Saturday, April 5, 2014

Punjab, Haryana asked to give details of mobility plan for MCs

The Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the Punjab as well as Haryana governments to inform the court about their comprehensive mobility plans for various municipal corporations and the funds allocated for various projects.

The special division bench comprising justices Surya Kant and Ajay Tewari made it clear that if the states fail to comply court orders their chief secretaries, finance secretaries and secretaries of urban development would have to remain present on the next date of hearing. The court was hearing a case pertaining to the introduction of eco-friendly cycle rickshaws and consideration of vehicle-free zones in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Annoyed with repeated affidavits filed by both the state governments in the court without going into the details of the matter, the court said, “The impression given is as if you are obliging the high court. Whom are you be-fooling?”

In case of Punjab, the court observed that the state government had forwarded comprehensive mobility plans for four municipal corporations, including Amritsar and Jalandhar, to the Centre for seeking 80% financial assistance. But the court said that state government’s reply was not satisfactory.

It was directed that the Punjab government should come out with minute details of funds allocated for these corporations and how such budget should be spent in the financial year 2014-15 on various plans. The court also passed the same orders in case of Haryana.

Appearing in the case, road safety expert Navdeep Asija gave an example of the Sirsa city where due to initiative taken by the deputy commissioner, 90 eco-cabs or lightweight rickshaws had been introduced to ease out traffic to some extent.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

EC transfers 3 DCs, 1 Commissioner, 4 SSPs in Punjab

The Election Commission today transferred three Deputy Commissioners, one Commissioner of Police and four Senior Superintendents of Police in Punjab. The DCs of Sangrur, Fazilka and Patiala districts have been replaced, an EC official here said, without producing any reason for the reshuffle.

The EC also ordered transfer of Ludhiana's Commissioner of Police, he said adding the SSPs of Ferozepur, Moga, Fazilka, and Mansa districts too had been replaced.
As per an order of the EC, Kavita Singh, IAS, has beenm posted as new Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, Karuna Raju, IAS as Deputy Commissioner, Fazilka, and Priyank Bharti, IAS as Deputy Commissioner, Patiala.

Sanjeev Kalra, IPS has been posted as new Commissioner of Police, Ludhiana, he said. Rahul S, IPS, has been posted as new SSP Ferozepur while S Bhupati, IPS, as SSP Moga, Jagdale Nilambari Vijay, IPS, as SSP Fazilka, and Bikram Pal Singh Bhatti as SSP Mansa.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

HC summons authorities for charging higher toll tax

FEROZEPUR: Taking serious note of reports of charging of higher tax from commuters at the two toll plazas on Ferozepur-Fazilka highway, the Punjab and Haryana high court has issued notices to principal secretary (PWD), director, Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) and Chetak Enterprises Private Limited. The case will come up for hearing on April 1, 2014.

Parmod Chaudhary and his brother Vikas Chaudhary of Jalalabad had filed a petition in the HC seeking directions against charging of double the actual toll amount and to the concessionaire to abide by the agreement for development and maintenance of the 84.425km Ferozepur-Fazilka road.

The petitioners also claimed that the Punjab, PIDB and Chetak Enterprises entered into Ferozepur-Fazilka road concession agreement in March 2006. "At the time of signing the agreement, it was mutually decided that the operator company, Chetak Enterprises, would charge a prescribed amount of 0.35 paise per km for entire 84.425km stretch. It was also consented that the operator may add an increase 10% in the prescribed amount annually till 2011. But on the contrary, commuters are fleeced by being charged Rs 92 as one-way toll fee, which is almost double the amount prescribed in the agreement," they alleged. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sustainable living should be part of political agenda: Navdeep Asija

Vineet Gill, TNN | Mar 1, 2014, 01.51AM IST

GURGAON: Navdeep Asija is an expert on road safety and sustainable transport who currently works as the technical adviser for the Punjab government's transport department. Having made his way from Chandigarh to Gurgaon last Sunday, Asija was among the many Raahgiri Day participants. He spoke to TOI about the impact this event has had on the general mindset, and about how sustainable development may soon become a talking point for politicians.

How important is it to have dedicated stretches for non-motorized transport on urban roads today?

