Friday, May 6, 2016

Bhopal Notes - 26 :: The Patriarch speaks out

The beautifula Bhopsl Lake and its colourful skies
It was a good augury yesterday to see the BJP patriarch of the state of Madhya Pradesh and its former chief minister, Kailash Joshi, speak out against the decision to build a smart city in the Shivajinagar and Tulsinagar areas. He has unequivocally stated against the wisdom of building the smart city where people are already living and where there is such a massive green cover. He has said none ever consulted him but he feels there are enough open spaces in and around the town where the smart city could be built and there is no need to uproot people from their homes and cut down so many trees. This is nothing but sheer logic and surprisingly it never occurred to any of the current top politicians and bureaucrats who have been vigorously pushing the project. Joshi confessed he did not know what precisely is a smart city.   

With the Patriarch coming out against the government’s proposal there seems to have been a domino effect as was discerned from the reports of today. The local MP, Alok Sanjar, toed the Kailash Joshi line and several MLAs, some of them influential and close to the chief minister, too have come out in the open against the proposal. Obviously, they were also opposed to the proposal. Since, however, the chief minister was pushing it strongly they maintained their discipline and did not speak out against it. In his last statement the chief minister was very firm about building the smart city in Shivajinagar and Tulsinagar and seemed to indicate that he would brook no opposition.

 Now, however, there seems to be disarray and probably a bit of confusion in the Party ranks. One has to wait and watch which way the thing turns. In face of the massive opposition from not only his Party mentor and Party colleagues but also from the affected residents he cannot be so unyielding. While the Citizen’s Forum had been suggesting the Baan Ganga area, MP Alok Sanjar has queried why it should not be built in the area of BHEL where houses have been vacated and are awaiting demolition. In any case BHEL has a large amount of surplus land given away by the government and lying unused. Someone else has suggested South TT Nagar where low-rise houses were demolished and the land, prime one at that, is also lying unused.

In the meantime the Government of India has responded to Ms. Buch’s missive and has asked the state government to reconsider the matter in detail. Ms. Buch, former chief secretary, is now apparently heading the National Centre for Human Settlement and Environment (NCHSE) which was formerly headed by her husband Mahesh Buch until his sudden death. The current resistance to the MP government’s proposal to build the smart city in an area which is likely to disturb and perhaps ruin the environment of the entire city is well within the domain of NCHSE. Ms. Buch spearheaded the peoples’ resistance and took off very early writing to the government of India in January 2016. Others, including the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum were tardy and the media campaign came much later. Peoples Samchar has covered the whole proposal very well and field interviews carried out by it were reflective of the affected residents’ sentiments against it.

Now that the opposition to the proposal has built up the Mayor is blaming the Congress for misleading the people. He is wrong as nobody has misled the people; if any misleading has been done it was by the BJP government and the municipal corporation headed by him. The other thing that one could decipher from the fine print is that there is a move to blame the bureaucracy for the faux pas. If the bureaucracy owns it up it would never be able to stand up again against the political executive. The bureaucracy should have initially come out against it as it meant unwarranted and uncalled for human misery for the affected people as well as devastation of the environment of the city in which they too reside. How could it be so insensitive to both of these eventualities? One knows who are behind this harebrained proposal and one would expect the bureaucracy to expose them.
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