DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bhopal Municipal Corporation needs supercession

All these years the state’s BJP government has been selling dreams to the citizens of Bhopal. They had been claiming that they would convert Bhopal into a Paris or Singapore. Every time a minister went abroad he would on return tell the people that with the natural endowment of the Bhopal they would make it better than many of the popular foreign tourist destinations. Most vocal in the respect was the current minister of Urban Administration and Development, Babu Lal Gaur. The people now know that all those were empty rhetoric as during the BJP’s rule this beautiful city or what could have been a beautiful city has hit the rock bottom.

The BJP has failed to ameliorate the plight of the people in almost all the three issues, viz. bijli, sadak and paani, on which it rode to power. The citizens of Bhopal are not only being deprived of daily water supplies and being subjected regular power cuts, they are also suffering the daily miseries because of broken down roads with ditches of various depths and dimensions filled with filthy water causing acute insanitation and lack of hygiene exposing them to the risks of accidents as also ill-health.

While BJP is protesting at the Centre about the run-down highways and the local Congress has launched a campaign against the terrible condition of the city roads there doesn’t seem to be anybody who is protesting about the shoddy condition of the roads inside the residential colonies. It is only Hitawada that has been publishing day after day write-ups along with photographs of the deplorable condition of the roads inside the colonies where the unfortunate citizens of this town live out their life.

For years the colony roads have not been constructed; at best they have been subjected to patch-work, expecting people to put up with what are apologies for the same. They have been left to the councillors to take care of who hardly ever have had a proper job done. The allotments to them are inadequate and on top of that they and the contractors siphon off their own substantial shares from the available meagre sums.

Idgah, which suffers the same plight as the areas covered by Hitavada but unfortunately has not been covered by it so far, is also another example of lack of attention to its roads. The two roads that lead to Idgah – one from Bhopal Gate and the other from the All Saint’s School – are full of ditches of various shapes and sizes travelling over which is fraught with peril for the lives of vehicles and those who ride them. They are of deceptive depths and, when filled with rain water, are dangerous. Before Eid they were covered up with rubble consisting, inter alia, of jagged stones that are real threats to tyres of vehicles, including those of the humble bicycle. Now the Municipal Council has decided to give the same treatment to all the potholes in the city, thus extending the risk and danger to all those who have to commute over them. The Ridge Road was repaired not too long ago by the councillor concerned. Only a small patch was concretised but that too now is in terrible condition. It got worn out within two years, so indifferent was its quality. The rest of the road has numerous potholes and deep gashes made by flowing water.

Even the roads that used to be reasonably good were dug up for various civic works but were never put back into original shape although the projects provided money for the same and, in all probability, the contractors were paid in full. The road to Shajehanabad and the one along the Babe Ali Stadium are testimonies to it. The Corporation has been merrily going on digging expeditions on money borrowed from Asian Development Bank and all the roads were ruined. The Asian Development Bank seems to have been a bane for Bhopal. It is only fattening up the municipal officials and all those who approve the projects and the loans and is inflicting only miseries on the citizens.

While an urban renewal mission is being implemented in the town its residential areas have been progressively regressing. What with flooding of roads with rain, fresh or sewer water and accumulation of garbage things have become so scandalous that the quality of life of residents is being adversely impacted. It now seems impossible for the municipality to improve matters, given its lackadaisical ways, defective organisational structure and ineffective ways of functioning. Neither the mayor nor the top bureaucrat and his minions have shown the required mettle. As regards the councillors less said the better. Any amount money spent now to improve matters will not help as the municipality seems to need systemic improvements to enable it to function properly for the benefit of the citizens.

If the degraded condition of the residential areas of the city is to be improved and the life of the citizens ameliorated the Municipal Corporation needs to be urgently superceded and an effective administrator appointed for a reasonable length of time so that the dysfunctional Corporation is put back on rails. There are instances where such urban renewals have taken place under effective leadership of competent administrators. The cities of Nagpur and Surat readily come to mind.

Immediate action would seem to be necessary as any delay in doing so would further degrade the conditions in the colonies of the city which, regretfully, also happens to be the state capital. Unless a people’s campaign is launched nothing worthwhile may happen.
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