Actually, this comes under the fundamental rights. There is a court judgment from the '80s which talks about 'right to healthy living.' The latest National Transport Policy also talks about this in pressing terms. Right to walk, to cycle, and to breathe clean air is a constitutional right. It was only recently, in the year 2010, that the Punjab and Haryana high court issued a directive to both these neighbouring states, asking them to have at least one car-free street in each of their cities. So authorities in Gurgaon, sooner or later, are bound to pay heed to these directives, even if they seem a little reluctant as of now to fully embrace the new sustainability agenda.

What, according to you, explains this reluctance on the part of the local civic agencies?

I found that they are very pro-motorized transport in some way, which is very sad. Since our policy makers travel in cars, all they basically want to do is facilitate the movement of cars on the roads. And this is why we still keep getting those grand 16-lane highways in big cities.

You recently attended an edition of Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon. Do you think this event has played a positive part in changing the mindsets and creating a demand for non-motorized infrastructure?

Raahgiri Day has indeed proved that such events and experiments are excellent in order to generate public opinion in favour of sustainable development. It has acted as an important advocacy tool. In my opinion, we should have a Raahgiri Day in every city, because this can be of direct help to the civic agencies also. By showing that there is a demand for NMT infrastructure, it simplifies the task of the authorities.

So what should be the next step for Raahgiri campaign?

People of this city have given their mandate. Now it is the duty of the civic officials to live up to the expectations by delivering what is being demanded - an upgrade of the NMT infrastructure here. I am also hopeful that in this election year, sustainable development will become part of the political agenda. In fact, all political parties should include this in their manifestos. Flyovers cost hundreds of crores. A little attention to sustainable living costs close to nothing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

NDA to open Fazilka Indo-Pak border for trade if elected to power: Sukhbir Singh Badal

FAZILKA: Opening of Indo-Pak border at Fazilka to boost trade and maintaining brotherhood ties with central Asian countries would be priority of NDA if it came to power at the Centre after Lok Sabha polls, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said today. 

"Opening of Fazilka border would change the economic and social scenario of both nations and NDA would be firm on opening this immediately after coming to power," said Badal after laying the foundation stone of a sewerage project here. 

Badal is the president of Shiromani Akali Dal, part of NDA. 

Accusing Congress-led UPA government of having "ill-managed strategies", he said, "the misrule of UPA had put the country far behind economically and financially, besides inflicting unprecedented inflation upon common masses just to extend benefits to MNCs." 

"Modi will be the next Prime Minister of the country and extinction of Congress is inevitable," he said, adding that Punjab would also register progress by leaps and bounds if NDA came to power. 

He claimed the SAD-BJP alliance would register massive victories on all 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fazilka Ecocabs in Hydrabad :-)

साथी न कारवां है ये तेरा इम्तिहां है
यूँ ही चला चल दिल के सहारे
करती है मंज़िल तुझको इशारे
देख कहीं कोई रोक नहीं ले तुझको पुकार के...

We are delighted to share our Joy with all of you that our rickshaw movement has reached to Hydrabad now . Lok Satta Party of Andhra Pradesh has chosen our Rickshaw for their Election Campaign. Thank you Kanthimathi Kannan for taking our ‪#‎Ecocabs‬ to Hydrabad . Kanthimathi Kannan is contesting in the upcoming state legislative elections from Nampally, Hyderabad.

‪#‎Fazilka‬ to ‪#‎Hydrabad‬ via ‪#‎Chandigarh‬ 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

As outdoor fitness movements like walkathons and cycling become popular in Indian metros, the idea of car-free zones is finally finding more takers

Publication: The Times Of India Delhi;Date: Dec 15, 2013; Section: Sunday Special;Page: 18
Padmaparna Ghosh | TNN 
Audi's Gurgaon showroom is its biggest in India. And that's not the only luxury car showroom hawking its wheels in Gurgaon, Delhi's border cousin and a poster-child for urbanization. Nothing about the development of Gurgaon or its vision of a future can ever be free of one of its principal cheerleader — the car. Yet, the unthinkable has happened. Every Sunday, a 10-km section of the prime suburb is out of bounds for motorized transport from 7 am to noon to no particular end except to give space to residents to do what they want with it. Called Raahgiri, it has let people cycle, walk, skateboard, hold fitness and yoga classes and mini races and skateboarded here. 

