Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ready to Wow You: India's New Delhi Airport

When will India catch up?” was the frequent comment from arriving passengers at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport. This was three years ago when they stood in long queues for immigration control and baggage claim in bland halls with erratic air conditioning. If they arrived during the last 37 months, they had to put with with scaffolding, construction materials, workmen and noise as the new airport was being built round the clock.

"An airport is often the first introduction to a country. A good airport will signal a new India, committed to joining the ranks of modern industrialised nations," said India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, at its opening of the swanky Terminal Three (T3) of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in July after seven days of religious ceremonies involving 300 priests.

Earlier, when passengers arrived from the west from New York, Toronto and London; or from the east from Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kaula Lampur and Dubai; they would get a culture shock on entering the Indian airports. No more as India has caught up.

Wow!” could be the first response when they now land at the state-of-the-art, fully integrated new terminal. The humongous steel and glass T3 extends over 5.4 million square feet, has 78 gates or aero-bridges, 97 automatic walkways or Travelors and five-level baggage screening system with a capacity to handle12,800 bags per hour, 215,000 square feet of retail space and parking for 4,300 cars in a multi-level building connected to T3 with covered walkways.

T3 has nine parking slots for the world's biggest double-decker Airbus A380 plane, six more than London's Heathrow. Covering 20 acres, T3 is the largest public building, with a length of 1.2 kms from end to end, constructed since India's independence in 1947. T3 was completed in 37 months by GMR Group Fraport, and other entities, compared with the 45 months China took to build the terminal in Beijing before the 2008 Olympics. Costing $2.8 billion, it can handle 75 planes in an hour with the latest the latest CAT-III runway landing system and 97 moving walkways.

T3 is a showcase of India's public and private partnership as the construction company, GMR, and the Delhi International Airport Authority interacted with over 50 government and semi-government organisations and yet managed to complete the project in record time. T3 makes good use of natural light and is designed to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly terminal with nearly one million plants and trees planted in 70 acres around the structure. Electricity in T3 will be fueled by municipal waste. T3 ranks among the top ten in the world. In addition to Delhi, new airports have been built for Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune, among others.

Gliding over Travelors at T3, the passengers enter the massive arrivals lounge. They may well be flabbergasted at the sheer size and the imposing sculptures of 'mudras' or postures of feminine hands fixed over golden discs. Under these 'mudras' are 95 immigration counters with smartly dressed officers in gray blazers and blue ties to process their passports. Depending on your passport as a diplomat, an Indian national, a foreigner or an overseas Indian, you will be directed to the right counter. If the arriving overseas Indians have a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) or an OCI (Overseas Indian Citizen) booklet, they can be cleared quickly at special PIO-OIC counters.

Once they move out from passport control to the baggage claim concourse, their bags are most likely to be moving to be picked up on one of the 14 conveyor belts. If a passenger has nothing to declare, he/she breezes through customs and enters the arrivals hall. A host of services are on hand here from taxis, car rental, hotels, currency exchange, telephones, shopping, a food court and lots more.

By the end of this year, the passengers can ride the direct Delhi Metro Airport Express (DAME) link from this airport to the city centre. In less than half an hour ride on this most modern rapid transit system in the world, he/she will be in Rajiv Chowk (Connought Circus). Passengers can get a cab to take the eight-lane highway with numerous flyovers to reach the city centre in less than half an hour.

The departure from Delhi airport will be no ordeal either. Gone are the chaotic scenes at the entrance gates to the departures lounge, the hassle of getting security checks for baggage, the long waiting at check in counters and immigration control. Once the baggage is checked in, it is screened for security and so there is no need to load it on the screening machine and then lug it to the check-in counter. No long wait for checking in either as T3 has 168 check-in counters, 95 immigration counters and the capacity to handle 34 million passengers per year. In case a passenger's flight is delayed or cancelled, a 100-bed hotel is right within this complex to rest or catch up on sleep.

