Sunday, September 15, 2013

Go Girl! Travel the World

Last few years has witnessed a significant increase in Indian travelers and particularly women. Travel is indeed a hobby/interest that women have taken to with great enthusiasm; financial independence, connectivity, accessibility and technology have opened up the world to women. Several destinations have even gone a step further to offer special travel/holiday packages for women travelers.

Sadly an increase in brutal crimes against women across the country (both rural and urban) is going to have a huge impact on this new found travel freedom. One can debate and nuance the cause of increasing crime against women, but mobility and freedom to travel is indeed a key factor that determines the level of participation of women in the economy, politics and social structure. The fear is that the increase of violence against women will deter participation of women in all fields and will end up pushing us 15-20 years backwards.

One of the very important aspects of women empowerment is providing a safe environment for women who travel on work or leisure. As a traveler I am very concerned that incidents of violence against women will result in more social restriction and lesser focus on creating a safe environment and empowering women. It will be a sad day when the fear of crimes against women will stop many of us from going out exploring and traveling the world.

Yes there is a lot that the governments have to do to create a safe environment for everyone irrespective of gender. Our society should take more responsibility in not just condemning the crimes against women but also grooming the boys in their homes to respect women and treat them as equals, and more importantly as humans.

But as women travelers we need to start taking control, unless we do not get confident about ourselves and be prepared at all times we will be curtailed with restrictions and fears. As a traveler I have been travelling for many years mostly alone. Be it the buses in UP or Rickshaws in Mumbai or the Jeeps in Uttarakhand I have travelled in some of the most remote areas across the country, three things that always makes me feel safe are Confidence, Awareness and Preparedness.

  • Be confident about yourself mentally and physically
  • Learn basics of self-defense, which will make you more physically confident/aware
  • Do not disclose information about your travel
  • Avoid any eye contact or talking with strangers, particularly men
  • Do not let anyone get too friendly
  • Be aware of the surroundings, nothing happens all of a sudden
  • Have complete information of the destination you are travelling
  • Do not share food/cigarettes with any stranger during the journey
  • Be aware of your luggage and do not stack all the money in a single place
  • Try not to be alone in a bus/jeep/train
  • Travel in public transport or in a recognized transport facility
  • Avoid unscheduled night travel unless necessary
  • Take upper berths or women compartment if you are travelling in a train
  • Choose a reputed/recognized/authorized travel agency/tour guide, get references
  • Inform friends and family where you are travelling
  • Carry your ID card and emergency contact details
  • Carry a whistle either around your neck or clip it where you can access it easily
  • Have your phone at quick access with emergency/police control room numbers on speed dial
  • Objective is travelling so dress for travel, watch what you are wearing, don’t invite unwanted attention
  • Wear skin tights or a swim suite underneath your dress
  • Do not wear tight or revealing attire stick to full sleeve t-shirt, slightly loose jeans or khakis or salwar suit
  • Travel light, ensure you have your backpack/trolley bag packed properly
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry or display valuables like laptop/expensive phone/GPS/camera/cash etc
  • Carry a pepper spray if possible
We need to sometimes empower ourselves and be confident, be aware and be prepared, let’s be practical there cannot be a police constable standing guard on every road every locality at all times. Government, Police, Society are responsible to provide a safe environment for every citizen irrespective of gender, but we cannot outsource our dreams and destiny either.

So go travel the world do not wait for all the signals lights to go Green to embark on a journey!

- Kavitha Reddy, Director Basecamp Adventures

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can CM Siddhu Revive Bangalore Lakes?

Agara Lake on the agenda of CM Siddharamaiah first city rounds was indeed a shot in the arm for the citizens who have been relentlessly campaigning to revive & save the Agara Lake for the last 6 months.

Earlier Mr Ugrappa Sr Congress Leader, a regular walker at Agara Lake have been supporting the citizens cause had initiated to meet the CM and submit a detailed memorandum. He also has requested the CM to consider a visit to Agara Lake and on 7th Sept 2013 CM visited Agara Lake and got firsthand information on the condition of the lake along with severely senior government officials, local MP and MLA.

Mr Kupendra Reddy Congress Leader thanked the CM for making time to visit the lake and minced no words in conveying the urgent need to revive the lake both from an environmental point of view and from a public health prospective. He pointed out that the sewage water & un-cleared floating garbage has lead to a huge increase in dengue cases in the locality. He also mentioned that the funds has to be allocated at the earliest to speed up the restoration work, and if LDA is not able to act immediately then either BBMP or BDA should be involved to ensure Agara Lake is revived and saved. He also spoke about almost vanishing Parangi Palya/Somasundra Palya/Haralur Lake due to ramped encroachment and stressed on the need to do a re-survey of the lake and clear encroachments.

Mr Satish Reddy MLA of Bommanahalli, who had not shown any interest about the lake over the last few years, did make a request to the CM to allocate funds to revive the lake. He spoke about how the lakes are inter-connected and that it also flows to TN where it is used for agriculture purpose.

Mr Ugrappa stressed upon the need to revive the lake as it is a very large water body of ecologically importance. He also requested the CM to explore the possibility of handing over the lake to BDA or BBMP as LDA seems to lack manpower and technical capability to revive the lake. He drew the attention of the CM on the health hazard due to sewage inlet into the lake.

Mr Ananth Kumar MP of Bangalore South spoke in support of the revival of both Agara Lake and Parangi Palya/Somasundra Palya/Haralur Lake. He appreciated that the CM re-starting the city tours and requested him to make it a regular as it will enabling him to get more direct inputs from the citizens and resolve their concerns effectively. He also promised Rs 25 lac from MPLAD funds for the development of Agara Lake and asked ALPMS team to meet him sometime next week.

Mr Dayananda Reddy MLC drew the attention of the CM on the questions he had raised in the Legislative Council about Agara Lake. He updated the CM that ALPMS which is a citizen initiative has been meeting up with officially across departments and have been driving the cause to save and revive the lake. He spoke about the need to save the lung space and to maintain the ecological balance. Most importantly he brought to the notice of the CM that government has been asking citizens to implement RWH in their home but should not forget that lakes are a great source not only to harvest water but also recharge underground water tables. He mentioned that contaminated water that is getting into the lake will also contaminate the ground water in the long run if it is not addressed immediately.

Chief Minister took note of the memorandum submitted by the members of ALPMS and promised that he will call a meeting of all the concerned departments (LDA, BDA, BBMP, Forest, KPCB, BWSSB etc) and will do the needful at the earliest. He also expressed displeasure on the inaction so far and took a dig at the previous BJP government for not implementing the various reports on encroachments and protection of lakes and environment. He agreed that there is a need to protect the environment and water bodies and will do everything in his capacity to revive the lake. He also directed BBMP Commissioner to do a re-survey of Parangi Palya/SomasundraPalya/Haralur Lake and identify the encroachments.

For the citizens who have been waiting for some action on the Agara Lake, it was indeed reassuring as they could bring it to the notice of no less than a CM of the state. Members of ALPMS who spoke stand committed to keep up the pressure and also contribute to take up some of the critical repair works, and their priority is to get the rain water into the lake.

- Kavitha Reddy