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I saw Arvind Kejriwal's easy dismissal of privacy rights when Ravish Kumar raised the question of privacy with regard to Aam Aadmi Party's promise of installing CCTVs in public places in order to "reduce crime". Other arguments on social media include making Delhi safer for women and so on.

This appears to be a rather reckless and reactive embracing of a solution that appeals to the AAP DNA - "prove it, show documentation" gene so to say. If a crime happened, then the CCTV will be proof to prosecute. Delhi will be safer for women. Absolutes appeal to AAP. Black, white. Aar ya paar, doodh ka doodh... etc

There appears to be a lack of understanding of fundamental rights when Arvind Kejriwal asks Ravish what he does on a street that he would choose to hide. This is not so much unlike other privacy violating arguments governments make and is just as much against civil rights as intercepting email would be.

I may be on the street, but I am not public property, only the street is. If a stranger photographing me on the street without my consent is a violation of my privacy, it doesn't smell sweeter if said stranger is the state. I don't have to have a reason to be refused to photographed. And this personal right cannot be discarded just because the entity taking non-consensual images of me is the state.

To someone interested in privacy rights, Arvind Kejriwal's reply was as ignorant as that of Modi's when he'd blithely dismissed brain drain as a non-issue. These are real issues and if not researched, deserve at least a sober reply that commits to researching them. Here's an example of how security can use such footage to violate your rights.

While it is true that CCTV footage can help identify criminals, an entire city with CCTV coverage creates potential to do a lot more than identify criminals and it is invasive of privacy just as stalking is invasive of privacy. You standing on the same street as me is not a problem, but when you're standing wherever I go, all day, then it is a problem. I may not be doing anything on the street, but I may not want people to have the ability to know where I went and what I did all day, everyday.

The idea that using the streets of Delhi means being okay with being watched wherever you go is very disturbing.

We have already seen footage of couples necking on the Delhi Metro. How long do you think it will take before say college students are blackmailed for money or favors with threats of their families discovering their bunking college or boyfriends or girlfriends? Will the girls of Delhi really be safer with a chauvinistic police force able to watch them daily and perhaps even follow the more interesting of them around the city?

How long before jealous spouses or controlling parents start bribing cops to keep an eye on people who have no idea they are being watched and could unwittingly return home to violence?

For your CCTV to be really effective, it will be a matter of months at most before intelligence agencies start queuing up to put pressure to have unlimited access in the name of security. To catch criminals more effectively, face recognition technology (which also often has false positives) will be "needed".

And these are still scenarios of routine corruption or misuse of power. What happens when a Center that is paranoid of NGOs and already suspected by many to spy on political opposition as well as leaders uses these CCTVs to monitor "national security"?

The Aam Aadmi Party is a party chock full of activists, born in an agitation and is well familiar with just how far a state can go to subvert dissent. What do you think happens if whistleblowers and RTI activists can be monitored across the city using CCTV?

Because these are the uses a CCTV coverage of an entire city can be put too as well. How many times does an escaping criminal need to be identified on an average street, and how many times are vulnerable girls, activists, political adverseries walking down it? What will we be sacrificing for all and who will we be endangering by grabbing what appears to be a quick fix?

Can the Aam Aadmi Party promise to be in power forever? Can it guarantee that the foundations of surveillance it has laid will not victimize the people of Delhi no matter what party is in power?

These questions need close answers. It is not a simple matter of "what do you have to hide?" in a country where people catching the eye of the state don't necessarily have to do wrong to suffer.

In a country where the first victim of a crime is the CCTV footage and over 90% instances of rapes happen off the streets and by people known to the victim (so identifying is not an issue), what miracle is expected from CCTVs to take so much risk with civil liberties?