After experiencing all these luxuries, arriving passengers at T3 will may well exclaim, “Oh, boy! India has arrived!”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Goodbye Marriage: It's Broken, Irrelevant and Unnecessary for Producing Children

Boy meets girl. Boy likes the girl. The girl likes the boy. They meet again and again. They come closer – emotionally, mentally and soon, physically. They are in love. The boy proposes, the girl accepts. Or the other way around. They get married and are supposed to live happily ever after. The End. No way. In fact, it is the beginning of a new chapter of adjustment, compromise, suppression, mental torture, slavery, violence and even killing. They may sort it out themselves. The one who gives in first, has to give way for the rest of his/her life. Or they divorce. This is the story of the marriage today.

As women assert their equal rights under the law; become more and more educated; are able to earn and support themselves; and enjoy sexual freedom with contraceptives; marriage has become weaker – indeed collapsed. So a ‘live in’ relationship without getting married is fast becoming popular. Indeed, the legal systems of the west, and now India too, have accepted this relationship. A new bill before the Indian parliament, when it becomes law, will allow single men, women and even gays and lesbians to have children using surrogate mothers. Women do not need a man to bear a child. A man does not need a woman to bear his child. The pill and the condom have freed a woman from bearing a child. A women does not need a man bear a child, she can use a donor sperm. She does not need a man to support her as better education has enabled her to earn and live the life she wants.

In a lead article, 'I Don't', Newsweek dated 28 June - 5 July says, “As an institution, marriage is described by sociologists as 'broken'. From a legal, financial and practical viewpoint, marriage is no longer necessary.”

The facts tell the same story. The percentage of married persons has dropped every decade since 1950s, while the number of unmarried partners has risen 1,000 per cent over the last 40 years. Births out of wedlock are 52 per cent in Sweden, 50 per cent in France, 42 per cent in the UK, 41 per cent in USA. And 15 other EU countries had an estimated average of 33 per cent, the annual ONS' Social Trends report said. In 1980, births outside marriage in the UK was a meager 12 per cent., according to he Office for National Statistics.

Half of all babies will be born to unmarried mothers by 2012 if present trends continue, says new research that suggests the rapid erosion of moral and religious taboos. Moreover, fewer than half of families will consist of married couples and up to a third could be lone parents, said Dr Peter Brierley, a former Government statistician now specialising in religious trends.

No wonder the western sociologists now say that marriage, as an institution, is broken. Osho said this over 40 years ago. Osho talked about all these aspects of marriage happening now. But with one major difference – he looked into the future and spoke more than four decades ago. He said marriage is irrelevant if one is in love; women have become more empowered with education and contraceptives, why one should not live in misery in an unhappy marriage, and divorce should be an easy and even an enjoyable option. If a marriage does not work, said Osho, untie the knot by going round the fire ceremony in the opposite direction! In the same style, divorce parties have now become popular in the west.

Osho said, “I am not against marriage -- I am for love. If love becomes your marriage, good; but don't hope that marriage can bring love. That is not possible. Love can become a marriage. You have to work very consciously to transform your love into a marriage.

“I am for the REAL marriage. I am against the false, the pseudo, that exists. But it is an arrangement. It gives you a certain security, safety, occupation. It keeps you engaged. Otherwise, it gives you no enrichment, it gives you no nourishment.

“Passion alone is not able to sustain love; compassion is needed. If you are able to be compassionate towards the other; if you are able to accept his limitations, his imperfections; if you are able to accept him the way he is or she is and STILL love -- then one day a marriage happens. That may take years. That may take your whole life.

“Marriage is a trap: you will be trapped by the woman and the woman will be trapped by you. It is a mutual trap. And then legally you are allowed to torture each other forever. The very institution of marriage is ugly, the very institution is anti-love. It is based on denying love a chance to flower within you. Marriage is an invention of those who don't want the earth to be full of flowers of love. Love is dangerous to the establishment, the most dangerous thing, because if people are loving then this society is doomed. This society depends on hatred, not on love,” said Osho.

What do you think?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bored? With all this entertainment, why are you still bored? How never to get bored

“I'm Bored.”

You hear this lament quite often these days. But there is absolutely no reason to be bored. After all, you have the 24-hour radio, the 24-hour TV, the 24-hour Internet, your mobile, new and old films, unlimited music albums and videos, a vast range of magazines and books, live shows, museums, exhibitions, public lectures...the list is endless. You have all the entertainment you can possibly enjoy and yet you are bored. What's wrong? Maybe you have an easy life.

