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1

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 rapairs” has been the dream 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: http://tinyurl.com/History-Mumbai-Redevelopment

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, rohitpdsouza@gmail.com), 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: http://tinyurl.com/Please-repair-tank

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

Krish

9821588114

Building.RTI.Union@gmail.com

PS: After reading this, if residents of societies wish to gently start reminding their societies to maintain the building, they may use this word file as a format: http://tinyurl.com/sample-letter-to-society

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P. Sainath on Mass Media v. Mass Reality: From Farm and Field to Wall Street Deals

A lecture at University of Texas, Austin by P. Sainath, sponsored by the University of Texas School of Journalism, the South Asia Institute, AID-Austin and the Society of Professional Journalists UT.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5

Seeing so many students in the audience always provokes the teacher gene. So I'm going to begin with a question.

Who do you think is the world's biggest importer of wheat?

I'm not doing it as a test for you, it is a measure of your media. One of the most important processes is unfolding in Africa. How much of the discussion have you seen around the African uprisings that tells you that one of the big drivers of those uprisings is food prices.

The biggest importer of wheat in the world is Egypt. 20 million tons in the last twenty months 2 years. 20 million tons. So, when food prices soar, people pay an incredible price.

In Egypt, the average Egyptian citizen spends far more as a share of his or her income on food than people in comparable countries. For instance, in Brazil. If you were in Brazil, you would spend 17% of your income on an average - national average - on purchasing food. If you live in Egypt, you will spend much more than twice that. 40% of your income goes on food.

How important do you think has been the emphasis of the media on food prices as a major problem in these countries. Did you get that impression from your media? You can't. I don't blame you. But it is... don't you think it adds some perspective to what's going on? To know that that country is the biggest importer of wheat? That food prices have gone up 30.. 40.. 50% over a couple of years?

Also one of the last things Mubarak did in desperation, six weeks before he was ejected, was to reintroduce price controls, which he had removed under the orders of the structural adjustment programme put on him by the World Bank and the IMF with renewed vigor in 2004.

So there you are. Food prices were and are a major...

Have we forgotten already that in 2008... because I think the meltdown wiped out everybody's memories... 2008 was the year of food riots across the world. Remember? They were the highest.. First time you saw the Western middle classes worrying about the food prices in April to June 2008. Or have we forgotten that?

There were food riots in Kenya. There were food riots in Somalia. I think at least some of you might remember the food riots in Haiti.

2008 the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations tells us was the record highest price rise on the FAO food price index. But you know something? It got obliterated. In 2010, it was even higher. Midway through 2010, the food price index registered a 32% increase in a matter of months. And that was much higher.

2008 produced food riots. 2010 produced regime change.

It's not that these were the only factors. Not at all. There were many political factors, compelling internal factors, but they need a spark. They needed something.

Don't write off what food prices and the role of food is, and I'll explain why.

Now...

Incidentally another country... How many of you can name the African country that was completely self-sufficient in cereals in the 1970s and becomes one of the most major importers of food in the world?

Yemen.

1970s - completely self-sufficient in cereals. 2010 - one of the world's biggest importers of food.

I could name 20 countries like this and you'd see half of them in that situation you are seeing now in Africa. So it is not that... yes, democracy is very important, the politics of it is very important, but there was a major driver called hunger. Food prices.

If you look at the Arab streets, you will see people out on the streets who never ever stepped out in demonstrations and protests. Very conservative sections who never participated in protests and demos. They were there on the street. They still are on the street. Because the problem is not solved.

Ok, we'll come back to the food issue, because what's my.. this is titled as... Wages of inequality, food crisis, farm crisis and the media. We are already into two of those.

The media told you nothing about this... from what you are telling me. You did not glean from the media coverage that food prices were a major factor in what's going on.

You know, every year, the United Nations Development Programme ... and in fact, the UN has been doing this even before the UNDP became active... it's been for 30 years, the United Nations has been presenting us every year with a menu - a bill of fare. We don't see it as a consolidated menu, but we do see it in little bits and blobs.

Don't we... haven't you read somewhere, you vaguely remember... "The Secretary General of the United Nations said that if we spend 15 billion dollars a year additionally, additional expenditure on hunger, we could eliminate hunger. Have you read those sort of little items all over the newspapers? Ya... this you have.

Now what I do is, these different little items that appear, I add them up as a menu, and try figuring out what they come to.

  • Hunger - 15 billion dollars a year the Secretary General tells us will eliminate the extremes of hunger.
  • 10 billion dollars additional expenditure a year, and ever person on the planet has got sanitation.
  • 15 billion dollars a year and every child... additional expenditure. We're talking about additional expenditure, ok? 15 billion dollars additional expenditure a year, and every child on the planet will be in school.
  • 12 billion dollars additional expenditure a year, or something like that, and everyone's got access to basics like water.

