Saturday, December 31, 2011

House That ! Crore is the new lakh for Lucknow

The city, which witnessed a surfeit of vertical growth in the past couple of years seems to have changed track blurring the difference between luxury apartments and villas.

Crore is the new lakh for the deep-pocketed Lucknowites who are willing to shell out an eight-figure sum to live life King size. Less than a decade ago, suggestion of a flat in a high-rise building in the city invited a smirk-unless it was a job perquisite.
Higher disposable income, smaller family size, double income couples and unheard of pay packages have contributed to the profusion of housing schemes, mostly by private players, promising paradise within 3,000 square feet.
And the cityscape today reflects the change in the mindset. Penthouses atop vertical wonders are still in vogue but those looking for high-end living seem more inclined towards idyllic villa lifestyle. Terrace garden where you can relax and savour canapés, a private pool and a Jacuzzi to splash around in and barbecue decks to entertain friends are some of the add-ons of the upcoming projects of SAS developers on Joppling and Way Road.
“For the first time, we will be providing a VRV system in these buildings that enables desired simultaneous heating and cooling, the year round,” says Khalid Masood, the managing director of the realty group. So what do these custom-made dreams cast in Italian marble cost? Spread over 3,000-3,500 square feet, while the base price of a villa starts at Rs 2 crore, a penthouse also costs the same, the deciding factor is what you prefer: privacy or community living.
Golf Villas at Ansal APIs Sultanpur Road hi-tech township are even steeper. They cost between Rs 5-7 crore. “Located around 18-hole golf course at Sushant City, these villas come with central air-conditioning, elevators, swimming pool with Jacuzzi, sky-lights with adjustable louver covers as well as balconies also with adjustable slated sunshades,” says a representative of the real estate developer.
The localities that once boasted of having the best bungalows in town are making way for skyscrapers with hundreds of apartments. Even the Old City is allowing some relics to crumble and make way for specimens of modern architecture. 
“Safety is the deciding factor,” says Khalid on what makes people living in bungalows or independent houses to shift into a flat. Besides walled enclosure and intercom link with the security at the gate (some projects offer close circuit cameras), we are offering facilities like swimming pool, health club, recreation hubs, power back up something those living in bungalows could not even think of, he points out.  
At a time when experts are predicting a down turn in economy, Lucknow has been billed as the most favoured destination for property buyers by a latest Crisil report. Taking the real estate scenario in 10 cities namely, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Coimbatore, Indore, Jaipur, Nagpur, Surat, Vadodara and Vishakhapatnam, the study predicts a boom in housing sector for Lucknow.
Agrees, SK Garg, chairman of Eldeco housing group, the man who is said to have single-handedly elevated the living standards of the city to a finer realm. “Lucknow because of its robust infrastructure is attracting people from all over the State. The only other city West of UP that comes close to it is Noida,” he says adding that this was true only for the residential and not the commercial sector. There is a slump in the commercial sector. The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) could have come as a good rescue but unfortunately the move was shelved, he maintains.
Villas may be in vogue today but this home-grown developer known for his philanthropic approach and activities claims to have championed the concept way back when he built his Udyan township on Rae Bareli Road. “Post assembly polls 2012, the dip in commercial properties too would fade away,” predicts, the man, who made his foray into the real estate in 1987 by building the city’s perhaps first most well known group housing residential address Basera in New Hyderabad locality. “I started off by building dwelling units priced between Rs 3 to 4 lakh. Today, I have sold a duplex in my IIM Road township for Rs 1.4 crore,” he informs. 
Great value for money, yes. But Garg, however, wishes to cater to the less affluent sector for whom owning a house requires a lifetime effort. “The acute deficit between demand and availability of houses is below Rs 20 lakh,” he says adding that the luxury segment only accounts for just 10-15 per cent of this. The veteran developer says he would soon build flats priced between Rs 14 to 15 lakh on all eight-city roads that may not have the trappings but would still be a comfortable option for those with a modest budget.

