Sunday, December 6, 2015

Delhi Traffic and Pollution

I have never been to Delhi and I am not intimately familiar with the traffic situation in Delhi. Yet, like many others I am going to make suggestions on what should be done about the traffic in Delhi. I am open to mocking. I am not an expert on this issue and whatever I say might have multiple problems But here are some thoughts in various directions that I have not seen thoughts from others flow. Also, the discussion is about pollution. So I will write some more about pollution later.

Let the government work 7 days a week - everyone still works 5 days a week
How about all government employees work 5 days a week and take 2 days off. But, they do not do so on the same 5 days. Divide the available workforce such that the government works all 7 days a week, but only 5/7th workers are at work any given day. According to Wikipedia, in 2001 the government employed 620,000 people. So about 442,000 people would work on any given day. This will reduce the number of people going to work at Government offices by about 177,000. But that is not all. The number of people going to Government offices for getting some work done will also reduce by 5/7 for each day. In fact, it is likely that more people will go to government offices during the weekend instead of weekdays and in turn will be more efficient at their own jobs.

Shun government holidays
Except for 15th August and 26th January, shun all public holidays. In 2015, Delhi had 16 holidays according to this list. Instead, if only 2 holidays are observed, we will get 363 days of work instead of 349 days of work that we get today. That is an approximate 4% increase of time to work. This results in a slight reduction on everyday's work load and thereby a slight reduction of traffic.

Get work done in one trip
Create apps for people to use, create awareness and use local information booths for information about the documents to carry when trying to get some work done. As far as possible allow government related work to be completed in one trip to the government office. For example, typically a lot of government related work requires address proof, identification and age proof. Clearly tell the public the set of documents that satisfy each of the categories. Also, simple forms should be available at local libraries, bus stop, post offices, shops etc. People should not have to travel to first get the forms and then again to file them.

Cleanup road construction and remove debris
Many inner roads are congested because of construction work on the road or in the neighborhood. A large part of this is because the area is not clean and clearly demarcated. Stones and pebbles on the road left over from the last repair work, barrels of tar lying on the roadside, electric poles coming in the middle of the lane are all responsible for slower moving traffic. Cleanup after construction is done is very important.

Remove speed breakers
According to Delhi police website, speed breakers should be about 10cm in height. But that will hardly be the case anywhere in Delhi. [If you do click on the website, you may have to accept the certification authority for that website.] I have not verified the heights of speed breakers in Delhi but I am sure about the problem from this link. Speed breakers are bad for multiple reasons. But they are also a cause of pollution. Also, note that they are also a source of sound pollution. Vehicles invariably make more sound near a speed breaker.

Small average red light duration
It might be better to have a short duration for red lights. If your round comes quickly, there is less chance and temptation to jump the signal. Also, it allows traffic to keep moving in all directions.

Provide better Internet
If you want to make people travel less, it is useful to have better Internet. More people can work from home. In fact, it is great to provide good incentives for work from home jobs.

Reduce generators
It is okay to make electricity more expensive if electricity is going to be guaranteed. In fact, it is much better for the state to produce and provide electricity 24x7 since it reduces generator pollution a lot.  Also, if state run power plants are polluting, get them cleaned up!

Run freight Metros
Introduce metro trains that can carry goods. That way, trucks may just load up their supplies into metro compartments and take their wares into the heart of the city. No need for trucks to enter the city. I know the volume of freight in Delhi must be huge, but I feel this can still be done.

Decentralize the Government
Everything does not have to be in Delhi. A lot of offices and a lot of governance can be done from outside. It is worthwhile and easy to decentralize the government particularly in this age of the Internet. It is easier than ever before; files do not have to physically travel between departments they could be emails, instead. It might be too hard for Delhi to implement this, but decentralization should really be the thought process. As an example, one of the high courts could work as the Supreme court while a new Supreme Court campus is built somewhere new. It would be so nice to have a "Corrections City" which houses the best jails, police headquarters, and the Supreme Court and The Bar Counsel.

There are multiple aspects to Carpooling and it can never become successful unless many of those aspects are solved and looked at. First is the problem of timing. Are there two people who know each other going somewhere at the same time? Another is the problem of trust. Do you trust each other enough that you will feel safe going together? A further problem is making a distinction between paid car-pooling and mutual car-pooling. Can Uber be treated as a car-pooling facility? What if a company starts such a service for its own employees? Can government employees set an example here?
One of the ways to incentivize carpooling is by giving immediate incentives for cars with more than one person in the car. One example is the "High Occupancy Vehicle" lanes in California. Please note that: Regular "mixed-flow" lanes are never converted to HOV lanes. Rather, HOV lanes are always added to existing facilities.

