Monday, December 05, 2005

New York Times on India's Golden Quadrilateral

Here are the links to all the parts of Amy Waldman's series titled "India Accelerating":

  1. Mile by Mile, India Paves a Smoother Road to Its Future: about the Golden Quadrilateral.
  2. In Today's India, Status Comes With Four Wheels: about the auto boom.
  3. On India's Roads, Cargo and a Deadly Passenger: about the spread of AIDS
  4. All Roads Lead to Cities, Transforming India: about the migration to the cities

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.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Does it strike you that her writing is more appropriate for National Geographic or the Times Travel section rather than International news.
    Today she wrote Surat was a type of town that people would leave a woman's body abandoned on the street if they did not recognize the person. What? Huh? Why? No details. Turns out it was another "It was a dark and stormy night..." rather than anything like news.

  2. Anonymous said...

    A couple of other essays by Amy Weldman in IHT ( ). The one on AIDS is particularly worth reading.

  3. Abi said...

    Anon, Selva: thanks for your comments. I hope you don't mind my delayed reply.

    Anon: One can take offence at sentences like 'xxx is a kind of town, where ...". While I am not sure what information prodded Amy Waldman to write that sentence, I just take it as a statement about cities in general: where people are anonymous, they mind their own business. So much so that they don't bother with things, even if they cry out for some attention and action. That's about it.

    Overall, I liked Waldman's report, simply because it was rich with a lot of details, talked about many social and economic forces acting on people in the country, and pointed to what kinds of effects one might expect from the action of these forces. Relentless urbanization is one such result.

    Selva, thanks for the link. Some of the stories in NYTimes and Washington Post make it to IHT, and I think what you have given is one of the four stories by Waldman. I have the NYT links to all the four stories in this series.