If integrity doesn’t inspire us, how will a bicycle?

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Occasionally we read of some interesting but highly impracticable bits of news and views. Over the past few days I have come across two such pieces which, to me, seem as if they were accidentally misplaced from a column that should have been titled ‘This Day, Fifty Years Ago’.

The only difference is that they are both from current headlines.

The first piece was the suggestion from a very responsible and concerned fellow citizen, a few days before August 15, that we should all fast en masse on our Independence Day to wipe out terrorism from our country.

The second was the recent announcement from our inspired deputy commissioner that Namma Mysuru would in about two months time from now, have separate tracks on most of its main roads for the exclusive use of bicycle riders.


I personally think that in the present era and age, beyond fulfilling our religious, spiritual or medical needs, fasting is not going to make any great difference to the way groups of people with serious differences of opinion and ideology look at each other.

And, terrorism certainly is the unfortunate fallout of just such a state of gross disagreement that needs a much more practical and permanent solution that appeals to the mindset of all the groups at conflict, rather than just a stop-gap, emotional Band-Aid.

Although fasting may have moved mountains in the past, in today’s scenario it unfortunately falls only into the latter category. The very fact that no one took a serious note of the recent suggestion to resort to fasting as remedy for our problems, shows that it is not of much practical use.

The truth is that although non-violence and fasting have been hailed as the two main weapons that got us our freedom, today the actual utilitarian value of even the Mahatma’s frequent fasting itself is under hot debate with me sharing the benches with the doubting Thomases.

When the present-day terrorist is not bothered about the pain and anguish that he inflicts on the helpless men, women and children with his acts of cruelty, I do not think he is going to be one bit bothered about whether we celebrate our independence day eating or starving.

Terrorism is just like most of the cancers that medical science is trying to tackle today; often diagnosed too late, well beyond the easily treatable stage; highly virulent, with the treatment often turning out to be more painful than the problem and always one step ahead of a complete cure.

We all know very well how an economic giant like America is right now going both berserk and bankrupt in a desperate attempt to tackle terrorism at an unreasonable and astronomical cost and how the uneasy peace that it seems to be maintaining on its streets is certainly being painfully lost far beyond its borders.

Nevertheless, just like in the case of cancer, which afflicts our bodies and yet torments our very existence, we must spare no effort to find a lasting cure for this malady, however frustrating the exercise may seem. But most importantly, let us all remember that Band-aids certainly do not banish cancers.

Here, sustained, sincere and non-partisan dialogue that addresses all issues seems to the only treatment that seems to hold some hope.


Coming to the second bit of news about the separate bicycle tracks on our roads, which seems to be coming to us as a special and unasked-for Rajyotsava gift, it is thankfully something that is less grim and something that we can all laugh about, although we may end up losing some precious public money in a futile bid to try out the novel experiment.

Although I agree that it is something that has been working very successfully abroad I am personally willing to take on any bet that here the proposed bicycle tracks will only be as transient as tyre marks on loose soil.

Impressed with what is successful in some much saner parts of the world like China, Japan and Europe it would be foolhardy on our part to try to transplant the same into our midst without first training ourselves to acquire a tiny bit of the self-discipline that we see outside our country.

Firstly, we do not have any roads that are wide enough to carry different forms of traffic in different lanes without any overlap. Secondly, how are we going to handle these separate lanes at our innumerable road intersections without traffic separators and looped flyovers? Thirdly, from where are we going to bring the almost extinct bicyclists to adorn our roads and accompany our deputy commissioner when he brings out his school-days bicycle?

Ever since I read the news about this new venture I have been scanning our roads very keenly to assess the percentage of citizens who are using bicycles vis-à-vis other forms of personal transport and find them almost non-existent. Expecting people to take up cycling after having tasted motorised transport seems rather far-fetched.

If P. Manivannan thinks that people will be inspired to ride bicycles if he just sets an example by riding one, I would like to know how many of us have emulated him by becoming honest and law abiding citizens knowing fully well that he is one of the few very honest and upright government officials we are fortunate enough to have?

