Sunday, January 25, 2009


Footpaths: Veritable minefields of Bangalore

Footpaths: Veritable minefields of Bangalore

By Express News Service
25 Jan 2009 08:22:00 AM IST

BANGALORE: BBMP Commissioner S Subramanya hit the bull's eye two months ago when remarked that "Only god can save the city's pedestrians." Saturday morning provided a bitter testimony to this gruesome fact. A bit too bitter, perhaps. The badly-maintained roads and broken pavements can send a chill down anyone's spine even without such extreme reminders.

Pedestrians are forced to enter the death zones where even motorists struggle to find space, as the space where they would have rather walked -- the footpath -- is almost non-existent in the city. And if they do exist, they end abruptly or are cluttered with everything except the pedestrian. During peak hours, the balancing act between road and sidewalk, can prove to be life-threatening.

While delivering a talk at Bangalore International Centre recently on urban transport planning, urban planning expert Madhav Badami pulled up the government for spending crores of rupees on the Metro Rail but not expending "a single penny" to create space for cyclists and pedestrians. He had also highlighted the fact that pedestrians did not contribute to congestion on roads nor did they benefit from motorisation "but were hugely affected adversely by both the factors."

The city's infrastructure development has been focused on the development of roads for motor vehicles but not for the pedestrians. Having waken up to this fact, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has constructed pedestrian subways and has proposed similar subways across the city. Apart from the pedestrian subways, the BBMP has also proposed to construct skywalks and bicycle paths on major roads, BBMP sources said. Zone-wise programmes to evacuate encroachments on footpaths and clearing of debris is in progress. The old stone slabs used for pavements are being given granite-finishing and works of renovating footpaths are under way, added sources. A study titled "Traffic and Transportation Policies and Strategies in Urban Areas in India" drives home the point that Bangalore is "pedestrian-unfriendly."

According to M N Sreehari, chairman, Traffic Engineers and Safety Trainers, Bangalore, ranks the garden city twelfth among the 30 surveyed cities on the "walkability" index.

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Friday, January 09, 2009


Times of India, 9 Jan 09: Bangalore a 'heat island'

Bangalore has become heat island
9 Jan 2009, 0204 hrs IST, Jayashree Nandi, TNN

Bangalore : Bangalore is witnessing an alarming depletion of wetland areas and vegetation cover, according to a recent study by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science. It shows an increase of 1 to 1.5 degree in temperature in certain pockets of Bangalore that have seen intense urbanization.

According to lead researcher T V Ramachandra, there is almost an increase of 466% of building area or paved surface in the past three years and that is not allowing water to percolate through the soil. Of 200 tanks present in 1985, only 17 survive today, which means that the wetland area has decreased alarmingly. "The vegetation and amount of water bodies in a city have a direct relationship with local temperature. Bangalore is an urban heat island. The increase in emissions from transport, faulty architecture, lack of vegetation and wetlands are leading to these temperature changes," he said.

However, he did not attribute the chilly mornings this winter to the same phenomenon. "I checked the records and the winter temperature is almost the same, swinging around 12 degrees. But other issues like humidity and sudden heat waves could be a reflection of the increasing temperature or global warming," he added.

The report also points out that there has been an increase in flooding. Reclamation of lakes for various developmental activities has resulted in the loss of inter-connectivity in Bangalore district, leading to higher instances of floods even during normal rainfall.


The decline in the number of water bodies in Bangalore is mainly due to unbridled and intense urbanization. Many lakes were encroached for illegal buildings (54%). Field surveys (during July-August 2007) show that nearly 66% of lakes are sewage fed, 14% surrounded by slums and 72% showed loss of catchment area. Lake catchments were used as dumping yards for either municipal solid waste or building debris.



Thursday, November 20, 2008


Tech employee dies in pie-eating contest

In one of the idiotic team-building exercises run by Western companies to foster fun and solidarity among their workers, Nokia-Siemens ran a pie-eating contest in their office in Guragon, leading to the choking death of a 22-year-old employee.
Police investigate Nokia contest death

By Mahesh Arora

A 22-year old techie, Saurab Sabharwal, employed with Nokia-Siemens Networks in Gurgaon died mysteriously while participating in a pastry-eating competition in the cafeteria of the office premises on November 19. The doctors at the Max Hospital where he was brought dead said that the pastry chocked his windpipe rendering him breathless.

