31-Jan-2008

Two Worlds

From Churumuri:
“Ironically, the era of the free market has led to the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in India—the secession of the middle and upper classes to a country of their own, somewhere up in the stratosphere where they merge with the rest of the world’s elite. This Kingdom in the Sky is a complete universe in itself, hermetically sealed from the rest of India.

“It has its own newspapers, films, television programmes, morality plays, transport systems, malls and intellectuals. And in case you are beginning to think it’s all joy-joy, you’re wrong.

“It also has its own tragedies, its own environmental issues (parking problems, urban air pollution); its own class struggles. An organisation called Youth for Equality, for example, has taken up the issue of Reservations, because it feels upper castes are discriminated against by India’s pulverised lower castes.

“It has its own people’s movements and candle-light vigils (Justice for Jessica, the model who was shot in a bar) and even its own People’s Car (the Wagon for the Volks launched by the Tata Group recently). It even has its own dreams that take the form of TV advertisements in which Indian CEOs (smeared with Fair & Lovely Face Cream, Men’s) buy over international corporations, including an imaginary East India Company.

“They are ushered into their plush new offices by fawning white women (who look as though they’re longing to be laid, the final prize of conquest) and applauding white men, ready to make way for the new kings. Meanwhile, the crowd in the stadium roars to its feet (with credit cards in its pockets) chanting ‘India! India!’”
That's Arundhati Roy describing one of the two worlds. Here's The Hindu (30 Jan 2008) describing part of the other (the entire page is missing from the online edition, so no link):
Cholera seems to have revisited the city with detection of five cases in a private hospital and 24 samples suspected for cholera sent to Public Health Institute (PHI) for confirmation. On Tuesday, 281 fresh cases of gastroenteritis were also reported, taking the total to 819 since the first case was reported in Bharathinagar on Sunday.
...
The BWSSB (Bangalore Water Supply & Seweraage Board) release said: "Some contamination has been detected from 15 houses on Thimmaiah Road Cross. These houses had directly taken water supply connections from the public tap through a GI pipe across a manhole filled with sewage. The water supply to these households was contaminated as the GI pipe was corroded."
...
In many populated areas where roads are very narrow, sewage lines and drinking water pipelines have been laid side by side, which could lead to contamination, sources said.

"This is a repeated experience in Bangalore. Besides the issue of adjacent pipes leading to contamination, there is also that of open drainage. Most urban slum areas bordering storm water drains are contaminated with sewage which even seeps into the groud water," says Thelma Narayanan of Community Health Cell.
And this:
From Ground Zero: Neelsandra and Bharatinagar
As if scraping together a living were not enough, residents have to cope with medical expenses due to contaminated water
You can barely manage to fit in a two-wheeler on many roads in Neelsandra, hardly a couple of kilometres from the upmarket Koramangala. The other streets are hardly motorable, grappling as they do for space with mounds of black slush and bone-rattling potholes. The narrow roads mean that water and sanitary lines are placed close to each other, a situation pregnant with potential for disaster.

A disaster that has unravelled over the past three days as scores of people continue to fall ill afflicted with suspected gastroenteritis. Mohammed Hussain from R.K. Gardens laughs sardonically when you ask him why gastroenteritis has struck now if conditions in the area had always been so appalling. "We are in the news only now. But come here in the evening and you will see that the ones doing brisk business are private doctors who have long queues outside their clinics."
More:
'The poor are the worst victims'
"Drinking water is not safe for the poor in Bangalore. This is the fundamental issue and the outbreak of gastroenteritis at Bharathinagar is only the symptom of a larger malaise," says Isaac Arul Selva of Jan Sahayog, an organisation that works on urban infrastructure issues.

"Cases of cholera and gastroenteritis regularly occur in slums and lower-middle class localities. They become news only when the numbers are big," he says. Nayandanahalli, Badarayanapura, Koramangala Slum and Andhra Colony are areas where this is an "annual feature," he says.

Jan Sahayog did a study at 35 slums in Bangalore in 2005 that revealed that 75 per cent of water samples were not potable owing to chemical and biological contamination.

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