Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A road block

SEP 16 -
Kathmandu city is full of chaos, with horns honking all about, drivers rushing, and people crossing streets haphazardly. Few months ago, I lost a friend in a bike accident, and I kept wondering whose fault it was? Was it the fault of the driver who had been drinking at Kanchhi’s hotel that night and ran over my friend? Or, was it my friend’s fault, who speeding at more than 100 km/h on the highway was trying to stop the bike when he saw a child crossing the street? Or was it the child’s fault, crossing the street without looking sideways first? God knows. Still, for everybody else, it was a common road accident.
We often hear, and sometimes fear, that someone always drives irresponsibly and so it is better for us to drive carefully. We also hear that people should never drink and drive because it puts their lives as well as that of others at risk. What we do not talk enough about are traffic reforms. Thousands of licenses are granted every month to drivers who are unfamiliar with Kathmandu’s busy traffic and its constantly-under-construction roads.
The problem is not that we do not have any rules, but that our drivers do not follow them. Hundreds of people die in road accidents every year because we continue making rules that nobody follows. What if instead of making way too many rules that everyone virtually breaks, we keep only a few and make sure that they are implemented and respected?
The European way
I once happened to visit a European city, where traffic rules for pedestrians are opposite to ours. When I was getting ready to cross the street, I was astounded to see several cars suddenly stopping to let me get across the street. Apparently, a driver is obliged to give way to pedestrians first. Very polite, isn’t it? This never happens in any city in our country. The idea is simple; yet, demands a deep reform of our current traffic system.
Information technology can play a major role in traffic management. Just as we switched from hand-written to machine-readable passports, we could digitise our bus routes and traffic management. The Kathmandu metropolitan city must start to digitise tempo, bus, microbuses, taxis routes in order to allow fellow travellers plan their journey beforehand. The municipality would also save millions if they published roadmaps for city dwellers. This would not only curb traffic jams but also make the flow of passengers from one place to another smooth. For example, people should be able to plan their journey from point A to B (inside and outside the Valley) via an app on their mobile phone.
Tapping young brains
There is no easy solution to the problem of managing a swelling traffic. Nevertheless, universities and colleges could launch ‘code camp’ contests where student ideas could be developed into app prototypes. The best ideas would then be selected for further refinement. An app to plan a journey is an example. Ncell has recently launched a similar initiative, soliciting participants for ideas on mobile phone apps in four different thematic categories. More of such initiatives should follow.
Recently, traffic management is getting stricter with drunk driving, mostly in the Valley. My aspirations are that someday, like in European cities, all vehicles will give way to pedestrians first. More than that, if we do not come up soon with excellent digital solutions to our burgeoning problems of traffic jams, road accidents and traffic management, we will get ourselves in even more serious troubles.
Kalwar holds a PhD in Science from Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
Published: The Kathmandu Post
Posted on: 2014-09-16 08:54 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

CURE AGAINST DEPRESSION

I appreciate your recent editorial (‘Mind matters,’ September 10, Page 6). Life is not the same for everybody as some people’s minds are too fragile to handle stress, anxiety, and depression. A short time ago, I defended my doctoral thesis, ‘Measuring human anxiety on the Internet’, where I managed to show, for the first time, that certain internet contents cause humans anxiety, irritation, frustration, loneliness and grief. Suicide and mental health problems have no boundaries. 

Lately, a popular Hollywood comedian, Robin Williams, struggled with depression and committed suicide. There are some well-known approaches for assistance, like family support, therapy, medication, yoga, exercise, and to constantly remind distressed people that there are people who love them.
Santosh Kalwar, Chitwan

Published: The Kathmandu Post
Letter to the Editor
Posted on: 2014-09-14 09:08

Thursday, September 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: THAT’S MY LOVE STORY

“That’s My Love Story”, by Santosh Kalwar published this year is a story of a young man and his search for true love. I started to read the eBook and was so engrossed that I finished it within a day. The author has given a completely new perspective to the story by sharing the life of Prem that is depicted as “the protagonist” in the novel. Initially, I felt that it would be a love story with up and downs in the relationship. But this story had a different flavor to it; Prem tries to commit suicide as he did not find true love in his life. The story is like a conversation of Prem with and old man and during his journey to climb the mountain cliff, he remembers various incidents in life about love and finally he narrates the story of his life to the old man.

After reading around 15-20 love stories till date, I found this rather interesting and inspirational one. Traditional love stories have a hero, heroine and a villain but here the story starts in which “the young man”, Prem shall die. He challenges to climb to the top of mountain and jump off the cliff and he encounters himself with an old man. This old man has great wisdom and teaches him an important life lesson and changes his thought of committing suicide. The old man also teaches that love of women is temporary and a new definition of love is explained.

I am sure every reader will find this novel different from the traditional love stories by other authors. Prem and his journey in search of love prove to be inspiration for all the people who have fallen in love or experienced the feeling of love in their life. His character is sad, lonely, depressed, suffering from mental illness. He cannot handle failures related to love and relationship, life-problems that he encounters in everyday life situations. Prem in search of true love and relationships narrates his experiences and makes the novel an interesting read. The interesting incidents, twists and turns move the story forward.