    In a country where pavements are demolished to increase parking, flyovers are preferred over bicycle paths and pedestrians languish at the bottom of the traffic food chain, keeping roads car-free needs gumption. In India there are now 200 times as many motor vehicles ( including two-wheelers) as there were 50 years ago (from 0.7 million in 1961 to 142 million in 2011). City authorities all over the country are struggling to control the number of vehicles and the problems they create. 

    Yet, a few Indian cities are now confident enough to pull off carfree zones despite strong opposition. The good turnout at Gurgaon's Raahgiri, in fact, prompted the Delhi government to look at a possible vehicle-free road in the India Gate area every evening. Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, Fazilka (Punjab) are all experimenting with such no-carzones in an attempt to introduce an alternative to its residents. Last year, Visakhapatnam introduced a car-free zone on the Beach Road between 5.30 and 8 am every day and cycling, walking was promoted. It created three more such zones later and is now planning to set up more. 

    MV Satyanarayana, commissioner, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, says that the response has been really positive. "Initially we needed police personnel to make sure that cars did not come in but now the residents are so habituated that police presence is not needed. In fact, now there is a demand to make it car-free even in the evenings," says Satyanarayana, who is attempting the impossible task of making sure that pedestrians get first right on the 

    road followed by cyclists. 

    Ahmedabad's vehicle-free Sunday evenings, on the other hand, faced trouble because of lack of adequate police personnel to keep the roads car free. 

    Cyclists and pedestrians have always been there on the roads. But unfortunately, they have been invisible because these are mostly daily commuters who can't afford more expensive modes of transport. It is only recently that urban fitness movements like running, marathons and cycling events have made the middle class notice the lack of footpaths and cycle paths, and the lack of concern for anyone who is not in a car. 

    "Thanks to walkathons and cycling movements, the middle class and rich are beginning to value pollution-free and congestion-free public areas. They are asserting 

their rights to these spaces," says Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director — Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based NGO. "But it is important to catalyze public imagination, passion and emotion so they can transform how people look at transportation and slow down this relentless demand for road infrastructure." 

    But can these intermittent movements wean cities off their addiction to cars? According to Henrik Valeur, a Danish architect-urbanist who is writing a book on the urban transformation of India, it seems like a faint hope. Valeur has suggested a car-free sector (19) to the Chandigarh government as part of his proposals for the new master plan.The idea was to build parking lots at the sector's borders (over- and underground) and have a mix of cyclerickshaws and solar-powered rickshaws and bicycle lanes so that residents can move around without cars. 

    "About 25% of the total surface area of the sector is currently used by cars, and much of it is covered with asphalt, which contributes to the overheating of the city. The liberated space instead could be used for communal activities, such as playgrounds, sports fields and community kitchen gardens," says Valeur. 

    The plan was submitted in December 2010 but did not make it to the final masterplan. Instead the administration in 2012 chopped down 60 trees in the sector to facilitate the construction of an overpass for motor transport in the middle of the sector. But Valeur still believes that small movements for car-free zones can be incremental. 

    "The Copenhagen experience shows that even temporarily closing roads helps in convincing people (of the need for car-free zones)," he says. "Initially, they will be annoyed but this is why it is important to have actual examples in such areas." 

    Fazilka, a town in Punjab, also freed its main market area of cars between 10 am and 7 pm. Predictably, shopkeepers opposed the move but today, Fazilka has a thriving car-free shopping area. It even introduced a dial-a-rickshaw service. 

    Roy Chowdhury cites the example of Dehradun which pedestrianized Ghanta Ghar and Paltan Bazaar completely. "European examples have shown that when you go in a car, it is targeted shopping — park, buy, leave but when you walk around, you browse and tend to buy more. People are not against walking. They just want a better experience while they are walking," she says. 

THE WHEELS ARE TURNING: The middle class is beginning to value pollutionfree and congestion-free public areas, and is asserting its rights 

BREATHING SPACE: Starved of open areas, city dwellers use open roads like they would a park 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Making the cookie crumble differently

For SilverPush, which tracks users as they move from browser to mobile apps, the biggest challenge comes from the big guns of internet

Hitesh Chawla from Fazilka, Punjab, hadn't heard of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, the technology school he graduated from, till he was 15. Now, his start-up, 
SilverPush, is pushing back the frontiers of technology.