One thing is clear: the answer to your boredom lies within you – not outside. You cannot blame your school or college, you job or business, the traffic or routine chores. Some people are bored temporarily but others seem to be bored all along because they are dissatisfied with their lives. Short term or long term, boredom takes a heavy toll. If it carries on, it turns into depression and you slide downhill on the slippery road of mental ill health – a major concern of our modern society. The advance of science and technology has given us more free time than ever before as we do not spend much of our time doing the routine chores now. Yet we don't know what to do with all this free time we have. Nothing commands our attention for long as we get bored quickly. Just watch yourself flipping TV channels and you will find out how you get bored within seconds.

Can you think when you are not bored? Yes, when you are in love. Your heart has a special bouncy beat as you think of your beloved all the time - remembering the last phone call over and over, constantly sending and getting SMSs or MMSs, counting the minutes to your next date or just thinking about your beloved all the time about what is she/he doing right now. Great while it lasts.

You are never bored when you face a real challenge in your life. You have focused all your energies, all your resources and all your thinking to plan and survive against heavy odds. You have no time to be bored because you are fighting for your life or a very cherished aim. This works until you overcome the challenge.

But how to fight boredom for your whole life? He says, “A man also should be a little raw, a little wild, ready to live in insecurity, ready to risk, ready to go on the un-trodden paths, always ready to take the challenge of the dangerous. Then life is every moment an ecstasy, and boredom disappears.”Osho advises, “Try, if you cannot do anything else, then only do this: commit suicide as far as your ego is concerned. You will never get bored. You will be like an empty mirror. Whatsoever is reflected is always new because the mirror is empty, it cannot compare. It cannot say, "I have seen this face before."

Bored people end up committing suicide and kill their bodies. Osho advises you to meditate regularly and kill your ego – not your body. Become the empty mirror, become ego less. And then there is no boredom - all life is a blessing, a deep ecstasy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Couldn't Vote in British Elections;Use India's Electronic Voting Machines

Britain should use electronic voting machines from India to avoid the angry scenes at many polling stations when voters could not vote in the just concluded elections. Televised on global news channels, these scenes were a poor showcase for the democratic process in Britain.

Hundreds of voters were turned away from many U.K. polling stations amid long queues after they were prevented from voting in London, Sheffield, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and elsewhere. After voters angrily protested at not being able to cast their votes as the polling stations closed, police was called in to keep the peace in many locations. Voters staged sit-ins and tried to stop polling officers from taking away the ballot boxes.

All this mayhem and anger can be avoided by using the simple electronic voting machines developed for India's election commission. India's 671 million voters, including illiterates, used these user-friendly, tamper proof machines successfully in the last elections. Simple to operate, easy to install, these machines ensure secrecy, eliminate invalid votes and declare results instantly. Costing around $300 each, they need to be bought once and used again and again.

Thus the long rows of polling officers who count the votes manually can also be done away with as the results are tabulated by these machines without any chances of fraud as demonstrated in India. For an estimated 45 million British voters, these machines can be easily used with great manpower savings for vote counting. Britain has been trying to save on the cost of elections by employing a minimum number of persons for this exercise. When the voters came in larger numbers than expected in this election, the system broke down in many polling stations.

Had all these voters cast their ballots, the results could well be different in some constituencies where the margin of victory is wafer thin. Thus, the democratic process has been compromised by following an antiquated election system.

One livid British voter shouted,”I have been enfranchised and this Victorian system, more appropriate for a third world country, cannot be used here.” Jenny Watson, head of the election commission, told the BBC that it would undertake a "thorough review" of the problems, and acknowledged that there may need to be a change in the law to redraw the rules. It's not the laws and rules of extending the voting hours but the mechanism of recoding the votes in a modern manner that can avoid these ugly scenes.

A situation like the U.S. Presidential election in 2000 cannot develop with these machines when the results rested on whether disputed votes for Democratic candidate Al Gore in Florida could be counted. In the end, the courts stopped a re-count - handing victory to George W Bush. British and American observers travel to third world countries to monitor their election process; now it is high time that Britain and USA adapted the systems developed in an emerging country, India.