Is this to say CCTVs are useless? No. They have their advantages, and those advantages could be identified and leveraged. For example:

  1. Creating a separate body with a high degree of safeguards to monitor the CCTVs and for any other entity to require a court order to access footage. The authority can be provided with rights to act at discretion in an emergency to give access it deems necessary to prevent a crime or ensure safety or prevent escape of a criminal with a formal process of explanation later. Such access too can be graded in the sense of officials monitoring cameras providing updates or access to the actual feed from the camera. Thus there is a direct chain of accountability for the use and misuse of the cameras.
  2. Accessing cameras locally rather than centrally for whole city. This would reduce potential for stalking.
  3. Identification of areas that are crime prone where the presence of a CCTV would prevent crime or assist in tracing criminals. For example, if there is a high density of crime in a certain spot, and if the nature of the crimes is such that a CCTV would help identify criminals, then that area could be covered by CCTV instead of carpet bombing the city. Needless to say, the success rate of the cameras installed in fighting crime must be assessed and where there is no measureable impact, the cameras should be removed.
  4. There should be a clear process for determing the scope of the CCTV camera project and assessment of risks to privacy should include privacy rights activists and technology experts from the civil society.

These are just some examples on how to avoid grand and reckless declarations of CCTVing an entire city and do more harm than the scope of even the good intent.

I would appreciate it if Arvind Kejriwal can acknowledge that there are serious questions raised about CCTVs and that he publicly commits to assessing privacy concerns and minimizing risk of misuse before the CCTVs are implemented.

About the promise of WiFi for the entire city, I endorse it wholeheartedly. I think Arvind Kejriwal's answer was somewhat lukewarm on the subject, therefore I would like to point out that WiFi allows anyone with a mobile phone to access the internet, instantly giving voice and access to information to a vast section of society. This is very enriching to democracy by encouraging intellectual capital, access to information and transparency. It will free people to seek information beyond what is packaged and presented to them from all directions and thus is among the few ways still left open that a deteriorating right to information can be bolstered. Thus, free WiFi is a great equalizer and inherently pro-democracy.

The Twitter and Youtube accounts of CENTCOM (Central Command) appear to be hacked and are posting pro ISIS content, threats as well as what appears to be detailed information for officers.

The account claims to have breached computers in all military bases.

The account is currently suspended..

Others on Twitter have expressed skepticism about the hacked account citing incongruencies like the ISIS never referring to itself as the ISIS or noting that some of the material posted was already available on the internet while the rest was unverifiable. The quick confirmation from CENTCOM of what could be a serious breach only fuelled suspicions that it was a false flag operation.

Sounds dramatic and alarming. Further updates awaited.

U.S. Central Command  @CENTCOM    Twitter hacked
U.S. Central Command @CENTCOM Twitter hacked


A long overdue step toward bringing in standards in advenure sports took off when the Government of Maharashtra issued norms as a Government Resolution applicable to individuals and organizations offering adventure tours. While the initial rules are better than expected, largely due to trekking organizations impleading themselves into the case by Anil Mahajan that led to the Bombay High Court directive, this must be seen as an initial step, that also will require much refinement before a desirable state of regulation without suffocation can evolve.

There is no doubt that operators of dubious competence endanger lives of people seeking adventure. However, it is important to recognize that there are few specific qualifications that could apply to many of the tours on offer and most of the competence of even the best of professionals in the adventure sector comes from experience and hobby that lead to no certification.

The GR has a mixed reception from what I have observed in the adventure fraternity. Well established businesses with large turnovers have little to worry about (other than availability of instructors with qualifications specified - who will be rare for a while yet). However smaller businesses and organizers are in a quandry even as they recognize the need for regulation for the sake of safety. There are still other hobbyists who are not comfortable with the need to register with authorities for every hike (something many people do every weekend in this region) and see this as a created opportunity for corruption.

Several valid questions raised include:

What distinguishes a hike from a picnic or other trip?

Many trekking locations are also popular spots for picnics or local festivals. Often, picnicers are found drinking alcohol and littering the place with both trash as well as dangerous glass from broken bottles. Trekking groups are the ones usually organizing clean up campaigns. Yet these guidelines will do little to prevent risky behavior by individuals, while forcing paperwork deterrents on organizations going to the same place with far more competence - for reasons of safety. Additionally, such trips will be forced to provide medical and evacuation plans which will add to costs and result in more trips conducted as unofficial picnics bypassing regulations resulting in little actual safety on the ground. It will be impossible to regulate free movement of people to picnic spots of their choosing and again be difficult to discriminate them with any sensible logic from pilgrims and other travelers to the same spots.


