COLD WAR: It was Mikhail Gorbachev who brought down the infamous Berlin Wall and ended the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Socialist Republic.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the various crorepati of Bengaluru had to abandoned their luxury apartments and fancy cars and take the help of bulldozers to escape the floods. For a Saturday following the week when it is the bold and the beautiful and the rich and the powerful who are fatally casual about wearing their seat belts. For a Saturday following the week about who liberated eastern Europe and ended the cold war. For a Saturday following the week when it was disclosed by the Food & Drug Authority that over 47% of antibiotics that we consume have not got official clearance and sanction for sale. For a Saturday following the week when Anjuna continues to be in the news with the long standing issue of noise pollution which is being raised anew.
AND a few stray thoughts on the many crorepati of Bengaluru who had to abandon their luxury apartments, fancy cars, and takes the help of bulldozers to escape the floods. This is not unique to Bengaluru but this has happened in several other cities in India too and indeed, several leading IT centers like the Silicon Valley.
Part of the problem is builders who do not pay sufficient attention to whether they are building on low-lying land prone to flooding. In most of our expanding cities such as Bengaluru and even in Goa new constructions are coming of all places in one-time paddy fields.
Builders and their anxiety to save money do not invest in building proper elevation or even proper water and sewage drainage systems. There are many parts of Goa which do not have drainage and sewage systems at all. Traditionally, rural Goa was dependent on soak pits to absorb their solid wastes.
There has been prejudice even amongst big families about having toilets inside the house. Instead, pits are dug outside the house in the compound and in the old days an outhouse latrine was rigged for pigs to clear the solid waste. Goans say it was a perfect system if organized and maintained cleanly. Though they may be no pig-type toilets now the underground sewage soak pits are not connected to any main sewage line to take away the sewage for treatment. The sewage is either manually removed or machines are used to suck out the waste during the year.
Taleigao is an ideal example of an area where huge constructions have come up on paddy fields. All the fancy buildings on the Dona Paula bypass road will sink if there is non-stop heavy rains an windy conditions. Bengaluru has been expanding very rapidly with the IT city recruiting more and more people. It is the Silicon Valley of India with all the Indian Bill Gates and Mark Zuckbergs living and working here.
One would presume that all the brilliant minds would come up with a social media revolution to pay some attention to where their offices and factories are construted. There are of course no guarantees that even if you build in the highest land, with climate change it will not crumble. Perhaps the most dangerous place to buy a property in Goa is now the Kadamba Plateau which is already heavily built up.
AND a few stray thoughts on when it is the bold and the beautiful and the rich and the powerful who are fatally casual about buckling themselves in their seat. It’s been my experience that people who have small cars at least make sure that those in the front with the driver have their seat belts fastened. Ideally, there should be seats for children too who are dropped to school in the family car or hired cars daily.
The general attitude is that as long as the people in front are wearing safety belts, those behind feel safe and do not bother about themselves. This attitude is directly proportional to the brand of the four-wheeler where if it is a luxury Mercedes it is so comfy and snug that it lulls you into feeling that you don’t need a seat belt. The statistics show that there are over five lakh deaths every year due to failure to wear seat belts.
In any case the majority of cars in the country, excepting the most expensive, do not have seat belts or airbags. It is not widely understood that seat belts are directly connected to airbags. If your seat belt is not fastened and there is an accident your airbag will not open to protect you. Airbags are an expensive business with three extra airbags costing an average of Rs6 lakh.
It is not just seat belts but there is a general lack of traffic discipline when it comes to driving in India. For years the states in the country have been trying to make the wearing of helmets compulsory. Attempts to make the pillion rider also wear a helmet has never succeeded. Also, most of the time helmets purchased cheaply do not conform to the Indian Standard Mark. There are cases of young women concerned about what a helmet will do to their hairdo.
It required an order from the Supreme Court to make it compulsory to enforce traffic rules. Fines for various traffic offenses have been hiked enormously. The minimum fine for a scooter driver not wearing a helmet is Rs500 and can go up to Rs1,000 depending on the official concerned.
The fine for not wearing a seat belt in the front seat of a four-wheeler is as high as Rs5,000. Ironically, the lowest fines, at least in Goa, seems to be for drunken driving. In practice, the license of those who engage in drunken driving, should be cancelled. This never happens because in most cases the victims are big shots who can get away given their contacts. The situation is so bad that the cop on duty will say that the vehicle belong to sahib or his family and so no action should be taken.
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, GOODBYE!
AND a few stray thoughts on the person who liberated eastern Europe and ended the cold war. Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union. It was Gorbachev who ended the cold war which begin with the end of the World War II. At the end of World War II the western countries led by the United States, and the left countries led by the Soviet Union, divided the world into two parts.
To the extent that west Germany, the capital of Adolph Hitler, the Nazi leader who started the war, was divided into four parts. There was an American section, a British section and a West Berlin and East Berlin. To add insult to injury the Russians put up a huge wall with barbed wire which was called the Berlin Wall. It was rather like the giant wall of China. Gorbachev was a liberal and he dissolved the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Many of the countries which formed parts of the eastern bloc broke away and became independent countries, like Poland, Yugoslavia, etc.
Amongst the countries which became independent thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev was Ukraine, now being sought to be destroyed and taken over by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has revived the world war that Gorbachev had brought to an end. Putin’s primary interest is that in Ukraine there is the largest nuclear power plant in the world. Ukraine also is the largest producer of petroleum and natural gas.
Among the other big exports of Ukraine is sunflower seeds. All the sunflower oil that you use is courtesy Ukraine. The only hope is that one of these days Vladimir Putin will be overthrown and a new second cold war will come to an end.
AND a few stray thoughts on the disclosure by the Food & Drug Authority that over 47% of the antibiotics that we consume have not been officially sanctioned. This is according to leading British publication, “Lancet.” The magazine has pointed out that particularly during Covid-19, an excessive amount of Azithromycin was consumed and this had serious side-effects. The use of the drug for covid has not been approved. The “Lancet” research finds that 80% of the sales of antibiotics in chemist shops of private hospitals are unnecessary. Huge amounts are wasted on the purchase of antibiotics which have had no impact on curing covid or any other viral infection.
However, among the key findings is low per capita consumption of antibiotics, compared to previously reported rates. Interestingly, the Kerala government has been commended for its antibiotic literacy campaign. The problem with most Indian users of antibiotics is that they do not understand that they have to complete a full course. If it is a five-day course and if you stop on the third day — the treatment will be null and void. What is worse is that suspension of an antibiotic dose mid-way will lead to drug resistance. If you keep using the same antibiotics it is likely that you will not react to it subsequently and it will be useless for you.
AND a last stray thought about Anjuna up north coastal belt Goa which continues to make news about the long standing issue of noise pollution. The issue is raised periodically. This time around it is not drugs or murders but the long standing issue of noise pollution. The villages of Anjuna and Vagator have more than two dozen restaurants and pubs and there is a competition amongst about who can play the loudest music.
None of it is even live music. Most of it is trance music which has a monotonous beat which can drive you crazy with its non-stop droning for 24 hours. You need to be high on drugs to be able to tolerate to this kind of music and dance to it for hours. Many residents have been so disturbed that they have shifted away. The folk left behind are usually senior citizens who are not in a position to shift out easily. The primary problem is with the Anjuna police station which doesn’t take any quick action to put to an endto the toxic music.