Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lessons From Australia


By Prakash Srinivasan

I had gone on a visit to Australia with my wife recently and I thought I will pen down the wonderful things we observed and learnt from there. This post might be a little redundant for many of those who stay outside India, so please bear with me. We had told ourselves before the trip that apart from making it a leisure trip, we would also try to see if there was something which we could apply back in India to make life easier and simpler.

· Fitness as a way of life: Most Australians are remarkably fit and this is owing to multiple reasons. Almost every Australian city is on the coastline and swimming is a way of life for them. I heard from them that babies are put into the water as early as when they are 3 months old! They also indulge in a lot of water and adventure sports like diving, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking etc.

Australia like many European nations encourages cycling and almost all roads have exclusive cycle lanes and there are signboards everywhere to ensure that other motorists share the road with cyclists. Many Australians cycle over long distances which can many times extend to over a few hundred kms. I saw them cycling even on hotter days where we were hesitant to walk out in the sun. One more aspect of fitness is that senior citizens who were over 70 years old were extremely mobile, driving their cars and managing their luggage easily in places like airports, train stations. I even saw an 85 year old grandmother driving her car which is unthinkable in India. 

Waste Segregation at source: Similar to many other countries Australia vigorously practices waste and garbage segregation at the source itself. There are 2-3 types of trash bins-One for recyclable items, one for rubbish and one for all food items. Moreover these bins were there in plenty in all public places and the bin boards were very clear as to what kind of item could be dropped in the respective bins. Green living is my pet topic and I was really enjoying seeing this disciplined way of waste management. I always made sure that I dropped the correct contents into each bins, especially for the recyclable ones like coffee cans, food packaging etc. 

· Public Transport Facilities: Melbourne has the world’s largest tram network covering many parts of the city apart from Metro trains and buses. Sydney has a metro rail, monorail, Ferry, Bus and a light rail to add to that list. Travelling within the city was a sheer delight and all modes of transport were punctual to the exact minute. The wonderful thing is that every Metro station has a bus station (called interchange) which connects people to those parts of the city where trains do not ply. So, the amount of thinking and planning that has gone into this is brilliant. It was very nice to see Australia embrace public transport (in the European way) rather than allowing people to runs their cars and congest the cities (like in most parts of USA).

· People Sensitivity: Like many countries in the west, Australia has special facilities like restrooms for differently-abled people and parent rooms for taking care of infant needs. This was extended applicable even in all the modes of public transport. Many parents would enter the bus with their pram and it all looked so easy. I was wondering what would be needed to implement this in India because we show how humane we are by having these kind of facilities. This is the least we can do for these people to bring some light into their lives and make it easier for them to live.

· Others: People would religiously wait on line for their turn at any public place and they would not crowd around. Customer service at all places was brilliant and all the staff were very polite and attentive to what was needed.

The main point I am wondering is that what is needed to make at least some changes in India? Is India’s massive population its main handicap? I shudder to think what would happen if all the millions of people settled abroad return back to India!

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