Vertical Wonders

Building Lifestyle

Sunday, December 25, 2011

HT Campus Adda at IT College Lucknow

Suresh Raina at HT

Sahara Pune Warrior Launch at Sahara Shaher Lucknow

Palace Intrigue: The Mehmudabad Muddle

M Tariq Khan
Lucknow, October 25, 2005
The scion of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad is a content man. The family's honor has been restored. “The stigma, not to mention the pain, of 'enemy tag' that our family bore for 32 long years, has finally been removed. We have been exonerated and our stand has been vindicated by the court,” said a visibly happy heir apparent of the Mahmudabad Estate, Mohd Amir Mohd Khan.
The legal battle may have ended but the fight is far from over, he said ensconced firmly in a chair in his ancestral Mahmudabad House located behind the Qaiserbagh Baradari. So, why is the blue blood still on the boil? “You can draw your own conclusions,” was his enigmatic reply. But let me say this that our ancestors fought against the British rule. It was in this very Kothi that the historic Lucknow Pact was signed at the all-party meet in 1916 in the presence of stalwarts like Gokhale, Tilak and Chittranjan Das etc. Yet, the property we owned and inherited was declared 'enemy property' simply because my father, who was in Muslim League, for some reasons, went to Pakistan, said the only son of the Raja. Khan cited a strange coincidence that the judgment came on the 16th day of Ramzan, the day by the Islamic calendar on which his father passed away.
Apart from prime properties like Butler Palace, the Kapoor Hotel-Royal Café Building in Hazratganj, a portion of Janpath Market, Halwasiya Market (given on lease) and Mahmudabad Mansion opposite it, the Raja's real estate empire was spread over places like Sitapur, Lakhimpur, Nainital, Barabanki and last but not the least, Mahmudabad itself. Among them, the SP's residence in Lakhimpur, the official bungalows of the DM, SP and CMO in Sitapur and a hotel in Nainital is all that he could recall off hand.
Asked how he intended to get the apex court's order executed since most of the properties were occupied by several tenants/shopkeepers for a long time now, Khan said he would have to consult his lawyers before deciding upon the course of action. “Let me say this, however, that I am aware of the ground reality and people, who are living in these buildings may have their own problems. Off course, we won't do anything that is socially or morally unacceptable but at the same time a pragmatic solution would have to be worked out,” he said adding that he would be meeting the Chief Secretary in this connection soon.
A Congressman to the core, Khan does not hide his political proclivity. Rather, he revels in recounting how he met Indira Gandhi in 1980 and with whose help the matter was finally taken up by the Union Cabinet, which agreed to give him back 25 per cent of his properties. So, why didn't he accept the offer? “My wife had an apt analogy over that. She said that you couldn't be 'quarter' or 'half' pregnant. So why settle for only a part of what is rightfully yours and not the whole?” he quipped.

The Battle Royale

** The Raja of Mahmudabad had gone to Pakistan in 1957.
** His wife Begum Kaneez Abidi and son Raja Mohd Amir Mohd Khan stayed back.
**In 1962 government declared his properties as ‘evacuee property.'
** Later these properties were re-christened as ‘enemy property’ after September 1965 Indo-Pak War.
**Amir Mohd Khan moved court to reclaim his ancestral property.
**On October 21, 2005 Supreme Court ordered that these properties be restored to him within eight weeks.

October 24, 2005

In a significant judgment the Supreme Court has ordered restoration of all the properties of the Raja of Mahmudabad within eight weeks that were acquired after being declared as enemy property by the government.
The apex court's verdict comes 32 years after the only son of the Raja of Mahmudabad, Raja Mohd Amir Mohd Khan, who did not migrate to Pakistan at the time of the country's partition, filed a petition to reclaim his ancestral property. Dismissing the writ petition of the Union Government filed in this connection, a two-judge bench of Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Altamash Kabir directed it to return all the buildings it had acquired of the Raja of Mahmudabad back to him within eight weeks.
The Union Government has been asked to pay Rs five lakh to the Raja towards the cost of the case. Here it is pertinent to mention that several senior government officials reside in these buildings that belong to the Raja and are located both in New Delhi and Lucknow. For instance in Lucknow alone, the Butler Palace, the UCO bank building in front of Halwasiya Market and the huge chunk of land that comprises the present day Janpath Market and the DRM office in Hazratganj all belong to the royalty.
Criticising the government stand, the apex court said that the provisions of law declaring a property as enemy property under section 2 (B) couldn't be invoked against an Indian citizen. Hence, the custodian of the Enemy Property, stationed in Mumbai, cannot stake claim to it bypassing the heir apparent, in this case, the son of the Raja.
The Raja of Mahmudabad had gone to Pakistan in 1957 but his wife Begum Kaneez Abidi and son Raja Mohd Amir Mohd Khan stayed back. In 1962 defence related laws were framed under which property of those, who had migrated, lock, stock and barrel to Pakistan was labeled 'evacuee property.' After the Indo-Pak war in September 1965, these very properties were re-christened 'enemy property,' as there was nobody to claim them rightfully.
Amir Mohd Khan had made several applications to the Central Government for restoration of his ancestral property after the death of his father in London on October 14, 1973 but it was to no avail. In March 1981, Commerce Ministry informed him that the Cabinet had decided to return but only 25 per cent of the Raja's property to the latter's heirs.

An Elephantine Effort

M Tariq Khan
Lucknow, September 17, 2007
It is an elephantine task indeed. Two elephants are to be shifted. No, not from a real but, from a concrete jungle. And the job requires skilled masons not ‘mahouts.’ A challenging assignment considering that the pair of white elephants (pun intended) is currently worth Rs 1 crore a piece!
Strange though it may sound, but on Tuesday the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) would finalise the bid inviting services of qualified and experienced artisans for removing and relocating the two precious pachyderms from the Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal. “Made of white marble, these elephants would have to be very carefully prised out from their present location at the main entrance plaza of the monument and moved to another place, where they would be kept in safe custody till further orders,” said an LDA officials on condition of anonymity.
“The statue of Gautam Buddha from the Buddh Sthal located adjacent to the main entrance plaza too would be taken out and shifted along with the two elephants,” said the official refusing to disclose the location to which they would be shifted. Asked if the statues would be put back in place once the renovation was over, the official replied in the negative. “I have no idea what is to be done of them. The decision to move these statues was taken in view of the revamp of the monument ordered by chief minister Mayawati and ongoing development/construction work on the premises,” he said.
Weighing more than a ton, the elephants were put up inside the monument in 1997. “They had cost around Rs 37 lakh then,” said a sculptor adding that their present combined market value would be around Rs 2 crore. “In fact, noted architect Satish Gujral had quoted a price of Rs 1.5 crore for one elephant then. The price was considered too steep by the LDA which subsequently decided to get the job done by a local sculptor,” he said.
While the State Government has already sanctioned Rs 322 crore for the monument’s makeover, according to sources in the LDA, the Rajkiye Nirman Nigam (RNN), the construction agency, has sought over Rs 1100 crore. “The project report submitted by them (RNN) has been forwarded to the expenditure and finance committee of the State Government where it was still under review,” said an official.

