Skewed Infrastructure Development.

News items in The Hindu over the past two days show the absurdly skewed nature of infrastructure development in Coimbatore.

On Monday, October 15, 2007…

Two more international flights from Coimbatore

The Coimbatore Airport in the last two years despite being non-metropolitan has seen more than 100 per cent growth. The commencement of services by three international airliners has made October a milestone in the history of the airport.

Airport Director K. Hemalatha [….] said that efforts were on to get customs duty paid shop and foreign exchange counters opened at the airport with the introduction of three international services.

[Full article here].

On Tuesday, October 16, 2007…

Rain Lashes Coimbatore.

A downpour on Monday evening that lashed the city for over four hours left many roads inundated paralysing traffic for several hours.

The heavy rain resulted in water-logging on flyovers and underpasses besides causing disruption in power supply in many areas.

Water-logging of roads led to traffic snarls and policemen deployed at signals were seen struggling to clear the vehicles that were wading through flooded roads. Uprooting of trees and fallen branches disrupted power supply forcing the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board staff to work over time for restoring the same.

[Full article here, with a photograph of a traffic policeman who appears to be dancing in a large puddle and the usual details of remedial, shut-the-door-after-the-horse-has-bolted, measures by the civic authorities].

How about upgrading the rain water drains or the drainage system as a whole in the city before trying to get in more international flights? It would also be very welcome if they made the roads more drivable while they are at it.

The easy argument would be that the addition of a few more international flights is at no cost to the government or the Airports Authority of India (AAI), whereas a complete overhaul of the city’s drainage system would mean an expenditure of a few tens or hundreds of crore rupees.

It is not as if the government or the AAI are not planning to spend money on the airport. Plans for the expansion of the Coimbatore airport have been in place for nearly a decade. They are hopelessly mired in a controversy and law suits over the land acquisition for the proposed expansion. Mention ‘land acquisition’ anywhere in India and it instantly becomes a political issue. Same here.

Another story in yesterday’s Hindu…

Residents observe fast against land acquisition for airport expansion.

Nearly 2,000 people, including women and children, observed a fast at Chinniyampalayam bus stand, off Avanashi Road, on Monday protesting against the proposed move to acquire residential and industrial lands for the proposed expansion of the Coimbatore Airport.

[…] The move for the expansion of the airport to convert it into an international airport would lead to demolition of over 2,000 houses, 15 mills, 50 industries and two schools thereby causing loss and dislocation for over 10,000 people.

[Full article here, with details of the local political heavyweights who were in attendance. Surprisingly there seems to have been support cutting across party lines].

Going by yet another news article in yesterday’s Hindu, this does not seem to be an one-off affair. We will be hearing similar stories from a few more cities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh it seems.

Airports being developed at a cost of Rs. 220 crore

The Airports Authority of India is developing airports in the southern part of the country with an outlay of Rs. 220 crore, K. Ramalingam, Regional Executive Director, AAI, Chennai, said here on Monday.

[…] The runways and aprons of the airports in Madurai, Tiruchi, Mangalore, Calicut, Vishakapatnam and Thiruvananthapuram were being expanded to cope with the increasing volume of traffic. The runway expansion would enable easy landing and take-off of wide-bodied aircraft.

The terminal buildings at the Madurai, Coimbatore, Mangalore and Calicut airports were being modified to accommodate domestic traffic. New terminal buildings would be constructed at Tiruchi, Madurai, Coimbatore and Mangalore airports for the convenience of international passengers.

[Full article here, which also promises more new projects like helicopter services from Coimbatore to Ooty, and from Madurai to Kodaikanal].

More money to be spent, land to be acquired ‘for development’ and the inevitable protests and political, legal wrangling to be faced.

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Syncretism in India.

syncretism |ˈsi ng krəˌtizəm| noun. The amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.

I came across this sentence…

But the bombings also reflect another less-understood project: the war of Islamist neoconservatives against the syncretic traditions and beliefs that characterise popular Islam in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

…in an article in The Hindu on the recent terrorist attack in Ajmer.

This morning at work, I saw a subordinate with a clean-shaven pate. I know that he is a Christian, so I asked him if it was a new fashion statement.

To my surprise, he said he had been to Velankanni and had his head shaved as a votive offering at the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.

A typical example of religious syncretism in India. I thought this particular votive offering of shaving one’s head was done only at the Venkateswara temple in Tirupathi and in the various Murugan temples in Tamil Nadu.

The Wikipedia article gives more examples of relgious syncretism…

Pilgrims to the basilica are common during September, around the time of the feast. Then, millions from all over India and abroad come to join in prayers. The feast day prayers are said in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Konkani, Hindi and English.[13] The pilgrims include people of many faith backgrounds, especially including Hindus as well as Christians. The centuries of pilgrimages and devotion by Hindus have had a profound influence on Marian devotion in Velankanni.[14] This especially includes use of kotimaram, which has been described as an extended influence of Hinduism on Catholicism. This has made the Basilica a meeting point of two of the major religions of the world.[15] It is said that the portrayal of Virgin Mary as a curer of illness and a victor over all demonic forces is seen by local Hindus as an attribute equivalent of Hindu Goddess Mariamman.[16]Such pilgrims are also common during Christmas.[17]

I have seen pictures of the Vellankanni Basilica and the Holy Mother in puja rooms in a few Hindu houses. I have also seen pictures of the Nagore dargah in a few Hindu houses.

Likewise, Wikipedia’s article on Nagore gives more examples of syncretism…

Although dedicated to a Muslim saint, the dargha’s rituals and architecture are influenced by Hinduism, and the area is characterized by largely peaceful coexistence between its Muslim and Hindu populations. In the immediate aftermath of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the dargah sheltered and fed thousands of Hindu tsunami survivors, and buried the bodies of more than 300 Hindus killed in the tsunami in its graveyard.[2]

I am a Hindu and my family is devoutly Hindu. But I distinctly remember being taken to the local mosque for being sprinkled with holy water and dusted with the Muslim version of the vensamaram whenever I suffered a minor childhood illness. Typically, my mother or father would say in Tamil –  masUthikku pOi manthirichittu varalAm. It was based on the strong belief that the evil spirits (?) that caused the illness would be driven away by the process.

There must be thousands of such examples of inter-religious syncretism in our vast country.

Published in: on October 14, 2007 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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