Return part of the Road Tax
In case the government cannot allow all vehicles to be on the road on all days, the government must also return a portion of the road tax corresponding to the time that the vehicles are required to be off-road.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Indian mobile - call drops

Remember circuit switched networks versus packet switched networks? Telcom companies are supposed to be circuit switched. That means once your call has been established a dedicated circuit is created between you and the other party. However, if the telecom does not have enough resources to service all the concurrent clients, they occasionally break the circuit and move resources to newer calls. Now remember that mostly everyone is charged per minute and not per second. As a result, if a call is dropped by the telcom, and they charge for the whole minute to the user, it is cheating the customers. 

Here is an article about the same situation. 

If the telcom companies had to pay less money to acquire frequency spectrum, they could spend more money on the required hardware. Now with the spectrum becoming very very costly, either the customer pays a higher price, or the hardware suffers (or both). This is exactly what is happening right now. 

Then what is the solution to this problem? If the spectrum is cheap, even I will buy some and not use it (a big waste of national resource and air-space). If the spectrum is costly, then only big players will buy it but even they will not have enough money to spend on hardware. A much better way is to sell spectrum cheap attached to committed investment promissory notes. That way, a layman will not buy the spectrum because he does not have the money to show the hardware investment. Big companies, on the other hand, will only have to spend money in real hardware costs rather than having to buy thin air! Also, governments should get to regulate the spectrum market; but should they also get to sell it?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Camera Shakiness

I recently saw Dil Dhadakne Do and like so many recent Hollywood movies, noticed a lot of camera shake. I am writing this blog entry to oppose this trend. I do not like so much camera shake.

Many argue that it gives a realistic feeling to the movie. Now that makes sense for scenes where one of the participants in the movie is holding a camera and we are supposed to be seeing footage as seen by that camera. This is true for the movie Cloverfield. Even in that movie I would have preferred some proper stable camera footage. But now, just too many movies are shooting that way.

I want to point out an important point here. If I was physically present during a particular scene in a movie, even then I would not see such shake. My eye balls compensate for my walking, jogging and even sprinting motions and my brain does the rest of the work creating a really stable image of the surroundings in my mind. Therefore, the realistic feeling that these guys want to create is actually misleading. The only way such shakiness can be seen physically was if someone (carelessly) records the ongoing activity on a handycam and then I watch it on a screen. And that someone is so poor at doing his job, that most marriage video-photographers will outperform them (this is intended to belittle the cameramen who feel such shakiness is cool).

The most annoying part is when there is shakiness in a scene where two people are talking in private. It is completely useless and ends up making me tired through all the visual upheaval that my eyes have to endure. There is so much camera shake and movement these days, that I hardly see the faces of the main characters on the screen. I hate this trend. It does not make the movie cool - not even a Superman movie.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Traffic in Pune

Pune's traffic has become extremely bad in the recent years. In this post I would like to suggest some simple steps the administration or the people of Pune can take to ease the load on the roads.

No Multiple Visits

Today, people have to visit government offices multiple times to get simple things done. A better e-governance could ensure that people do not have to visit a government office more than once for the same work. Lists of documents required should be displayed clearly on major government office websites and buildings. Also, create two different queues for people with regular documents (such as Adhaar card as address proof, and age proof and identity) and another for people who have arcane documents (such as a birth certificate for proof of age, an electricity bill for proof of address and a PAN card for proof of identity).

Cater to Specifics

A lot of students go from Shivajinagar to Akurdi in a couple of local trains. Why not run special local trains from Shivaji Nagar to Akurdi during these times? Why not urge more and more college students to take these special trains instead of using two wheelers on an everyday basis? There  is a train track that goes from Pune station to Hadapsar. However, there are no locals that run on this route. Why not introduce a few local trains during the peak office hours?

Signal is for Everybody

Take a class for all public transport bus drivers and tell them that they will be fined if they jump the signal even 5 seconds before the signal turns green. If the buses will stop for the correct interval, others will be discouraged to start 5 seconds too early as well. Currently the buses form a wall to hide behind for bikers to jump the signal early.