UP has a long way to go in implementing RTI

A veteran journalist and a well-known face in the city, Gyanendra Sharma, has been at the helm of the State Information Commission ever since its inception. On Sunday, Sharma, who is due to retire in December,2010 completes four years in service. M Tariq Khan caught up with him on Saturday to share his experience as one of the longest serving information commissioners of Uttar Pradesh.

Q: Right To Information is making waves in other States, yet it has not drawn the same kind of public response in UP, what do you think is the reason?
Ans: There are no parameters by which the success or failure of the RTI Act can be measured but I can say for sure that gradually people are beginning to
realise the enormous potential of this Act. I feel it (RTIA) has come of age in UP despite the initial hiccups.
Q: But people are still denied information by Public Information Officers who exploit the escape routes in the Act as is evident from the large number of complaints that land up at the Commission every day. Don't you think such loopholes need to be plugged?
A: No doubt there are flaws, which should be rectified. A major factor is the failure of the appellate mechanism at the level of public authorities. They have steadfastly refused to heed even the Chief Secretary’s directives to promptly deal with such first appeals against the decisions of PIOs.
But then that perhaps is not the only reason for the rise in cases. I would attribute the trend to increased awareness among the people, who are resorting to RTIA.

Q: Implementation of RTI has never been a priority if the successive regimes in the State. What do you think are the major stumbling blocks in establishing the information regime in UP?
Ans: Even after more than four years of its existence, the State Information Commission is yet to be provided with basic logistics to carry out its duties. A basic infrastructure on which the RTIA has to run is still not there. Another major problem is lack of training of PIOs and first appellate authorities that leads to delays, indecisions and insufficient knowledge of even the basic law. One reason why there is huge influx of complaints with the State Information Commission.

Q. What is your worst experience during the last four years?
A. We strictly ensure compliance of thirty-day deadline by the public authorities. There are three precise reasons for this: (i) untrained PIOs not fully aware about the application of the RTIA, are not able to make out between giving information and redressal of grievances, (ii) they do not have basic facilities to perform their duties, (iii) they are supported neither by their juniors and not their seniors, they are a harrowed lot in their departments for this lack of support and are virtually sandwiched between a non-cooperative team of babus below under and a unmindful and evasive lot of senior officers who have the power to make entries into the character rolls of these PIOs. Nobody wants to be nominated a PIO, in fact.

Q. Do you think the Act has brought about any change in lifting the veil of official secrecy and on the mindset of the bureaucracy and government functioning?
A. It’s a very pertinent question. A section of the bureaucracy is still not willing to read the writing on the wall. The message is clear: you can no longer withhold information from the people on public matters. Some officers, however, still want to hide behind the veil of secrecy. If they have managed to survive, it is simply because a more aware, informed and inquisitive citizenry is yet to realize the true potential of this (RTIA) potent weapon.
Q So why has SIC not initiated any action against such erring officers?
A. It is easier said than done. There is no provision in the Act to penalise the first appellate officers and then it is very difficult to catch senior officers under various clauses of the Act. Under section 5(4) of the RTIA, a PIO can seek assistance of any other officer if he or she considered it necessary for the proper discharge of his or her duties and such officer is treated as deemed PIO for any violation of the provisions of this Act. But most of the PIOs hesitate in naming such officers under section 5(4) or (5) before the Commission for fear of reprisals in the form of bad CR entries etc.

Q. Questions are raised about the quality of judgments of the Information Commission. Your comment
A. How do you decide whether a judgment is good or bad? Whether the decision is good in the eyes of law or whether it has any malafide intentions? Remember, this law is being enforced for the first time and there are no precedents, nor any benchmarks for the decision makers to refer to. May be some decisions are not very sound lawfully but this happens with every law. After all, the Supreme Court sets so many decisions of the High Courts aside.

Q. And what about the growing list of pending cases in the Commission?
A. Yes. There it is and for reasons, I stated while answering your earlier questions. The SIC is over burdened today mainly because of non-functional first appeal mechanism. Yet this is a fact that we heard as many as 8169 cases in June 2010 alone. That comes to about 400 cases every day.

200 years of Hazratganj

A prominent city based architect, Asheesh Srivastava specializes in conservation projects. A consultant and advisor to Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) he is currently involved in the restoration of Jaisalmer Palaces and of course the man in-charge of Hazratganj’s revitalization. Excerpts from an interview to M Tariq Khan

Q) What is the central theme of the Ganj makeover plan?