There are few qualifications that can apply to professionals in several kinds of adventure tours. While specific sports - like rock climbing, skiing or rafting have specific training courses available, most trekkers learn trekking by trekking and it is difficult for someone who has trekked for decades and is likely more competent than someone merely doing some mountaineering course to prove competence on paper. Further complications arise when it comes to trips out of the state. For example, consider a rafting trip on the Kali (Karnataka) or an adventure camp in Manali which will feature skiing and paragliding as activities. What qualifications should the instructors provided from Mumbai or Pune (for example) have? They will essentially be escorting travel, with local adventure operators providing the specific expertise for the activities. Why would they need more qualifications than any other tour operator? On the other hand, with local guides not requiring registration, there remains absolutely no guarantee of competence outside the state in any case, unless the operator is large enough with rich enough clients who will bear the costs of qualified instructors from Maharashtra accompanying every batch - who will not be allowed by local operators to run the activity on their setup in any case - because they will have established teams with smooth operations.

Worse, there are no qualifications that cover many kinds of competencies required on adventure tours, and responsible operators usually hire based on their knowledge of competence of people in key roles. These may not necessarily have the competencies on paper.


Like any other field, the adventure field too goes through innovations. Rock climbing and rappelling trips that cannot be done in monsoons gave away to waterfall rappelling in the Sahyadri region. Skiing and snow boarding at snow points at Rohtang gave away to sliding down mountain slopes sitting tight in inflated truck tires. Is sliding down a snow slope on an inflated tire adventure or fun? Is sliding down the same slope on a snowboard adventure or fun? Will a team game involving a team building a makeshift raft and crossing a pond require an instructor trained in rafting or swimming coach? Is it adventure or not? Most operators experiment on themselves, and learn the risks before taking another through the experience. But with these regulations, that will not be enough. Too many regulations will strangle the joy of innovation - either for fear of legal consequences or for lack of qualifications to fit every need.

How unsafe is unsafe

Treating all adventure sports as being equally unsafe is a bit immature. Hiking in the Sahyadri is something entire generations of mountaineers grew up doing each weekend. When I was an active hiker, it was common to leave home intending to go on a trek and eyeball various groups waiting for the last train to Karjat at Dadar station to make a decision on which trek it will be. With these rules it will be impossible. I will need to register on Friday before offices close in order to be able to attend a weekend hike. No more spontaneous "gimme a breath of green". On the other hand, I can't remember half a dozen people who died on hikes in over two decades of being involved in the outdoors. Can't say the same or drivers on roads. Yet, you wouldn't dream of asking people to apply for permission each time they want to drive!

On the other hand, the unpredictable winds make paragliding at Solang Nallah uncommonly risky - particularly in early summer - peak Maharashtrian tourist season, and it has been banned and allowed dozens of times over the years, balancing safety concerns with public demands and livelihoods. It keeps boiling down to the competence of instructors and locally evolved rules for stopping flights in unpredictable weather. Yet these rules can't do a thing about ensuring safety there. Even a trained flier from Maharashtra would lack knowledge of prevailing wind patterns in a new place.

Also, how exactly would local authorities ensure safety of those registering with them? Knowing who to call in case of an accident? That can be managed with far fewer headaches.

Medical safety

Given India's pathetic doctor to patient ratio, it takes Alice in Wonderland to expect doctors escorting every adventure tour. Assuming all doctors in Maharashtra were willing to escort adventure tours, the chances are we'd still have more adventure tours than doctors.

There are few mountain first aid courses, and many of them are for knowledge and don't offer certificates in the end. They may, in the future, but the instructors competent in first aid currently often have no papers to prove it. The guidelines also fail to recognize that many adventure training includes first aid. Basic and Advanced mountaineering courses in the Himalaya include training for the mountains and high altitudes, for example. Advanced rock climbing courses (at least the one I did) include things like rock face rescues using ropes systems, and so on. It can easily be made mandatory for all adventure courses to include first aid training rather than requiring separate courses that cannot accommodates specific risk factors of each sport.