Remove BRT

How do people climbing into the bus get to the bus stop in the BRT system? By risking their life in crossing the whole road on which faster vehicles are supposed to move. How is this the right way of transporting people? Also, the BRT channel is so small that buses have to drive very slowly inside that lane and that too one behind the other. It is a ridiculous railway of buses particularly on the Swargate - Katraj and in Hadapsar area. Stop this nonsense.

Parking on Both sides

All large establishments such as malls, colleges, theaters, parks etc. should have parking on both sides of the road, or a left side subway that allows vehicles to enter the establishment from either side of the road. This will reduce drastically the number of people requiring to take a U-turn. There should be overbridges or escalators that enter directly into the establishment from the other side of the road so that people do not have to cross the road obstructing traffic.

Fine Errant Drivers Electronically

Errant drivers should be caught using cameras at all major signals. All fines should be electronically dispatched to such people. No humans involved and no place for foul play.

AC Buses for Hinjawadi

The public transportation authority in Pune should offer companies in the IT hub special air conditioned buses dedicated to carry their passengers at specified times. These buses can be run through the city to cater to other passengers during times other than the office times of the IT companies. This offers a very healthy way for transport for the relatively affluent IT crowd, offers a slightly subsidized travel for other crowd at non-peak times and therefore plays a large part in reducing the load on the roads.

Encourage Speed and Lane Discipline

Speed is extremely important for taking people and their vehicles off the road fast enough. If there are too many vehicles on the road at any one time, there is a lot of traffic. But the carrying capacity of the road is decided by both its width as well as its speed. Therefore, the smaller a road, the better it should be maintained ensuring rapid transit through that road. In complete contrast, our administration introduces speed-breakers and potholes to slow down everyone even more.

No Horns

Pune is becoming an increasingly loud city. Every horn sounded on the road causes tensions to rise, tempers to flare, and an unnecessary sense of urgency which quickens the heart rate. Horns can be avoided if people driving and people walking, both, follow discipline. Further, use of lights to indicate intent, use of mirrors to see approaching vehicles (bikes don't have mirrors in Pune; helmets are compulsory, by the way!) and using turn indicators correctly will reduce the need for sounding horns to a large extent.

Education in Schools

Today's students will become tomorrows drivers. It could help immensely if the education system teaches the students why good driving is good, why following the rules on the road leads to a better life, and why keeping a calm, cool head is the way to go on the road. It would also be useful if the students are taught about defensive and silent driving at a very early age. Instead of games that reward drifting and dangerous driving, it could be useful if the students played computer games that rewarded good driving.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Film Promotions on Television

When I watch Comedy Nights with Kapil or Nach Baliye or Kaun Banega Crorepati, what am I exactly paying for? Am I paying for listening to film stars talk about their films and answer stupid questions about their films? I thought I was paying for the comedy, the dances or for gaining some general knowledge.

I am surprised to see that many television shows these days, on a routine basis, showcase promotions of movies inside their shows as if those promotions were integral part of the shows. It is very similar to a news article praising a particular product, having been paid by the promoters of the product to do so, but do not clearly call out their articles as advertisements. These television shows are becoming just advertisements for movies.

If I was to see a recorded episode of Comedy Nights with Kapil on YouTube, say a year from when it was first released, will it still remain relevant? Since it is partly a film promotion, its relevance will surely deteriorate as time passes. Yet, some of the great works that TV has produced are seen again and again years after they were first seen on TV. It therefore seems that the trend these days is not to create classics but to ride a wave - a short term outlook. These shows will surely generate sufficient revenue today but they will not be probably bundled into DVDs and sold in Crossword and Landmark 10 years later. BR Chopra's Mahabharat or Prakash Dwivedi's Chanakya are sold and bought that way - a proud statement in itself; an assertion that a classic was created and is cherished even today.

Previously, when used I see a movie, I did not know anything about that movie. Someone would recommend it or I would see that its IMDB rating is quite high and then would see the movie. In fact I did not see a movie immediately after it was released. However, these days, I am shown so much about the movie that a lot of novelty is lost. I know the songs beforehand, have seen trailers, have seen the same actors so many times on TV in the context of the movie that I am left with a lot of repeat performance and therefore am bored during the movie. I cannot see how this helps the film industry.