I would not call it a makeover. The plan is to restore and revitalize its main street and make it a Clean, Safe, and Green Hazratganj. Remember, this street is not only a central business district of the city but also a heritage precinct with 200-year-old legacy. Our effort is to bring back its glory and celebrate the true spirit of Sham -e- Awadh - a walk down the street. The approach is community-driven and backed by State Government

Q) Did you do any research or consult anyone before drafting it?

Asheesh: Yes I had detailed discussions and brain storming sessions with all the stakeholders like the Traders association, "Lucknow Connect” a citizens group, Government officials to identify issues and problems faced by the area and finding their solutions. Evolving a consensus and cooperation among the many groups and individuals who have a role in the revitalization process is the main aim of the project.
Personally I have been monitoring Hazratganj for last five years and have seen and observing change in architectural character of Hazratganj. It has been part of our training to understand and identify various issues affecting a heritage precinct and then find solutions through design: Enhancing the physical appearance of the commercial district by restoring historic buildings, controlling new construction, developing sensitive design management systems, and long-term planning.

Q) Ganjing has always been an experience on foot. How do you intend to restore the footpaths that have disappeared?

My main focus is on restoring the pedestrian nature of Ganjing. Our design aims at achieving this. We have actually introduced continuous stretches of pathway for entire Hazratganj Street. These will be the areas of public interaction. Ganjing is actually a kind of community interaction activity and can only be achieved in a pedestrian format the footpaths are not just walkways; they have all the elements of an urban space. I would also like to emphasise the concept of active living where our design encourages people to walk and enjoy the carefully designed meeting places and piazzas. The footpaths will
be designed with barrier free access to differently able persons. It will have post Op lanterns, benches and dustbins all designed in sympathetic architectural style.
Views and vistas into and out of these streets add to the important streetscape qualities of Street and are being considered while designing. The seats, trees, lamps and other street furniture will help make Hazratganj Street a very pleasant environment for people.

Q) What is the philosophy for choosing cream and pink colour scheme for Ganj buildings and blue for signage it is not blue?
There is a simple concept to use original colour scheme as it used to be before. The crème and pink colour is used because this is the original colure scheme of the area and will give authenticity to it.
Just doing it in one colour scheme and with organised signage we can achieve the cohesiveness and quality of the streetscape, which is far greater than the architectural merit of any of the individual facades.

Q) How do you intend to restore the architectural features of the arcade?

This is a complex procedure. Our Team has been documenting the architectural features of the street and luckily we have plenty of them in place and this will give us enough information to restore them. The area in general is characterised by an assortment of colonial facades, some properly adorned with decoration, others bare. The individual facades are generally narrow. When the facades are wide they are subdivided into a series of bays, thus providing continuity to the rhythm of the streetscape. The precinct as a whole is both historic and of architectural merit. I am actually trying to fill in the gaps obscured due to passage of time.

Q) Is the makeover design sustainable?

The revitalization is a continuous process. Once on move it will start the spiral effect bringing people to the area and thereby increasing economic viability of the area. If we respect our identity and our heritage I have no doubt that it will sustain. Involvement of all stakeholders in decision-making makes the process moiré sustainable as it gives sense of ownership to all.

Celebrating a heritage: 200 years of Hazratganj

A renowned urban planner and an Economist with a Master’s degree from London School of Economics, Nasser Munjee is the Man behind Ganj’s Makeover. Apart from being on the board of several multi-national giants, he is also part of the CM’s task force to transform Mumbai into a World Class City. Here he lays bare his vision, plan and love for the city in a candid conversation with M Tariq Khan

I have been visiting Lucknow for many years and eventually bought a flat in the city. My wife is from Lucknow and I felt it appropriate that we should have a physical space in the city. Since then my visits became more frequent. I have always been interested in urban development and cities for many years and naturally I began to study Lucknow from an urban redevelopment point of view. Hazratganj, was, is and will continue to be a central focal point for the city (most cities are not fortunate to have this advantage). It was so sad to see this central street desecrated by anarchic use (signages, circulation, non-maintenance of facades) to such as extent that this wonderful space was reduced to no more than a market street to be found in any provincial city.
I happened to be the Chairman of a small entity that consisted of young architects and planners and I got them to have a look at Hazratganj. We came to the conclusion that we would record what we had without the elements that defaced the facades. We decided to sketch each and every building on the street and view it as a continuous whole. Those plans are now available as our first attempt to record the possibilities for the future. We even publicized these efforts and met with shop owners and other stakeholders to invite their comments and suggestions in terms of how we might take this further.
This effort really forms a profile of the agenda for urban renewal of Hazratganj. It demonstrates what we need to do not only for the buildings but also for circulation and movement of pedestrians and vehicles, street furniture and lighting. It shows also the inappropriateness of some of the new buildings that have been built (the LIC building for example) which will probably need a new façade to be constructed in keeping with the aesthetics of the street much like the modern makeovers being done to old buildings using new materials and techniques. In the Hazratganj case we will need to move the other way – to superimpose old motifs and designs on new modern (and very ugly) buildings.
Our attempt was to demonstrate that relatively simple innovations could restore an icon of the city back to its old charm and functionality. It would restore the joys of “Ganjing” as an alternative to wandering around new super modern malls, which can be found anywhere. It would demonstrate”specificity” to the city, and more important, give back pride to local residents that we were indeed restoring a proud heritage back to the city for today’s citizen to experience and enjoy.
Unfortunately this effort died as gracefully as the city had been built! My increasingly infrequent visits owing to work pressures resulted in the constant pressure for change being dissipated at the local level. A few dedicated citizens plugged on anyway. When we heard of the 200th anniversary of Hazratganj I knew our time had come. I attended a citizen meeting to discuss this subject in Lucknow and produced the plans we had painfully worked on 5 years ago. People there were aghast that such an effort had been put in previously. This has spurred on a new energy and a few months ago, on a visit to the city, I met with a senior member of the government to push this project to its logical conclusion. I am delighted that this has been taken seriously and the government seems to be fully committed to the project. We now need to work the mechanics of the effort and to take off where we left off last time around.