The company has just won a round of funding from Dave McClure's 500 Startups, after being nurtured under the wing of Rajesh Sawhney-backed GSF Accelerator with Siddharth Puri of Tyroo as angel investor.

On being a successful applicant to GSF, Chawla, 30, says, "I wasn't really expecting I would get in, though I hadn't given up on the entrepreneurship dream."

SilverPush is one of the many companies trying to perfect the technology of mobile ad re-targeting and among the 50 companies the world over that are known for cross-device re-targeting. "Expect mobile re-targeting to be the next big space for innovation, investment, and acquisitions," said an October piece on AOL-owned technology news website TechCrunch. Forbes listed ad retargeting in the top seven online marketing trends for 2014.

For most advertisers, re-targeting is the Holy Grail, and mobile is the road to it.

Demystifying ad re-targeting
If you search for shoes on Snapdeal, leave the site without a transaction and then log on to Facebook to view a friend's latest display picture, chances are the picture will be followed by a shoe advertisement, as you scroll down. This concept draws more customers and accounts for more sales than banner advertisements on websites, which is why companies and brands are increasingly focusing on retargeting.

Large companies such as Drawbridge and Tapad, with revenue run rate of $20 million and sales of $100 million, respectively, are the big fish of cross-device ad retargeting, following consumers as they move from desktops to tablets to phones. This is done by dropping a cookie on a website a consumer has visited and matching these cookies. The Wall Street Journal describes cookies as tiny pieces of code that marketers deploy on web browsers to track people's online movements, serve targeted advertising and amass valuable user profiles.

The problem becomes more complex in trying to track consumers on mobiles, as these devices don't accept cookies. Increasingly, though, it will be important for brands to have a mobile strategy, as Indian users increasingly access internet through smartphones. About 20 per cent of online transactions are through smartphones.

This is the technology SilverPush is trying to sharpen - tracking users as they move from browser to app on mobile.

No clear answers
"You've heard the phrase 'it's not rocket science'. Well, this is rocket science," says a senior marketing executive of a mobile phone company, requesting anonymity as he isn't authorised to talk to the media.

Since cookies do not exist in mobile retargeting, everyone's fishing for a way out. Social networking giant Facebook launched its own mobile retargeting last month, a year after launching its ad exchange.

On SilverPush, Alok Mittal, a venture capitalist who has invested in location-based mobile advertising company AdNear, says, "In mobile, there are no cookies. So, I am curious. Expenditure will shift to the mobile advertising area, as mobiles are available to 600-800 million. The Indian market, however, is still very slow."

SilverPush founders say they identify a smartphone device (read user) through 50 parameters, based on data collected through ad exchanges, app owners and advertisers. This data is crunched to arrive at a smartphone's profile. "We sanitise the data; we segment it," says co-founder Mudit Seth, 27. "We come out with the intent of the user, based on which we come out with user behaviour."

So, a person who browses photography sites will be shown camera advertisements on games she plays.

SilverPush claims to have profiled 80 million devices in India, virtually most of 3G/4G users, which mobile marketing resource site pegged at 88.5 million, based on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India statistics. "We have collected this data in the last six months," says Seth.

Though feature phones outsell smartphones globally, the trend is expected to change by 2016.

The ad exchanges SilverPush works with - Smaato, PubMatic, MoPub (being bought by Twitter) and AdIquity - also have ad inventory from publishers or app owners such as Facebook and Angry Birds. SilverPush bids for this ad inventory through the exchanges. The cost of the ad depends on the popularity of the publisher; displaying an ad on Facebook is among the costliest.

"We process a billion ad requests a day for India alone; now, we are starting in the US as well," says Chawla. The company's clients have included Myntra, Jabong, Dominos, Airtel, Paytm, Firstcry and Samsung.

For Seth and Chawla, SilverPush is the second entrepreneurial venture. Earlier, they partnered an outdoor advertising company that failed to take off, as the two found the business non-transparent.

Now, both are excited about innovations in the mobile space. "In (every) six months, everything changes," says Seth. The two say their company is expanding its reach by working with ad agencies such as ad2c and Madhouse, which provide it work instead of going to clients directly.