You put these together and you get something like between 60 billion and 80 billion dollars. Right? So what is the UN telling you? It is telling you that 60 to 80 billion dollars additional expenditure you can solve the most pressing problems of the human race.

Its never happened in all those 30 years. Why?

What did the government say? No money. There's no money, we can't solve this problem. Where's the money? You put up the money. But we can't do it. You know? Let charitable foundations and the UN and philanthropic... let Gates and Buffett do it and all that stuff. But we can't do it, because we don't have any money.

So for 30 years, this amount of 60 to 80 billion dollars the governments could not find.

Then, 2008 September, Wall Street hits the fan. And the guys and the governments who couldn't find 60 to 80 billion dollars for 30 years find a trillion dollars inside of a week. Along with their friends in Europe, they find 3 trillion dollars in the next three or four months and God knows how much more since then, and what do they find it for? They find it to give it to the very guys who tanked the world economy.

Who wrote your bailout plan? Goldman Sachs.

You collect trillions of dollars, public dollars to give it to the very guys who tanked the world economy, and you have the money!

All these years you didn't have 60... you didn't have 8% of that money, to solve the basic problems of the human race, but you have twelve times that money to hand over to the banks and the trusts and the corporations that completely destroyed the global economy.

Incidentally, a little piece of statistical trivia, if you will: In 2008 - the year they blew the global economy, American CEOs took home 18 billion dollars in bonuses - for that fiscal. For the fiscal in which they blew the global economy.

Well, I suppose it was very modest, because the previous year, it was 34 billion, but they still took home 18 billion dollars in reward. And remember where those dollars came from. It came from a public dollar bailout. It came from public tax dollars which bailed them out.

Giant corporations, having brought the world economy to its knees, in a drama scripted for the last two or three decades by neo-liberal economists and corporations have benefited massively from the ruins and the wreckage. As I said, you destroy the world economy, you take home 18 billion dollars in bonuses. But remember this, in the world we live in, and the economics we follow, and the moral philosophy of that economics, every misery is an opportunity. I assert. Every misery is an opportunity.

Let me quote for you, the sage of Omaha - Warren Buffett. Whose reaction to the Tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan is that it provides a unique buying opportunity of Japanese stocks. This is Reuters quoting Warren Buffett. Here he is "Immediately after the nightmare... after Japan's tragedy, he said, if I owned Japanese stocks, I would certainly not be selling them. frequently something out of the blue like this an extraordinary event creates a buying opportunity." And he advised his friends to invest, because the Japanese companies are on their knees, the stock prices are down, this is the time to buy!

Actually, he's right. I don't know... I think six years ago, Bob, when I spoke here, soon after the Tsunami, I pointed out... I don't know if any of you were here. You look too young to have been around then... Ever since the Tsunami - struck me then, and ever since then, in every natural calamity, I - a non-financial journalist - follow the stock markets when something terrible happens, because they start doing very well after a week.

Buffett was right. One week after the Tsunami, as the damage was really unfolding. We knew for instance, that Indonesia had lost nearly a quarter of a million people... you know 11 countries were devastated by the tsunami - eleven. Out of those 11 countries, 5 have significant stock exchanges - India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia.

Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia.

Now what happens? One week, everything is devastated and at a standstill. Then these very stock exchanges register the highest gains of stock exchanges anywhere. Why?

The smell of reconstruction dollars. The smell of the money that comes out of the misery. When Warren Buffett says invest in Japanese stocks, he knows what he is talking about. He's talking about that pace of rapid reconstruction that's going to take place. Millions and billions of dollars in contracts.

So if you are smart, you're going to put money where the Japanese stocks are, because the reconstruction will be beginning and we all know that the Japanese are very good at it, they are very efficient people. When the reconstruction starts, it will be massive. So he says, buy those shares now.

In 2004 December 26th, the Tsunami hit those 11 countries. Those 5 countries were devastated. And you know what happened after the devastation? From the first week after the devastation, the sensex, which had never broken out of the 4 thousand bracket - the Sensitive Index of the Bombay Stock Exchange, which had never broken out of the four thousand bracket crossed six thousand and never looked back. Today scaling around twenty thousand.

It never looked back. That was the breach point. The Composite Share Index of the Colombo Stock Exchange - the CSE - reached within 16 points of the highest - which was the year of its founding. Indonesia - the worst affected nation - quarter of a million people dead, the Stock Exchange is rocked by the earthquake and Tsunami.... [contd in part 2]

2

Some observations that I have seen with power and people in any group.

