‘Rioters Don’t Belong To A Community; They Are Plain Criminals’

Mohammad Inam, 42, a victim of communal riots, leads by example on harmony

My family in Meerut was attacked by a murderous mob in 2011 when communal riots hit the city. The trauma of the attack will live with us for the rest of our lives. I had to take my daughter to a hospital in Delhi because she had suffered 50 per cent burn injuries. 

But I did not let the tragedy of taking away my senses. Instead of decrying the attack as a communal conflict, I told everyone concerned about my safety that those who attacked my home were not representatives of a particular community. They were criminals. 

Soon after the attack some Muslim leaders appeared at my doorstep, asking me to give a statement about the attack. I understood their intentions. They clearly wanted to give a communal colour to the incident. 

I stood my ground and refused to give any statement that would have further escalated the issue creating a rift between Hindus and Muslims. I told them that those who attacked my house were Hindus but those who came forward to save me were Hindus too. 

‘Mazhab nahi sikhata aapas mein bair rakhna’ (religion never teaches enmity), this is my firm belief. I now live with my family at a highrise society in Greater Noida West and I am surrounded by Hindus. I feel safe with them.  Nobody can think of harming me or my family here as my Hindu friends will never allow it to happen.

We were created as human beings but we divided ourselves and segregated ourselves on the basis of cast, creed,  religion, nationality. There are endless boundaries. I always tell my friends (both Hindu and Muslim) to think positively about each other’s religion. 

In an effort to spread my message of tolerance and communal harmony, I organize bhandaras (community lunches) on Muharram, instead of participating in mourning precession. This is a social service, I do to mark the occasion. This is what we need to do for a progressive and inclusive Indian society. I have also organised bhandaras on the birthday of Prophet Mohammad sahib, the death anniversaries of my parents and many other occasions.

Leaving the traumas of the past behind and learning from bad experiences of the past is the need of the hour. I am thankful to the  almighty that my  daughter is still alive and healthy, after receiving 50 per cent burn injuries at the age of 18 months. I believe that from somewhere Allah watches us and rewards us for being good and kind.  My daughter is a gift from God and Allah has saved her. So far she has been through six surgeries, one surgery still remains. 

Almost all my neighbours are Hindus, and I can count on them for any kind of help. My Hindu friends participate in every Muslim festival I celebrate, and likewise, I participate in all the Hindu festivals, especially Holi. We have created a  very closely knit community, where religion is not a barrier. We organise  cleanliness and plantation drives and carry out social services on every occasion.

This is what we need to tell our future generations.  Some people still cannot fathom,  how I am thriving with my Hindu neighbours after the attack on my family. I simply invite them to live the life I am living, they will understand the beauty of inclusiveness. One day inshah-Allah, we all shall shun the hardline views of religion and make this country a better place to live. We must  be remembered for love and kindness, and not for hatred and divisiveness — this is what all religions teach.

‘Heavy Fine Is Must To Discipline Errant Drivers’

Nitish, 41, is a technology professional in Delhi-NCR, says Indian roads are full of negligent, rash drivers who put lives of other law-abiding road users at risk. Heavy penalities are a must to keep them in check

I live in Indirapuram and travel to Noida for work every day. On an average I commute about 50 kms each day. I have to navigate through a sea of vehicles on the road and be on high-alert while driving. But no matter how careful you are, you cannot rule out chances of an accident. There are many negligent, rash drivers on the road who put the life of several law abiding drivers at risk. The amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act will hopefully keep such irresponsible people in check.  

The heavy penalties will act as a deterrent for the errant drivers, who do not respect other drivers or pedestrians. With these penalties, people will start taking traffic rules seriously. Earlier, the rich car owners would often be let off after shelling out ₹500. But now if the fine for an offence is ₹10, 000, then people would be careful. Penalising the parents of minors is also a welcome step. 

Under the new Act, the government has agreed to regulate the activities of taxi aggregators like Uber and Ola. Cab services have become as important for city-based population as is the telecommunication network. So if the telecom sector can have regulating bodies like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the transport sector needs a regulatory body too. Cases of exorbitant surge-pricing, extra charge on rebooking after cancellation, random cancellation by drivers etc., and many such exploitative practices need to be kept in check by the government. 