Will our high and mighty KSRTC bus drivers respect the rights of our humble bicyclists when they do not care two hoots for our red lights, zebra stripes, and yellow lines? Especially, when every one of our traffic cops without any exception of rank or resolve, from the highest to the lowest, is programmed only to sheepishly look the other way whenever a KSRTC bus appears on the horizon.

I have so far not seen a single traffic police officer reprimanding a bus driver even for any of his most dangerous transgressions let alone successfully stopping and booking him for the offence. And ironically it is the same cops who are so duty conscious and unforgiving when it comes to stopping helmet-less two-wheeler riders, who, while imperilling their own lives, pose no danger whatsoever to other road users.

Can any of our administrative heads explain the reason for this inefficiency and discrepancy, and what they wish to do about it in the near future?

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician, who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where a version of this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: courtesy Flickr, digitally enhanced

Also read: All terror can be traced to injustice, inequality

The diabetic, the valve pin, and the little finger

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7 Responses to “If integrity doesn’t inspire us, how will a bicycle?”

  1. Dileepa Prabhakar Says:

    Can’t agree more.

  2. Tarlemaga Says:

    Kudos to Javeed for having bought out well timed articles.

    1. Before we get into Terrorism the root causes of it. It’s either Social Inequities,Religion or State machinery indulging in mass murders. Young motivated youth’s dissapointed with systemic corruption take this on. However target’s being innocent citizens are a big worry. There is a differenciation between terrorism and militancy.

    Terrorists go on a killing spree of innocent bystanders where as militants target their sole enemy or key conspirator.

    My uncle who happens to be a Major in Indian army states that Naga Militants target only the Top General’s,Politicians,Major’s and Lt’s during combat. They maintain a strict code of conduct not to attack civilians and even low paid jawan’s.

    Hopefully Terrorists will turn out to be saner militants be a bit moderate in their views.

    2. We crib of Traffic jams,Pollution, Accidents and this vicious circle of commute will never end till we resort to mass transit systems.

    Privately owned vehicles need to be heavily taxed through operational charges such a congestion tax and high parking fees.

    Singapore is a model state which implemented this without much brouhoha.

    It has become a style statement to own cars and create a mess of the environment.

    Cycle tracks is a welcome change and can help citizens enjoy good health.

    It is time a course correction is carried out in India else we are going to see impatient Indian’s being a burden to the system.

  3. Tathagata Mukherji Says:

    Interesting , that someone is talking abt terrorism and Cycle track in the same article.

    Jehad: Targetting innocent people:

    Author defines terrorism as violence “targeting innocent people” much like the Deobandi Fatwa we heard few months ago. Such a definition is not new and doesn’t set clear boundaries. For the question at hand is what does ‘innocent’ mean? On several Websites and on many shows on Al Jazeera television, jihad’s apologists often use the Arabic term ‘bare’e’ for ‘innocent’ and assure the audience that jihad cannot target the latter.

    The concept of ‘innocent’ isn’t that innocent in jihadism. For the militant ideologues can render individuals and groups ‘bare’e’ or not ‘bare’e’ at their discretion. The status of ‘innocence’ doesn’t overlap fully with the status of ‘civilians’. Hence, to claim that terrorism is defined as targeting innocent people is to claim that not all civilians are innocent, and that not only breaches international law, but gives credence to jihadi violence.

    Moreover, author doesn’t identify Al Qaeda, or any other similar group, including the Taliban, as terrorist organisations. And as of now, no subsequent fatwas based on this Deobandi fatwa have done so yet. Therefore, in terms of identification of terror entities, the edict has failed to show its followers who is the terror perpetrator. This text simply doesn’t bring novelty to the debate about jihadi-rooted terrorism.

