Amy Waldman, the India reporter of the New York Times, has a long and detailed story on the flagship highways programme of the Vajpayee government, that continues to be implemented by the Manmohan Singh regime. Also embedded within this story is a multimedia presentation on the Golden Quadrilateral that has lots of pictures accompanying her commentary.
I am linking to this because Waldman brings interesting perspectives of a Westerner to the table. Perspectives that a bright-eyed reporter for a business magazine might overlook. Some may take offence at the kinds of stuff she has put into the story: grinding poverty, manual labourers carrying concrete at a bridge construction site, bonded labourers working under bright lights supervised by a foreman with a whip. ...
Take, for example, the peg with which she starts her story.
In the middle of the old Grand Trunk Road a temple sits under a peepul tree. The surrounding highway is being widened to four lanes, and vehicles barrel along either side. But the temple and tree thwart even greater speed, and a passing contractor says they soon will be removed.
Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction, thinks otherwise. She is angry, say the colorfully garbed women massing in the holy tree's dappled shade. As evidence, they point to one woman's newly pockmarked face and other mysterious ailments recently visited on their nearby village, Jagdishrai. They have tried to convince Kali that the tree and temple devoted to her must go, but they have failed. Now they have no choice but to oppose the removal, too, even if they must block the road to do it.
Goddess versus man, superstition versus progress, the people versus the state - mile by mile, India is struggling to modernize its national highway system, and in the process, itself.
Or, consider this:
Outside Jaipur, young men virtually bonded into labor hack with primitive tools at old tires. They work in an archaic assembly line beside the highway, chopping the tires into pieces and loading them onto trucks so they can be burned as toxic fuel at a brick kiln. The tent camp they call home splays out in dirty disarray behind them. A brutish overseer verbally whips them to work faster.
"Please take me out of here," Rafiq Ahmed, 21, whispered as he bent in the darkness to lift another load. "My back hurts."
She also reports on the positives which I am sure you have seen in umpteen magazines. Business magazines, in particular.
Just go read the whole thing. Like it or not, it's out there. While at it, don't forget to see the accompanying multimedia presentation [the link is embedded inside the story]. This seems to be the first of a four part series; I will keep adding links to the other parts.