Saturday November 16, 2019
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Differences down under: India & Australia

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By Kushagra Bhatnagar

The article is about the experiences of an Indian who moved to Australia. The differences he witnessed in the functioning style of both the countries’ governments and societies.

Australia: I migrated to Australia in 2008. Since then I have been observing the Australian way of life rather minutely in comparison with the Indian way. There are stark differences between the two societies, and we all know most of them. Each one of us has their own way of explaining away the differences especially when the Indian side appears to be weaker, which it is in many cases.

However, I am not going to discuss the most commonly known real as well as the perceived differences. I am taking up the difference in the way the governments of the two countries handle regulations. The glaring difference exists in the fact that many businesses in India are completely unregulated while those same businesses in Australia (and I suspect in most of the developed world as well) are strongly regulated. Let us study a few of them one by one.

It is no discovery that two of the most unregulated breeds in India are commercial drivers and builders/developers. The commercial drivers whether for taxis, auto-rickshaws, trucks or buses are hardly under any kind of regulations. With total impunity, they feel free to cheat customers, behave rudely with them, violate traffic rules, not to speak of occasional rape of some hapless woman. No government has so far been able to rein in these people. Why? Because this crowd forms a strong vote bank.

Any effort to control their conduct is perceived to be politically unwise. This may or may not be true because no one has tried it. This needs no passing of bills in parliament; this needs no presidential ordinance; this just needs those in power to enforce the law with a stern hand.

Now we have some muddled minded rulers in India who had issued the dictum that the taxi/auto-rickshaw drivers are free to do what suits them. The police cannot book them for refusing a fare, for misbehaving with a customer, overcharging and even for drunken driving. Anyone residing in the national capital Delhi would vouch for the misery commuters have to suffer at the hands of the misbehaving lot of taxi/auto-rickshaw drivers. So in effect, the only law for this lot is that there is no law.

In sharp contrast in Australia, all the commercial drivers are strongly regulated. While an ordinary citizen has the chance of getting away lightly for traffic offenses, the commercial drivers have zero chance. One error and he loses his license, making him unemployable as a driver. I know for sure that even in Dubai and Turkey the commercial drivers are subject to tight discipline. Even the slightest over speeding will have the driver’s license taken away for a few years. Second offense and he loses his license for life.

Likewise, the builders/developers in India also enjoy the luxury of working in a regulation-free environment. Name any aspect of bad, irrational, unruly, unethical, customer unfriendly, outright cheating, fraudulent business conduct and you will find this lot is guilty of it.

They enjoy complete, unrestricted freedom of whatever business practice each one of them wishes to employ. Why? We cannot explain this nonsense by trying to link this with the politician’s’ fear of losing an election. This lot does not exist in numbers that are large enough to become a vote bank. So why the inexplicable liberty? Possibly the black money. We all know that property market is the largest creator of black money. It creates black money and it also consumes black money.

A great proportion of parallel economy thrives in the property market. Who are the people with enormous amounts of unaccounted money? Of course, the politicians. Hence, it stands to reason that they have a huge stake in the property market. This is why irrespective of which party is in power or out of it, this lobby continues to make merry at the expense of the customers. If I as a politician invest billion rupees in property market, I will jolly well make absolutely sure that the people who handle the market remain protected at all times.

Again in sharp contrast the builders/developers are regulated with strong rules in Australia which do not permit any discretionary powers to the bureaucrats or politician which can be misused. We all know there is a thin, practically invisible line between discretion and discrimination.

(The article was first published at http://indiantimes.com.au/)

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)