So, here we are with a growing trend, which in my opinion, is bad for the TV industry, is bad for the film industry and is bad for me as a viewer. I no longer get more content when I watch more TV, just repeated content all over.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reducing liability in Credit Card Frauds

In the last few days I have seen multiple articles pop up regarding credit card frauds performed internationally on Indian Credit Cards. If you want to read more about the frauds themselves, please refer to this article. The possibility of use of malware is the topic of this article. If you are already a victim of credit card fraud, you might want to read this article.

But in my article, I am about to offer three suggestions, which if implemented by the banks, can make credit cards much safer than they are today.

Voluntarily Lower Credit Limit
Banks should provide their customers with the choice to lower the credit limit below that offered by the banks. Suppose I have a Rs.1,00,000 credit limit as defined by the bank but I do not use so much of the limit usually. Then I should have an option to lower the limit temporarily to any amount I wish, say Rs.25000. I should be allowed to do this online, at ATM machines, or using phone banking. Similarly, if I am about to make a higher value transaction, I should be allowed to raise my self imposed limit to a maximum of that allowed by the bank. Even this I should be allowed to do using my ATM pin or online netbanking password or though phone banking.
The advantage of allowing such a dynamic reduction and increase of the credit limit is that it will limit the fraud liability should such an eventuality occur. It is easier on the pocket to challenge a fraudulent Rs.25,000/- transaction than a Rs.1,00,000/- transaction

Voluntarily Disallow International Usage of Card
If I have an international card, but I do not frequently visit other countries, I should be allowed to dynamically  turn off possible usage of my card internationally. If I am travelling, I could turn this facility on through an ATM machine, or through netbanking, or through phone banking. If I forget to do so while in India and use an ATM outside, the bank may even charge a fee to do so.

Voluntarily Disallow Non-secure Transactions
The banks must also provide the facility for customers whereby they can declare that any transactions done on merchant websites which do not have Verified by Visa or Mastercard 3D security enabled should be rejected by the bank. This single facility will prevent a lot of fraud which happens on e-commerce websites.

I am releasing these ideas in the open so that banks can start offering some such facility to all of us.
If you are a bank and would like a discussion, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you are a customer and would like to write to your bank, you are free to quote the contents of this blog entry.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Change for Change

I actually have tried to think about this but do not understand the logic behind why we always have a shortage of coins. I am not talking about less money. That I sort of understand. I am asking why in India we never seem to have the 1 rupee, 2 rupees, 5 rupees and 10 rupees in ample circulation. Any shop I go to they always ask for change from me. All bus conductors ask for change. I am unable to accept chocolates as currency; after all, who would like to become choco-fat? Moreover, a chocolate would have costed me Re.1 but since the shop-owners buy it in bulk, it costs much less to them.

I get all my cash from ATM machines and it dispenses only Rs.100, Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes. Why not have coin dispensing machines at strategic locations?

People will surely bless the banks who can change this! For Bangalore I would suggest keeping large coin dispensing machines at Majestic (KBS) to enable all bus conductor to carry and store ample amount of change in the bus. Other good locations include huge bus transit stops such as Silk Board, Electronic City, Hebbal, Shivajinagar, Satellite Bus Stop, and all metro stations and all Malls. In Pune similar machines can be placed at Swargate, Corporation, Shivajinagar, Deccan, Kothrud Depot, Pune Station. In Mumbai they can be placed at all railway stations, all major bus stops and at all Malls.

Personal Experience:
One day while travelling in a BMTC bus, I saw a man take a ticket for Rs.7. He gave a ten rupees note to the conductor and the conductor wrote something on the back of the ticket since, "supposedly", he did not have the Rs.3 change. A few bus stops later, the gentleman alighted the bus forgetting about the Rs.3 he was supposed to receive. As soon as he climbed down, he must have remembered, but the bus was already on its way. All sorts of waving and clapping on the mans part could not stop the bus. This gentleman was poorer by Rs.3 and the conductor made a black Rs.3 profit!

How to get coins from SBI? I was recently told by a shopkeeper that the SBI can give coins in excess of Rs.20,000/- if you are able to produce documentary proof about the existence of your shop and produce VAT receipts etc. Why so much barriers? It is our country's currency after all - and I am not asking it for free!

I would like to hear from you about your opinion and your experiences regarding this.

Edit: March 8, 2014:
State Bank of Hyderabad has installed a coin vending machine at Kacheguda Railway Station in Hyderabad.
It was not in a working condition when I checked it, but this is the right step.