Delhi’s walled-in centre of education and residence is in the middle of a mobocracy that resulted in pitched battles with the police for violating the law, bitter graffiti, a statue of Vivekananda vandalized with communally inflammatory barbs, holding guests to the campus hostage and behaviour more suited to rioting brigades than pursuers of fine subjects that make the world a better place. The JNU mobs are making a proposed hostel fee hike a story about the entitled ripping into the poor, disposed and the weak. The issue is of a hike after about 40 years in the hostel boarding and lodging fees that students have to pay—a hike from an insignificant ₹10 and ₹20 a month. The upset is also about asking students to pay for utility and service charges that were zero till now.
JNU has rolled back the hike of its fees, but should it have? Was the fee hike at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) from ₹10 and ₹20 to ₹300 and ₹600 a month, respectively, as rent for a hostel room fair or not? Judging by the way student mobs were rampaging, this is the next thing after the Bengal famine to hit Indian shores. Instead of the ₹10 number, the much larger attention-grabbing heart-breaking 300% hike number is being thrown around rather than the base figure of ₹10 cost—the cost of a South Delhi room in a verdant walled campus on a twin-share basis in India’s capital city. The hike is actually 2900%, but it seems that those protesting did not do the math correctly. Too busy earning their money, that they pay taxes on, on the other side are those who are asking why their money is being used to deeply subsidize students who may have the capacity to pay but are too entitled to do so.
The problem with getting a message on the phone that demands an instant list of five funds to invest in is that there are no ready names to give. Likewise, for tweets and other social media requests for names of two or three funds to invest in, there is no easy answer. Similar is the problem of somebody asking for a life insurance or a health insurance plan—how does one recommend a single product to a person who knows something about the product but not enough? They don’t know that anybody who takes the risk of advising without knowing more is not acting in their best interest. Mutual funds and individual insurance products have made it into the attention spectrum of the financially included, mostly urban middle-class Indians, but the on-boarding is still difficult, precisely because each person needs a unique solution according to his or her personal situation, goals, risk capacity and profile, but is unwilling to pay for advice and is looking for a quick solution. But there are no quick solutions in personal finance and most people find that the hard way.
They glide on what looks like a kiddie razor scooter, weaving in and out of cars, cycles and pedestrians alike. These dockless electric scooters are swarming many cities of Europe. I saw them in use all over Berlin, one of the world’s most-loved-by-millennials cities and was reminded of our kiddie scooters that you would drag along to gain momentum and then hop on the platform to ride the next 20 metres, steering with a scooter-like handle. A micro urban mobility solution has taken these kiddie playthings to the next level by adding a better body, motor and a link to an app. The pesky mobile platforms with a handle are proving to be both an efficient solution for very short distance travellers—between the tram stop and the office—or by tourists who have all day to cruise along, and are proving to be an urban nuisance since they are too new (just about a year old) for meaningful regulation. The older Berliners are not impressed and hate the fact that users will simply leave the micro vehicle in the middle of a pavement and walk away. Micro urban legends talk about instances of irate citizens picking the gadget up and chucking it in the river Spree!
Every new leap of tech use leaves a trail of cheers and abuses. India is far behind big changes in urban mobility though Delhi is recently experimenting with some micro urban mobility solutions. If you wondered what the colourful almost-bikes chugging away next to your vehicle in Delhi are, you should know that you could be on-boarding one of such almost-vehicles soon once the last mile issues are worked out.