January 13, 2007

A few public issues!

The new year has brought for us a moral victory.
But we have not had the time to savour it.
I suppose people in the media must be reminded that theirs is a job to report and publish.
And that it makes immense sense not to cross the Lakshman Rekha.
But in real life, this isn't the case.
Often we are called upon to go beyond reporting, editing and publishing.
We are called to take a stand. And stand by it.
We are challenged and thwarted.
And we find ourselves in public spaces and in the thick of public issues that challenge us.
There have been some local issues that keep popping up as we go about reporting our neighbourhoods.
When I first witnessed the mortar and bricks devouring the avenue trees and gardens of Gandhi Nagar after we came to live in the Adyar neighbourhood, it was not a very nice sight.
Today, there are thousands of apartment blocks in Gandhi Nagar which seem to have staved off crises in water supply, garbage clearance and traffic flow.
But the 'nagar' is under siege.
Will there come a time when we have laws that ban commercial spots from residential nagars?
See the fate of Indira Nagar, Kasturba Nagar and K K Nagar.
In a few months from now, a road proposed on the banks of the Adyar river to carry Mylapore-bound traffic from the Kotturpuram side to the east coast side will come up.
The City Fathers claim it will provide a short cut.
Perhaps they have not travelled on the Adyar Bridge Road between 8 am and 11 am and between 5 pm and 8 pm when traffic crawls on this old bridge.
Where are the sane voices of the community who can debate such plans?
Why are there fewer public debates on such issues that affect communities?
Some of us who are interested in history and heritage imagined a time when the city's development authority like the CMDA would declare the Mada Street area of Mylapore as a special zone so that its architecture, layout, business and life would be protected from the onslaught of the gargantuan plans of big business and fly-by-night middle-men.
The laws are not in place. So we can challenge neither the state nor private plans.
There is a need for cautious urban development here. A need to have better traffic regulation, modern parking.
A campaign to coax shoppers and devotees to walk the Mada Streets and leave their cars and buses at parking bays constructed at the MRTS station campus.
So when Justice Prabha Sridevan acknowledged the spirit behind the annual Mylapore Festival which was challenged in court a week ago and left some positive thoughts with us, we felt happy.
The Mada Streets area could be occasionally made 'walk only' zones. And become a zone that fosters shopping, gawking, walking and day-dreaming!

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