The Centre can now formulate a broad guiding policy, while each state will have to figure out the nitty-gritties and the specific requirements and make the resultant policies on their own. The cab fare passenger safety would be directly under the government’s supervision. 

With the passing of this new Act, I hope that the roads become safer. Cases of road rage, rash driving are likely to go down. People will learn to drive more responsibly.


‘Put The Fear Of Law Into Road Users’

Rashmi Wishnu, 38 an engineering professor from Jodhpur, Rajasthan, met with an accident 12 years ago. The trauma still haunts her. With the new Motor Vehicle Act, she hopes some sanity to return on Indian roads. 

I have just come back to India after having spent three years in the United States. I can clearly feel the stark difference between the way things are run here and in a mature civil society. To use a desi phrase, everything on Indian roads runs ‘Ram bharose’ — your life is in God’s hands, when you negotiate Indian roads. 

I hope the New Motor Vehicles Act will ensure commuters some safety. I have met with an accident and I know traumatic it is. The accident occurred in 2007, and every time I hear a car screech on the road, my heart skips a beat. The trauma comes back to me.  

Back then I used to tie my hair in a long braid. While I was standing at a gas station, a car suddenly came from the wrong side and hit me. I fell and the car ran over my braid. I was just inches away from getting my skull crushed.  

The driver of the car did not even bother to stop. The car stopped only after it rammed into the wall of the gas station. It turned out that the driver was actually a woman, who was still learning how to drive. Her coach was absent that day so she took out her own car for practice. The car did not even have the learners sign on it.  Some passersby helped get up on my feet and I took a few days to recover. 

Years later, when I reached America, I realised the importance they give to traffic rules and regulations.  The traffic rules there are so strict that you can’t wiggle out of an offence by bribing the officer. Only honesty works.  

I am hoping with the introduction of stricter rules, Indian roads will see better days too. However, I am not happy about the fact that there are no strict rules for the safety of children. In the U. S. if a child’s safety is jeopardized, the fine is four times that of a normal offence. The Indian government should give this a thought. For, if children are taught from a young age to follow traffic rules and are kept safe on the roads, they grow up to be conscientious citizens. 

I also had a tough time trying to find good quality helmets for my two kids, so I make them wear cycle helmets, when either of them are riding with me on my scooty. Good quality helmets for both adults and kids are a rarity — there is a good chunk of the society that cannot afford a good quality helmet. 

US authorities also do not unnecessarily harass good Samaritans. However, in India it’s just the opposite case. Once a friend and her brother had gone out for an ice cream at around 11 pm. Three teenage boys were also sitting at the stairs of a nearby vacant building and enjoying their ice cream. Suddenly a window grill fell on a boy’s head, fracturing his skull. My friend and her brother drove them to the hospital, but were harassed so much by the police that they felt bad about having helped someone in need. For days the neighbours would tell them that their car smelled of blood. In the US however, you just call 911 and the paramedics and police arrive almost immediately at the scene. The support system is so phenomenal! India needs to look at providing additional infrastructure and put a sound emergency response system in place, if they want roads to be safer. Just imposing heavy penalty will backfire. 

After coming back from the US I haven’t needed to pay a single bribe because I am more aware of my rights. In the US, citizens can sue the authorities for non-maintenance of roads. But in India, people have to roam around in astronaut suits to get the attention of authorities (as happened in Bengaluru recently). If the government keeps their end of the bargain of providing good and non-congested roads, I am sure it wouldn’t take much for people to keep their end of the bargain –and abide by the rules.


‘Lakhs Of Livelihoods Depend On Plastic’

Simaranjeet Singh, 40, who runs a plastic manufacturing unit in Bawana, Delhi, feels a complete and sudden ban on single-use plastic will take away the livelihoods of thousands of small scale units and lakhs of workers

Plastic manufacturing is my bread and butter. I do not have any other alternative source of income. Neither do hundreds of small and medium plastic manufacturers, like me, who run industrial units here in Bawana providing employment to over one lakh people in the national capital region (NCR). Owners, labourers, and recyclers — everyone has a job here. 