From the very beginning this was an effort to rally people round an idea. Our plans produced the rallying point of what could be possible. Hazratganj could well be the beginnings of a revival for the city itself. Its success will determine whether we take on different precincts of the city and undertake a similar task of urban conservation, which is consistent with modern use value. After all it must provide new-found possibilities for economic livelihoods, promoting tourism and culture as well as the fine arts all of which were the defining principles of the city in the first place.

The Makeover Plan
M Tariq Khan
It’s a Rs 15 crore makeover for Hazratganj that promises to take the old on a trip down the memory lane, and, the young a glimpse of its glorious past.
The guidebook for scripting Ganj’s journey back in time has been painstakingly prepared by prominent urban planner and architect Nasser Munjee. The onus of implementing his recommendations for revitalizing and restoring this exquisite architectural heritage that completes 200 years in October this year lies on the LDA.
“We have sent the proposal to the State Government and have been told that the funds required to give shape to the project are on their way,” said LDA Vice Chairman Mukesh Kumar Meshram. Commissioner Prashant Trivedi had held a meeting with members of the Hazratganj Traders Association (HTA) on January 2 to work out a time-schedule, seek their suggestions and shortlist the problem areas.
Complete with exhaustive drawings of the existing architectural eyesores, Munjee and his team of conservation architects and urban planners have outlined remedial measures for refurbishing the promenade’s famous façade. But what was the need for undertaking such a study now? In Munjee’s own words: “Ganj’s premier position is facing a serious threat from the many malls and multiplex complex that are springing up all over the city.”
The convenience of parking, toilets and air-conditioned comfort are the biggest drawbacks of the traditional high street. Thus, to retain its numero uno position, Ganj will have to sustain itself on its heritage, character and flavour, which the modern commercial hubs lack, points out the project report. A unique USP of the beautification blueprint is that it promises to profit and provide value for anyone and everyone.
Here’s how: A rejuvenated Ganj would increase the land/property value for their owners. It would increase its economic potential and provide greater security of investment for developers. Property occupiers and managers would have happier workforce with better facilities and easier maintenance. A well-managed market would provide better security, more equitable and healthy environment to the public at large.
No wonder, Ganj lovers are Gung ho over the project. What about traders? “Right now we have got our hands full as it is the end of the financial year. But we intend to get into full steam for October celebrations from next month,” said HTA president Kischan Chand Bhambwani.
Steeped in history, the old world charm of Ganj’s elegant esplanade has always been a visual treat on foot rather than on wheels. Insensitive expansion and renovation over the years has caused incongruous changes leading to decay and deterioration of the street’s famous façade.
Soulless shopping malls have today stolen a march over a celebrated street that was once billed as the heart of city. Nasser Munjee and his team, however, feel that the traditional high street can still sustain itself on its heritage, character and flavour. They have mapped a civic plan including arrangements for seating and lighting along the entire stretch to restore and enhance the overall experience of visiting Ganj and make it a convenient and coveted destination once again.
“Both from aesthetic and material point of view, the walkways are presently devoid of any street furniture for the convenience of pedestrians. The little (furniture) that exists does not follow an overall design scheme and is either on ad-hoc or as-is, there-is-basis,” points out the makover plan charting out a holistic approach to the issue. The two main elements of the design scheme for the streetscape, namely, cusped-arch and lotus pattern have been chosen keeping in mind the distinct architectural characteristics of the buildings.
The aim of the design scheme, points out the beautification plan, is to evolve systems that are not only sensitive to the heritage streetscape, but also revive the ambience and provide improved civic infrastructure in the form of railings, benches, bollards, litter bins, directive signage, improved lighting and paving. The designs for furniture, signage, streetlights, information kiosks and building plaques, however, can always be modified as per the public needs and requirements.

Railing and Balustrades
Stylistic balustrades at regular intervals
Perforated sheet metal panels in cusped-arch profiles
Provision for sponsor panels within panel
Finish with plastic-powder coat for better resistance and low-maintenance

Seating Arrangement
Tubular steel benches with inset panel
The seat should be fabricated from galvanized steel slats and perforated finish with plastic powder coating.

