Cleartrip Travel App – Review

Travel as a category has been a leader when it comes to adopting new technology. As a budding traveler and a curator of www.ghumakkar.com, I would hazard a guess that it might have to do with them being more liberal and risk-taking about new things. May be you have to be ready to face the uncertain, that makes them a traveler and in-turn an ‘early adopter’ of new technology. Over last 6 years, if we look at the interest level in ’Travel Apps’, it has constantly grown. Here’s is some data from ‘Google Trends

'Travel Apps' search trend by Google
‘Travel Apps’ search trend by Google

Continue reading Cleartrip Travel App – Review

What to do when you need an ‘original copy’ of birth certificate in Noida ?

Gradually, over the last couple of years, we realised that the original birth certificate of our now ten year old was lost. It was a regular, A4 size bond paper printed with the Government of India seal on it and a printed signature of the registrar and carried a fresh blue ink stamp of the authority. That blue made it “original”.

Somewhere over applying for school admissions, passports, visas and similar stuff that called for a birth certificate, the original paper eloped on the pretext of an attested copy. It was never seen again despite serving innumerable summons and cupboard-bookshelf-bags-bagsinsidebags-files ransacks.

We decided to get it reissued even though the child had the passport, aadhar card, a school admission and all that. She was born in Noida and registered in Gautam Budh Nagar. As I looked up I found out tremendous work that has been done in digitizing birth and death records over the last couple of years. But our case was from ten years ago. Secondly, they do not have all districts of Uttar Pradesh covered under this project yet. It sounds encouraging as you are just supposed to fill up the district, the registration number and you get to see the records! It tried all possible combinations. Online tools did not help.

I came across “Jan Suvidha Kendra” in Noida in Sector 19 where the SDM’s office is. On the government website it seemed to offer a lot of help. I tried to learn more about it but there wasn’t much, except for a blogspot page (that claims to represent the authority) that carried a lot of negative responses. Still, the whole deal looked simple and achievable.

One fine rainy morning we decided to land there with the photostat copy (the last one left) of the child’s birth certificate. The Jan Suvidha Kendra is located near the telephone exchange in Sector 19, where perhaps the Income Tax office was also functioning from. It was a typical UP government set-up in an erstwhile school building that had the staff sealed in classrooms and operating out of windows and partially opened doors.

It took 5-10 minutes to figure out our window, stand in a tight bundle of inexistent queue, and be able to speak with the guy. As we spoke the words “birth certificate” he politely slashed a refusal. The service had been moved to a Civil Hospital in Sector-39, effective from March’15. There was also a notice about the same, pasted on his window. But that was for new registrations. We were already registered, only needed a copy from the government.

The person was extremely helpful, compassionate, realistic and creative. He heard us out and ruled out a possibility of getting such kind of record out. At all. As our role demanded, we probed him more and requested him to suggest how we could get it. The fact is that our daughter is registered, ten years ago, has a functional identity, has all other papers except for the original birth certificate. How do we get that? “Sir woh toh mil nahi paayega. Ho nahi sakta” (Sir, that can not be arranged. Not possible), he replied with a very simple solution, “aap ek kaam karo, naya banwa lo. Hospital ke papers hain?” (do one thing, get a new one made. Have hospital papers?). I had all hospital papers but we told him that we did not want to create another registration. It sounded absurd and illegal. The friendly staff went on, “aisa karo, hospital se ek naya discharge slip nikalwa lo. Unke paas sab hota hai, copy hi toh nikalwani hai” (then do one thing, go to hospital and get the discharge slip again and we will see). Yes, that’s what we though before coming to you and we refused. “Toh yeh karo, ghar ka janm dikha do!” (do this, show that the birth happened at home!). This sounded like the limit, and we realised that this Suvidha Kendra was not going to be that suvidhajanak after all. We walked out, of course with random suggestions from onlookers, bystanders and fellow applicants – “banwana toh padega. baki aapki marzi hai” (you would have to get it done, rest all depends on what you really want).

All of this took less than half hour and that was too little the time to make anyone give up on project duplicate birth certificate.

We decided to go to the place where they were doing fresh registrations. Hoping that they would have a better suggestion to make. Our next destination was the Government hospital, near Mahila Police Thana.

After going inside the sector and looking for it at various stops, we finally found the hospital. It is located right on the main road, just above the underpass that connects sector 49-50 to sector 34/25.

The hospital is under construction and there is a very small building that even Google reads as “Makeshift Government Multi Speciality Hospital”. The highest chance is that you would miss it, unless you know exactly where it is. It is next to the Women’s Cell/Police Station in Sector 39, Noida.

As you go inside the small shed-like structure, you’d be directed to the last unit that has the registrar office. You walk to the end and reach the Birth and Death Registration counters in two parallel facing rooms. We walked in.

We explained the case to the gentleman sitting and he was extremely helpful and in a good mood. We were lucky to have reached the right counter of a mid-level manager. He asked us to write an application, attach an ID proof, the copy of the certificate and go to the other room where he would take this request and guide us further.

