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My thoughts
Sunday, 31 January 2010

world trade center New York


What's Happening - And Not Happening - At Ground Zero

Eight years after terrorists felled the World Trade Center towers in New York City, progress on rebuilding the site is minimal and mired in controversy. Just a 10-feet-tall, barbed-wire fence surrounds the 16-acre void in the heart of Lower Manhattan. Squabbles over designs and funding have caused severe construction delays. Work above-ground work on the site of the former towers has made little headway.
After having read about the controversy about the design for the new towers, a few years back I wrote,

“The diabolic destruction of the Twin Towers in New York was an act as despicable as brazen. It was meant to be as much an affront as abuse. It sought to humiliate a great people and a great democracy into permanent shame.
Retaining the footprints of the towers as a ‘memorial’ and building a new Tower as a replacement would be more of a tacit and ‘permanent’ admission of the victory of the ‘evil’ over the ‘good’ than displaying a spirit of rejuvenation.
Architectural merits apart, the only definitive and forceful statement that a nation can make is to rebuild the Twin Towers exactly as they were and ensure that the cityscape and skyline of the great city is regenerated as if there was no aberration. A great people and a great democracy must demonstrate its undying character in ‘immortality’ of the symbols of its national ethos and not appear to be morally weaker than the forces of terrorism by grasping the opportunity for a new commercial exploitation of land and an Architectural commission.”

Since then the scene has'nt yet changed any. The photographs of the still standing ruins of the two towers so much resemble (in spirit) the ruins of the 'Collosium' in Rome (Italy) that one wonders if it would not be a low cost and highly profitable option for the country to develop the ruins as a tourist site! In these days of dire economic distress it could be an option worth serious consideration!

Posted by indie/pmapte at 9:57 PM
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Property Tax Fixation in Mumbai

This has reference to “Property Tax to be Valued Differently” (TOI,Jan.20)


The remedy suggested by the Inspector General of Stamps & Registration is worse than the ailment!  It raises doubts and suspicions about the real reasons for the change in the existing system of the ‘Ready Reckoner’!


The proposal by the Inspector General of Stamps & Registration will give rise to ambiguity and scope for different interpretations and discretion in fixing property value giving rise to corruption and loss of revenue to the Government. Of the 15 parameters proposed that will decide stamp duty, only 2 are definitely quantifiable (FSI, and regular shape of property land ) Rest 13 are subject to variable interpretations and pliable enough to be bent in favour of the contracting parties.


The present system of yearly fixation of stamp duty, area- wise, for properties in Mumbai was evolved to eradicate corruption that existed in determining the property value by favouring the parties to a sale deed by undervaluation and extract illegal gratification from them resulting in loss of revenue to the state government. The system is quite scientific, rational  and equitable. But what is most important and crucial is that it leaves little scope for discretion or interpretation, thus minimizing possibilities of illegal gratification leading to rampant corruption that existed earlier.


The real modification required in the present system of ‘Ready Reckoner” is to integrate a method of keeping parity with changing property values due to major factors like the current global melt down in economy. It would however appear that instead of a simple adjustment of the property value index, the meltdown is being used as an opportunity to reintroduce the earlier corrupt system of discretionary fixation of value to benefit all concerned including bureaucrats, politicians and builders!


Prakash M Apte

Urban Development Consultant

Posted by indie/pmapte at 9:51 PM
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The article “By global standards, India more equal than others” by Subodh Varma, appearing in TOI 3rd June 2007 is brazenly misleading and confusing to say the least!. The author has conveniently failed to point out that,

1)      The comparison between various countries may not be accurate as the data comes from surveys covering different years and using different methodologies.

2)      The data has been cleverly manipulated to misrepresent the current economic condition in India and does not corroborate his statements…  “India is a land of contrasts: how extreme wealth exists cheek by jowl with shocking poverty. We see these contrasts everyday.” and “Over 70% of the population has a monthly per capita expenditure below the national average of Rs. 555. This indicates the low levels of income prevalent in the country …”

3)      The author fails to recognize that the disparity metric by itself is not an indicator of well being of a people, as the author wants us to believe. Though the disparity ratio is stated to be higher in the US as compared to India, most of the lowest 10% in the US have all their basic needs (food, shelter and clothing) satisfied while 70% of the total populace in India are below the poverty line!

4)       The data used in the article is a consumption data which indicates lower levels of inequality between the poor and rich.


