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VOL. XXII NO. 8, August 1-15, 2012
Our Readers Write

Encourage use of bicycles

In this current climate of environmental focus, more and more people are turning to cycle power. The cycle, once the poor man's transport, is fast becoming a preferred mode of travel in cities across the world. Mumbai has started a bike sharing system taking a cue from cities like Paris and New York. The future of the world lies in going back to the basics, as Amsterdam and other cities in The Netherlands show the way with their unique biking culture. Indian urban centres must take a cue from European countries and develop a cycling culture.

Cycling is about social equity. Apart from being a total energy saver and being pollution-free, it is a symbol of equality. If more persons start using cycles, it will reduce road congestion in commercial areas. Pro-cycling policies can reverse congestion and provide better safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The physical effort of cycling has shown to reduce mental stress and anxiety and improve people's self-confidence and independence. The cost of maintenance is very low and you save on petrol.

Environmental accountability must be made an integral part of corporate values. We are all committed to protecting the environment and enhancing the value of health by focussing on and highlighting the use of eco-friendly approaches which include modes of transportation. Cycling is one initiative that will help create more eco-friendly cities.

Considering the present traffic chaos in urban areas, cycling is a better alternative for transport. The attitude of looking down on people who use bicycles to work has to change. Cycling was once an essential part of the transport system and was very popular. In fact, the bicycle was not just another mode of transport, but represented an entire culture of conveyance and movement. Government must promote bicycle tracks.

Regular cycling improves the health of office-goers who do sedentary jobs. There are hundreds of ordinary Indians who are making a life-style statement by riding this humble vehicle as their preferred mode of transportation. Metros have seen a tremendous growth in the number of powered two/four wheeler users over the last few years. Bicycles, a vital part of urban mobility in the West, are getting crushed under India's rushing prosperity.

Pollution, congestion, energy conservation, physical efficiency and obesity are the challenges of the time. To come out of these problems use of bicycles is one of the solutions. Bicycles are inexpensive, good for the environment and least likely to cause jams. The added advantage of cycling is it is a good exercise and helps reduce obesity, a serious health problem afflicting almost a third of adult population.

In the West, Governments – local and national – are providing incentives in the form of tax subsidies as well as better infrastructure to encourage bicycle use. Many global cities like Paris, London and Amsterdam provide user-friendly facilities for parking and renting bicycles. For our part, to make a beginning, government/public/private sectors in the country must encourage their employees to use bicycles by offering incentives. The incentives could be in the form of conveyance allowance. Already conveyance allowances are there for those using only powered vehicles. Bicycles should be added to that list.

India is the second largest producer of bicycles. Unfortunately, bicycle use in major Indian cities has steadily declined over the years. Social ranking of bicycles in our society is pathetic. As incomes increase, people move from bicycles to public transport, scooters, motorcycles or cars. Given the connotations of bicycle to social status in India, even when it is the most efficient transport, many do not or are reluctant to use it.

To advance the egalitarian goal of getting more people to take to bicycles in cities, there must be a conscious effort to encourage cyclists. This could be ensured only through government's policies favourable towards cyclists.

7/12, Peters Colony
Royapettah, Chennai 600 014

Metro Rail woes

The work on Chennai Metro Rail stretch from Koyambedu to Kathipara has nearly been completed briskly. Though the public suffered traffic snarls for a few months, now, however, with the work almost 80% complete, it has come as a relief. The beauty of the stretch was that the contractors used the road median to erect the pillars that carry the rail tracks. This did not entail bringing down the buildings to make way for the pillars, except for a small stretch from Vadapalani to MMDA Colony.

What is causing great inconvenience is the other stretch from Central to Saidapet, the underground track system. This caused shifting of telephone wires, cables and distur-bed the sewage canals. In the process certain heritage buildings like Bharat Insurance building and those like Ambassador Hotel and others were damaged. Moreover, the underground drilling would hurt the foundation of various 100-year-old buildings. I wonder if such hardships and inconveniences could not have been avoided.

M. Fazal
11, Mosque Street
Chennai 600 064

AIR programmes

The article about All India Radio (MM, July 1st) brought me cherished memories of several decades of AIR programmes broadcast those days. I was residing in Roya-pettah, studying in Wesley High School during 1955-58. My uncle used to take me to Marina on Saturdays/Sundays. We used to walk from Royapettah to Triplicane via Pycrofts Road. On reaching Marina, after wetting our feet in the sea, we used to sit on the cement benches provided near the loudspeaker at the entrance to the beach to listen to AIR programmes, enjoying music as much as the breeze.

Gone are the days when children used to throng the spot before the 'radio petti' in the afternoon to listen to the 'Papa Malar' children's programme conducted by Radio Anna! The 'Mazhalaichol' of the kids participating in it greatly attracted the listeners. It had also become a regular feature for elders as well to get ready finishing dinner in time, so as not to miss the 'Vannachudar' drama programme aired during night. These were among the few popular programmes, besides regular news, classical and cine music programmes. The English news bulletins at 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. were never to be missed. The newsreaders' voices are still ringing in my ears, not to mention the popularity of cricket commentaries during Test matches aired by AIR, when kids to -elders sat glued to the radio!

AIR became a more popular entertainer in all households, with the introduction of commercial broadcasting Vividh Bharathi. The Binaca Geetmala became very popular even among the listeners in South India. We miss the glorious moments of legacy of AIR, which cannot be substituted by the present-day TV and FM channels, which are more and more commercialised almost to an intolerable level.

M.K. Raghavan
46, Shani Mahatma Temple Road
Ramamurthy Nagar
Bangalore 560 016

Subordinate Saars

The Editor's note at the bottom of the above-titled letter (MM, July 16th) refers to locomotive drivers in Indian Railways being referred to as Engine Pilots.

However, once upon a time, the term pilot in Indian Railways had a different meaning.

In the early decades of railway operations in India, generally most routes were of single line traffic system.

Whenever there was disruption in the running of trains due to any obstruction including signal failure/accidents, a railway employee authorised by a station master located nearest to the obstruction spot used to personally escort each train past the obstruction, riding on the foot plate.

Since only the same person was authorised to escort both up and down traffic, there was no possibility of two trains being on a single line section at the same time.

This escort was called a train pilot as his duty was to pilot the train safely past the 'danger point'.

He was not necessarily a driver himself but an authorised escort for a limited purpose only – till such time the obstruction was cleared.

Elaborate rules were laid down as to the duties and responsibilities of such pilots.

The title Engine Driver carries a dignified aura and is a highly respected person in railways.

Nostalgically, the legacy of Indian Railways is a grand old tradition handed down to us by the British who once knew railway operations the best.

S. Rajaram
62/1, Tamarai Flats
MES Road,
East Tambaram,
Chennai 600 059

Sad truth

In 'The least Pedestrian-friendly Indian city, Chennai' (MM, May 1st), while what you state may be true, in Chennai most pedestrians eschew footpaths and prefer to walk on the road. Likewise, cyclists do not use the cycle path provided in subways but recklessly jostle with two- wheelers and cars. I once visited Cochin and the sight of pedestrians walking on the footpath and even protesting processionists going strictly in single file amazed me. The real problem is not Chennai being least pedestrian-friendly, but the sad truth is Madras has lost its dignified character and itself become pedestrian.

C.G. Prasad
9, C.S.Mudali Street
Chennai 600 079

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In this issue

Where are those water bodies?
Marina to undergo yet another facelift
Homes of yore
Draw up your plans for Madras Week
Changing face of the game
Ravi Varma's heroines come alive on stage
A cityscape and a chronicle
The day Dara Singh was arrested
The return of the Redvented Bulbul

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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