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Monday, December 27, 2004

In the land of Idi Amin

One of my colleague-friends, who went to Uganda in pusuit of challenging career, discovers the challenges in life there..

Today is Nov 1, 2003. I am at Kampala, Uganda a cool place in EastAfrica from last week..

This is a poor country of very nice people. They are friendly and respect Indians.
And we Indians are doing the EastIndaCompany act here.. No wonder they loot us, when we happen to be in a vulnerable position.

Majority business is controlled by Indians.. as Investors, General Managers, Accountants. I have met a good number of malayalis in a private party at a friend's house. Well settled accountants they are, from calicut, trichur, cochin, aluva, kollam, trivandrum.. Malayalis are more in jobs like finance and accounts. Mostly in finance, commodities and service companies. Found majority of them having more than 5 years experience here and living with their families. Those having Gulf experience told that they found more life comfort and money here than Gulf. The education is better upto primary level (upto 7th std ) and after that, usually they let their children study from home in India..

Am currently staying with one of the NorthIndian staff and my move to separate apartment later.

Food now is Gujarthi/NorthIndia and cooked by a native. The place is cool and weather is comparable to Keralal hi-ranges. No need to have warm clothing on, may be in morning hours and when there is rain- Low humidity- dry weather.

I visited FortPortal a southern city (city?) of Uganda... It is rather cool a place. 12 degree at night. Total distance is 350+Km from Kampala and for reaching there by car, it took only 4 hours!!! That is still high becos it includes 52km stretch of muddly four lane road getting laid (there also the average car speed was around 70Kms).. Otherwise they say it require only 3 hrs maximum.. The roads are very good compared to our part of India. 100Kmph is not a speed and I have seen no accidents on this 350 km highways. But heard, there is reckless driving around and occasional accidents.

There are tea estates around in that place. When you are there you feel like, you are at KannanDevan Hills.

The cost of living is high compared to India.. Lot of import from India may be becos of Indian managed businesses. Found few Indians in the flight coming here just for marketing.

Cost of production is very low becos of labour. But social security is getting in place like PF in India

Lot of cars and reckless driving in the city.. Majority are Toyota variants. Petrol cost around Rs.40 and diesel Rs.35 per liter.

The city seems to be small in activity compared to Kochi But some better facilities available, being the Capital City. Roads are better, but living/entertainment facilities are less.. Inland Communication is costly. Call to India, the charge is comparable or slightly high this side. Internet connection is erratic. So I prepare my mails in word and sent it as and when connectivity is good. Full time internet cost around Rs.2300/- ($50 full time).. There is part time connection as well.

We get Malayalam TV Channels here. But Cable connection is costly.. Ush 45K (around Rs.2000 per month)

Banking and Finance Companies are very much there.. but cash dealing are more.. All export-import happens through Mombasa port at Kenya..

The looting and thefts are coming down. Police patrols everywhere and they kill poor natives indulging in these activities with a shoot at sight order. The very next day I reached here police chased and killed 6 tugs, for simple reason of planning a robbery ---in India if they do this, this mail might not be read by all the addressees:)

See Guns everywhere.. All business have security staff with wireless and guns.. Heard the school kids are taught how to shoot and the security agency- is a big business here.. Heard about incidence like accidental shooting by security guards while sleeping. Last week a Pakistani girl got hit by a bullet while being in a parked car, when the security guard tried to shoot at a fleeing thief.. She is in hospital now.

Kampala is comparably safe.. Beyond it there is trouble. But still Malayalis say it is much improved in all respect.

The local mass transport is minibus-taxi service called MATATTTU and there is Motorcycle Taxi called BODA BODA Long distance buses are there even to Nairobi and Tanzania. Very fast running busses. ( I have seen them overtaking our 120kmph car)

More to follow..

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