We got into the other line (a short one) and were asked to fill up a form. Once done, since it was an old case that needed intervention, we were asked to meet the senior manager and get him to sign on the same. The process requires for the authority to accept our application and then we need to pay a sum of Rs. 120 to an SBI branch where they issue a challan towards the same head. We are supposed to get back with the same and present the same to one of the counters and they issue a new certificate.

So now, we are done with the processes and are supposed to collect the certificate on the 24th. All fingers crossed.

Are your kids safe when they hit a Swimming Pool ?

A few years back, while reading ‘Freakonomics’, I learnt that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns, when it comes to children. In the context of ‘United States of America’, where one can buy a gun as simply as one can buy a loaf of bread in India, and no dearth of publicly accessible pools, it was probably a great find. Something which every parent must watch-out for. In India, we can not go out and buy a gun from the corner store but that still doesn’t take anything away from the dangers which a swimming pool exposes us to, especially kids.

I have been wanting to share this for a while but better late than never. So yesterday when I got an email from Laura of Asylum, on whether I would be interested in getting some safety tips around this, I thought that it is time to write a small post on it.

First, a few words about my inspiration of this post viz. Steven Levit. When I read the book, I tremendously like the pace of the book, very lucidly written and more of actual events, incidents, a lot of data and very little of words-of-wisdom (or Gyan, as we call it here).

For this particular case, here are some figures for you to ponder.
“In 1997 alone (the last year for which data are available), 742 children under the age of 10 drowned in the United States last year alone. Approximately 550 of those drownings — about 75 percent of the total — occurred in residential swimming pools. According to the most recent statistics, there are about six million residential pools, meaning that one young child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools.

About 175 children under the age of 10 died in 1998 as a result of guns. About two-thirds of those deaths were homicides. There are an estimated 200 million guns in the United States. Doing the math, there is roughly one child killed by guns for every one million guns.”

And here is the link of complete story – http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2001/07/27/levittpoolsvsguns/

Incase you want to buy this book, and read it in more detail then please click on this cover. It is a very interesting read.

Freakonomics
Continue reading Are your kids safe when they hit a Swimming Pool ?

Uber India is still Non-Responsive, can’t believe it [Updated]

Not a lot to write but worthy enough to share.

After the recent unfortunate incident of Rape by one of the Uber drivers, (http://www.firstpost.com/india/full-text-uber-india-releases-statement-delhi-rape-case-1837919.html), everyone thought that Uber would do something about it. The banning was a knee-jerk reaction by ‘Delhi Government’ but they needed to do something, at least some response which people can see as a response.

Uber came out with a statement
Below is the statement issued by the taxi service:
Our thoughts are with the victim of this terrible crime and we are working with the police as they investigate. We will assist them in any way we can. It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver’s account following allegations of a serious incident, which we have done.
Safety is Uber’s highest priority and in India, we work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option, with layers of safeguards such as driver and vehicle information, and ETA-sharing to ensure there is accountability and traceability of all trips that occur on the Uber platform.
– Evelyn Tay, Uber Spokeswoman

Yesterday, I recd the following email from Uber

Two snapshots for posterity (and to document the date and time of Uber’s email)

Mail from Uber  sent on Dec 11 evening
Mail from Uber sent on Dec 11 evening

And more of the message

Well crafted message
Well crafted message

I felt better and hoped for better. As I finished reading the message it said very clearly in the end that if I have any questions then I can just reply back to this email or send a tweet.

And I did that
And I did that

And I did reply to the email on Friday morning. The only reason I wrote it to see if they really respond. My whole premise was on the fact that this particular driver was already ‘FLAGGED’ by one of the commuters, Nidhi Shah,in the past. Here is the source of the story – http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2014/12/10/uber-rape-case_n_6298094.html

And here are the tweets by Nidhi

Uber customer tweets and alerts about the potential danger
Uber customer tweets and alerts about the potential danger

So Über knows that they were alerted and they should have paid attention. So now they are writing to their customers and assuring them of a response, So I wrote a small email,

Message to Uber
Message to Uber

I sent this at 1000 hrs on Dec 12, 2014. As I write this post, it is 1800 hrs on Dec 13. More than 32 hours and no response.

Makes me think that Uber (or at least Uber India) is still non-responsive. Sad.

————————————
Update on Dec 19

So I finally heard back, after 6 days. My guess is that they were trying to hire community managers (And my guess is that this person could be on a contract to kind of respond and keep SoMe community pacified than any real hands-on support)

Here is the response

It took them 6 days to compose this
It took them 6 days to compose this

And as you could see, there is no mention of being apologetic for responding after 6 days. I am gonna get my money off PayTM now.

Traveller’s Guide To Beer: Where to drink the cheapest beer

I am a traveler and I love my pint of local Beer. Well, if you do or if you at least want to know more it then this post is for you. The genesis of this post is an email which I got from a web-acquaintance where he shared a rich Infographic on traveller and beer. The source is http://comparisons.financesonline.com/beer-prices-around-the-world-compared/. Thank you David.

So I thought that I would share it with you all so here it goes.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 1.51.19 pm

Where to get the cheapest beers ?

And the winners are mostly in Asia. Ukraine, Vietnam, Combodia and China.
Continue reading Traveller’s Guide To Beer: Where to drink the cheapest beer