Litter Bins
Designed keeping in mind the psyche of the people with opening only on one side.
The other sides designed using the same panels, except without any punctures.

Street Lights/ Lamp Posts
The posts have been designed to accommodate, either one or two directional lights, as per public need and requirements.

Building Plaques/Planters
Original names to be restored and highlighted
The plaques reflect the traditional style of mounted letters in metal/stucco or embossed wood or even engraved stone.
The letter style and font design should be adhered to the architectural style and period of the building.
The kiosks can be covered or open to sky cubicles, with three sides open.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Criminals use RTI to harass cops

M Tariq Khan
Lucknow, January 30, 2009
Criminals in Uttar Pradesh have discovered a unique weapon for taking on the cop – the Right To Information (RTI) Act. They are not only using the Act to know the status of the cases against themselves, but also to cause embarrassment by seeking information on the facilities available in jails or some such uncomfortable matters.

Take the case of Kushahar Saurabh, Superintendent of Police, Rural Area, in Moradabad. He has been slapped a Rs 25,000 fine for not responding to Salim Baig – accused in a cow slaughter case – seeking information on the progress made in the police recruitment scam case.

Obviously, the cops allowed the matter to linger. Baig complained and the Public Information Officer (PIO), monitoring RTI applications, imposed the fine. Although Saurabh later managed to obtain a stay in the case, Baig made his point.

Senior police officials admitted that the trend was gaining ground. “We have received five applications in January alone,” said a senior administrator at the Lucknow jail requesting anonymity.

In Agra and adjoining districts the trend, according to Senior Superintendent of Police Prem Prakash, picked up in 2008. However, police officers attributed it to the campaigns by the human rights groups.

Agreed state chief information commissioner Gyanendra Sharma. He felt that those conversant with the RTI would continue to outsmart the ignorant as it is very easy to agree than to deny information under the Act.

He said, “The PIOs, the police and some government departments also are not well versed in the methods of handling such applications. Though there are certain grounds (see box) on which the information can be denied, it cannot be invoked indiscriminately.”

But advocate Ajay Singh pointed out, “You cannot deny information to a person simply because he has a shady track record. Any citizen can seek information under the Act irrespective of whether it concerns him/her or not.”

(With inputs from Bhavna Wal (Agra) B.K. Singh (Allahabad) and Rohit K. Singh (Lucknow)

Information that can be denied

Which may endanger national security.

Which may endanger the life of a person.

Which may affect investigation, arrest or prosecution

Kalam Kallings

M Tariq khan
Lucknow: March 08, 2009
It was a swearing in ceremony with a difference. On the podium was Missile Man Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and those administered oath of office…nay, occupation comprised journalists of HT and HH.
The former president recited and members of the fourth state obediently repeated each and every word: “I love my profession. As a young journalist I am a partner in national development. I will increase my research; promote good news, celebrate the success of our people, particularly rural people, protect/ revive water bodies, propagate scientific and technological stories and report innovations and societal movements wherever they occur.”
In his own inimitable style, Dr Kalam laid out the road map for development, progress and set priorities, issues on which the media should focus on.


The first loyalty of a journalist must be to the people. While there should be no compromise on truth telling, media organizations should exercise restraint when it comes to reporting news that may affect national interest, social fabric and peace in the society.


We have realized the Chandrayaan mission but we have yet to make everyone literate in our country. We have outstanding women who have shown their capabilities in many fields but we still have instances of violence against women. We have best aircrafts ferrying people across the cities at the same time we have villages that are not connected with roads. The priority is how to bring an inclusive growth. We have to strengthen our legislature, executive, judiciary and the media to achieve it.


Encourage research. It can do wonders, improve the excellence in reporting and enhance the participation of journalists in national development missions. Regular updating of knowledge is essential. For instance, before any issues are discussed in foreign newspapers, they send it to an internal research group where data is studied, verified and factual news is generated and published. It was through a research by one of their
journalist that the US learnt that BPOs provided an indirect for 90 per cent of the equipments/hardware being manufactured by them and Europe. Thomas Friedman did a research on the growth of Information and Technology in India and the book “The World is Flat”, which he wrote later became a world hit.


In the past the news was of certain limited sectors and essentially urban. Today, it is global, national and has to be about 6 lakh villages in the country. Our news reporting has to strike a balance between the rural and the urban in all the States. An unused water pond made operational by collective efforts of social organizations can indeed be big news. If lakhs of water bodies and ponds can be rejuvenated and desilted there would be no drinking water crisis. People have the right to know. Constructive criticism of how the government funds are being utilized either by a village panchayat or an urban body is always welcome.


The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) has identified 80,000 innovative practices in the past nine years, which have lead to 100s of patents including 20 international patents. In Iledu Village in Kancheepuram, the National Agro Foundation has been working on improving agricultural productivity and also finding non-farm avenues of value added work for the rural community. They have created a linkage between the rural woman and a garment export company in Chennai. The design and raw material is provided to the workers in Iledu and the finished product is then sent back to Chennai for export. Such stories should be reported.