Evacuation is something that needs more elaboration. Many really risky places don't have phone coverage. Are we saying every organization must be forced to buy satellite phones? Even if calls for assistance are made, the first responders are usually "whoever is available and near" this can mean villagers, other adventure groups, the Army, helicopters, evacuation by the group members of the casualty themselves... and it is most efficient. It is difficult for me, as someone who has been in a lot of extreme adventure situations to understand how this can be predicted and guaranteed on paper. The only medical emergency of my career involved me helping a woman down a mountain to lose altitude fast. She was 15 kilos heavier than me, but I still carried her part of the way. Ended up with bad knees for a week myself after that. Where in the form would the readiness to do this be written? Merely writing that there would be a vehicle waiting hardly matters. Most trips using vehicles have the vehicle waiting, trips not using vehicles will have a considerable added expense to be forced to use vehicles on the possibility that an evacuation may be needed (remember, hiking is safer than driving?).

Age restrictions

The age restriction of participants of adventure tours going 3000m and above must be above 16 years came less than a month after Malavath Purna, a 13 year old daughter of a poor farmer from Andhra Pradesh got felicitated for climbing Everest. Are we saying that Maharashtra's children must not do such things? Or that they may, but they must not be organized by Maharashtra's adventurers? The concern has solid basis. Younger people can be more sensitive to high altitudes and hypothermia, for example. At the same time, mandating presence of a competent (read qualified for high altitudes) guardian personally (not necessarily parent or relative, but responsible personally) or stricter enforcement of presence of doctors or other measures may be wiser than forbidding the opportunity to all below sixteen with not even a process to apply for exceptions provided.

Concerns about corruption

Many regular hikers worry that the need for registering every trip will lead to a flourishing business for touts and agents, as few of the free spirited mountaineers have the time or inclination to stand in queues as a matter of routine. There are also concerns of extortion by police or other authorities by citing some or the other nearly impossible to fulfill conditions for hobby hikers.


Given the requirements of quality standards of improvement and given that India neither has approved standards, nor consequently manufacturers that follow them, this will result in groups being forced to pay three times the cost of perfectly safe and acceptable equipment produced in India. There is nothing wrong with Indian ropes, harnesses and helmets (among other things) for example. But there being no standard, ALL INDIAN MANUFACTURERS will be forced to get certification in some foreign country where they don't do business (harness and rucksack manufacturers often operate small businesses from slums producing good equipment), or fall short of requirements to sell in India. Further, the blanket lifespans stated have to be a joke. You could probably use a karabiner for more than 10 years easily, and cycle out your long tyrolean traverse rope within a season or two. There needs to be some sanity here for the guidelines to be useful.


Given that most adventure professionals have very poor incomes (the dazzle rarely translates to reliable incomes - most are adventurers doing it compromising stable incomes for love) there need to be standards of payment along the lines of minimum wage as well, if instructors are expected to spend money getting qualified. Additionally, till qualifications can be "rolled in", reference certificates of competence by senior professionals (should be defined in some manner - in position to hire professionals for more than 5 years?) should be considered valid. Given that waiting lists for many of the best qualifications are long (2 year waiting for a 9k basic mountaineering course at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Uttarkashi, for example), registration confirmation should be considered for temporary licences to operate in non-critical roles, as it is beyond unreasonable for a person living from paycheck to paycheck to spend 9 thousand rupees (and about twice that preparing, traveling, etc) and wait two years to be eligible to earn anything.

Too urbanized

Most adventure sport happens outside urban settings. There is a possibility to improve rural incomes as well as effectiveness of the norms by involving panchayats at locations of adventure sport destinations in maintaining records of visitors arriving. This will provide for emergency action information being available at the closest point as well as allow spontaneous hikers the flexibility and monitor ALL visitors including spontaneous outings. Exempting local guides from accountability does not make sense, since local guides are often the most knowledgeable professionals on a trip. Registering local guides and porters available for trekking routes locally will result in better employment, standardized wages and accountability.