Chawla says the company is rejecting buyout offers. "(The offers are) very enticing personally, a million-plus dollars in cash," say Chawla and Seth, almost in unison, seeming excited as they play with their mobiles in the cafeteria of their Gurgaon office.

Google, Facebook
For SilverPush, the big guns of internet are likely to pose the biggest challenge. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are developing systems to bypass software companies that place cookies on websites and develop data mining abilities on their own.

Microsoft has announced it will give marketers the ability to track and advertise to people who use apps on its Windows 8 and 8.1 operating systems on tablets and PCs. The company will do this by assigning each user a number - a unique identifier - that monitors them across all their apps.

Google's plans, which the company disclosed only in broad terms, would also use a unique identifier.

Facebook's new ad service, launched in October, got around traditional third-party advertising cookies by doing the tracking on its own, said the Wall Street Journal. When a person visits a website selling shoes on a work PC, a piece of Facebook code placed on that site - Facebook's own cookie - recognises the person has logged on to Facebook using that browser earlier. The shoe seller can then send the person an ad for the product on the Facebook mobile app, even if that person never registered with the shoe seller.


If you understand the online world, the world of desktop web, cookies are the secret sauce to everything cool that can be achieved through online advertising. Websites put cookies on you when you visit their pages, and these can do wonders when it comes to targeting.

On the browser-led internet, cookies for all browsers are common. Google will look at your cookie from a previous visit to a news site and show you an ad with a, say, Newsweek subscription. Naaptol will study your browsing habits, and if you are identified as, say, a woman, offer you cutlery deals.

The web is the only medium able to segment consumers by their behaviour, and allows advertisers to target customers. On billboards or TV, behavioural targeting isn't possible.

Mobile phones, however, don't store cookies; you need another identifier. For smartphones, while Android has its own ID, iOS (Apple's operating system) has not settled on a particular ID and so, everyone's struggling there. Luckily, most smartphones in the Asia-Pacific have Android operating systems.

That's what SilverPush has done - it has developed the ability to identify Android users. By identifying the sites you have visited, they can segment you in terms of female, age group, sport lover, etc. Because they have been able to identify Android users, they are going to advertisers.

For instance, when Gillette brings out a ladies' razor, SilverPush can say "through my technology, I can identify five million women users and re-target them for you". So, instead of Rs 2 a click for a generic ad campaign, Gillette may be happier paying double for reaching a targeted audience for better conversions.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fazilka residents recall battle of Beriwala : Pak General’s brother Maj Shabbir Sharif was killed in this fierce man-to-man combat in 1971

Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, December 1, 2013
The appointment of General Raheel Sharif as Pakistan army chief has revived memories of the 1971 Indo-Pak war with special reference to Fazilka. General Sharif perhaps may be unable to forget the bitter memories of one of the fierce man-to-man battles as he had lost his elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif at the hands of Indian Army Major Narain Singh in the Fazilka sector.

Pakistan had launched a determined attack in this sector to capture Fazilka town on December 3, 1971. Pakistani forces, led by Major Sharif, had advanced in the Indian Territory beyond the first defence line across the strategically important Beriwala bridge.

The B company of 4 Jat Regiment of the Indian Army led by Major Narain Singh was assigned the task to stall the heavy Pakistani invasion and recapture Beriwala bridge. In the ensuing battle, both Major Narain Singh and Major Sharif were killed after displaying exemplary bravery.

Pakistan honoured Major Sharif with its highest gallantry award Nishan-e-Haider while Major Narain Singh was conferred with Veer Chakra.

"Their tales of rare act of bravery continued to do rounds in the Indian and Pakistan circles for a long period," says octogenarian Mohan Lal Paruthi, the founder general secretary of 1971 Indo-Pak War Memorial at Asafawala. He had witnessed the collective cremation of 82 martyrs of 4 Jat Regiment, including Major Narain Singh. The cremation was held at Asafwala village by area veterans where the memorial was later built. "During the exchange of bodies after the ceasefire, Pakistan army personnel had saluted the mortal remains of Major Narain Singh", says Paruthi.

Significantly, Pakistan Major General Muqueen Khan in his book equated the bravery of Major Narain Singh with Major Sharif.

The memorial raised by Fazilka residents is a place of obeisance and pilgrimage, says Urmila Bhatiyal, the widow of Major Narain Singh, whose bust has been installed at the memorial. Urmila and her son Dr Narinder are frequent visitors to the place.

