DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Monday, June 3, 2013

A reporter's fond wish




An excellent photograph of the green cover in the Link Road No.3 of Bhopal was published the other day in a vernacular daily. Huge trees on both sides of the road seemingly stretched themselves to grasp each other in a permanent embrace. A very beautiful view of a very good looking avenue! No wonder, the reporter said that one doesn’t feel the blazing heat of the day in the shaded avenue and also wished if only the entire city could have such green canopy on each and every road.

I am sorry to say that his fond wish will hardly ever be fulfilled. The culture of public works in this town or in this state or, for that matter, in the country wouldn’t allow it. This road is a road which is a little more than a couple of kilometres long and is considered one of the main arteries of the newer part of the town. The greenery is confined to about 500 metres length of the road and the rest of it has very sparse greenery on two sides. The reason is not far to seek. The last 500 or so metres have official houses on two sides and have, therefore, seen much more of public spending and effort. The Capital Project Authority – the authority which was created as a special purpose vehicle for construction of the new capital after Bhopal was designated as such of the new state and has curiously survived miraculously for the last 50-odd years – made special efforts to make this limited area green. Since on the remaining parts of the road the residents were ordinary folks and shanty-dwellers the Authority did not think of doing anything for them worthwhile.

It is the same story in the Link Road No 2. It has been beautifully greened on two sides on only the stretch that is the habitat of powerful and influential. The two sides of the rest of the road – about a kilometre and half long – had been occupied by squatters and hence, naturally, did not deserve the same treatment. It was only after the onset of the Urban Renewal Mission that the rest of the road seemed to be getting some attention. On being asked, the local divisional Commissioner once told me that under Central directions three roads of the city were being pepped up and this happened to be one of the three.

The third road is the Link Road No.1 which has seen enormous makeover in recent times. Again, around this road are concentrated ministers and senior officials and no wonder this was the first road taken up for revamping. All those who live in the city would have noticed the road evolving into one which is indeed very good looking, though still nowhere near international standards. Perhaps, all the film people who have started visiting this town in increasing numbers go gaga after seeing it and the so-called VIP Road – which again is the only artery for the rich and powerful straight to the local airport. Both have appreciable amount of greenery on the sides as well as on the central verges.

As must be evident from above all these are important areas from the point of view of those who reside in them. Other areas where commoners live out their lives are never given the same kind of treatment. Not a single tree has been planted on the Idgah Hills where a jungle of high rises has come up for the economically weaker sections. The feudal mindset comes so naturally to those who provide civic amenities. It is the “VIP Culture” that they are steeped in and that determines where and what amenities are to be dispensed. So, you find the segments of the city where the political and bureaucratic brass live green, spic and span and well-provisioned with goodies whereas the rest of the town languishes in filth and squalour. All the resources of the state – financial and human – seem to be meant for their use. Quite evidently, Bhopal is not alone in this respect; this is markedly visible all over the country. We have “equality” on paper but not on the ground.

That wish of the reporter, therefore, will remain only a fond wish – not to be fulfilled for a long, long time.


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