Without understanding the statistical significance or the applicable relevance of the data, the author seems to have “cut and pasted” it from the Human Development report ( and cobbled together a confusing article. The author’s conclusion of “prosperity meaning unequal distribution of wealth and incomes” has been pulled out of thin air. It would appear that the article is more of a sponsored advertisement (India Shining!) than a reflection of the truth!




Posted by indie/pmapte at 9:49 PM
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Israel's biggest danger



The Editor,



‘Israel’s Biggest Danger’ By Fareed Zakaria (Feb. 23) shows striking similarities between the perception s of danger from the Arab minorities to Israel and the Muslim minorities to India.  Muslim Indians have grown to over 151 m. (13.4%) from 38.85 m.(10.36%) in 1951 after India & Pakistan became two Nations and are estimated to  be over 20% of country’s population by 2020. Muslims enjoy all legal rights but not the obligations due to their “special minority status” and ‘Islamic” beliefs. They do not accept the common civil code applicable to other Indians. Citizenship requires them only to be loyal to the law but not to the values or ideologies (secularism) of the state.

Hindu nationalists warn that India’s Muslims constitute a demographic time bomb. For India, resolving issues of Muslim minorities is more crucial than dealing  with  Muslim terrorist groups and Pakistan. It will decide the future of India as a Secular State (Islam abhors secularism) and a democracy.


Posted by indie/pmapte at 9:47 PM
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Elevated Rail Corridor in Mumbai



This has reference to “Elevated Rail Corridor Plan…” ( TOI 26th March).

The “unprecedented alacrity” shown by all concerned officials is quite understandable. The cost of such an elevated churchgate-Virar corridor

( excluding the rolling stock) may be in excess of Rs. 6500 crores! The ministry of Railways proposes to appoint consultants to prepare a feasibility report for the elevated rail corridor. Is it possible to include in the Consultant’s scope of work, suggesting options to the elevated corridor? For example, as I have been advocating for the last 20 years, it is  possible to run double Decker trains on the existing tracks by constructing just an elevated platform over the existing ones to facilitate passengers to board and detrain at the upper level. This will (unfortunately) save the major cost of civil works for the elevated track and laying of another set of tracks and may mean a reduction in the cost of the project by at least from around Rs. 6500 crores to only Rs.1625 crores. The officials would no doubt consider such a suggestion “Blasphemy”!

Because, lesser the cost, lesser the kick backs for the officials, and the politicians. So why should the Ministry ask for such cost saving options? After all in our country, projects are undertaken for their propensity to generate kickbacks for all concerned and any benefit accruing to general public is incidental and unintended!


Posted by indie/pmapte at 9:43 PM
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Hindu gods in Nude

Are Hindu Gods depicted in Nude?


Vedic scriptures that are the fountain head of Sanatan Dharma refer to only three gods, Brahma the Creator, Vushnu the Preserver and Mahesha the Destroyer. All other icons like Rama, Krishna, Bhairava and others are “Avatars” or human forms of these gods but NOT GODS.


In recent times many painters and artist have faced heat for painting nude Shiva and other Hindu deities. Many of them have claimed and have been supported in such claims by so called Scholars that Shiva, for example, is depicted in nude every day in the form of Shivalinga or in his “Avatar” as Bhairava.


As a student of Indian Architecture & allied arts for the last 54 years, I have never ever come across nude depiction of the gods (Brahma-the creator, Vishnu-the preserver, and Mahesha-the destroyer) in Indian or Hindu mythology. The Scholars of Indian iconography need to dispel, once for all the myth and mischief, particularly of the visual artists (Hussain, Das, J.Choudhary, Atul Dodiya et al) that Hindu gods have been  represented in nude in our ancient sculptures. The nude depictions that these Painters perhaps allude to, are in fact those of Gandharva, Kinnara or Apsara (celestial actors of performing arts) or Yaksha –a human creation of Brahma. To say that, because the “Shiva Linga” (male sexual organ) has been historically openly displayed, it amounts to Shiva’s depiction in nude, is to expose one’s abysmal ignorance and arrogance. Artists must have liberty of expression but liberty should not become a license to ‘libel’.


In this context Let me dispel the myth of “Shivalinga”. The expression does not mean ‘linga (sexual organ) OF Shiva’. The word Shiva in Sanskrit means ‘sacred’ or ‘pure’ (Pavitra). The ‘Linga’ partially penetrated into ‘Yoni’ (female sexual organ) is a depiction of the force (‘Shakti’) that sustains this world by procreation. It has no connection whatsoever with Shiva who is the god of destruction and not of creation. This Icon was venerated by the followers of ‘Shakta Panth’ and not by the worshippers of Shiva. While the vandalism indulged into by common people at the obscene depiction of their deities however deplorable, is at least understandable, the wanton obscene depiction by the Artists certainly raises doubts about their real intentions.