  1. Attention is power. If you forget this, you can't understand the rest of this page.
  2. Everybody wants power. Including those who say "I don't care". It is an instinct, not a multiple choice question. Without this, you wouldn't have a survival instinct, you wouldn't have any logic left to your actions. Whether you actually have power, or how you choose to get it, or how do you define having power to yourself may vary.
  3. There is a hierarchy of power in any group. No matter if it is leaderless. No matter if it is a country with a visible leader, or a couple who respects each other, or a group of friends of similar profile. There is no such thing as two people with equal power.
  4. Power is a fluid thing. It keeps shifting from person to person. In a hierarchy that is clearly defined, or institutionalized, it shifts less easily, less noticeably. In informal situations where there is no conscious understanding of  a leader, it shifts rapidly.
  5. Two kinds of power wars happen. The first is to gain power, by challenging someone more powerful, the other is to retain power, to suppress someone who might become more powerful. In essence they are the same, only depends on where you stand. They are happening all the time. You can't escape this, because the survival instinct demands that you do all you can to remain powerful or grow in power. Denying instinct is futile. It will still manifest unnoticed by the denier, but increasingly obvious to observers.
  6. Because a person in power gets challenged by those who want power, we all have an automatic hesitation to be noticed as powerful. We may not understand the reluctance, but we do voice it tentatively, when we make modesty a virtue, or refuse to lead for fear of attack.
  7. Resisting a bid for power itself transfers some power to the bid. Attention is power. Attention of one in power is more potent than attention of one who is not.
  8. There are several power hierarchies in operation simultaneously. They are contextual. You may have power over your boss in some aspect of work because of your expertise, but your boss has power over you as well when it comes to your job or authority over it.

Some ways in which existing hierarchies are supported

There are also several ways in which a hierarchy is supported by people because it works to their advantage. Seen in more permanent ways in an institutionalized situation, it also happens spontaneously. Some ways are:

  1. Accepting the power commanded in the moment by willingly being attentive. This happens as a natural part of communication. Most people do it. Those who resist this are generally avoided unless necessary.
  2. Allowing someone the leadership of the group based on expertise, trust or disinterest in subject.
  3. Rallying behind someone to add power to that person in order to achieve a larger goal of interest to you.

Some ways in which power is granted:

  1. Formally - by conferring authority
  2. Agreeing or accepting
  3. Recommending

Some ways in which power is challenged:

  1. Dissent
  2. Direct challenge
  3. Interruption and redirection of attention.

Some reasons why change in power is desired:

  1. Desire to influence happenings in a different or more advantageous way
  2. Loss of trust in one in power
  3. The one in power harming those with less power.

I don't think these have been listed out quite like that by anyone. There are endless ways and reasons. The examples are more to help you learn to recognize, so that you can spot it happening in the wild, so to say.

They are based on my observations of groups. They can be verified by observing groups, but not everyone has the skills to diagnose interactions, so for the purposes of this article, I ask you to trust these as valid till you can think these out or verify for yourself. Generally speaking, anyone capable of reading this does have enough life experience to analyze the statements for validity given some time to think, remember instances and deliberate.

This understanding of power will form the basis of a few articles on subjects ranging from abuse to child rights to politics. Will list them here as I write them. If the article was written as clearly as I see these flows, you'll probably write the articles in the comments on your own 😀

10

Image via Wikipedia

B. Raman has written an outstanding summary of an apparently outstanding debate hosted by Barkha Dutt on the subject of Saffron terrorism.

What I liked was his way of stating the perspectives of both sides in a factual manner, and pointing out some facts about Indian Muslims that often get overlooked as India becomes global and starts adopting a global opinion of Muslims.

I have always thought of the Hindutva fanatics as an extreme danger to society. It isn't really all that different from the Taliban formula - we have been wronged, our religion is in danger, we will be extinct if we don't do something about it. I guess when it comes to any radicalization, there aren't very many choices for original thinking. Fact is, to get people to strike out, they need to feel cornered. That kind of writes the script regardless of religion.

I have written on many forums that we only need to look at the current condition of Pakistan to see the very real damage religious radicalization does. Intolerance isn't logical. Its an attitude. Once established, it colors everything. The other religion, minority sub-sects of the religion, country, ideologies, perceived injustices..... everything becomes threatening and everything needs to be attacked. It simply is not worth it to get into all this. What is the use of creating a victory for our religion if it means that the people will be touchy, discontented and volatile? If the very moral fabric of the society gets hardened and learns to ignore the plight of others?

What is the use of being so superior, if we end up standing all alone?

It should be a lesson to anyone considering religious fundamentalism to see the plight of Pakistan and the reluctance to provide aid in the world. As thousands languish, the righteous kill more, because they have an agenda that will not spare anyone for the 'real truth'.

It may anger Hindu radicals to be compared with the Taliban, but if you think carefully, isn't tit-for-tat all about aping wrong actions to punish another?

Another thing from that article I found important was when he says,

The psychological aspect relates to prompt and effective action to identify and address causes for anger in any community.

I hadn't thought of attentiveness and prompt addressing of grievances as an anti-terrorism initiative. Yet, it so clearly is.

A lot of food for thought today.