Dr Narinder says: "I am proud of my father Major Narain Singh whose name lives on. If I get a chance to serve the country I will not miss the opportunity."

Friday, November 29, 2013

District Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar gets India's first Non Motor Transport Government Society

District Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar gets India's first Non Motor Transport Society.

Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, a district with many distinctions has got one more reason to celebrate for being the first of its kind in the country. This time it is not for being the best administered district of Punjab with all top officials as female or where male-female sex ratio (1000: 913) is second highest among all the districts of Punjab but this time for Institutionalizing the priority for vulnerable road users like cyclist, pedestrians, cycle rickshaw and other forms of Non motor transport. Today district administration of SBS Nagar constituted "Non Motor Transport Society" under the chairpersonship of the Deputy Commissioner with executive members like Executive Officers of all Municipal Councils of SBS District, Leading Bank Managers, Senior Police Officers, Public Works Department and experts for the non motor transport.

Non motor transport is a State Subject but, as a matter of fact the same very important mode of transportations is being taken care by multiple agencies, varying from Local bodies to Animal Husbandry.  No one owns the direct responsibility for Non Motor Transport and as a result, the equitable allocation of road space for non motor vs. motor transport is very biased towards motor transport. The society has been formed on the principles suggested in two important statutes, namely, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012, and upcoming Non-motorized Vehicles & Pliers (Promotion, Regulation, Welfare and Conditions of service) Act, 2013.

"Each town and city of our country is facing urban mobility crisis, and priority for motor transport car centric development solution making it further worse for future generations. It is high time for the administration to act now, in order to achieve futuristic sustainable transport solution" said Ms. Anindita Mitra, Deputy Commissioner and Chairperson of Non Motor Transport Society, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. In the year 2012, 205 people died and 100 found seriously injured due to road accident in SBS Nagar District, which include large number of pedestrians and cyclists. "Repect for pedestrian and cyclists and more sidewalks are the symbol of any good democratic setup to tell people how much we respect our common man, who walks on the road for their bread and butter need.  Our move is a step forward towards the same mission", she added.  During her last posting as Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development) Patiala, she initiated the process of Training of 115 GreenCABS cycle rickshaw operators as Tourist Guides followed by free distribution of 288 cycle rickshaw trolleys from welfare funds.

At present more than 2500 cycle rickshaw operators are operational in SBS Nagar district. This provides a source of livelihood of more than 13,500 urban poor. The Society will have a strong support for the promotion of cycle rickshaw as an eco friendly mode of para transit for urban and rural areas given the directives issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court related to implementation of Ecocabs in the state. As a primary function, the Society would work improve operational efficiency of Public transport system and support the livelihood people associated directly or indirectly with Non Motor Transport operations and other modes of Para transit Public transport. Society will also take care about the maintenance of footpaths and cycle tracks for safe pedestrian movement, along with promotion of cycle rickshaws and Ecocabs mainly in urban areas of district.

Apart from ex-officio members, the key external members have been taken on board - Mr Ravee Ahluwalia, from Patiala GreenCABS and Mr Navdeep Asija, founder Ecocabs. Both will advise the administration regarding the different activities related to Non Motor Transport, designs of footpaths, cycle tracks and sidewalks. This is a welcoming step and will set an example for the rest of district administration in order to institutionalize the process of recognizing importance of Non Motor Transport.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ecocabs on top five shortlist for Volvo awards

Hindustan Times, Bathinda Edition, 31 October 2013
Fazilka-based 'Ecocabs', an NGO working in the area of sustainable mobility and transport in the region, has made it to the top-five shortlist of organisations for 'Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award 2013'.

The winner will be announced at the Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar on November 7.

The Swedish embassy has been organising a Swedish-India Nobel Memorial week since 2007.

The organisation focuses on India's first Nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in the Centenary year of his Nobel Prize.

Navdeep Asija, founder of Ecolabs, said that the recognition was a result of hard work in the area of non-motorable transport solution.

The Volvo award, now in its 3rd edition, aims to motivate thinkers and organization working in the area of sustainable non-motor transport solutions.

Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) has also implemented Ecocabs in tourist cities like Amritsar and Patiala. The pilots running the Ecocabs are also trained to act as tourism guides.