Many so called scholars have referred to “Purana” to substantiate their claims that Shiva has been depicted in nude in Indian iconography. Perhaps these scholars are not aware that Puranas fall into the category of Hindu scripture known as Smrti ( recollected tradition) and vary from place to place and from time to time. They are usually written in Sanskrit and normally tell of the genealogies of gods, kings, and saints, and contain assorted narratives, stories, and legends. Legends cannot be quoted as authentic evidence. 

The three main Hindu deities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh are never ever depicted naked, displaying their genitalia, in any Indian or Hindu iconography. The photographs referred to by such scholars in support of their contention are those of “Bhairava” or “Bhikshantana”, a human incarnation of lord Shiva and not of god Shiva. The form of Bhairava is considered to be fierce, one that infuses more fear than love towards Lord Shiva. Bhairava is known to be a naked mendicant or follows the same iconographic appearance as Bhikshatana where he is depicted ash smeared and naked. Lord Shiva descended to the earth in the form of Bhairava.


If in the eyes of such scholars vandalism of some Hindus against such depiction is reprehensible, no less reprehensible are the attempts of the so called scholars to misrepresent and misguide the people through a gullible or publicity crazy print media into making them believe that the Hindu gods were traditionally depicted in nude!


Prakash M Apte



Posted by indie/pmapte at 9:42 PM
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Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Are Australians Recist
Topic: Racism of Australians

This has reference to the article, “Don’t tar all of Australia as racist” by Swapan Dasgupta in the Times of India ,7th June .


When a few Nazi zealots meted out barbaric treatment to the Jews was not the entire German people tarred as Racist? What about Rhodesia, erstwhile South Africa or Mobutu’s Uganda? If on every alternate day (statistics given by Dasgupta) one Indian gets physically assaulted does it not smack of Racism? It is inappropriate  of Dasgupta to compare the incidences with wariness felt by “Marathi Manoos” about Chatt Pooja in Mumbai; it only exposes his bias. In this context my experience of a group of about 20 well educated Australians men and women in their forties is worth narrating.


About 4 years back I was (with my wife and 40 year old son) on a guided couch tour of East Europe conducted by a well known British tour operator. Apart from 3 of us there was one old south Korean lady, a Doctorate in languages teaching at a university in her country. The Australians behaved, by my conservative Indian standards, in a most atrocious manner with all of us “non-whites”; making constant fun of the old lady and taking her photographs while she was dozing in the bus and generally making it impossible for us to be alone or have any privacy. They made fun of my wife when on the last day of the tour she had donned a Sari and intruded in every picture frame making obscene faces. I have the photographs as proof! I wrote to the Tour operator,predictably not receiving even an acknowledgement! After all who is this “Oldy” Indian complaining against White men? I had thought of writing to the Australian Consulate to remind them that such behaviour does not exactly spread good feelings about their country but did not as I also did not want to Tar all of Australia as Recist. But I think it is now time the world did so.


Posted by indie/pmapte at 5:04 PM
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Sunday, 8 November 2009
Padma Awards
Topic: Bharat Ratna

Padma Awards


 “Plaint against Dhoni, Bhajji “(Times of India 20th April 2009) brings home the truth that  Cricket is no more a sport but a ‘business’, more ‘lucrative’ than a Padmashri. If the President of India who frequently visits Mumbai and Maharashtra  found it fit to send a clerk to ‘deliver’ the highest award of this nation-Bharat Ratna- to the great Bhimsen Joshi  why blame two ‘self auctioned’ cricketers for absenting from the award ceremony? It is time for the Government to introspect about its criteria for these awards. It has long since instituted national level awards for Sports and Sportsmen (Arjun), for literature (Gyanpeeth), Sanget Natak Academy awards for visual &performing arts, ‘Udyog shri’ for industry and National awards for Films & Film artists. It should therefore consider giving the Padma awards to a very select few whose life and works have truly brought glory to the country and not ‘distribute’ these to all and sundry as ‘Favours’ as the British did with ‘Raosaheb’ and Raobahudar’! Let Padma awards be a rare  bestowal that the recipient will feel honoured to receive.