Prem’s relationships with various people in his life right from his father, mother, sisters, women have been show cased in lucid manner. His overall character in the novel depicts his way of living life and moving on to new avenues. Through life’s journey, Prem fell in love with four girls (viz. Shrisha, Pooja, Vrinda and Sharmila) meeting them directly or indirectly.

The incidents narrated in Prem’s story lifts life to a new level and give a better understanding about various emotions in a person’s life. The lesson to move on in a relationship and think on the relationship from different point of view leads to happy life is learnt.

Published: Spectralhues

Posted on: 2014-09-10 

Friday, September 5, 2014

GOOD DAYS AHEAD

Though it is no laughing matter, I couldn’t help but smile on reading your recent editorial (‘Going for gold,’ September 2) that backs the government’s statistics. Many people will be happy to just read the morning sensational headlines that states: ‘Nepal is 95 percent literate’. However, it is important to look carefully and with a fair amount of scepticism at the data produced by government surveyors. According to Unicef, youth (15-24 years) literacy rate between 2008-2012 for males and females was above 75 percent. So it comes as no surprise that the literacy rate among the youth is higher. However, the literacy rate among the entire population should be viewed with a pinch of salt.


I am no enemy of Nepal being a fully literate society. It is a good thing for society and the nation as a whole. But I am not sure how literacy is defined and in what context. Are we simply defining it by the number of educated people from a certain age? Or are we defining it by the simple tasks people perform on a daily basis, like visiting hospitals, filling out official forms, writing cheques etc? In the latter case, it is not astounding that people are literate. The government should be applauded for promoting national literacy programmes targeting illiterate and semi-literate people from disadvantaged groups.
Santosh Kalwar, via email
Published: The Kathmandu Post
Posted on: 2014-09-05 09:40

Sunday, August 17, 2014

JOB DILEMMAS

I really enjoyed reading your editorial concerns regarding jobs and unemployment (‘No country for young,’ August 15, Editorial). The job dilemma is a very big issue across the world, a worrying trend that will not diminish easily. Unemploy-ment is rising not only in developing nations like ours but also elsewhere. The rise in unemployment or unemployability is not just because of a lack of skills or talent but a major shift in markets and economics, albeit Nepal has a higher unemployment rate. However, many of these job statistics are not particularly accurate or are occasionally misleading, and they don’t provide a clear picture of the unemployed young people in the country. Young people have limited choices, but they are also useful human resources. That is not the reason they migrate abroad for work. They move abroad primarily to earn more than they will at home; gain security for themselves and their families; escape the lack of political stability; secure jobs; and finally utilise their skill set.

It is a pity that our bureaucrats who are making laws, policies and bills cannot come up with a working solution to build a developing economy that can provide adequate jobs. Undeniably, there is no easy solution. One can either have a utopian or a dystopian vision as this trend will only aggravate further. The only solutions that come to mind are tourism, IT, and hydropower sectors.  
Published: The Kathmandu Post
Posted on: 2014-08-17 09:08

Monday, August 11, 2014

FLOWN THE COOP

Your editorial (‘Grounds for suspicion,’ August 8, Editorial) gives a fine review of the Dinesh Adhikari aka Chari situation. A morally clean person who helps the poor and needy gets marginal attention but a criminal gets front page coverage. Therefore, I must critique the Nepali media, including yours, for your coverage of a thug. Maybe this is because he was directly or indirectly linked with CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli. But a martyr? This is insane and not acceptable as there are hundreds of people who died in the landslide that struck Sindhupalchowk. 

The Nepal Police should be praised and applauded for preventing heinous crimes in the future. Of course, they don’t have the right to kill people without a fair trial or proper investigation but one cannot say for sure what happened at the scene.
Santosh Kalwar, Chitwan
Published: The Kathmandu Post

Friday, July 25, 2014

Smart studies

JUL 24 -
SMART STUDIES
I think your editorial (‘Leaving home,’ July 3) hits the nail on the head. The No Objection Certificate does not reveal the true picture, though it does gives some indication about the number of students leaving abroad for studies. There are way-too-many of these unmonitored education consultancies in Nepal and they hardly play by the rulebook of the Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal or the Government of Nepal. Although there are some written rules on how to go about providing consultations, nobody follows these. Many of these consultancies do nothing other that deceive students and charge them hefty sums of money.

Personally, I have heard of so many cases of fraud that I do not recommend my friends or family to approach consultancies at all. For example, a friend of mine was cheated of Rs 0.6 million rupees when he failed to get a visa to leave for Australia and the CEO of that education consultancy is at large since. There is no need to visit consultancies when you can easily do your homework on the internet: read brochures and send e-mails to get more information. Maybe, there is a solution to this problem. First, students should avoid dubious education consultancies. Second, do your homework clearly before thinking about studying in any educational institution abroad. Third, talk to friends and relatives who have visited or studied abroad. They will prove to be more helpful.
Santosh Kalwar, Chitwan
Published: The Kathmandu Post
Letter to the Editor
Posted on: 2014-07-25 09:12