Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bhopal Notes :: 38 :: "Jan-bhagidari" - Bhopal style

This year the monsoon has been rather severe. According to the latest reports it has rained about 150% more than the long-term average of rainfall in Bhopal. This was expected as the MET Office had forecast as far back as in March above normal rainfall during the monsoons this year. Since then I knew we would be having horrendous times with our Ridge Road which was in very bad shape. Even some rural roads are better than it. It was so even around two years back when the then newly-elected Mayor visited it. It was then that he had promised that he would have such a road made here that one would be able to dine off it – presumably using it as a full plate. Later, he made the same statement elsewhere too which made it clear that he was another of those rotten politicians who only made promises and did nothing. That, from all evidences, is proving right.

It seems, when some of the residents had taken up the matter with the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) they were told that it would be prepared to do up the road if the residents agreed to chip in with half the cost under “Jan-bhagidari” scheme. The scheme involves people’s participation in financing for creation of infrastructure. People are expected to contribute 50% of the cost. This was a radical departure from what the Mayor had promised. The members of the Ridge Road Association after agreeing to the proposal asked the BMC to prepare estimates. There are many in Ridge Road who are familiar with this kind of work having done such work themselves. Given the resources, they would be willing to carry out the work and they would make a far better job of it than the corrupt BMC. The Corporation prepared estimates of Rs. 50 lakh which was agreed to with the condition that it should transfer 50% of its share to the Association and that the work would be constructed under joint monitoring.. This was not agreeable to the Corporation and the proposal fell through. They wanted the Ridge Road share to be handed over to them and it would be they who would build the road. Quite clearly, they were not prepared to miss out on their cut(s).

I know for sure that the roads in Nishant Enclave (below the 74 Bungalows) where three of my siblings reside were built under “jan-bhagidari” scheme about five years back. The residents are an affluent and influential lot. It was to be a cement concrete road. But the work was so shoddy that it is now hardly better than the Ridge Road. There is no sign of the cement that was used and one gets a shaky and bouncy ride. This is “jan-bhagidari” Bhopal-style, a concept, if I recall, was promoted by Sheila Dixit, one-time chief minister of Delhi. For the BMC engineers, however, it is another source of making money

So, as one climbs up for Idgah from the old Nawabi era gate, now called Bhopal Gate, one feels as if one is in a satellite orbiting Mars. The ditches, the one-time river valleys and the mounds on some of which the Mars rover “Curiosity” had an excursion are all there. Here, however, the pock marked surface with gashes and small mounds is only too close giving one a bouncy ride in a vehicle that rattles to high heavens regardless of its age. These roads are hard on the men who ride the vehicles, hard on the machines that drive them and hard on their wheels.

This town is increasingly becoming out-of-bounds for the seniors. They just cannot get out of the house. Neither can they use their two legs for fear of causing damage to the aged skeletal shock-absorbers nor can they use their vehicles that constantly buffet from pothole to pothole needing much more strength to manipulate the steering than what an elderly can muster.

Thanks to our municipal engineers and their supervisors, we have evolved into a society in which those who are charged to build urban roads wouldn’t build them unless their cut is ensured. Hence till their deep pockets are filled only the brave, muscular and enterprising young men and women can venture out on to the city roads. As for our Ridge Road, I think the residents here have a long, indefinite wait ahead for it to become fit for being called an urban passage. 

*Photo from internet
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