June 27, 2009

Make public the information

The e-mailed note below is from Shoba Menon. It was not directed to this column.

But I know she wouldn’t mind if I used it here.

Shoba has been heading a long and low profile campaign to protect trees and grow more of them. She is part of this group called ‘Nizhal’.

And in order to take forward her projects and sensitise people she organises tree walks. (There is one tree walk next weekend in Luz and if your colony wants to organise one, call 94452-58328).

Shoba, who is based in Kotturpuram is also a community activist. What follows is something she wanted to share . . . in her own words. . .
Wonder if people are aware of the online public grievance forum of the Chennai Corporation. . .
at www.chennaicorporation.gov.in.

I have personally made use of this facility and found the redressal system effective and quick.

You can register your civic complaint under the particular heads provided, or in ‘Others’. Location details and other particulars are recorded and if you provide a mobile number, the complaint number reaches you in a few seconds!

I believe that the complaint is forwarded to the local official concerned, and if it is not addressed in a stipulated number of days, is escalated to the next level and so on. Since no junior wants to be pulled up, the complaint gets resolved faster. And we can follow up too, with the Complaint Number provided, even with the Commissioner who can reach the status of the complaint online.

Once more and more concerned citizens make use of such facilities, the officials may just be forced to sit up:-)!
This was Shoba’s note. It would be wonderful if more and more people make public bits of information that the rest of us can use to pursue civic issues, address local problems and work for the community.

Our newspapers will provide space for such sharing of information. And experiences.

June 20, 2009

Databasing the services

I need your help here. It may help me run the facilities of my office a tad better.
It is all to do with AMCs and refills and recharging and all that.
To do with the computers and UPS and batteries and air-conditioners.
We get into some kind of agreements, we sign some form of contracts and we agree to a variety of support.
But who is to keep tab of all this?
I tried to paste stickers on all our equipment and accessories so that we could jot down the dates and time and all that is required to keep the agreements going.
It helped to an extent - the air-conditioning staff who was late on call had only to stare at the sticker - the proof of the delay was documented!
Somewhere down the year we bypassed this practice. We could have blamed the heat or the deluge of paper sheets - they may have torn off the stickers!
Perhaps there is a better way to document AMCs, contracts and the rest. Perhaps a free software! The way we can be reminded when a deposit matures and when not to buy tomatoes because the weekly shopping budget has slipped into the red.
There should also be ways in which we can keep a tab on all the civic services and installations in our neighbourhoods - which will help us to raise questions and buttress arguments with the state agencies.
Residents of Karpagam Gardens often call to inform us of the power black outs which have been more frequent these past six months.
The transformer was changed, promising less hiccups.
It was done in December last year.
Cables have been changed but people are not sure when.
Sharper information helps to confront state agencies and keep them on their toes.
It also shows how involved a neighbourhood is.
Get going then. . .
Dear Engineer, 8th Cross St was relaid on May 15 and 16 and the budget was said to be Rs.99,000. On June 12, the bitumen came off at five places on both streets. Can you make the contractor accountable to this sorry state? Thanks and regards . .

June 14, 2009

Expressways for the City, anger among the poor

Is the state creating social tensions in our neighbourhoods by displacing the poor?
I think it is.
And I think we will witness increasing violence if the state continues to treat these people like vermin.
Last week I had a chat with Sister Irudhaya Mary who has taken charge as the Headmistress of a Middle School in Mylapore.
We support this school in small ways since a large number of its students are from poor families.
Sister Mary was feeling discouraged. A number of students did not turn up on Re-opening Day for the new academic year.
These students are residents of colonies on the southern outskirts of the city. They and their families have been 'rehabilitated' in these colonies after they and hundreds of others were cleared from areas like the Buckingham Canal banks and the seashore following the tsunami.
The children continued to attend their 'old' school despite the long, tiresome bus journeys. But they couldn't take it any longer and have decided to give up. Some may attend the suburban state-run school, some may go on to work.
Sister Mary wondered if she could convince the state-run MTC to run a special bus for these children, some 100 of them to ensure they got a good education.
I am pessimistic.
The state continues to 'rehabilitate' people who live in the city and have encroached on state land. The 'rehab nagars', located off Old Mahabalipuram Road (Rajiv Gandhi Salai) are yet to be fitted with everything that is essential for displaced people.
Thus we have unhappy communities.
You may have experienced this with your maid, watchman, autodriver or electrician who once used to live close to home but are now banished to the outskirts.
The frustration has grown as suburban employment is scarce and living off work in the city weakens them physically and increases their daily expenses.
Add to this is the disappointment of their teenage wards and waywardness of elders.
Anger, discontent, depression. It is now spilling over.
As the state plans expressways, flyovers and Metro Rails and seeks to displace the poor, the tensions are bound to rise.

June 06, 2009

We are throwing garbage at you!

When you wake up tomorrow morning don't be shocked if you find a plastic bag of rotting tomatoes in the car park or soggy paper flung at your windows.
Don't suspect this to be the handiwork of your neighbour.
This could well be part of a novel idea that was launched on World Environment Day.
Nobody knows who thought of this idea.
It was picked up in a trice and executed overnight.
Had it been a clever idea of Neel Metal Fanalca, then we should recommend this company for the Indira Gandhi Award that is given annually to all those who help save the earth and our neighbourhoods.
If I were heading Neel Metal I would have certainly backed this idea.
Garbage collection is sending us over the edge and just because citizens claim they pay their taxes and hence demand that garbage should be cleared thrice a day - that is not the end of it all. They too have a responsibility.
Too many people are saying that Neel Metal is not doing its job, that its bins always overflow, that its staff are hardly seen at work and that the City Fathers should suspend the contract.
If I were in Neel Metal I would turn the tables on people. All in the name of World Environment Day.
This is just the occasion to make a virtue of a bad situation.
If Greenpeace activists can clamber up shark-whaling vessels and pro-animal activists storm leather garment fashion shows, I don't see why throwing back vegetable waste and old clothes into garden yards and car parks of people is not the right thing to do - as long as it sends a message.
If I were heading Neel Metal I would probably do a symbolic act. There are too many unhappy people out there. And we have just bought hundreds of tricycles to collect the waste and it cost us many, many lakhs.
Maybe we will throw back the torn T-shirt you dumped into the bin yesterday.