However, a complete and sudden ban on single-use plastic will upset the ecosystem that has been established here.  

There are burning questions that the government must address before imposing a hasty ban. What will we do if our only source of livelihood is snatched? The recycling business, for instance, is entirely based on single use plastic, what will happen to them if single use plastic is banned? If the government imposes a complete ban on single-use plastic, there will be complete chaos like in happened during demonetization.

Yes, single-use plastic must be reduced and replaced by some other product, but banning it immediately is not a solution. There are countries have achieved milestones in recycling and are now buying waste from other countries to generate electricity, make oil and other useful things out of it. Recycling is primarily the job of government agencies. There should be a training department for recycling within the government civic agency. We cannot afford to lose whatever we have. There must be a phase-wise system in place to remove single use plastic from the country, that ensures continued employment of people working in the plastic manufacturing and recycling industry. Any knee-jerk reaction by the government will hamper the economy.

The plastic manufacturing market is already facing a slump after the statement of PM Modi about the ban on single-use plastic. Those who don’t understand our concern should visit the western countries once, they will be shocked to see how much single-use plastic they use. They don’t face problems like us, as they have a very effective recycling system in place. Plastic is actually recyclable and people need to know that. Plastic pollution is a result of improper waste management, and that is the reason why plastic ends up in landfills and oceans. 

We suggest the government to make a separate ministry for recycling, import new systems from the western countries, train the civic agencies and invest in buying equipment to recycle it rather than immediately banning it. If this is done systematically, we will also get a chance to research on things that can replace plastic.

There is a lot of confusion over single-use plastic that needs to be clarified. If the government just bans polythene bags, straws, and tumblers — it will result in gross injustice for the small and medium industries, which manufacture them. Plastic is everywhere. It is a major part of the food packaging and FMCG industries. Packets of biscuits, noodles, chips, salt, sugar – anything that goes to kitchen is packed in a single use plastic. Why should they be spared? They equally contribute to plastic pollution? 

The plastic manufacturers are now waiting for October 2, with our fingers crossed, when the prime minister is likely to make an announcement in this regard. We hope the government understands our concerns and takes a wise decision.


‘A Homestay Built With Plastic Bottles’

Deepti Sharma, 32, recycled over 26,500 single use plastic bottles by constructing a room and two washrooms at a village in Uttarakhand. She had to transport bottles from Haldwani, then use horses to carry it to the construction site

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch plastic free drive on October 2 this year, I am happy that I have recycled over 26,500 plastic bottles, more than I can use in my lifetime. I made walls for my house at Satpuri village of Hartola, which I am going to use as a homestay. The construction was very painstaking as it was hard to find good masons who can execute the work. Such constructions have taken place in other parts of the world and in some parts of India also, but executing such a work at a height of 7,000 feet, was a real uphill task. 

First I had to transport plastic bottles from all the way to Haldwani, then horses were used to dump it at the construction site as the nearest motorable road is about 250 meters from the site. In the beginning, everything went well, but as the wall started taking shape, the challenges appeared. The concrete was not staying at one place at the wall. I had to research again and again and made call to various people including my sister in the United States of America to help with some plans. I copied a South American way and used chicken wire to hold the concrete and it worked. It took nearly six months to complete the one room and two washrooms and by then my gynecologist advised me not to travel anymore, I was six month pregnant. So after completing first room and two washrooms with recycled plastic bottles, I asked my contractor to make rest of three rooms and two washrooms with fly-ash blocks, as I was unable to look after the work. In the meantime, I purchased worn-out tyres from Haldwani and made stairs out of them. I have recycled about 150 tyres.

My dream homestay, where I am going to shift in a year or so, is almost ready. I am going to get it registered this year. So far, only friends and extended family members have visited the homestay. Now I will focus on generating business as I will need money for my baby’s future and also will be helping my husband in relocating to our dream place. One can see Himalayas at a span of 180 degrees from the rooms. The bottle room had gathered fans even before it was constructed. People from neighbouring villages and cities came to see the construction. Now, I want people to come and see how it was done and repeat the same wherever they want.

