Saturday, November 27, 2010

National Aquatic Animal of India.

Photo taken today by me at Chandannagar
I saw the National Aquatic Animal today.
This was in Bansberia.
I was in course of a day-long tour of inspection of ongoing works under the NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority). We will have a formal review meeting on Monday in Kolkata. Before this, I thought I'll see a few projects myself. I set out with my officers (Mr Chunar De and others) in the morning. Around noon, as I was in the developed riverfront at Bansberia, I spotted a Dolphin. Government of India has recently declared Ganga Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal. The Ganga Dolphin is greatly under threat from extinction. I quote below some relevant information (the link follows):
In India, the Ganges River Dolphin is threatened by river water pollution and
siltation, accidental entanglement in fishing nets, and poaching for their oil. In
addition, alterations to the rivers in the form of barrages and dams are separating

Just as the Tiger represents the health of the forest, just as the Snow Leopard
represents the health of the mountainous regions, and the Cheetah, the health of
grasslands, the presence of the Dolphin in a river system signals its good health and

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Regional Seminar on Habitat

I attended the Regional Seminar on Housing and Habitat Policy yesterday. 18 states were invited but not many could make it. The Andhra experience seemed interesting: they had been making pucca houses in slums even though land ownership did not vest with the occupier.

Secretary (MA) Andhra Pradesh stated that South Africa and Australia had done great work in controlling street vendors. I supported his suggestion to GoI that a study tour with representatives from states may be organised to these countries.

Joint Secretary GoI MoHUPA Mr Singh requested that like Rajasthan and few other states, others may also frame a State Policy on Habitat and Housing. I think I'll initiate a note soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interview with Michaef Scharff of Princeton University

Michael Scharff is a Senior Research Specialist of the Princeton University, USA. He is doing a project called "Innovations for Successful Societies". He met me at my office yesterday and we talked at length about how we did Vulnerability Mapping of polling stations in the General Elections in 2009. The audio interview was recorded on a hard disc and I signed a form saying that I didn't have any objection to the interview being used by Michael's work.
We are scheduled to meet again on Friday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Draft Outdoor Advertising Policy

I held a meeting today with the Planning Unit of KMDA and others including police, HIDCO, PWD etc to frame a policy for regulating outdoor advertisements in Kolkata.
A detailed draft was presented by the planners. I remarked that this should conform to KMC Act, Municipal Act, NHAI Act, KoPT Act etc which may have overlapping jurisdictions. But we all agreed that visula pollution should be contained in a fair manner.
 It was gratifying to note that a beginning has been made.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Singapore Visit

I'm writing this from the Singapore Airport lounge of Singapore Airlines. It is 7.40pm now and the boarding will start within an hour. Should reach Kolkata by 10.40 pm today.

The visit sponsored by the World Bank was very useful. I was amazed how a city-country only 700 sq km (max 43 km one way) can develop so well. In course of our interaction with their agencies, I saw in photos and presentations how things were just as bad as in India in the 70s - Singapore was independent in 1965 - and it is amazing to see how they are now. My last fortnight's memory of Boston / New York is almost merging with that of Singapore.

What are the take-aways from this visit? To my mind, it is this: there is no short cut, but if there is a will to undertake a longish journey, then we can too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Minor headway in planning commission

In Delhi today. Visited Planning Commission (Yojana Bhavan) thrice. Couldn't meet Member-Secretary. Emails didnt work. Telephones didnt establish contact. But she herself had asked me to contact her on 2nd Nov morning after me and minister met her with prior appointment on 1st Nov. Earlier, even the minister had to once return without meeting her despite appointment.

At 6 pm, met Joint Secretay. Took long to convince him to take a look at our proposal of augmenting funds to UIDSSMT. Let's wait further

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Meet on Ganga by PM

Just back from meeting that took place at 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi - the Prime Minister's
residence. The meeting was chaired by Dr Manmohan Singh, PM who is also the Chairman of NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority). It started at 6 pm and ended at around 7.30 pm today. Security is immense and despite my name being given to them, I was asked to get down from the Banga Bhavan official car, frisked and taken by another car to the venue, counterchecks at all transits by security. .The hall was quite big: I think there were 40 or more seated in a rectangular formation. PM was hearing athe blue turban and black half jacket and white shirt. He also had a pencil in hand and made occasional notes. To his right sat Pranab Mukherjee, and to his left Union Power Minister and Union Urban Dev Minister. Dy Chairman Planning Commission and Jairam Ramesh were also there. On behalf of CM West Bengal, Shri Asok Bhattacharya spoke. CM / Ministers of other states also spoke and so did the non-official members.
PM extended the meeting by about half an hour to allow the non-official members to have their say.
This was my first face to face meeting with PM. I, however, did not speak.