This article was written on May 2 and appeared in Madras Musings –
By the time this issue is in circulation, the results of the Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be out and a new government in place. It does not matter as to who wins as far as we are concerned. We only hope that the elected representatives do what is right when it comes to governance. We at Madras Musings are therefore sending this partial wish list on behalf of the city for their consideration –
Can we please have elections to the Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation? While it may all be fine for a city to be administered by bureaucrats, ours being the oldest modern civic body in India needs to have an elected council. Councillors are far more accountable to the public than faceless officials. We have got on without a council for five years now which is a crying shame. And while holding the elections can we ensure that we abide by all safety protocols given that we are battling a pandemic of epic proportions?
Can we please come to grips with Covid? We are seeing state governments across the country being exposed for their pathetic handling of the situation. There are shortages of beds, ventilators and oxygen, apart from a huge stress being placed on medical personnel. Tamil Nadu and Chennai have not yet reached the high levels of infection that other states are reporting but chances are that the situation will spiral out of control. We need a proactive government that anticipates shortages on one hand and on the other is firm about outlawing unnecessary political, religious and social gatherings. Harsh though this may sound, much of the present chaos on Covid is due to lax implementation of safety regulations and a sense of false security that we have conquered the virus. We need to fight against such hubris.
Can we not waste time on investigating all the previous government’s actions? This point of course becomes valid only if a new party comes to power. But if it does, it would be far better off focusing on matters of governance than spending precious resources on how it can fix the opposition. In the past couple of days, we have seen all parties come together in a healthy precedent in order to allow the reopening of the Sterlite plant in Thoothukkudi for the manufacture of oxygen. Can this same mature consideration and thought prevail for the greater good?
Can we please have an industrial policy that looks not just at Chennai but at the state? While it is true that Tamil Nadu has its industries spread out quite well, the city has historically cornered much of it. If at all the pandemic has taught us something it is the necessity to decongest. Can we therefore focus on infrastructure building across the state so that IT and manufacturing industries spread out so that there is less of migration to the city?
Can we get going with Metro rail phase II? We understand that in these uncertain times it is difficult to see such mammoth projects through but the delays plaguing the Metro are more indicative of official lethargy. It is well known that the first phase currently in operation can never become sustainable without its sequel which is much larger and has the potential to transform the city’s image when it comes to commuting. Can the new government focus on this and get it done?
Can we act on the Heritage Act? Our state has one on paper and we rather naively believed that it would result in immediate action. Six years have passed since then. While talking and sporadically acting on heritage has since become politically fashionable, what we need is consistent policy and long-term planning. We at Madras Musingsbelieve that the state is missing out on a huge amount of tourist income by not showcasing the city’s heritage. We sincerely hope that our leaders will see our point of view.
There are plenty of other points that we would like to highlight – we would like freebies to be tempered with fiscal prudence, which we are sure will become the pressing need quite soon. In the meanwhile, may the elected representatives govern responsibly, and well.