The process of making walls from single us plastic bottles is very easy and cheap. It requires good masons though. One has to one by two inches metal net and make a rectangle wall-shaped box out of it in which plastic bottles can be stuffed. Once completed, the wall-shaped boxes have to be welded or tied to the frame or pillars of the house. After that, chicken wire has to be tied on it before filling it with concrete.

During winters, the recycled-bottle room remains warmer than rest of the rooms. It is also a very light construction to do. I am planning to construct a couple of more such rooms once I shift there.


‘Get Serious Over Population Control’

Saurabh Lata Singh, 65, a housewife from Jharkhand is staunch supporter of population control. She feels if Narendra Modi is serious about the issue, he must take concrete steps and not just deliver speeches to score political points.

The Prime Minister during his speech on 15th August, said population control is an act of patriotism. Many people felt he was targeting a  particular community with this statement. However, it is the mindset and ignorance that should be targeted and not a particular community. 

Irrespective of religion, a majority of the Indian population still believes that having a son secure their future ensuring happiness and prosperity. I have heard of mothers killing their own daughters soon after birth in the hope of a son. What kind of a society are we living in?

Women are forced to conceive several times in the hope of birthing a son. This has an adverse impact on not just the health of the mothers but also of the older siblings, who neither get adequate nutrition or attention. Many a times, in villages elder sisters end up as nannies for their younger siblings. 

Even in urban areas population control measures need a push. The Prime Minister should seriously think about this problem because it impacts the whole fabric of society and should not use it to score political points. One of our neighbours had seven children and they continued wither birthing spree, even after their first and fourth-born were boys. This is the 21st Century and we are still surrounded by people who look at contraception scornfully. 

The concept of adoption is still alien to Indians. Orphaned/ abandoned children (mostly girls) continue to grow up without a family in orphanages. 

 I recently read about a 74-year -old woman, Erramatti Mangayamma, from Andhra Pradesh giving birth to twin baby girls. She conceived the twins through IVF and the reason she gave for having babies at this advanced age was that she felt isolated from her peers. While I have my doubts about how they will raise the two girls, what bothers me the most is why did they wait for 57 years to give birth to their own two babies? Why could they not adopt?

If we sincerely want to work towards population control we also have to work towards proper communication between couples. Sex education, pre and post-marital counselling are the need of the hour. Young people must understand that as responsible citizens, they must contribute to the society and population control is one of those ways. A smaller family is a happy family.


‘Swachh Bharat Toilets Gave Us Dignity’

Mahavir Yadav, 30, a farmer living on the Yamuna floodplains of Delhi-NCR, says the pucca toilet structure built under Swachh Bharat mission has rid his family from the embarrassment of defecating in the open.

Forget about a toilet, a farmer in Delhi-NCR cannot even consider constructing a pucca house. After defecating in the open for about a decade, finally a new toilet has been constructed, which we can use free of cost. This has changed our lives. It is more than just a convenience. We can finally live with dignity, which especially holds true for the women living here.  

I came to Delhi 15 years ago from Badaun. I started farming on leased land at Yamuna’s floodplains. I grew vegetables and sold them to earn money. Vegetables are costlier in Delhi and there is a good profit in farming. However, it’s not good enough to own a house or construct a toilet. We still live in makeshift accommodations as no construction is allowed on the floodplains. Moreover, we shift to the relief tents every monsoon as our houses gets flooded. In such a condition, thinking about building a toilet was impossible. 

About five years ago, after the Swachh Bharat initiative was launched, a toilet was constructed on the Delhi-Meerut highway near our residence opposite the Millennium Bus Depot. Initially we hesitated to use the toilet as it looked very clean but to our surprise, it was free for all. 

We started using the toilet every morning and now it has become a habit. There were days, especially during rains, when the water level of Yamuna rose and women of our families faced a lot of difficulty in relieving themselves. Men too, had to travel around half a kilometre to look for a place for defecation. Children, often used to fall sick during monsoons due to poor hygiene. 

One toilet has not only enhanced our lifestyle but has also taught us a lot about hygiene. We carry our own soaps to wash our hands and make sure the toilet is clean after we use it. I am happy that our children have picked up these habits very fast. Though, there is just one toilet that can be locked, we are very happy with it. We would like to thank the government for this. There should definitely be more such toilets.