told TOI. “We will consider laying down a policy for increasing the minimum broadband speed from the current levels.”

“The last time minimum internet speed was revised was in August 2014 when it was doubled from 256kbps to 512kbps. Experts and industry analysts say that the present speed is ‘abysmally slow.’ and is inadequate to match up with the fast-developing app ecosystem that is fueling the growth of internet adoption across the country.”

“Telecom operators in the country are moving to 4G services that promise data speeds in excess of 10mps. The government also feels that there is a need to upgrade the speed on fixed line broadband connections that are reaching homes, especially when it has initiated a highly ambitious broadband outreach program to connect as many as 2.5 lakh (250K) gram panchayats through fiber cable network called ‘Bharat-Net.'” [2]

“According to a report by Nasscom and Akamai, India had around 330 million fixed and mobile internet subscriptions as of December, 2015.”

Attempt to legislate minimum broadband speed by the IT minister is laughable. Increasing the minimum broadband requires installing communication systems that can provide true broadband speeds. The US FCC tried the regulatory method of increasing the broadband speeds, with the result that 39% of rural America do not have broadband [2].

Even the current speed of 512kbps is available only sporadically. During peak load times (evenings mostly), the network throughput drops to 2 or 3 kbps, or a few bytes per second, or stops completely — for both wireless and wired connections. This is because as the number internet users increased, there was no corresponding investment in upgrading network capacity. So setting minimum broadband speeds by regulations will have no effect for improving broadband services in India, without seriously addressing the network infrastructure investments needs. (The use of access line speed to indicate network connection speed is misleading. What is relevant is the connection throughput, regardless of the connection line speed.)

Another reason for the low performance of internet in India is the three choke points at Chennai [2, 3], Mumbai [2, 3, 4] and Agarthala [2] to internet backbone. Internet is a distributed network, hence performance improves with increasing number of connections to the backbone. Those responsible for the internet architecture in India either do not understand the basic principles of internet, or improving network performance is not their priority.

“Telecom operators in the country are moving to 4G services” is incorrect. Only Reliance Jio [2] is seriously deploying 4G. The reason is 5G technology [2] trials have already begun. So why would other service providers deploy 4G, which will be obsolete by the time deployment is completed.

In addition, there is another issue which is getting no attention at all. Broadband has the potential to enhance an economy tremendously. For example, in healthcare, education, energy and environment, economic opportunity, government performance, civic engagement, public safety and others. However, using the advanced applications require the use of a desktop, laptop or a tablet computer. Using a small screen device such as a smartphone will not provide full scale application functionality. But number of smartphone-only internet users are also counted to puff up the internet user statistics. Such user statistics distorts information about the potential economic benefits. A suggestion is to categorize internet users into two (minimum) categories:

  1. (Full) broadband users, who access internet using full size screen and reasonable network connectivity, and
  2. Broadband lite users, who access internet using small screens and/or limited connectivity.

It is only true broadband users who can gain most of the much-hyped benefits of internet.

One of the current market distortions is that internet has become primarily an “always-on” mega entertainment medium, leading to speculations as to what happened to the hyped economic gains from internet (“The great productivity puzzle“). The primary reason for the missing economic productivity in the advanced economies is because much of the new tech development and deployments have been entertainment focused.

This presents a historic opportunity for India to lead the development and deployment of economic-development-oriented network systems (as opposed to entertainment-centric networks.) Such an initiative can provide tremendous boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Make in India program. However, an initiative for developing economic-development-oriented network systems requires “enlightened leadership,” which may be missing.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

Redevelopment of Eloor-Edayar region

The Times of India report, “CPCB report shows need for urgent action” (Aug 24, 2016), illustrates another instance of decentralized responsibilities resulting in gridlock, health hazards, and government agencies lacking purpose.

“A report submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) before the NGT (National Green Tribunal) on action to be undertaken in the Eloor-Edayar contaminated area, says remediation measures are to be given utmost priority.”

In addition, “It says that multiple contaminants including DDT, endosulphan chlorobenzenes and metals such as manganese, vanadium, zinc and chromium have been found in soil, groundwater, sediments and surface water and that immediate remediation measures must be taken to rejuvenate the water body.”

Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had informed CPCB that “the four main industries identified (causing the pollution) were Hindustan Insecticides Ltd (HIL), Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd (FACT), Merchem and Indian Rare Earths (IRE).”

The report adds, “A preliminary investigation of the Eloor area [2] was carried out in 2006 wherein it was found that the soil and sediments in Kuzhikandom Thodu (creek) and the adjoining paddy fields are contaminated (pdf) with DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) [2, 3, 4], BHC (Benzene hexachloride) [2, 3] and endosulphan [2, 3, 4],” and more.

Besides, “The NGT is hearing a petition filed by local residents demanding zero-discharge by industries into the Periyar. Periyar Maleenikarana Virudhha Samithi (PMVS), an NGO which is in the forefront of protests against the pollution of the river has a Clean Periyar Green Periyar action plan on the lines of the Ganges Action Plan.”

The report adds additional details: “The Eloor-Edayar industrial cluster is home to more than 280 industrial units, out of which 75 are in the red. The discreet discharge of trade effluents and waste in slurry form into Periyar has turned the river into an illegal “Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF), the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on hazardous waste has observed.”

Many state and central government agencies are involved in controlling or preventing the Periyar river pollution. But the net result, as the Supreme Court says, is “the river Periyar has has turned into an illegal ‘Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility.” Even with all these agencies, pollution control is practically non-existent, and “massive fish kill is a frequent phenomenon downstream of river Periyar.” (“75% of waste water released back into river”)

One thing striking about the situation is that in spite of the state and central government agencies (Central Pollution Control Board, Kerala State Pollution Control Board. National Green Tribunal) to protect the environment, it is the NGO, Periyar Maleenikarana Virudhha Samithi (PMVS), that is actually trying to do something about it through legal action.

Greenpeace India reports, “Eloor has become one of the most toxic parts of the country and figures on the list of most polluted areas put out by the Central Pollution Control Board in India. Poisoned land, waters and air, hreaten the health and very existence of people and the ecology of the area. Polluted rivers transport the toxins over much larger distances endangering more people and other living creatures.” [2]

In addition, the Status of Human Health report says, “Contrary to the expectations based on the initial literature survey about possible increases in particular types of diseases due to air and water pollution; this health assessment has discovered that there is an overwhelming increase in most types of systemic diseases across Eloor (target village) when compared to Pindimana (reference village). Broadly one can say that the cocktail of poisons in the air and water of Eloor affects all body-systems adversely. Potentially the immune system seems to be affected too.”

The Kerala State Pollution Control Board produced a “preliminary” report stating that there is a serious problem in 2006. The polluted Eloor-Edyaar site was selected as one of the priority sites in the country needing remediation under a National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) project to be executed by CPCB. The Central Pollution Control Board produced a report and submitted to the National Green Tribunal, which is conducting a hearing on the issue. It looks the state and central governments are geared towards producing reports and conducting legal proceedings, but not taking action. Since nothing was been done even after the 2006 report, the NGO (PMVS) petitioned the Supreme Court, which concluded that the polluted site, which in reality should be nourishing river, has turned into a “illegal Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility” for highly toxic pollutants.

Finding a real solution means going into history to understand the causes of the current problems. The origin of the problems started in the 1930s with the decisions of the Travancore Administration to establish chemical industries for economic development. “A policy decision of the Travancore administration in the 1930 — to attract large-scale, chemicals-based industries to the State by the advertisement of cheap hydroelectricity as the basis for industrialization,” says Jayan Jose Thomas, an an Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. Unfortunately, it was an administrative policy decision lacking sound industrial development plan and follow-up actions.

Industrial scale chemical production, to be viable, need to act as a feeder to a strong supply chain manufacturing derivative products. Downstream industrial ecosystem failed to develop for the these chemical factories. Most of the industrial production, especially chemical industries, are centered around the MumbaiPune [2, 3] metro-regions in Maharashtra [2, 3, 4] and Gujarat [2, 3, 4]. With underdeveloped transportation systems, it was not feasible for Kerala based chemical industries to be viable suppliers to those distant regions. As a result these industries have been stagnating, except when India operated a centrally planned economy. Most of these industries now are not profitable, making it impossible to implement effective pollution control systems.