In 2011, Ecocab had been awarded a national award for the best transport project in the country in the area of non-motorised transportation.

The Volvo award shall be conferred by his excellency Harald Sandberg, ambassador of Sweden to India. The chairman of the board of Volvo Buses Akash Passy will preside over the award function.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cycle rickshaws save 9 lakh litres of fuel everyday, claims study

The Tribune, 18th October 2013, Page 6

While the West Bengal Government has earned the ire of environmentalists for banning bicycles and rickshaws on 174 roads, in Punjab the humble cycle rickshaw continues to save 9 lakh litres of fuel and 13,680 tonnes of fresh air every day.
A common man's transport mode, more than 3 lakh cycle rickshaws help 6 million people commute to their destinations everyday without spewing any toxic emissions.
These are the findings of a study on cycle rickshaws by Navdeep Asija of the Institute of Development and Communication, Chandigarh. The cycle rickshaw is a source of income for 16 lakh persons and 3.2 lakh urban poor families of Punjab. Of the 5.5 crore commuter trips recorded in the state, 6 million are by the cycle rickshaws. It is undoubtedly the safest mode of transportation with the least number of accidents as compared to other modes.
"Each cycle rickshaw saves 3 litres of fuel every day. Since burning of each litre requires 15.2 kg of fresh air, 9 lakh litres would require 13,680 tonnes of fresh air," explained the study. Despite being a green mode of transport, the rickshaw is the only over-regulated mode of public transport in the country.
The study states: "All existing policies related to operations are either trying to control the number of people who enter this trade or abolish the sector altogether. The Seventh Schedule (Article 246), List II of the Constitution delegates' powers to make rules and regulations related to non-motor transport, especially the cycle rickshaw. "The existing Rickshaw Acts do not provide much attention towards the smooth and legal rickshaw operations, but an over-regulated licensing regime has been created, which only leads to exploitation of rickshaw operators and the trade itself."
It quotes a survey conducted by Manushi that states that in Delhi alone the "terror unleashed by the licence quota- raid-raj on rickshaw operators leads to a loss of income worth over Rs 200 crore through bribes and confiscation of rickshaws."
The study discusses how the applicable Acts restrict a rickshaw puller aged above 45 not to ply a rickshaw.
Ironically, the tax component of cycle rickshaw is about 20 per cent-22 per cent, the highest for any mode of transportation. The study has suggested reforms in licensing, relaxation in the upper age limit, allowing renting of rickshaw and VAT exemption.

Green wheels: No toxic emissions
  • More than 3 lakh cycle rickshaws in Punjab help 6 million people commute to their destinations everyday
  • It is a source of income for 16 lakh persons and 3.2 lakh urban poor families in the state
  • It is the safest mode of transportation with the least number of accidents Over-regulated mode of transport
  • The rickshaw is the only over-regulated mode of public transport in the country
  • An over-regulated licensing regime has led to exploitation of rickshaw operators and the trade

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gandhi Ji and Sustainable Transportation

Yesterday, India celebrated the 144th birth anniversary of its greatest leader, Mahatma Gandhi, a visionary whose fundamental principles and vision are universally applicable – especially to sustainable transport. As an individual working in this field, I felt I must share my interpretation and compiled wisdom about Gandhi, his philosophy, and its relevance to the sustainable transport sector.

Gandhi was strong supporter of cycling and walking, who can perhaps be credited with starting the sustainable transport movement in India. In his book Hind Swaraj, he defined the principle of sustainability as, “More from less for more”. I would like to share a few anecdotes about Gandhi, and some of his famous quotes, because they reflect his concern and vision for a great cause: sustainable urban mobility.

Gandhi’s daily routine embraced sustainable modes of transport

Gandhi’s daily routine included walking nearly 18 kilometers (11.2 miles). He averaged 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) during the Dandi march, and walked a total of almost 80,000 kilometers (49,710 miles) throughout his campaigns from 1913 to 1938. That’s enough to walk around the world twice! Gandhi loved walking and often called it the “prince of exercises”. As a student in London, he saved money by walking several miles every day.