The incident took place at about 1.00 in the afternoon when a number of employees of the company were participating in a pastry-eating competition in the cafeteria. Saurab, who worked as a solution engineer with the company since June this year, was also eating pastry quickly to out-compete others. All of a sudden he rushed towards the bathroom area and never came back. Coincidentally, one of the colleagues happened to visit the bathroom where he spotted Saurab lying on the floor. Saurab was rushed to Max Hospital in Sushant Lok at about 2.00 in the afternoon where the doctors tried to revive him, but to no avail.

RK Sabharwal charged the company officials for negligence saying that they should have arranged for medical experts during the pastry-eating competition which otherwise should not have been organized at all. He said that no one bothered to take care of his son whose windpipe had got chocked during the event. Such competition should not be held at all, he contended. The distraught father submitted a written compliant with the police officials demanding investigation into the case. Dr. S Sharma, the medical advisor at Max Hospital, also said that such events of pastry-eating competitions should be avoided in general.

However, the police officials said that the action against the officials of Nokia-Siemens would be decided only after the receipt of the post-mortem report of Saurab’s body. Saurab lived in Patparganj in New Delhi and his father RK Sabharwal worked with a public sector bank Punjab National Bank in Delhi. Nokia-Siemens Networks has its corporate office in Cybergreens, DLF Cybercity but has one subsidiary in Udyog Vihar where Saurab was employed as solution engineer.

The company officials who were present at Max Hospital refused to comment on the incident.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Bangalore techies support Obama

A news story says President-Elect Barack Obama has a posse in Bangalore, where tech industry workers recognize his pro-globalization stance.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Another bus set afire after an accident

It seems to happen all the time in Bangalore: A bus accidentally kills or injures a passer-by, and an angry mob materializes and sets the bus on fire.

Contrast this with recent incidents in San Francisco:
  • 17 Jan 08: Streetcar kills man
  • 30 Dec 07: Streetcar kills man
  • 27 Dec 07: Bus kills student

    In none of these cases did an angry mob materialize nor were transit vehicles attacked. When I was in Bangalore last year I asked a couple of people about this phenomenon, and of the riots that take place from time to time. He replied that there were simply a lot of dissatisfied poor people who are easily stirred up by troublemakers and provocateurs. I don't have much trouble understanding about the angry poor people, and I can even see the troublemakers -- thugs associated, perhaps, with a local politician, institution or crime-lord, people for whom literal rabble-rousing is part of their job description. Even in the US we have politicians and community figures in every city who can get a gang of people to a public hearing or demonstration without much trouble. But one thing they don't do is attack transit vehicles.
    Sunday, December 30, 2007


    Outsourcing users to Bangalore

    An American startup is paying people in India to sign up for its service so it can show it has 1000s of users.

    Culture collision

    I loved all the different cultural elements in the picture contained in this post -- Xmas trees, a man in a Santa hat, what look like piñatas -- all at a "bangle store" in Bangalore.

    Wednesday, December 26, 2007


    Call center workers' health suffers

    India's outsourcing industry faces growing health problems

    Associated Press, 26 Dec 2007

    NEW DELHI - The job came with a good salary, and good perks.

    But, 26-year-old Vaibhav Vats will tell you, it was doing him no good. His weight had grown to 265 pounds and he was missing out on social life as he worked long overnight hours at a call center. Eventually, he quit.

    "You are making nice money. But the tradeoff is also big," said Vats, who spent nearly two years at IBM Corp.'s call center arm in India, answering customer calls from the United States.

    Call centers and other outsourced businesses such as software writing, medical transcription and back-office work employ more than 1.6 million young men and women in India, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who make much more than their contemporaries in most other professions.

    They are, however, facing sleep disorders, heart disease, depression and family discord, according to doctors and several industry surveys.

    Experts warn the brewing crisis could undermine the success of India's hugely profitable outsourcing industry that earns billions in dollars annually and has shaped much of the country's transformation into an emerging economic power.

    Heart disease, strokes and diabetes cost India an estimated $9 billion in lost productivity in 2005. But the losses could grow to a staggering $200 billion over the next 10 years if corrective action is not taken quickly, said a study by New Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

    The outsourcing
    industry would be hardest hit, it warned.

