By T S Sudhir
The municipal corporation official kept revving his bike as he waved his index finger at the two boys, threatening them with dire consequences if they did not remove their little spread of fresh leafy vegetables from the footpath corner. The duo, both not more than 16 years old, were there for the last three days on that street in West Marredpally in Secunderabad, for about an hour in the morning and all morning walkers found it extremely tempting to buy what was on offer, given the very `unfresh’ veggies on offer at the so-called `Fresh’ outlets.
“Why are you targeting these two boys when you ignore so many other illegal encroachments? Like the school buses that are parked illegally on the road making movement of traffic so difficult, have you ever asked them to move?’’Uma asked. The official was obviously not used to these noises of dissent.
“They have to take a permit to set up shop here,’’ he replied, in an attempt to browbeat with officialese jargon. “And they will mess up this place.’’
“But they are only trying to earn their livelihood, please let them be,’’ pleaded an elderly lady.
“But they will mess up the place. And we are only doing our duty,’’ said the official, emboldened by the polite request. That drew a tirade from another customer who showed him just the other side of the road, where garbage was overflowing. “Get that cleaned first. That is your duty. Go and fine that building owner who has put all his construction material on the road. Go and fine that TDP politician who blocked the road to organise a private function last month.’’
The sun was rising and so were tempers. Realising they were being outnumbered, the official took out his cellphone and fidgeted with it, as though he was calling the CM for advice. “Why don’t you catch the stray dogs and monkeys in West Marredpally, there are over a hundred of them here,’’ I interjected. The simians are a huge menace in this part of Hyderabad and there have been several incidents where people carrying packets were attacked by hungry monkeys.
“Hamara jurisdiction aadmi log ka hai, Bandar aur kutta nahin,’’ he replied sheepishly, evoking peals of laughter. And decided to leave the scene.
This is not to say that officials should allow anyone and everyone to set up shop and occupy public spaces on roads and footpaths. But when these officials let the big sharks get away and catch the small fish, that doesn’t seem fair.
Just within 200 metres of each other in this residential colony, there are four schools. All of them in apartment complexes that have been converted into full-fledged schools. All of them big brand names that seem more like teaching shops than temples of learning. None of them have any green space. In fact, there is not even space that can be called a playground. The buildings could turn into a safety nightmare in case of an emergency. And the way the buses are parked, whether they belong to Narayana, Johnson Grammar or Gautam school and then you have the autos and private cars hovering around, dropping or picking up the children. I dread to think that an accident could just be waiting to happen.
To give Chandrababu Naidu credit, Hyderabad used to look, atleast on the road, truly modern, truly international during his tenure as CM. Credit for that went also to his dynamic Hyderabad municipal commissioner, P K Mohanty. His successor Chitra Ramachandran continued the good job. Today however, it is a city that has gone to the dogs, quite literally. A Telugu friend who came visiting from Mumbai, said it looks like a garbage dump, with dogs and monkeys fighting for the spoils. Green lungs which were developed five years ago, have all turned brown.
Those aware of the workings of the GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) say the team is highly demotivated. Lack of funds, lack of enterprise, lack of interest is choking the city. And it is this GHMC, whose new corporators we will elect on 23 November. Politicians are known to make promises they don’t keep but political leadership that is focussed and has dynamism and vision can make all the difference.
Are we ready to do our bit? To put on our thinking caps and make the effort to articulate our concerns? Three weeks from now, will be an opportunity to have a say in the kind of GHMC we want.
We need to tell our politicians that whether Jaganmohan Reddy campaigns or not is not our primary concern. Whoever we choose to make our leaders and representatives must prove to be real leaders. They must walk the talk. How to ensure that will be the big challenge. Let’s speak out and find our solutions. Let’s stand up to be counted instead of behaving as though someone is electing somebody to become someone else’s representative. It’s our world, our country, our city. We need to take the step forward to choose the road we want to take.