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A year of leadership failure

The last image of 2012 is protesters storming the bastion of Delhi, outraged at the brutal rape of a young girl and the culture of violence against women. This outburst by the educated middle class, many of them young women, was spontaneous as much as it was leaderless. But as we move to the next year, we need to think about the response of the government to this protest and others. We need to understand if the Indian state has any clue about what is going on under its nose—and feet.

A year of leadership failure

The last image of 2012 is protesters storming the bastion of Delhi, outraged at the brutal rape of a young girl and the culture of violence against women. This outburst by the educated middle class, many of them young women, was spontaneous as much as it was leaderless. But as we move to the next year, we need to think about the response of the government to this protest and others. We need to understand if the Indian state has any clue about what is going on under its nose—and feet.

A year of leadership failure

The last image of 2012 is protesters storming the bastion of Delhi, outraged at the brutal rape of a young girl and the culture of violence against women. This outburst by the educated middle class, many of them young women, was spontaneous as much as it was leaderless. But as we move to the next year, we need to think about the response of the government to this protest and others. We need to understand if the Indian state has any clue about what is going on under its nose—and feet.

Doha: inaction in the face of urgency

The Doha climate conference stretched beyond deadline but ended in what can best be described a nail-biting finish. This was the 18th conference of parties (COP) to the climate convention, which meets once a year to push for action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which are so intertwined with economic growth that the world has been haggling for the past 20 years over who will reduce and how much. The fact is that during these 20 years the science of climate change has become more certain. The world is beginning to witness what the future will look like.

Ponty, buses and PPPs

Liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his brother who were killed in a fratricide incident had another business not widely known. Ponty had recently acquired the concession to run public transport buses in Delhi. His company had won the bids for three clusters with a combined fleet of 600-odd vehicles. Now questions are being asked about who will run the business.

Smog has to be cleared

Losing after winning is the worst feeling possible. This is how I feel looking out of my window at a thick pall of black smog engulfing my city. It was this time of the year, exactly 15 years ago, when Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) began its right-to-clean-air campaign. The air in Delhi was so foul one could hardly breathe. That was a time when air pollution was an unknown curse. Not much was known about its nature and the toxicity of the air contaminants.

A tale of two cities

I travelled to two different cities in two different states last week—Indore and Guwahati. I came back with images identified by common distinctions: piles of garbage and glitzy new shopping malls. Is this our vision of urban development? There is no question that cities are imploding; growth is happening faster than we ever imagined. Construction is booming and expansion is gobbling agricultural land.

Public private prank

Growth is back on the agenda, says the government. It is hoping that with pushy announcements foreign and Indian investment will miraculously start pouring in and infrastructure will be the name of the game once again. But this assumption ignores one crucial detail: currently, public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure are on the cusp of disaster. The country needs a different strategy to build public services infrastructure.

Temporary solution, permanent jam

I write this stuck in traffic. Nothing unusual. But my location makes me realise, once again, how our highway route to progress is going nowhere. The road I am using is newly commissioned and expensive. It is the 28-km Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, which was built just a few years ago to take care of the explosion of traffic between the two cities. It is access-controlled, with a 32-lane toll plaza, and was to provide easy access and a fun ride. The concessionaire—built as it is under the famous public private partnership model—took all steps to keep it prized for cars.

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