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Sumana Narayanan, Senior Researcher

Freebie or Freedom? Tamil Nadu’s Free Bus Travel Scheme for Women

Tue, 21/11/2023 - 13:46

CAG's study on the fare free bus scheme for women in Tamil Nadu, points to definite benefits, not just for the individual woman, but the entire household. The soon to be released report assesses the impact of the scheme on women's access to work and leisure activities, and how any money saved, is used to improve family finances.

To ban or not to ban bike taxis?

Fri, 13/10/2023 - 17:08

In the last couple of years, Rapido has become a well-known name in Indian cities. The ride-hailing platform, focussed solely on two-wheelers, has been gaining popularity in cities struggling to deal with congestion. Now the other major ride-hailing platforms - Ola and Uber - are also offering bike taxi services. Rapido has also become a household name as it were because of the recent spate of backlash against it and attempts to get it banned.

Can I bank on the bank?

Mon, 31/07/2023 - 15:57

More than a decade ago, I was living in the nation’s capital. Navigating New Delhi’s traffic, dredging up my high school Hindi and coping with work and managing my own place was quite a juggling feat. In the middle of this, I got a call from my landlord gently chiding me for not paying the previous month’s rent. But I distinctly remembered writing the cheque and depositing it and so couldn’t fathom what had gone wrong. Anyhow, I promised him I would look into it and if needed pay double with the next cheque. My landlord, being a lovely person, was content with that promise. 

Putting the brakes on speed limit enforcement

Thu, 20/07/2023 - 15:51

Recently, the Greater Chennai Traffic Police (GCTP) announced they were in the process of introducing several technological upgrades, including the installation of cameras with ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) and speed detection systems. Such automated systems are common across the world but have just started coming into the picture in India. 

Cycling into the sunset

Thu, 06/07/2023 - 15:31

Bicycles were associated with wealthy young men in the early part of the 20th century, particularly being favoured by the sahibs and the Indian elite. In a few years, as bicycles became more common and popular, the prestige waned. By the 1920s it was not seemly for a senior official of the Raj to gallivant about on a cycle. A horse or carriage was seen as a better way to maintain distance and underline class distinctions. It was also not deemed acceptable to turn up to work or elsewhere looking hot and bothered due to cycling in the tropical weather.

I honk, therefore I am

Fri, 02/06/2023 - 14:06

The other day, cycling home from work, a two-wheeler came up behind me on the left and honked several times. She then overtook me on the left and as she did, I felt compelled to ask why she had honked. (Since the traffic was heavy and it was not a wide road, we were all crawling along.) Her response was that she was warning me! Of what I still don’t know. At one level that response could be read as aggression - “I am warning you, get out of the way, or else…” or it could be meant to inform me that she exists. Either way there was no need to honk.

Chennai’s expansion - bigger, not better

Wed, 24/05/2023 - 12:58

How big is your city? Growing up in Chennai, my knowledge and therefore idea of the city extended possibly between school, home, and a few other places I frequented. While this has expanded, I don’t think I realised how big it actually was. In October 2022, the media reported that the Tamil Nadu government had cleared a 5-fold expansion of the city - from 1189 km2 to 5904 km2. I was a bit shocked that my city was already 1189 km2 big and now had gotten even larger. 

What is in a name?

Road Infrastructure 101: How not to build a liveable, sustainable city

Thu, 13/04/2023 - 15:27

On Twitter I came across someone lamenting a recently announced plan to build more flyovers in some Indian city (it matters not which city as this is a common phenomenon across the country). The tweet pointed out that increasing road infrastructure for private vehicles only encourages more private vehicles and it's a zero sum game. Of course, Twitter being what it is, someone immediately took umbrage, accusing the person of wanting to deny economically/socially disadvantaged people from climbing up the ladder and having access to their own personal vehicle.

PACK IT IN - Brand Audit 2022

Mon, 23/01/2023 - 13:37

The results of CAG's 2022 plastic brand audit are in! Find out who all have received the dubious distinction of making it to the Top 10! The brand audit is a citizen-science initiative anchored by #BreakFreeFromPlastic where plastic waste is gathered and audited to reveal those brands and manufacturers whose plastic packaging we found the most of.


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