Posted by indie/pmapte at 11:02 AM
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Why is M.F.Husain absconding?
Topic: M.F.Husain


Why is M.F.Husain absconding?


Shobha De fervently pleads for return of M.F.Husain (Times of India 1st Nov.2009.). Who is stopping him from returning? He has fled to escape the charge of disrespect to the country, Ms. De claims, he made his home for 8 decades! Talking of ‘Tameez’, did he (or now does she while defending him) have any, despite having represented the motherland (Bharatmata) as a nude cheap siren? And she talks of decency! It is plain and simple treason. He will be pardoned for painting the ‘Hindu’ gods and goddesses in nude because it is the “in” thing in this country to  insult the majority community to prove our ‘secular’ credentials! But is it a moral issue if people expect an Indian National to respect his country? If he did’nt have any wicked intentions, what stopped him from offering an apology? As rightly observed by her, with Congress in power in the Centre and the State he may even be welcomed back as a Hero! Don’t worry Mrs. De you will not be alone to receive him back, there will be many ‘chamchas’ of the system present at the airport to do so!  


Posted by indie/pmapte at 10:54 AM
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Monday, 14 September 2009
Competition for designing a new capital for Chattisgarh, India

I made a submission recently, jointly with Christopher Benninger, for pre-qualification to design the new Capital for Chattisgarh. I am the only Indian Planner to have planned a new capital (for
Gujarat). Christopher has planned towns in Sri Lanka and India. Together, we are now preparing the plan for Bhutan's Capital, a commission won against a host of international firms including MIT (USA). Few would have such excellent credentials. The selection committee, while short listing consultants who have not prepared a single city development plan in India, rejected us! A coincidence perhaps that, years ago, I had declined to select one of the committee members to a HIGHER post in the Central Government service, as he had been earlier rejected for a LOWER post there itself!

A rare assignment to design a capital city will now be hogged by those trying to appear tall standing on the shoulders of "Foren" consultants! Recently, a Danish firm (its local office in Chennai run by an Indian civil engineer) was selected to prepare the structure plan for Hyderabad, rejecting among others, a proposal given by us. Lacking real competence for the job, it sub-contracted the work to a School of Planning! Realizing the true "worth" of the "Foren" firm perhaps, Government of Andhra Pradesh has now asked them to engage Christopher Benninger as an Advisor to oversee their work!

This dismal failure of the selection system is causing the profession, the art and the country an irreparable damage! Do qualities other than professional competence count most in consultancy selection? Can any honest planners then have faith in the dictum ‘merit shall prevail'? The tragedy is not this rejection of real merit; it is to be made a helpless witness to the banishment of the professional competence by the ‘Marketeer'! The outcome of Chattisgarh will show the true worth of the selected and the veracity of the judgment of the selectors. But this is not my first experience of inappropriate selection!

A few years ago, I was a candidate for the post of Professor and head of department of Architecture at M.S. University of Baroda and Director of School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. Settled in Baroda for three generations, I had hoped, given an opportunity, to bring up the Department of Architecture there to the national level and repay my debt to my ‘Gurus' Prof. Dave and Achwal. But despite the Vice-chancellor's inclination for my appointment, another Architect was selected. Devoid of commitment to education or a stake in Baroda, he kept the department in a limbo by taking up a job in USA without resigning his post in Baroda and dragging the matter in the law courts for years together! The department has never come out of the mire that it got into because of his selection!

At the interview in the Delhi School, I said that the Director should be a coordinator managing heads of departments. In the belief that the Director must provide academic leadership, a Professor was selected. The turbulent times the school went through as a result, is history. The School recently had a Director, who was more of a CAD expert! Bringing up and managing institutions is a different ball game and not every Architect or Planner's cup of tea! Qualities other than professional or academic excellence like; dedication to a cause, management skills and personal background, are more important in such assignments. That is why the IAS scores over the Technocrats. Yet, there is a tendency to apply a single parameter of architectural attainments for any type of assignment!

In retrospect, not joining the academia has in fact benefited me financially and professionally! But in the process, two good institutions almost went to dog. Not having been considered "eligible" for the school assignments, I thought that at least my proved and internationally accepted expertise in planning a new capital city and experience of 40 years in town planning would be recognized for the Chattisgarh assignment! For reasons best known to them, the selectors appear to have overlooked it!

If those who are eulogized as the "beacons" of light in this profession themselves fail to educate and guide the "powers", what would be the future of this profession and the country?


Dec. 2001



Posted by indie/pmapte at 10:13 AM
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