The newspapers recently were all about how the US Government shut down because of some stand-off between the Republicans and the Democrats. The President of the US tweeted that things were not so good and that set the alarm bells ringing. Over the weekend, Government services did shut down, but they do every weekend anyway. And then, on Monday, everyone kissed and made up. Republican slapped Democrat on the back, Democrats shook Republican hands, the President congratulated himself and all was well with the world.
Now what is this preamble in aid of, you may wonder. Has the Man from Madras Musings migrated to Minnesota/Milwaukee/Madison you may ask? The answer is ‘no’, much as some of MMM’s detractors would wish it. But what interested MMM about this shutdown was a detailed analysis that one of the newspapers offered on what exactly shut down when the shutdown was in progress. And that gave MMM some points to ponder over what would happen if Chennai faced a similar shutdown.
All parks, public monuments and museums ceasing to function was concern Number One of a particular newspaper. MMM wondered as to what was so great about that. Have you ever been to any park in the city where there is any Government functionary? True, there is a watchman, but he in invariably of a venerable age and sheltering under a tree. There is no other person of official capacity in sight. As for public monuments, the only protection that is offered them is a board that declares that the place is under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India and that trespassers and vandals will be prosecuted. Coming to museums, given their general level of upkeep, MMM is all for their closure. He has also not been able to fathom as to what difference the presence of an official or two makes to these places. Those on the premises know nothing about what is on display and consider all visitors as intrusions on their meditation/yogic slumber.
Garbage clearance ceasing to happen was the next big concern. MMM smiled at this. Given that Chennai has long ceased to worry about such a problem, it really had no issue with it. Rubbish at present is being handled by natural processes in our metro – the wind distributes it, rainwater carries it down pipes, and the sun scorches whatever it can. Animals forage and eat up considerable quantities of it. As for non-biodegradable waste, since there is really no way of getting rid of it, we have opted to accumulate it. So what is the panic really all about?
Building plans and approvals were getting delayed – this was the next on the list. Given that MMM has recently been through this experience, he is fully aware of how efficiently this process is managed. You can consider yourself lucky if your construction’s approvals comes within six months and with not much of depletion of your bank account. And if you are worried that during a shutdown you may not get any approval at all, let MMM assure you that there are several who are in exactly that state of limbo even now.
There were a couple of other aspects – land use plans and healthcare issues, all of which are similarly unlikely to make any impact on the lives of people in Chennai if there was really a shutdown. And so we need not worry about it at all. Perhaps we are already in the middle of a shutdown and never realised it. Way to go, Chennai! As the Chief said, the world has learnt much and has much to learn from us.