Saturday, April 13, 2013

MAPS & Survey of India: What oft was thought but never so well expressed

 About an excellent article in The Hindu of 13th of April, 2013-  

Yesterday I was very happy to see a reasonable article about the unreasonable Survey of India.. It can be seen here
It is clear and fair.

Mr. A. Srivathsan the author correctly blames the petty minds in the Survey of India for the continuing and meaningless colonial age suspicions and restrictions on maps. I shall just quote one sentence from this admirable article and move on: "Bewildered government institutions, instead of embracing innovation and quickly adjusting to changes, are seeking the coercive power of rules to maintain dominance and stifle innovation."

This op-ed page article is full of such incisive analysis of the pathetic bureaucratic mind that prevents change by citing the pathetic and silly excuse of national security.

For long I have been angry with these rules that deny access to maps of our own territories to Indians. I am fond of travelling and trekking in the hills and also like to study the terrain of the places I visit. To get maps of the so called restricted border areas is impossible. Just as till a little while ago visiting such areas were easier for the Chinese than for Indians, all because of the Inner Line Permits! Mercifully that policy is being whittled away slowly and surely since 1974. But the restrictions on the maps remain. A civilian applicant is treated with suspicion that a Chinese agent would attract.

However such maps are available elsewhere in the world. I have got such maps from Germany and Spain. Below I have given three maps. The first one is a Russian map. The second and third ones are Pakistani Survey maps of Indian restricted areas, and the last one is a Sapnish map of Skardu in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Incidentally, the Spanish were the first to debunk the proud Indian boast that Khardung la was the highest motorable road in the world.

So what are our bureaucrats being secretive about? If they are savy they ought to be at least in step with the internet for that is making them useless. If they sold these maps at Rs. 1000/- a sheet instead of the present Rs. 20 they could be financially independent and better organised. The Survey's field surveyors are doing a brilliant job and by open sales their work will be better appreciated, and India will still be secure.

Right below is a Russian map of India's LOC (with Pakistan) and LAC (with China). It will alarm people in the Survey of India's stoic bureaucracy that still stick to maps of so called restricted areas very possessively as this little power they had is being whittled away. This is the Google Age of the 21st Century- like it or not where cartography is being pushed "out of the control of powerful elites." . This map shows the contentious NJ 9842, which no Indian Journal or Newspaper has yet published, perhaps they do not have the knowledge to do so.

Even hard copies of these maps can be got from map shops in Europe and the USA for at least $ 100/- each.

The next two maps are from the Survey of Pakistan got from Germany. They are restricted according to the Survey of India and yet here they are available outside. .

This one is a map of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and China border in 1:50,000 scale is from Spain where this one and many others like this are freely available.. >

After the 1971 War many of the Survey of Pakistan maps in Bangladesh were sold in USA. Some sites are , ,

After WW II the Americans began to map the world. For military reasons they decided to use the scale 1:250,000 to have a ready overview and a good detail.  During the 1970s they came up with better maps but renamed Joint Operations Graphic (JOG). These are very accurate maps, based upon satellite images. Most of them are not available.  Some maps are available on the Perry Castaneda Library of Texas' web site.

And here is a map of the mountains on the Pakistan - Afghan frontier>

A map in Russian but fairly detailed of Daulat Beg Oldi and Chip chap and Rajki chu area>

The moral for our Survey folks is that with Google Maps and Wikimapia are remotest areas can be seen in delightful detail.


Khalil Sawant said...

In the age of Google-Maps, the attitude by map-bureaucrats is stupid.

The Russian map depicts accurately our ground situation about the Siachen glacier, perhaps the first map to do so

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