A reader, Prof. K N Rao, wrote to Postnoon the other day commenting on our report about the GHMC’s beautification programme for the world conference on biodiversity in October. Rao was glad when he heard of making the city a feast for eyes of foreign delegates. He wanted to know if the beautification will be only in part or whole.
But his other point set us thinking: why can’t GHMC do the washing and brushing up the city for its citizens? After all they are paying for it, aren’t they? Don’t we deserve a better living condition? Don’t we need lung space, playgrounds, good roads and proper law and order situation?
Another reader, Tejeswarao Komineri, too wondered on the same lines. What beautification before solving the basic problems? Only a small portion of the metro has sewage and storm water lines, 60 per cent of the 80 lakh population buy water for drinking, children who constitute 15 per cent of the population have no playgrounds, save a few that are for competitive games not open for all. Here we hear people dying at the first flush of rains or about scavengers and pedestrians disappearing down the open manholes during monsoon. And, pray, how will you hide the scary sight of 20 kids packed in an auto-rickshaw heading to school?
He too has a point. At the risk of getting unpopular, I must say the problem lies with not the GHMC but with the people. Are they not the ones who bribe the GHMC officials to violate building rules, are they not the ones who annexes footpath for their own purpose (Go around Jubilee Hills to know this trend where the crème de la crème live), are we not responsible for dumping garbage in our neighbour’s compound if it is unoccupied? Are we not the ones who brazenly violate traffic rules? Yes, yes, and yes.
That said, no one is absolving the GHMC from its crimes. The fact is man has never been able to govern himself. He always needed an authority to tell him what to do and when to do it. That is how kings and governments came into force–the social contract. We pay someone to rule us. It is therefore clear that such authority mandated with ruling the masses can easily make people behave in such manner as to be conducive to the collective sanity. If, for instance, the GHMC strictly implements the no-plastic littering rule and make arrangements for the recycling of garbage no citizen will ever dare to litter. If the traffic cop is empowered and made answerable to every single traffic violation and the violators are spot-penalised irrespective of their standing, no one will jump the line (Look how disciplined are the roads of gulf countries). But the problem is that we have woven into our national psyche the ‘chalta hai’ philosophy that leads to corruption at all levels which breeds contempt for the law.
All our ills in self governance begin with the laxity in the system — a system that let go whales and catch mackerels. There is only one short-cut through this labyrinth: a gutsy ruler (be it the GHMC or the government) who vows to clean the stables without a care if he should get a second chance. Look at Lee Kuan Yew who made Singapore the cleanest Asian city, or SK Rao who pulled down all the dirty encroachments of Surat and built a modern city. They showed that corruption is the mother of all ills and how to deal with it.
Warriors who are determined to fight corruption can win; only that it takes a lot of grit, determination and time. An upright man whose building plan was not being passed, as he did not pay the ‘required sum’ to the superintendent finally decided to pay up. He signed a cheque for the demanded sum in the official’s name, prepared a covering letter mentioning he was enclosing the sum asked for and would be much obliged if the plan is sanctioned. The letter was addressed to the commissioner. Within a week he was summoned to the office and was handed over the sanctioned plan along with the cheque. Some work, this!
About the Author (Author Profile)
PK Surendran is senior editor at Postnoon.