Sadly, the answer is NO. We have for long blamed our city’s Corporation and other civic agencies for their ineptitude in keeping our city shipshape. We have rested content after complaining about the garbage, the poor roads and the lack of pavements. But, when the authorities begin improving some of the facilities, we respond by rampant vandalism. Does this in any way become the residents of what is said to be the cultural capital of India?
Take for instance the boards bearing street names. We have had this initiative being implemented for the past two years. All of a sudden, long forgotten streets began to come to life, neighbourhoods regained an identity, and finding locations became that much easier. The boards were mounted on elegant metal frames with the names pasted on them using adhesive sheets, thereby ensuring that when errors were pointed out, correction was swift. The sheets were luminescent and so visibility at night was also easy.
Our streets had never had it so good in a long while. But what we are now noticing is that in many places, these signboards have become convenient sites for pasting posters.
For a change, the political parties are not to blame. In case you have not observed, the number of posters of that ilk has come down drastically in the past few months, it being reliably learnt that informal orders are in place to that effect from up top. What we now have are posters that are commercial in nature, pasted by newsagents, quack medication vendors and others. Surely these people can practise some discipline? In many places, the luminescent sheets have been ripped off, leaving a white board in place. After a while, the boards vanish, the metal frame is then pilfered and sold for scrap.
Those at the bottom of the economic scale are probably doing these act of vandalism. They probably need that space for advertising and also make money by selling the metal frame. But what about the well-to-do? They appear to be no better. We have seen a revival of pavements in some localities. Efforts are being made to clear these of encroachments, re-lay the stones and make them comfortable for pedestrians. In order to prevent people from parking cars on them, many of these sidewalks were fitted with bollards, some of metal and others of granite. This apparently has not been to the liking of those who reside in the immediate vicinity, as that means they can no longer enjoy free parking space. Many have therefore taken to sawing away the bollards. As a result you can see several pavements now sporting stumps that can trip the unsuspecting pedestrian. Many residents also encourage vendors and hawkers to set up shop on these sidewalks. These are seen as conveniences.
If these are the reactions to commendable initiatives by the Corporation, we cannot expect our citizenry to do any better when it comes to issues where the civic body is dithering at best. Garbage segregation at source, that Holy Grail, was supposed to take off last month after many earlier attempts that remained non-starters. The present steps appear to be no better. How have our citizens reacted? The way they have been doing for years, they now- continue dumping garbage at all available street corners, empty plots of land and all water bodies! Even the best neighbourhoods have not given a thought to this.
Is this how citizens of a world-class metropolis are expected to respond to civic initiatives and issues?