In my view, these questions are valid. Equally important and appreciation deserving is the fact that the initial guidelines have made a commendable attempt toward enforcing important things. Making indemnity forms mandatory, for example is a small and easily applicable step that will immediately result in responsible disclosure of risks as well as putting emergency contacts on record. On the other hand, these norms STILL cannot prevent a death on a high altitude trek because of incompetence - the original subject of the PIL that led to the directive for the regulations.

It will be a while before bureaucracy and free spirit find a meeting point that is also practical to implement as well as meets objectives. It will not be easy. However, things must not stop here and the exercise must be taken to conclusion resulting in norms that allow adventure sport to thrive in Maharashtra while also insisting on responsible operations and recognizing that adventure has an inherent element of risk. The goal is a robust and accountable community, not sterilization.

At least five buildings will probably collapse in Mumbai alone, this monsoon; because of additional weight of several thousand kilograms of absorbed rainwater.

Red alert! Redevelopment Greed is making societies neglect maintenance & repair

2 July 2014, Mumbai:  The return of monsoons is good news to everybody, but as always, there will be severe casualties in aging and ill-maintained buildings in every metro, including Mumbai. One may safely predict that at least five buildings will collapse in Mumbai alone, especially on the days with the heaviest rains, simply because of the additional weight of several thousand kilograms of absorbed rainwater that the dilapidated structures will have to bear. This weight is unevenly distributed on a weakened RCC structure, causing structural collapse.

 The following problems are perennial and systemic:

1)      The buildings of Mumbai and every other metro are aging. Every passing seasonal cycle of summer, monsoon and winter are causing further deterioration in the cement and steel of RCC structures by rusting and cracking. Therefore, every passing year, the load-bearing capacity of the RCC of every building deteriorates by small percentage like 0.2 to 1%.

2)      Older buildings deteriorate at a faster rate e.g. 1% per year. If they are well-maintained, this rate of deterioration may be reduced to 0.5%, effectively increasing its life span by many years.

3)      Unfortunately, many buildings have been made into “sick” buildings over the past decade by short-sighted cooperative societies neglecting them, in the lust for getting them declared as “dilapidated”, so that they go into commercial redevelopment. The load bearing capacity of the RCC of such buildings deteriorates by 5-10%. These buildings are like ticking time-bombs, waiting to collapse.

4)      In the monsoon, the rain-water seeps into the walls and ceilings of such neglected structures, increasing their weight by several thousand kilograms. This additional weight is distributed unevenly on the RCC frame, making it extremely vulnerable to sudden structural failure. These buildings cannot continue to be occupied. Ignoring them is a criminal negligence on the part of the government and municipal corporations.

5)      There is no civic body which has the necessary mandate for vacating and demolishing demolish hundreds or thousands of such critical buildings before they collapse due to “natural causes” in the coming monsoons. If such a body is not created, there is simply no alternative to redevelopment – whether voluntary or foced. These must be demolished and rebuilt under supervision of an empowered government body. Unfortunately, such an empowered body does not exist!

6)      A timetable for performing emergency repairs on thousands of other buildings is a must. These are not yet critical, they will inevitably become critical and dangerous if neglected for another 3-4 years. This must also be done under supervision of an empowered government body.

7)      Unfortunately, it is financially unviable for all the thousands of buildings of Mumbai to be redeveloped and rebuilt simultaneously. Therefore, a priority list will have to be made by the government agency after scrutiny.

8)      Many MLAs, MPs and corporators are builders, or have invested in building industry. These persons are aware of the deterioration, but they are using their knowledge for their own private benefit. The knowledge of these persons must be harnessed for public good. Unfortunately, such politicians are actively preventing any proactive planning from happening, for fear of harming their own interests!

9)      On a conservative estimate, more than 80,000 flats are lying vacant all over Mumbai. They belong to builders, estate agents and investors. Such flats should be requisitioned by the government and municipal corporations, and used for immediately resettling the people living in dangerous buildings.

10)   For all the above-mentioned work, which is urgent, new laws needs to be passed, and a new government agency is required to be constituted under the urban development ministry.


