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Vol. XXXI No. 11, September 16-30, 2021

Our Readers Write

Ministerial meek and ego trips

Around midnight, a train that crossed ours with a roar woke me up. I was travelling from Madras (now Chennai) to Madurai. Groggily, I plodded towards the toilet. While all the other cabin doors were closed, the coupe at the far end was wide open. The window shutters were also up. I looked through. I could see a very tall, dark person sprawled on the berth, hands stretched.
The sentry with the firearm near the toilet scrambled up. I asked him who was sleeping with doors and shutters open. ‘Sir, that is our CM Kamaraj aiyya. Hope he does not wake up and spot me. If he does, he will fly into a rage and order me to detrain at the next station.’

During my college days, when I was travelling by a city bus, a gentleman in crumpled khadar got in and gingerly sat by my side. I did not pay much attention to him. As I got down from the bus, my friend who joined me from the other end of the bus, asked ‘did you know who was your seatmate?’ I shook my head. ‘That was Kakkan, ex-minister. A simple man, did you know after he vacated the government quarters, he had to look for a rented house that he could afford. He didn’t even own one. Fancy that!’

When I was flying by the national carrier to Bangalore, a lady with a sleeping child was at the window seat. A small pillow provided by the Airlines was helping the child be comfortable. Before take-off, a flustered air hostess asked the lady, ‘Ma’am, can you give me the pillow, please? We have only this one on board. A central minister in the executive class wants one. She will throw a tantrum and make a big scene if I don’t give it to her.’ I bristled with indignation, ‘What rubbish! It is a forty-minute flight. Can’t the honourable lady minister travel without a pillow under her honourable neck? ‘Please,” said the air hostess, joining her hands. Surprisingly, the good lady with the child, removed the pillow gently, from the child and gave it to her, with an icy stare.

The crowded morning flight from Calcutta to Delhi had boarded but it did not take off at the scheduled time. Periodic announcements said it was delayed due to ‘technical reasons’. Regular travellers knew it was conveniently used as a euphemism for the late arrival of a VIP. The guess was proved right. A dignitary (I shall not name him) breezed in with his nose in the air, his two aides at the vanguard. Many passengers crowded the entrance and the aisle and shouted they will not allow him inside. The captain came out and pleaded with them to resolve the matter. ‘No, all of us came on time beating chaotic Calcutta traffic, but he comes one hour late, though he has a siren blaring ahead to clear the traffic for him. And because of him, 300 people here should suffer? No way.’ The ire of the passengers, mostly Bengalis who are celebrated for having a short fuse, threatened to do a dharna on the aisle.

Ultimately, the flight took off without the browbeaten VIP who had to backtrack. Indeed, a few VIPs make unobtrusive trips. Many ego trips.

J.S. Raghavan
jsraghavan@gmail.com

A few thoughts on rain and its harvesting

A large majority of us, particularly those living in urban areas, have not understood rainwater harvesting (RWH) clearly. This short note may help us to do that.

Let us start by realising that earth gets water either from melting of ice or precipitation (rainfall). We shall call them “Primary sources of freshwater on earth”. This in turn flows in rivers, gets collected in surface water bodies such as irrigation tanks, lakes, ponds etc and / or infiltrates into the soil and remains there as groundwater. Let us call them the “Secondary sources of freshwater on earth”. Some of the secondary sources such as rivers and natural depressions could be natural and the others man-made.

All the water that one sees around must have come from rain, the only exception being that water taken from the ocean through desalination process. For example, water flowing in rivers (barring Ganges, Brahmaputra and Yamuna) is nothing but rainwater, water collected in irrigation tanks (erys) and other surface water bodies is rainwater and water found in open wells and bore wells is also rainwater percolated into the soil over a period of a few months and decades and probably remained there for centuries in a few bore wells.

The transition from primary sources to secondary sources has come to be known as “rainwater harvesting” (RWH). This once again can happen naturally (without human intervention) or with human intervention. RWH is neither an option nor an alternative but the only way to sustain both our surface and subsoil fresh water sources. A lack of holistic understanding of the need, relevance and importance of RWH has led to lack of involvement by the citizens in it and an apathetic attitude towards it.