Dr Kalam asked the media in Uttar Pradesh, especially, Hindustan Times and HH to initiate specific projects to benefit its citizens and ensure overall development. “Can you bring about a series of meetings of citizens belonging to different professions and common man to formulate a development plan,” asked the former Prez.
Prepare database of all parliamentary constituencies taking into account the current development parameters, quality of life indices and targets for 2020 and channelisation of funds under major schemes to the intended benefit for citizens. Set periodic milestones for monitoring and aiding the development process with citizens' feedback.
For accomplishing the mission of developing a constituency, we must know its correct parameters. This database can be collected with the help of authorities. The aspects to be factored in the study should include present per-capita income of citizens and their literacy level. Information on all the water bodies and their status, the core-competence and resources of the villages that are presently providing employment potential, what value addition can be made by way of technology or additional farming practices? The present Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and the Maternal Mortatlity Rate (MMR) of all villages and also the number of reported polio cases in the constituency.
This database, according to Dr Kalam, should then become the basis for planning action of all the developmental tasks towards sustainable growth of the constituency with a five-year target. The elected representatives should then be held accountable for improving the per capita income of the constituency by at least three times, increase literacy minimum by 20-30 percent, desilt all water bodies and ensure reduction of IMR and MMR to be less than 10 per 1,000 and a polio free constituency. The peoples' representative should generate value added employment opportunities for rural citizens also with both agro and non-agro based enterprises, provision for safe drinking water and quality electricity reaching every home by 2014.

amphibian cars

M Tariq Khan & Siddhartha Mathur
Lucknow, September 7, 2003
LONG BEFORE Gibbs Aquada surfed the waters of the Thames in London (making news on Thursday as the 'world's first' amphibian car)-or Ian Fleming conceived a Lotus Esprit prototype (The Spy Who loved Me, 1977) that swims underwater-at least two amphibian cars traversed on land and water alike in the Awadh province.
Today, one of the two special utility vehicles may be lying deserted in a compound in Hata Mirza Ali Khan in Hussainabad, but it has seen glorious days in the past. It was, after all, the prized possession of Raja Mustafa Ali Khan of the Uttraula estate.
“It was more of a utility than a luxury, that was pressed into service in times of flood,” recalls Ali Akbar, son-in-law of Kunwar Iqbal Ali, the younger brother of the Raja. “While traveling to Uttraula, the car would float across the Ghaghra river, since the pontoon bridge was removed during the rainy season.” While one car carried the Raja, his retinue followed in the other.
The two cars, bought some time in the 1940s, played an important role in relief work during the 1961 floods, adds Ali Akbar The relic that stands proud in the backyard of an Old City house with a registration number, USQ 2733, (a number that was surrendered in 1968) carries several tell-tale marks. The petrol tank is marked as 'gasoline tanker' indicating its US make.
A 1946 (probably Ford) model, the 55-horse power MAV weighing 2,000 kilogram is ingeniously designed not only to cruise on both land and water surfaces but is also fitted with a self-recovery/self-winching device.
“In the circumstance when the vehicle was stuck in a swamp, a pulley on the bonnet could be used to pull it out. One end of the rope could be tied to a tree trunk and the other end to the device which would rotate and wind up the rope thus taking it out of the swamp,” says Ali Akbar who spent many of his childhood days playing around/on the car which has been parked in the compound for over three decades.
But the amphibian was not the sole vehicle to grace the compound. “Raja saheb was very fond of cars and his fleet included any car that was a name to reckon in those times, be it a Buick, a Jaguar, or a Pierce Arrow,” reminisces his grandson. In fact, the Raja's father had even acquired an aircraft as long back as in 1925. It is another story that the maiden flight gave him the jitters and he discarded the plane right away!
It is surprising that none of the cars belonging to the scion of the Uttraula estate took part in any of the vintage car rallies that keep happening here for the reason that none of them could remain in ship-shape. Disputes arising from the family's falling on bad days left little for these heirlooms of the automobile kind to be maintained.