Gandhi also had a strong passion for cycling. When he moved to Ahmedabad in 1915, he rode his bicycle from Gujarat Vidyapith to Sabarmati Ashram. In Johannesburg, South Africa, he was the first person to oppose and protest a law which discriminated against people cycling on the streets. He wrote in the journal Indian Opinion opposing a move by the Johannesburg Town Council requiring every native who held a cycle permit and rode a cycle within the municipal area to wear a numbered badge on his left arm. Interestingly, two post-independence laws, the Delhi Municipal Act of 1960 and Punjab Cycle Rickshaw Act of 1976, kept similar restrictions and licensing systems in place for cycle rickshaws until this year – they were recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India.

Using walking to organize

Gandhi’s famous Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha, began with the Dandi March on March 12,1930. This march became an important symbol of the Indian independence movement. As he traveled on the 24-day-long, 390 kilometer (240 mile) march to produce salt without paying a tax imposed by the British, a growing number of Indians joined him along the way. When he broke the salt laws at 6:30 am on April 6, 1930, it sparked widespread acts of civil disobedience against the British Raj salt laws by millions of Indians. Simply put, Gandhi used walking as a tool to organize his fellow Indians.

Gandhi continually emphasized the importance of walking and cycling. When asked for advice, he once told someone, “I hope you are careful about eating. You may use a bicycle, but you should also walk daily”. After a small incident on bicycle Gandhi wrote to his friend about bicycle maintenance, “The bicycle incident yesterday was not a happy one. A carpenter will always keep his tools ready for use. A typist will keep his typewriter in good repair and a rider will keep his horse in good stead. Similarly a bicycle should always be kept clean, oiled and ready for use. Otherwise don’t have a bicycle at all”. Another time, Gandhi wrote to a friend, “If, however, you are determined to work in the city, you should stay in the city. You are not strong enough to go to the city and return on bicycle”. With this comment, Gandhi referenced the size of cities and their human scale.

Applying Gandhi’s principles to urban planning

Today’s urban planning is dominated by motorized vehicles, and as a result, the distance we travel between work and home is constantly increasing. The quote above from Gandhi reflects his concern for better urban planning, and where people should live. Today most of our Indian cities face similar challenges. Gandhi’s principle, “More from Less for More” (MLM) is all about getting greater performance from fewer resources for more people, and not just for bigger profits – this principle should be followed with the goals of creating a more equitable society and realizing a sustainable future for mankind in mind. That’s what Gandhi would want us to aim for in today’s urban planning.

It’s impossible to imagine what might have happened if had India followed Gandhi’s ideals on sustainable transport and urban planning from its founding, and given support to the local informal sector, which includes non-motorized transport. Although it’s sad to see that none of the principles given by Gandhi are currently being adopted into India’s transportation policies, it’s not too late to implement them. It’s time for India to revive the spirit of our cities by examining the strengths and weaknesses our own existing transport system, rather than blindly accepting all western models. It is high time we act in order to create a sustainable future for our present and future generations by practicing the principles of someone whose vision was way ahead of his time.

Navdeep Asija
Founder, Ecocabs

"The educated man must realize that he has more obligations than privileges, more duties than rights. The educated man should be delighted to serve, and not desire to dominate. For, service is the best way to use one's skills, intelligence, strength and resources"

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

HC bats for eco-cabs

Considering pollution free vicinity for city beautiful, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday made it clear that it was in favour of expansion of non-motorised transport system in Chandigarh. 

The court's observations came during the hearing of a petition on the running of eco cabs in the city. A division bench of High Court asked UT chief architect and Chandigarh Municipal Corporation to hold meeting with Navdeep Asija, instrumental in designing and introducing the eco cabs in Fazilka. The High Court has also asked the civic authorities to put a status report on the introduction of eco cabs and non-motorized transport system in the city. The case now would come up for next hearing on October 25. 

During a hearing on March 2 last year, the High Court division bench had also favoured for making Sector 17 a vehicle free zone to solve the chaotic situation here especially after 4 pm. The bench had also suggested making some parts of each Sector vehicle free zones on rotational basis. The administration could start from Sector 16, where VIPs including bureaucrats and judges live.

Later, in a bid to comply with the High Court directions the civic body constructed pedestrian paths between three parking lots in Sector 17. These parking lots connected with raised 10-feet wide pedestrian paths for shoppers to walk across the plaza, by crossing the parking lots.