    Reliable estimates on the number of people affected are hard to come by, but government officials and experts agree that it is a growing problem. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss wants to enforce a special health policy for employees in the information technology industry.

    "After working, they party for the rest of the time ... (They) have bad diet, excessive smoking and drinking," he said at a public meeting last month. "We don't want these young people to burn out."

    The minister's comments have since infuriated the technology sector, which says it has been unfairly singled out for problems that also exist in other professions.

    The outsourcing industry has come under fire because the sedentary lifestyle of its employees combined with often stressful working conditions makes them more vulnerable to heart disease, digestive problems and weight gain than others. Some complain of psychological distress.

    Most call center jobs involve responding to phone calls through the night from customers in the United States and Europe - some of whom can be angry and rude. It is monotonous and there is little meaningful personal interaction among co-workers. That can also be true of other jobs such as software writing and back-office work.

    "There are times when the stress is so overwhelming that they fail to cope with it. Then they come to us," said Archana Bisht who set up a counseling company,, in Bangalore six years ago.

    Her clientele has since grown to 25 companies - seven of them were added in the past two months - including such names as Intel Corp., IBM Corp., Hewlett Packard Co. and Mindtree Consulting Ltd.

    Each day, about 60 to 70 employees at these companies seek counseling from The complaints are many, but marital incompatibility and relationship issues top the list, Bisht said, often because the long, odd working hours means couples don't have much time together.

    More women than men ask for help, she said. The outsourcing boom has created new employment opportunities for Indian women, but there has been little change in social expectations. Adding workplace demands to responsibilities at home, which often includes taking care of in-laws, leaves women workers with multiple stresses, Bisht said.

    Loneliness can also take a toll.

    "There is no social life," said Vats, who worked at night and either slept or watched television during the day. "You are not meeting new people."

    The industry is getting sensitive to these problems.

    The National Association of Software Services Companies, the main trade body of the outsourcing industry, said many of its member firms are already providing facilities like advice on health, gyms and money for regular checkups.

    Companies like Infosys Technologies Ltd. have set up 24-hour helplines for counseling by psychologists, while others have tied up with companies like Some like HCL Technologies Ltd. have built daycare centers for children and routinely sponsor group outings by their employees.

    But the industry insists it would do nothing to impose any lifestyle on its employees.

    "We do not think it is for companies or for the government to interfere in the personal life of adult Indians," NASSCOM said in a statement.

    Also, there is little it can do to change the nighttime work hours of many outsourcing jobs.

    "The odd hours can play havoc with your health," said Vats. "I never got good sleep because everyone was up and getting ready to go to work when I got home ... Your diet goes for a toss. You get acidity, develop gastric problems."

    Vats' weight has dropped to 214 pounds since leaving IBM Daksh two years ago. He's still overweight for his 5 feet 9 inch frame, but is much happier now working with a law firm for a much lower salary.

    A recent survey by Dataquest magazine and technology consulting company IDC showed sleep disorders topped health complaints among outsourcing industry workers.

    About 32 percent of respondents complained of sleep disorders; 25 percent had digestive troubles; and 20 percent reported eyesight problems, said the survey, which covered 1,749 employees at 19 outsourcing companies.

    Yet, they would not talk about it openly. Several call center employees contacted by the Associated Press admitted to having many of these ailments, but they refused to be named or identify their employer.

    Sleep and digestive disorders, doctors say, can grow into bigger problems: hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases.

    Doctors say the rise in these diseases, alongside growing urbanization and fast-paced economic growth, is not surprising.

    But India's case is alarming because of the sheer number of people affected and the factors that make them vulnerable to these diseases, said Ravi Kasliwal, a cardiologist at New Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. These include India's fat-rich diet, genetic factors make them highly vulnerable to diabetes, and abdominal obesity that gives rise to insulin resistance and heart disease.

    "To top it all, there is lack of awareness," Kasliwal said. "One out of 10 persons aged 35 years or more in this country is prone to heart attack."

    Heart disease is projected to account for 35 percent of deaths among India's working age population between 2000 and 2030, Kasliwal said, citing a World Health Organization study. That number is about 12 percent for the United States, 22 percent for China and 25 percent for Russia.

    "This is a very serious issue for this country," Kasliwal said. "But nobody wants to talk about it."

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