Towards disabled-friendly cities
This refers to the edit, “Even dumb cities will do” (May 1). Cities have to be made liveable. Just creating hi-fi cities is not enough. Our cities are not even friendly for able-bodied people, leave alone the disabled. We travel packed like sardines in the local trains and city buses—where is the focus on local transport? Our cities are not disabled-friendly like other cities in the world—Seattle in Washington (a truly wheelchair-friendly city with fitness centres for disabled, rehab centres and a website detailing such facilities),Vancouver in Canada (low-cost housing scheme for the disabled, and houses built close to health centres), Reno, Nevada (pre-scheduled transport service for the disabled), Krakow in Poland (pedestrian crossing equipped with sound devices for visually-handicapped, buses and street cars with low floors and wide doors,specialised taxi service with wheelchair lifts), Salzburg,Austria (wheelchair accessible swimming pools and changing rooms, and announcement system for visually-handicapped), Perth,Australia (wheelchair lifts in coaches—seats can be removed to accommodate people on wheelchairs, audio loops for people wearing hearing aids), Singapore (special railway platforms for wheelchairs, and disabled-friendly malls, zoo, and supermarkets), and Ljubljana, Slovenia (audio and video announcements in public transport, Braille signs in bus-stops, and city-centric tactile maps). If energy efficient smart grids are being planned by the government for smart cities, under which citizens will have to shell out a premium of 50-100% for 24/7 non-stop power supply, then do we need such smart cities? There is so much hue and cry over net neutrality, but there is not even a whimper of protest on such dual pricing of an essential commodity like power. Why should one pay a premium for uninterrupted power supply, when one can install solar panels to supplementary power supply for 8 months a year? A rethink is needed on the concept of smart cities. Not even a single city in India has detailed information on facilities for the disabled people on the website of the city’s municipal corporation—and websites should be user-friendly—or in audio form for the visually-handicapped. Ramps have been built for wheelchair bound people in some places, but they are quite inadequate. When our cities are not even friendly for the able-bodied, what hope do smart ones carry?
Deendayal M Lulla
Making India corruption-free
It is difficult to be enthusiastic about the effectiveness of the anti-corruption mechanism of the Union government. India is among the ten most-corrupt countries in the world and has reached such a stage that it is very difficult to take any effective or corrective action against the big shots. The special cell, which hear the complaints from various section of the people regarding corruption, in different departments of the government, has enormous powers and can act as a sort of vigilance body, but due to constant political interference, there is question mark about the honesty of the cell members.
Bhagwan Thadani, Pune