  4. jeevarathna Says:

    Mr. Sangliana created cycle tracks, when he was Commissioner, Bangalore City. But soon after his exit, every one forgot about it. Also, separate Cycle specific traffic signal is required to streamline proper traffic management. Such systems. Such systems exist in many countries. In a country where pedestrians rights are almost non existent, it will be too much to expect this exercise will succeed. I cycled in Mysore as a student covering almost 10 Km each way which when i tell my children think their old man is fibbing !

  5. tarlesubba Says:

    about the first part of your article:
    And, terrorism certainly is the unfortunate fallout of just such a state of gross disagreement that needs a much more practical and permanent solution that appeals to the mindset of all the groups at conflict, rather than just a stop-gap, emotional Band-Aid.

    I beg to differ. It is not possible to satisfy all types of mindsets. And all type of mindsets and whims and desires, whatever they are rooted in, cannot and should not be satisfied. We are a modern republic, we need to need live by the terms of a commonly accepted covenant, where the common soceity makes some concessions for all sections but does not satisfy every passing whim of any group. Every section of the society has to own up to its role as citizens, accept certain sacrifices and behave like responsible adults rather than harmone crazed adolescents. The most basic covenant is that any complaint and any grievance is addressed through the system and not in parallel to it and even more fundamentally, the right of the common society to question, criticize and analyze all aspects of any group within the society. Once we start taking these two covenants very very very seriously and tolerated no deviance from these, then and only then will things fall in place. We are not a magical society endowed, with a magical and supernatural wisdom. Ordinary humans only we are. In about 200,000 years of evolution of the modern man it is pretty much well known how the common man lives. Its all very well known. Today everybody criticies Bush and the US. and yet history is filled with half as powerful and half as egalitarian societies who have done exactly the same thing even more barbarically. Why? What did the dialectic USSR do? and what is the People’s Republic of China doing today? And I am not even mentioning the worthies and their noble deeds in africa, asia and europe.

  6. tarlesubba Says:

    Now, coming to your second part, dedicated lanes, lane markings, signals etc.etc. are the structural component of enforcement – sort of like the hardware of the solution. For discipline and for effective enforcement there should be a systematic(as in easily graspable, intuitive) and pervasive structure(the system and structure cannot arbitrarily dissapear). That is the first and the most basic pre-requirement. Without structure there is no order. We tend to stress on behavioral problems, but erratic behavior is only a symptom of lack of structure or lack of perception of structure. If know that everytime I hit a button, i get cheese, I will hit the button. This has got nothing to do with Indians and Indian genes our history and our philosophy and definetely not our caste system.

    I will give an example, as part of my work i visit a village on a lake. For most part of the year, the well marked roads in that village are sufficient. But in summers a lot of people on motorbikes arrive in the village and the traffic from dawn to dusk which here last for 16-17 hours goes haywire. The reason is like the rest of the country, the lanes are marked for about 15 feet width. But as seen from perspective of a narrow motobike driver that is useless, within those 15 feet he can drive anywhere. This creates all sorts of dis-order. The village has a good number of policemen and they are stretched and stressed.

    Motorbikers are not the problem, my neighbour is one. For 9 months of the year he is your regular middle class, god fearing, tax paying law abiding man, with two dotters and a mortage. He would not dream of breaking a law. But when on a bike, he transforms into a completely different animal. When is driving his family sedan drives straight like an arrow.

  7. Kiran Says:

    There are ways in which cycling lanes can work. World over, it has been proven that safe cycling lanes, more than anything else, encourage people to cycle more. A good example in India itself is the New Delhi BRT corridor, which has a separate cycling lane. By separate, I dont mean a painted line, but with a divider.

    A more convincing argument can be found here (a movie from street films :http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/physically-separated-bike-lanes/ ).

    World over, no country or city has ‘won’ the battle against congestion by building more roads /widening roads . Even in Bangalore there are plenty of 3 lane roads (ring road , residency road), where adding additional lanes is not going to solve the traffic problem. In such a condition, taking away half a lane for a physically separated cycling lane will only help.

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