March 17, 2007

Tombstones for my city

If you make tombstones, I have a few orders for you.
And if my 'quickie' business goes on well, you may get regular orders.
No, I am not getting into the business of chasing ambulances.
Or doing the rounds of homes for the aged.
I am trying to put together a team which will scour the neighbourhoods for civic projects left unfinished, left in disuse, left to become private properties, left to be hijacked by others.
I have not been employed by the Mayor, M. Subramaniam.
We will let him give out masks and pumps to the 'Mosquito Musketeers' and draw up plans for exclusive gyms for women, for now.
But I am told Mayor Subramaniam is a hands-on, get-on-with-job sort of person. And he really likes this city and its neighbourhoods to develop.
That is why he may want to sign me up, at least on a short contract.
I came up with this idea of leaving tombstones on civic projects because there are lots of them that deserve a decent obituary.
I am yet to understand how a city's Corporation works. And how it does with its elected councillors.
Now that I, like a few others, am seriously looking at a beach 'beautification' project for which Rs.25 plus crores has been allocated, I think the tombstone order must be signed now.
We did not get a hint of this project. A private architecture college submits a grand plan. Corporation officials begin to work on that plan that makes a Disneyland of the beach. Build, build, and build. That is what the plan is all about. Some noisy objections get noticed. And the civic body says it is willing to interact with the community because a group is engaging the Corporation strongly.
Look around you. A playground gets a stage; then it gets a lawn. Then playthings for kids come up. And the stage becomes a toilet for vagabonds.
One year, all the councillors voted for cement bus stops. The next year they voted for gyms in playgrounds.
Start counting the facilities in disuse and you will know why the tombstones order will rise.
Three questions - does a community want to consult and discuss facilities for the neighbourhood? Does a city Corporation have an agenda to talk to communities and then plan facilities? And when a facility is set up, does the community take ownership of it?

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