Problems Caused by Redevelopment Greed:

Since redevelopment started in 1991 about two decades ago, and builders could augment the FSI (Floor Space Index) of the land by purchasing TDR (Transfer of Development Rights), cooperative housing societies started neglecting their structures. Seduced by builders who promise larger houses and new buildings, building societies have been keen to steamroll opposition to their redevelopment proposals by individual members by deliberately allowing their building to deteriorate, so that structural auditors can declare them as “dilapidated”.

Earlier, it was a nightmare for a society to be told that its building was structurally unsound, and managing committee members and general body members alike were anxious to avoid it by regular re-plastering, painting and repairing. But in the last two decades, a report from structural engineers saying that the building is “dilapidated” or is in need of “major repairs” has been the dream-come-true of every managing committee, because it legitimizes their quest for redevelopment.

Redevelopment is a gravy-train by which everybody gets to make money, and especially civic authorities who give various building permissions, cooperative department officials, and the managing committees of societies. Many residential buildings aged around 30 and above would have been in a relatively better state, were it not for this lust for redevelopment. Despite a fair number of stalled redevelopment projects, and the opposition by cautious members in every society, the greed-is-good ethos of the majority of members in almost every society ensures that this gravy train is gaining momentum.

Brief overview of Mumbai’s redevelopment over the last two decades:

Over 10 percent of Mumbai’s 30,000-odd society buildings are currently suffering from varying degrees of redevelopment-driven neglect by their managing committees, which collect money for their Repair Fund and Sinking Fund every month, but never spend for repairs and maintenance, Hoping to reap windfall gains from redevelopment, the managing committees favour a dilapidated appearance, which sends a come-hither signal to builders.

Sadly, every such society will not enter into the process of redevelopment swiftly; the overwhelming majority of old buildings will have to wait for many years before their redevelopment happens. Hence, residents are condemned by their greedy and negligent managing committees to live for long in buildings with fast-deteriorating RCC columns, beams and slabs.

In every society, one or two people are fighting a losing battle against this commercially-driven madness. They are seeking better maintenance of their societies.  Most often, their voices are raised only at meetings, and this makes them pariahs. Far from recognizing that their words are in the common interest, a majority of their neighbours consider them mad, and shun them. Their managing committees are quick to paint them as anti-social villains opposed to the prosperity that will be brought about by redevelopment.

One such person is Rohit D’Souza (9819199863,, a young sportsman of Mulund. Due to the constant leakage and seepage from the rooftop tank, and the consequent rusting and deterioration of the building structure, Rohit and his neighbours fear for their lives, and have written many letters to their building secretary and to to MCGM’s Ward Officer for T-Ward.  But their letters may as well have been written by residents of thousands of other residents of Mumbai, who are in the same boat:

Numerous societies are in exactly the same boat. Improper structural maintenance by societies due to greed, cost cutting, ignorance, unavailability of skilled labourers, disputes between members etc. is endangering the lives of thousands of families living in Mumbai. The steel in the RCC columns, beams and slabs has rusted and become exposed in many buildings, and Rohit’s building is only a sample of what thousands of buildings are currently looking like. Like Rohit, lakhs of people in Mumbai region are saying, “We are not opposed to redevelopment per se, but we are definitely opposed to the deliberate neglect of our buildings, which is a growing threat to our lives.”

But are the government and municipal authorities listening? And more importantly, are the managing committee members listening?

Or will they, like the Municipal Corporations of Mumbai, Mumbra, Thane etc. wake up only after the building crashes down?

Issued in Public Interest by



Mumbai local trains are infested with young daredevil stunt performers who perform death defying feats clinging to the sides of the train and resting on foot boards and window edges. Accidents abound.

This is a recurring theme. While hundreds of people have accidents performing stunts on railways, once in a while, it happens while a video is being shot and goes viral. The usual reactions abound. Shock, criticism, demands that the police curb the menace...