Poll Pourri

December 16, 2011

Dhanwariya is a tiny hamlet in the backwaters of Pechpedwa village in Balrampur district. Ram Rati, 51, runs a makeshift tea stall on the wayside. It's 3.40pm and the dusk has just begun to set in when suddenly a white SUV followed by a battery of gun-toting commandos, party workers and a busload of media persons pull up at her stall.
The cavalcade on the dusty road used only by villagers on foot barely attracts Ram Rati's attention leave alone the young, fair complexioned man with a two-day stubble on his face, dressed in a crumpled but spotless white khadi-kurta-pyjama, who steps out of the vehicle. He peers into the earthen-furnace in which a villager is frying something. "What is it?" he asks. "It's 'chura' (rice snack), sir," replies one of his aides as the youth settles down on a wooden bench, orders tea and the desi snack.
By now, a curious crowd comprising village urchins and elders has started collecting as the dust raised by the vehicles begins to subside. "It's Rahul Gandhi," an excited gasp goes out drawing people in droves to the cramped space as security personnel jostle and try to keep them at an arms length. Two shy kids in the group catch Rahul's attention. He beckons them.
"What's your name?"
Pat comes the reply, "Ramu."
"Umar," says the other one grinning from ear-to-ear. "Do you go to school?" asks state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi standing next to Rahul with a plastic cup in her hand as the Amethi MP looks at the kids and teasingly ruffles the hair of Ramu when he replies in the negative.
"Kanishk, can I have some sweets for them," he calls out to his Man Friday as he urges mediapersons, especially lensmen, to leave them alone.
The tea-break over, the Gandhi scion is getting into his vehicle with a half-open packet of biscuits in his hand when he spots a thin villager with pangs of hunger and poverty written all over his face standing nearby with folded hands. He hands over the biscuits to him. The cavalcade speeds towards Utraula. Such unscheduled, sporadic stopovers, impromptu interactions and sleepovers in dalit villages have now become de rigueur for the Congress general secretary's poll campaign.
So how do people view these mass contact programmes, termed as gimmicks or 'nautanki' by the Congress MP's detractors?
"He comes across as a genuine person. He is trying to gauge the people's pulse. But I don't think such interactions are going to help the party in the long run," says Satyinder, owner of Sardar Fertiliser in Tulsipur. Unmindful of such reservations and the fallout of his public interactions, the 41-year-old Rahul seems to be relishing every bit of his foray into the Hindi heartland.
Sitting next to the driver in the front seat, with one-arm resting on the window sill (he refuses to roll up the window even on the most dusty trails), he is taking both bouquets and brickbats from disgruntled party workers, who have been denied tickets, with aplomb.
Enthusiastic party workers and onlookers wait eagerly for his convoy. Some break into a jig to the tune being played out by a hurriedly assembled local orchestra, no sooner do they spot the VVIP cavalcade, while a couple of more daring types leap at his vehicle dodging jittery Special Protection Group (SPG) men in a frantic attempt to garland him.
He eats and travels light. Lunch often comprises a couple of sandwiches, éclairs, Good Day biscuits, and the meal can be had anywhere, even in his SUV. Or, for instance, even under a mango tree on a lonely roadside stretch along Gaura Dhanauli village en route to Nanpara.
"On certain occasions, he takes his decision impulsively leaving even senior party leaders guessing as to what he may do next," says a young party worker, also a fellow traveller. Union steel minister Beni Prasad Verma accompanying him on the campaign trail is made to cool his heels on the dais for over an hour at Nanpara as Rahul spends time interacting with the students of Awadh Bihari Memorial School on the outskirts.
"He wanted to come to our house also, but his security personnel advised him not to go any further," says a disappointed Harnam Singh of an adjoining village dominated by Sikhs. At Nanpara, he takes on his critics, "My political rivals say that I am doing this 'natak' (drama) for publicity. I will not let them down on this count and continue to do so."
"I want to eat, live and breathe the same air as you do," he tells the gathering. One of his close aides recounts how he had to suffer once because of this fixation to experience and discover the 'real India.'
"Rahul saw this man carrying a wooden case on his bicycle shouting 'kulfi le lo.' Curious to try this desi delicacy, he went ahead and bought one ignoring our warnings. He was laid up with an upset stomach for a day," he says with a grin.
Rahul may lack the firebrand, oratorical skills to hold the people in raptures. But charisma, he certainly possesses, as the crowd at his public meetings indicates. On the flip side, the Nehru-Gandhi legacy does not always play to his advantage. For instance, in spite of his sweet dimpled smile, he doesn't look like a 'son of the soil'. In spite of his humble ways and simple dress, for many he remains what he is -- a prince on a visit to his subjects. "Bahut gora hai (he is very fair)," gushes an 18-something Rumaila as his father Ibrahim standing next to her at Ramaidya village near Tulsipur nods most understandingly. "Muskrata hua chehra hai," (He has an amiable disposition) is his candid observation.
The flag carrier of the Congress campaign, however, sounds a warning to his political detractors who dismiss him saying he is still wet behind the ears. "I have spent seven rigorous years learning the ropes and am no longer a 'bachcha'," he counters the charge. And as if to prove that he has come of age, the Congress general secretary launches a broadside at both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati at his speech at Sadat Inter College in Nanpara.
"There was a time when both Mulayam and Mayawati mingled with the people, understood their problems and shared a very strong bond with the voters at the grass root level. Not anymore. Power has now gone to their head and they have become insensitive and cut off from the general masses," he tells.
The party's war cry: utho, jago aur badlo (arise, awake and change), however, has failed to evoke the desired response from the people. "How can he talk of corruption when some of the ministers in his own government are languishing in Tihar jail on corruption charges?" asks Wasi Haider Hashmi, a lawyer. The Central government's image, he points out, is at an all-time low. All parties are corrupt, he says in disgust. Agrees Shailendra Singh, a trader in Bargawan, "the Congress has failed to check inflation. Rahul is mistaken, if he thinks he can mobilise opinion and garner people's support simply by indulging in rhetoric."
The middle class, he says, is peeved about interest rates hikes that has put on hold their plans to buy homes and cars.
Indeed, despite the Congress general secretary's blitzkrieg, senior leaders are sceptical about party's prospects. "We had asked Rahulji not to put his own reputation at stake for reviving the party's political fortune in the state," confides a senior party functionary. The Gandhi scion, however, brushes aside the advice, saying come what may he is not going to rest till he sees the Congress in power in the state, whether it takes this election or the next one.