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Monday, December 20, 2010

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(Published on 10 December, 2010 on as 'Welcome to Chennai, Watch out for the Sewage, retrieved from

From Mirabai and Tansen to Raj Kapoor’s white-sari-clad damsels and Mani Ratnam’s village belles, Indians have always celebrated the monsoon. Crops grow, birds sing, rivers flow. It’s the season of love, of joy, of abandon...but of these inclinations, the only one state governments seem to have imbibed is the last. However, to them, it goes with another word – abandon infrastructure.

It happened in Mumbai in 2005, and never quite stopped. It took Delhi by surprise this year. And now, as Chennai is bursting with NRIs and non-locals in addition to its residents thanks to the Margazhi Music Season, the rains have quite literally poured cold water on festivity.

So, here are five questions for the government:

Why does your drainage system fail every year?

Do you see those things floating around on your roads? Oh, yes, those are our cars and bikes. That’s what they look like when your roads turn into rivers.

Sometimes, your police vans call out innocently, “auto-drivers, why have you parked in the middle of the road? Please move your vehicles.”

Guess what! They can’t, and this is why: Each monsoon that our metros sag with the rains, you State Governments issue speeches, saying you were not prepared for a ‘sudden onslaught’ by Nature, and promise that work will be undertaken immediately, to avoid a repeat of the situation the next year. So, why is this an annual ritual?

If we must wade through water, why must it be sewage?

It’s bad enough that our floor mats have turned into wet blankets, and our gardens are ponds. But, do we really need manure in there?

Your sewage pipes are overflowing, and guess why?

Despite a series of employment schemes named after various members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, no one cleans out the sewage pipes.

Isn’t this rather ironic, especially when you and your allies are in power in all three of the states that are dealing with an overly enthusiastic monsoon?

How does it come to be that even newly-laid roads develop potholes?

Now, come on, did you really spend all that money on building us residents a nice, new road?

We understand that the crores that you must divert to housing and land scams need a pretext. Fine, build roads every now and again. But, if you must compromise on quality, why not compromise a tiny bit on your interests?

How about increasing the fraction of money you spend on the project, from the amount that has been set aside for the project, to half instead of a quarter?

That way, you see, you might be able to afford concrete, which lasts, as opposed to blue-metal-and-tar, which doesn’t.

Has it ever struck you that if you want to build flyovers, it might be a good idea to build some that actually serve a purpose?

Every few weeks in Delhi and Chennai, a resident is bound to see a few trees being hacked down by corporation workers. The reason? You’re making space for yet another flyover that will magically resolve traffic congestion.

And why are we still stuck in two-hour jams in dry weather, and five-hour crawls when it rains? Because your flyovers connect the least-used parts of a locality to each other, leaving a teeny-weeny space for the real traffic to grunt through.

Both cities have a few lush localities with tree-lined avenues. Before you cut those down, remember that people don’t usually use cars to reach the end of the road, so we don’t really need a bridge on all our lanes.

Why do you block traffic for your entourage to pass through every time you cut a red ribbon?

When we see your cut-outs lining the roads, with tacky neon lights dancing around your blown-up grins, we know there’s yet another function in your honour; or, you’re about to declare open yet another charity to serve society.

Your larger-than-life cut-outs usually block our view of the road when we want to make a turn, but we mind that less than being stopped fifteen minutes ahead of your leaving your homes.

Yes, you’re horrified when ambulances are not let through, and people die because you had to make a speech half an hour after they needed to get to a hospital.

But, you know what? It’s your fault. It’s also why you don’t realise that our cities have a traffic problem.

Maybe you should try making it in time to your felicitation in peak-hour traffic. If you got the infrastructure in place, chances are that the commuters who spot you won’t want to shoot you.


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