There are no clear answer. Closed door trains will not be acceptable to passengers in Mumbai's sweltering weather. Also, the number of people using Mumbai's trains in spite of their high frequency and large capacity are mind boggling. An estimated 3500 people get on and off trains at each station within a minute and some time while it slows down and takes up speed again. Not only would those seconds of slowing down and picking up speed become unusable for boarding and alighting, there would be additional seconds wasted while doors open and close. It remains to be seen if doors would close at peak hours so that the train could move. And then again, there is no guarantee that stunt performers wouldn't perform stunts outside the doors on closed door trains.

These trains arrive at a frequency of one every two minutes.

Those are people in the door because there is no space inside. As someone who has spent 2 hours trying to catch a Virar local in the evening, the crowd is a very real thing and closing doors is going to raise questions of ventilation apart from other factors like how to accommodate the quantity of commuters who already lack space in peak hours.

On the other hand, appeals to youth have gone in vain. Warnings and fines have deterred some perhaps, but there are many more eager to take their place.

Make no mistake, there is tremendous skill and agility and strength on display here. It is difficult to deny that there is exhilaration in feeling a rush of speed and risk and the power of wind buffeting your body. You can see it on their faces. Is it not that same rush that leads people to jump from skies and put jet engines on cars? And where there are daredevils, there are accidents. It is a spirit that thrives on challenge that seeks greater feats to pit self against.

However, there is a downside. While the mountains or skies or race tracks or even the very urban dahi handis are accepted and known zones of adventure with little or no risk to bystanders, the same cannot be said of crowded public spaces like trains or roads. There is also an element of breaking social norms in this, and unsurprisingly, both bike gangs and railway stunts have also been associated with harm to others ranging from chain snatchings and sexual harassment of young women to accidental deaths, with little concern by the adventurers as a whole.

One thing is clear. Where there is potential for adventure, adventurers spring up. If Everest can be climbed because it is there, there will be young men speeding bikes because the roads are there, and daredevils livening up long commutes with their dose of adrenaline. Performing feats that others cannot do seems to be hardwired into the human mind as a rite of passage into recognition or leadership. Whether it is remote tribes getting tattoos on coming of age, or young men leaning out of trains.

So the problem is somewhat a trait that emerges among a certain gender more than the other, at a certain age, more than the other and in certain circumstances more than the other.

A few common factors come to mind. Most of the stunt performers are invariably male, between adolscence to early adulthood (hormonal changes?) and an element of boredom with existing circumstances.

It results in accidents like these on Mumbai's local trains.

And worse, which I am not going to put up here. You can guess. Human body, massive train, fast speed, and random obstacles at varying distances.

It makes one wonder where the answers are. Most of these daredevils are from lower income groups. They do not have access to other adventures. It is going to be very difficult to prevent access to what they can access.

The police arrest the stunt performers when they can, call their parents and show videos of stunt accidents to drive the point home. But one wonders if there are other ways. If schools and colleges can do more to caution their students. If passengers can be motivated to report stunt performers so that more and more of them can be caught for the police lecture and cautionary videos.

A thought that occurs to me is an alarm button in each compartment that passengers can press when there are stunt performers in their compartment doors. Possibly buttons on each side for which side the performers are, so that the police can nab them at the next station. Then again, this may not always be practical given the crowds.

Another idea is something that has been discussed for social change work among youth to combat sexual harassment and petty crimes on the streets - community activities that bring a sense of achievement and provide mature role models to bond with. Football, drama, social activism...

And then there are those like 13 year old Zahid Ansari. Zahid Ansari tried to copy stunts he saw in a video and ended up falling on the tracks when his head hit a pole. With his face severely injured and suffering from concussion, Zahid had learned a lesson many needed to learn. On recovering, he started working as a part time counsellor with the railways, speaking to student audiences and cautioning them about the perils of train stunts and the suffering caused to himself and his family. Hearing from "one of them" who speaks from experience and regret has a different impact than authority figures laying down the law and showing fearsome visuals.

Zahid Ansari train stunt survivor and counsellor
Zahid Ansari survived a train stunt gone horribly wrong when his head hit a pole and he sufered severe concussion.

What do you think? What ideas could actually work to keep the young stunt performers safe?