The international biodiversity conference is happening in India this year, in Hyderabad to be precise. All roads in the entire city have been dug up on both sides, so that the roads can be leveled and be re-laid. No more potholes and awkwardly sized bumpers to be found. Four lane roads have suddenly metamorphosed to six and eight lane roads. The dividers have been shattered, only to be rebuilt in a semi wall kind of way; that a pedestrian cannot run across the road, and must walk till the closest zebra crossing to cross the road. They are actually creating a pedestrian walk for some roads, oh my god! The pillars that support the flyovers are being used to depict the Indian culture and scenes from the great epics. Trees, gardens and pretty bushes of flowers have sprouted everywhere overnight. Every single goddamn streetlight is working in this part of the city. The drainage systems have been fixed. There are suddenly signs and directions on the road. The only thing missing is trash cans at regular intervals, on the road side and the civic sense to use them. Probably that is why they aren’t there is the first place. How badly would it reflect on us if we would still litter the roads with trash even if we are sure to find a trash can just 50 meters ahead? Better not provide those, the worse that anyone would say is, “Oh! These people don’t have amenities to dispose trash. That’s why the chocolate wrapper or chips packet is lying around. ”
Does any of this make you feel happy or proud because your city is going to look truly beautiful now?
I am sure each person in the city has something to be happy about with the changes that have been made. Wider roads, less traffic blocks, yay! No pedestrians running right in front of your car, high five! Lovely flowers and shady trees, ooh-la-la! Street lights, thank god my daughter/sister/wife/mother feels safer coming home! Direction signs, whew! I can manage to find my way around.
Happy I am too, with each of these things even if I spent most part of the month cribbing about the bad planning. “Why couldn’t they just do it section by section? Let there be some relief somewhere in the city? Do they have to dig every single main road at the same time so that I can’t drive above 30 anywhere? Do they have to take so long to fix the roads, to construct the dividers? When will this be over? When will they move all this sand and stone from the roads?”; I have been complaining incessantly.
But that’s not all. I have a bigger concern here.
Why didn’t they do any of these things before?
I know you (the state government) need the money and the budget approval and sundry. I am not saying it was possible for you to do it all at once. The government would have never granted a single city a sum as huge as 577.35 whooping crores, in one go. If you say we are a poor city and are not granted funds at all, I wouldn’t believe it. All this development does fetch you something. The taxes we pay are meant to be put to use. They are not for your pockets, you know? I am sure you can petition for the basic infrastructure. Did you ever try? Did it never strike you that the citizens of the city are suffering because of the bad roads, the water logging, dark streets, potholes, traffic, pollution and what not? Or did you just decide to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear? How come it took you just 3-4 weeks to get so many things fixed, while it would generally take you ages to get anything done for the common people?
Must you make a show of all this to all delegates of the United Nations and the people attending the conference. Could you not have taken these simple measures for US, the people of the city? How come you value the words, opinions and the ideas these few hundred people, form of the city or India in general, more than the lakhs of people of this city or the other million Indians? The image they take back is more important than the amenities we get?
Not one of these guests of the city should find it difficult to cross the road, if they need to. But it is okay if we have to battle the traffic when we want to cross? A couple of accidents wouldn’t bother you would they, if it is one of us? But one guest gets injured, and you and we will be shamed by the media for not being a city with a sense of safe driving, and bad traffic management. One dark street, one guest touched by an unfriendly hand and it will bring your government down. So you make sure that all streets are lighted. Could you not have done that for us before? Must we always walk in the fear of lingering shadows and groping hands? I am not saying you should be a hostile host or that you shouldn’t provide them protection. My god, no! But can you not be a better guardian to us too?
When will we learn to put us and ours first and the others later?
The change that you are bringing about is only temporary. Aim for something more permanent. What you are doing is not constructive. It is destructive in the sense of how you make your people feel. Do it for others, and we will be there to partake the short-lived joy. Do it for us, and we will celebrate long.