Surface water, found above the soil in rivers, ponds and lakes and ground water (found below the soil) should be thought of as the two children of rainwater (to be thought of as the mother). We should not think separately of the children from the mother, always keeping in mind that mother will take care of the children. We should also not try to separate the children from the mother lest they become orphans. Water experts often talk about the relation­ship between surface & ground water. Isn’t that obvious? They are blood relatives.
With climate charge coming into play, in future, floods & droughts will not only be unpredictable but also more severe than the previous ones. Both can be mitigated only by making sincere attempts to harvest rain.

Whenever a house/apartment complex is constructed, care is taken to properly handle sewage. All toilets are connected through a series of chambers and led either to the municipal underground drainage or to a septic tank, whereas, rainwater falling within the premises is not handled with care. It is being completely ignored. This attitude should change.

As mentioned above, every one of us should realise that RWH is a community effort and that every household in the neighbourhood should implement RWH in their respective premises. Having done that, they should convince their neighbours to also implement RWH. Every person should become a changemaker.

Rain is decentralized so is extraction of groundwater. Therefore, RWH will have to be decentralised. Water Management should no longer be just a bureaucratic exercise nor an academic one. There should be people’s involvement in it. The keyword to sustainable water management is RWH

For the past two decades, the slogan has been “Make Water Everybody’s Business”. From now on it will have to be modified as “Make not only Water Everybody’s Business but also RWH Everybody’s Business”.
No more lip service to water and RWH. They should be understood beyond words and we should love water and rain the way we love our children.

Sekhar Raghavan
Director, Rain Centre

Unputdownable

When The Telegraph was launched in July 1982, it introduced the term “unputdownable.” It became a byword for anything that made for gripping and compulsive reading. I am going to use the same term after going through Madras Inked. I started going through the book rather lackadaisically with my limited knowledge of the city’s heritage. Slowly my interest was aroused and enthralled by the contents and I finished the book in one sitting! Hence, unputdownable. Besides being a coffee table book of very high quality, the notes – particularly those penned by Manohar – made for irresistible reading. Some of the passages were so compelling that I read them again. My hearty congratulations to both Manohar and Sujatha on a project that underlines their dynamism and hard work. As you have rightly commented in MM, “there could be no greater tribute to the architecture of our city than this.” The layout and flow of the book is a heritage enthusiast’s joy as you have mentioned. Thank you so much for sending me a copy. As one who is Madras born and been in the city all my life, the book shall be one of my cherished possessions.

Partab Ramchand
partabramchand@yahoo.com

Identity proof

Of late, there appears to be a tendency among various entities including government departments to seek a copy of the Aadhaar card as identity proof even for transactions that are trivial in nature. Despite the Apex Court’s clear directions as to where the Aadhaar can be sought, there has been a constant pressure on the public to part with the information.

It must be stated that Aadhaar is linked to one’s permanent account number, bank as well as mobile number. It is a unique Identity, so a copy of the Aadhaar must be sought only when absolutely necessary. Further, it must be noted that the submission of Aadhaar is not compulsory but voluntary. Therefore, one has the right to refuse to share the Aadhaar details. Such being the uniqueness of Aadhaar, one does not understand why the Aadhaar is sought for each and every issue. The Aadhaar has lost its value as it is being increasingly sought more as an identity proof rather than for its intrinsic value.

There has to be resistance from the public, for they too should not be blamed for caving in for the demands of the entities. As long as one does not raise one’s voice, the Aadhaar copy will continue to be sought.

The Aadhaar copy was sought from senior citizens for the disbursement of free travel coupons in buses operated by ­Metropolitan Transport Corporation [MTC]. It was also sought for the renewal of the coupons, four times in a year. Thus, senior citizens are forced to submit the Aadhaar copy multiple times to MTC. Imagine if the details are breached – after all, safe-keeping of records is a casualty in government departments. After we took up the issue, the MTC decided not to insist upon the Aadhaar.

Likewise, quite recently, Aavin in a bid to create a customer data base, had sought details from customers including the Aadhaar details. When we told Aavin that it could not be given, they decided not to pursue it.

Now, Aadhaar details are sought from ration cardholders who are not be able to make it to shops and instead nominate others to go in their stead. Here again, the Association stepped in to sort out the issue.

To sum up, the public should resist such tendencies of the ­entities and desist from sharing the Aadhaar details. Aadhaar is not something which can be given away just like that.

T’Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association (Regd.)
30, Rangan Street, T’Nagar, Chennai 600 017

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