Published 7 January 2011
Environment , India , Politics & Policy , Service
Tags: corruption, garbage, Kivar, Kivar Environ, Pondicherry, Puducherry, Raj Bhavan, Shuddham, solid waste management, trash, waste, waste management
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’
Puducherry’s wonderful Lieutenant Governor, Govind Singh Gurjar, died yesterday of a heart attack. This is a tragic day. To understand just how awful — in its civic dimension, and not just on a personal level — consider how impossibly rare it is for an Indian politician to be plausibly garlanded with the epithet “wonderful”.
In a system where corruption, narcissism, laziness, ignorance, and incompetence are the sine qua non of political life, Govind Singh Gurjar was an astonishment: a politician whose greatest joy seemed to be doing well for the people in whose trust he served. He worked tirelessly to understand the nuance and complexity of the issues before him and, having decided on a course of action, would set the machinery of his administration in motion without temporizing. In the venal cesspool of Pondicherry government, the LG had but one aim: to help the Union Territory fulfill its obvious, abundant promise. Sadly, he leaves us at a time when that objective looks to be effectively, and perhaps irrevocably, snuffed by the greed and thoughtlessness of political-business-as-usual.
Continue reading ‘A Sad Day for Puducherry’
Published 13 February 2009
Bio , Environment , India , Politics & Policy
Tags: bureaucracy, evnvironment, Govind Singh Gurjar, Indian bureaucracy, Lieutentant Governor, PAN card, Pondicherry, Puducherry, taxes
I was among those invited last week to the Raj Nivas by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, His Excellency Govind Singh Gurjar, to discuss new initiatives for creating environmentally sustainable growth in the Pondicherry region. After the meeting, the LG greeted me warmly and teased, “So, are you an Indian citizen yet?”
“Excellency,” I smiled, “I cannot begin to imagine the bureaucracy involved with attempting to become a citizen. I cannot even manage to get a PAN card issued so that I can pay my income taxes.”
“You don’t need a PAN card!” he lightly chided me. “I will give you my PAN card and you can pay my taxes.”
Published 11 February 2009
Environment , Friends , India , Politics & Policy , Service , Travel & Adventure
Tags: bird watching, birds, corruption, development, Environment, environmental protection, ornithology, Ousteri, Ousteri Lake, Pondicherry, Puducherry, Ramsa site
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’
Published 26 January 2009
Environment , India , Service
Tags: Awards, coastal erosion, Environment, Govind SIngh Gujar, Ousteri, planning, Pondicherry, PondyCAN, Probir Banerjee, Puducherry, Republic Day, Shuddham
This morning, in a Republic Day ceremony with only a smattering of the brainless pomp that usually characterizes Indian public events, Lieutenant Governor Govind Singh Gurjar honored our dear friend and colleague Probir Banerjee for his extraordinary devotion to voluntary service to the people of Pondicherry.
It is shameful that I am only now, upon the prompting of this recognition, writing about Probir. He is not only one of the extraordinary people who cause me to call Pondicherry “home” for half of each year, he is very much the ringleader of that inspiring clique.
Continue reading ‘The True Face of Heroism in India’
Published 1 October 2008
Environment , India , Politics & Policy , Service
Tags: Balamohan, beach, beaches, coast, corruption, democracy, development, Environment, erosion, government, Govind Singh Gurjar, Khairwal, Pondicherry, port, protest, Puducherry, rule of law, Thiru. V. Vaithilingam, Valsaraj
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’
A year ago, the Government of Pondicherry joined the unfortunate trend of Hindufying the names of Indian cities, formally changing the name to “Puducherry.” This renaming was seen as a repudiation of the colonial past, and played well to the politics of the right-wing Hindu nationalists. Leave aside the fact that the place had been called “Pondicherry” since the late 17th Century.
I am delighted to report that the Government of Puducherry has now partially reversed course, all for the better. “Puducherry” will remain the designation of the Union Territories — those four non-contiguous bits of India, colonized by France rather than Britain, collected together for the purpose of non-statehood governance withn India’s republican structure. The name “Pondicherry” will once more refer to the wonderful town in which we make our home, which is also the capital of the Union Territories of Puducherry. Got it?
A couple weeks ago, in a comment to an article about the Hindufication of Indian place names, I wrote: “Pondicherry then, Pondicherry now, Pondicherry forever!” I guess I was prescient, as well as obstinate.