The logical solution is to disband results of the 1930s failed industrial policy and create a redevelopment plan for the region. However, it needs to be implemented after a careful review of the possibilities. Some parts of the chemical factories and businesses in the Eloor-Edyaar region are profitable and can be self-sustaining. A redevelopment plan need to be formulated consisting of these components:

  • Identify factories and businesses with current and long-term sustainability
  • Identify factories and businesses without current and long-term sustainability
  • Implement assistance programs to strengthen factories and businesses with long-term sustainability to incorporate strong pollution controls
  • Implement assistance programs to help factories and businesses that do not have a sustainable future to exit or migrate to other areas/ sectors
  • Develop and implement a cleanup plan for the Eloor-Edyaar region to remove accumulated pollution
  • Make Eloor-Edyaar redevelopment part of a Kerala Transformation Plan

Such a comprehensive approach is necessary to solve the pollution problems in the Eloor-Edyaar region. Bandage efforts like offering financial loans will not produce a permanent solution.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather

A power grid gridlock

The Times of India report, “City stands to lose central funding for power project,” (Aug 15, 2016), reveals critical skills deficits in Kerala for project implementation.

According to the report, “The delay in executing the Rs 240 crore ($36m) ring main project is likely to cost Kochi a central assistance of nearly Rs 94 crore. The project — which aims to reduce transmission loss and ensure steady power supply in city and suburbs — has to completed by October 31 to receive the full central aid of Rs 188 crore ($2.83m). KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd) was to provide the rest of the amount.”

“The problem is that the implementing agency has finished only half the work in two-and-a-half years though the Center extended the project deadline twice. The project under restructured accelerated power development and reforms program (R-APDRP) was awarded to NCC, a Hyderabad based firm, in June 2014 and the deadline set was 20 months.”

“Once complete, there won’t be power failure in the city and suburbs even at night,” said a KSEB official.” The Ring Main Initiative is an automation of power substations and their networks. Once completed, there won’t be power failures due to technical snags. All substations, feeders included in the project would be networked in such a way that if a particular substation develops a problem, power would be drawn to its supply lines from other substations and feeders.”

Here is summary of the situation. Government of India, ministry of power, has an initiative, “Integrated Power Development Scheme.” Under this scheme there is a program, R-APDRP to improve the electric power supply performance and loss reduction. KSEB was awarded Rs 188 crores ($2.83m) grant for upgrading the power grid in the Kochi area. KSEB contracted the work to NCC in 2014, for completion by February, 2016. Due to project delays, an extension has been granted till October, 2016. Based on the progress so far, the project is unlikely to be completed by the October 2016 deadline. The Government of India will make payments only after project completion.

The problem facing Kochi region is that due to the delay in the work by a Hyderabad based company, the power grid may not be upgraded resulting in the continued unpredictable power outages.

For Nagarjuna Construction Company Limited (NCC), upgrading power grid in the Kochi region may not be a priority, as the Government of India is giving out development projects left and right (“304 plans worth Rs 12,75,877 cr ($191.4B) stuck; stalled projects continue to haunt policymakers“) [2, 3].

Based on the funding arrangement, the Government of India seems to be interested in concentrating control through the funding mechanism. The R-APDRP program structure involves the use the following categories of consultants:

  1. Process consultant, Web Advision, and Cap Bldg consultant
  2. Capacity building – RIs (Resource Institutes) and PTIs (Partner Training Institutes)
  3. Third party Independent Evaluation Agencies (TPIEAs)
  4. IT Implementation Agencies (ITIA)
  5. IT Consultants (ITC)
  6. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) DMS (distribution network management) consultants (SDC)
  7. SCADA/ DMS implementation agencies (SIA).

The R-APDRP program structure creates artificial problems for the KSEB. The R-APDRP program mandates external dependencies in the project implementation by requiring consultants, causing potential delays. By providing funding only after project completion, the Power Ministry is creating contingent liabilities for the KSEB.

The R-APDRP program can be improved in so many ways that are too numerous to describe here.

The KSEB should improve their project execution and management skills, and incubate businesses in Kerala that can develop the skills needed to execute KSEB projects.

Providing political support to the KSEB is a job for the Kochi Corporation, if they can get their act together.

Many of the issues are systemic. Hence the problems are unlikely to be isolated to Kochi, but similar problems must be occurring throughout India.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather