India Experiments with Car Free Sunday Streets & Bus Day to reclaim streets back for people

Get creative on the streets to get heard and noticed. A new wave of people-centric innovative campaigns has reignited the concept of “cities for its people” in India. These new initiatives are supported by citizen groups & nonprofit organizations with able support from media and local government bodies to capture the hearts of the people.

Car free Sunday Streets in Gurgaon

Ciclovia (Car-free Sunday Street) in Bogotá, Colombia, is a hit and a trendsetter in the transformation of that city from a car-centric to people-centric. The Green Living Blog of The Guardian mentions   “Ciclovía a weekly, city-wide, car-free day in Bogotá that puts 76 miles of roads, including La Septima – the city’s main commercial centre – off-limits to cars. It’s been running since 1974”.

In an earnest effort, cities in India are trying to replicate this phenomenon in various forms and styles to bring people, communities and other stakeholders together to witness streets free of speeding private vehicles, no blaring horns and a cleaner environment.

People-level advocacy and indigenous campaigns can help a lot in convincing decision-makers to create infrastructure that encourages the idea of people-centric cities. The three important criteria to make these campaigns succeed are:

  1. engagement (online and offline);
  2. people network;
  3. momentum.

There is a strategic need to embolden policy-level advocacy with strong people-level advocacy on ground level. People need to be the champions of this street renaissance.

Cities in India are bursting at their seams. They are choked with traffic jams, engulfed into toxic air pollutants (like winter smog in Delhi, capital city of India) with ever-increasing numbers of private vehicles on the roads, an insatiable demand for parking spaces, and a rising number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

The mushrooming giant serpentine flyovers are making the cities’ skylines uglier day by day.

According to the Ministry of Road Traffic and Transport, (press release for Road Safety Week January 1- January 7, 2014) “over 100,000 people are killed in traffic in India annually”. This staggering figure translates into 275 people dying an unnatural death on roads in India every day of the year.

The Times of India report suggests there are now 200 times as many motor vehicles (including two-wheelers) as there were 50 years ago (from 0.7 million in 1961 to 142 million in 2011). The worst affected are children who are slowly losing their neighbourhood parks to these cobwebs of car parks.

The 2006 National Urban Transport Policy, a national level policy made by the Ministry of Urban Development, was formulated to address an onslaught of private vehicle dependence and maddening traffic with an emphasis on “moving people and not just vehicles”.

But it has failed miserably in the way it has been envisioned.

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Who stole cities, states and India’s “official” twitter username ?

Have you ever wondered who owns our cities & states username on twitter ?  Interestingly,  the twitter handles of all the major cities, states in India, including India are held by private individuals, commercial entities  and most of them are either dormant, inactive, or for private views only.

Most shocking is that twitter handle @India  is owned by an individual based in Guangzhou, China and runs a dubious looking e-commerce platform. He introduces the handle as ” Everything about India”  with total number of 14,802 followers with paltry 100 tweets till date.

In this digital age, twitter username has slowly become synonymous  with  identity of an  individual, celebrity, politician, company  and  organization who have active online presence. This is no different to countries and cities globally. People are googling with country and city handle to engage with authorities.

In an era, where a single tweet from a twitter handle with significance can create panic, political upheavals, endless TV debates   among others social, economic and political repercussions. Twitter has become a platform for public diplomacy & public engagement.

twitter theif

Who owns Indian Metro Cities & States Twitter Handle ?

The  twitter handle of  all the metro cities in India including Delhi, capital city of the country  are owned by unknown individuals or e-commerce platforms.

The twitter handle @delhi, of India’s capital city  has no identity and the tweets are most promotional tweets on real estate. The  twitter handles of both the  IT hubs in the country @Bangalore and @Hyderabad  has no single tweet to its name and are owned by unknown individuals. The twitter handle of @Mumbai introduces itself as gateway to India with 3958 followers but mere 108 tweets till date, mostly a dormant one. And the @Kolkaata twitter handle seems to be owned by an individual from Spain who tweets in Spanish language.

The story remains  same with state name and their twitter handles. None of the state government owns the official twitter account in their name.  It is always complicated to identify and contact twitter account holder as neither they  share information online nor they respond to public mention of then in tweets. However, with sustained effort states can the username back.

 

Ahmedabad Bangalore delhi India Kolkaata

Cities, state and country twitter Username are virtual Identity of the Place.

The city’s official twitter handle has an immense value in disseminating right information, creating engagement with citizens & tourists, can be used majorly during disasters, branding many other uses and also for dispelling rumours in time of the need. It can be single source of channel to spread the information on social media platform.

According to  Burson-Marsteller, a globally recognized communication firm observes that quote “Why is it so important to register one’s country Twitter handle? On Twitter every letter counts.Secondly, who should have the right to the country name if not the government or the official tourism organization? And finally having the country’s Twitter handle improves search engine ranking since Twitter handles have a high Google page rank and almost always appear on the first two Google result pages.”

 Government Concerned  To Control over Social Media Than Making Best Use of It.

Sadly, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting(MIB) has done naught   to reclaim the “official” twitter handles from the imposters. However, MIB has been proactive in blocking twitter handles for political reasons.

The political parties both in ruling and opposition  at centre and state level in India are hitching  to the social media bandwagon to popularize and promote their party to garner crucial votes. However, there seems to be no earnest approach from the Central Government  to retrieve back the twitter handle @india which can be a powerful branding medium for India and also a tool to disseminate right information in the masses. 

Globally, cities and country are fighting legally and politically  to get hold of the official twitter handle.  However, The government in India, both at state & central level are focused on political opportunism on social  media than using its amplifying power to change the daily lives of its citizens.

There are 160 million Indian internet users and  86 million of them  go online on their mobile devices and more than 50 per cent of them are active on social media platforms.

Only Nine Nations Own National Twitter handles: study

According to a study by In “Twiplomacy”, Only nine out of the 193 U.N. member states own Twitter accounts bearing their country’s name, and only three of those accounts have been officially verified by the microblogging site, Twitter.

Only the @GreatBritain, @Israel and @SouthAfrica handles were verified by Twitter as official accounts run by the countries’ governments or tourism boards.

The Twitter accounts of Antigua Barbuda, Barbados, Lithuania, the Maldives and Spain are also run by their respective tourism organizations to promote tourism in the countries, the study showed.

Twitter’s no Official Stand on Impersonation of City/State/Country username

Twitter defines username or handle as “Must be unique and contain fewer than 15 characters. Is used to identify you on Twitter for replies and mentions.” Twitter states in its ‘Name Squatting Policy‘ “that we will not release inactive or squatted usernames except in cases of trademark infringement.” And in case of  company is being impersonated or a trademarked brand is being misused, Twitter states that Companies and businesses should report accounts misusing their trademarks or brand by filing a complaint under  their Trademark Policy.

However, there is no mention of Twitter Policy on when cities, states or countries username gets impersonated.

 Call For Action :Government of India  should pro actively write to Twitter Authorities to get the India username back.