Posts Tagged 'corruption'

The End of an Era in Cleanliness

Shuddham Door-to-Door Watse Collectors

Shuddham, the remarkable volunteer-run NGO doing solid waste management in the heart of Pondicherry’s French Colonial district, has ceased operations, effective 1 January 2011. After eight years of going door-to-door, teaching households and businesses the importance of segregating waste streams into compostables and recyclables at the source – and slowly building compliance to an astonishing 80% among households – Shuddham has fallen victim to the incessant corruption of local officials and the negligence and callous indifference with which the government performs its obligations to the public.

Continue reading ‘The End of an Era in Cleanliness’

Accidental Environmentalism

Birds on Ousteri Lake

When the Government of Pondicherry takes decisive action in favor of environmental protection, one thing is for certain: there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Here is the astounding-but-true story of the designation of Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry’s largest water body, as an “Important Bird Sanctuary,” thereby providing a significant legal tool to stop the industrial development which is ravaging its watershed.

Continue reading ‘Accidental Environmentalism’

The People Fight Back

Rally in Support of C. Balamohan, Pondicherry

Yesterday was a good day for democracy in Pondicherry. The people took to the streets to protest a government which, time-and-again, deftly protects the private interests of its corrupt officials, disregards the public good, and holds itself to be above the law.

The issue concerns the ongoing battle over the illegal concession given to a private developer by former Chief Secretary Khairwal and Minister Valsaraj to build a huge port complex in the heart of this tiny heritage town, and the vast environmental, economic, and social devastation this development will cause.

Continue reading ‘The People Fight Back’

Could India Host an Impressive Olympics?

India and China. China and India.

Whenever discussion turns to the New World Order, these neighboring giants are always mentioned in the same breath as the up-and-comers. I understand the arguments, but remain deeply skeptical about the prospects for both countries, though for vastly different reasons.

With the Beijing 2008 Olympics drawing to a close, one must concede that China has managed to pull off a fabulously successful advertisement for itself, even though its ugly authoritarianism and environmental shamefulness remained on plain view throughout. So the question nags: Could India hold an Olympics that would flatter, rather than embarrass the nation? I, for one, seriously doubt it.

Continue reading ‘Could India Host an Impressive Olympics?’

Meter-Long Coffee

Meter-Long South Indian Coffee

India is justly famous for its chai – known in Starbucksland by the just-in-case-you-didn’t-get-it-the-first-time, Babelicly echoful moniker “Chai Tea Latte” – but in South India, coffee rules the streets. It is both repast and entertainment, as coffee-wallahs (how do you say “barista” in Tamil?) serve “meter-long coffee,” so called because the dense shot of “filter coffee” and sugary boiled milk are mixed cup-to-cup at full arms’ length. (Not all practitioners achieve the dramatic lengths depicted in my photo, above.)

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Gods Go for Beach Outing, Find Little Sand

Masi Magam Festival, Pondicherry

Yesterday marked the Masi Magam festival in Pondicherry, a celebration which allows the Hindu gods Vishnu and Shiva – or at least their temple-idol look-alikes, more numerous than ersatz Elvises at a Las Vegas convention – to stroll among the sea-side villages on hand- or ox-pulled carts and have a ritual dip in the waves.

It’s very festive, as all good festivals should be.

And very loud, as all good Indian festivals should be.

Continue reading ‘Gods Go for Beach Outing, Find Little Sand’

Blinkered

Smt. Pratibah Devisingh Patil

You could tell she had arrived by the wacka-wacka-wacka. I’d never before seen or heard a helicopter in the skies over Pondicherry. Her Excellency, Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, President of India, was in town for the better part of two days.

One could not have helped but learn of her visit well in advance. The Government of Pondicherry, which hasn’t had sufficient money in its coffers to pay the city’s garbage collectors for the last five months, was on a mad shopping-spree, knocking itself out to beautify every inch of streetscape on which the presidential eye might glance during her minutely choreographed visit.

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Corruption, Indian Style

fistful of rupees

Corruption in India, like many places in the world, has risen to an art-form. A student of comparative politics might be interested to look at the way corruption is done in America and India, the worlds two greatest dysfunctional democracies.

Continue reading ‘Corruption, Indian Style’

In Memoriam: Pondicherry’s Beautiful Sandy Beaches

Pondicherry Coast 2006 satellite image

Yesterday, I took a boat ride with some friends up the Pondicherry coast, and beyond into Tamil Nadu. The coastal erosion is really quite horrific. As you can perhaps make out in the 2006 satellite image, above, more than 98% of the beach to the north of the harbor has completely disappeared, replaced by rip-rap seawall. Seven kilometers of beautiful white sand are gone in Pondicherry, and the environmental disaster now stretches well into Tamil Nadu.

Continue reading ‘In Memoriam: Pondicherry’s Beautiful Sandy Beaches’

Pondicherry Beach Erosion: a Man-Made Environmental Disaster

The citizens of Pondicherry are finding their voices, and it is inspirational to see. They are crying out against the crooked deal which proposes to place a new deep-water port at the south end of tow, vast profits in the hands of private developers, and environmental disaster throughout Pondicherry and into the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.

Usually, the corrupt public officials and venal private developers are a winning combination in India; the public interest and the health of civic institutions take a beating. This time, up against smart, informed citizens’ action groups that cannot be bought-off, it looks as though truth, decency, and the environment have a fighting chance.

There are a number of environmental, livelihood, and criminality issues at stake in the proposed development of a port in Pondicherry by Subhash Projects Marketing Limited and Ohm Metals, but perhaps the beach-sand issue is at the heart of the fight. To better understand how a new port would starve the coastline of sand, create penetrating erosion, and cause salinity in the watertable and topsoil, click here to view an excellent slide presentation (in pdf format).

The proposed port in Pondicherry must be defeated for many reasons. Hopefully, this presentation will help clarify one of the important environmental issues.


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the Miami Dolphins NFL bullying episode brings the evergreen topic of the idiocy of manliness back into focus.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the re-election of President Barak Obama has done nothing to turn America away from its recent ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprinted in frustration that a dumbass nonevent brought down David Petraeus, the most brilliant, influential, deeply flawed military strategist since Harry Potter.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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