CITIES ON THE VERGE OF COLLAPSE
“After more than 60 years of independence, with launching and implementing many five year plans, the cities of modem India, are on the verge of collapse. The cities epitomize areas wherein the inhabitants, whether rich or poor, are bound to face the scourges of exploding population, air pollution, contaminated water sources, dumps of solid wastes, intolerable noise pollution, inadequate transport system, creaked roads unable to cope with the proliferation Of private and public vehicles, shortage of water, breakdown of electricity, choked sanitary, drainage and sewage systems, increasing crime against the fairer sex and unsafe senior citizens, with criminally indifferent attitude of government officials to every kind of problems.”
One peculiar thing about modern cities is the scant regard for keeping the city clean and tidy. The indifferent attitude and deliberate neglect by the civic authorities have left cities with dumps of solid and other wastes choking and overflowing sewage and drains, resulted into mud, water storage and dirt everywhere, giving rise to epidemics like malaria, typhoid, dengue every alternate year.
Various reasons and factors are responsible for the sordid state of cities. Unplanned growth of colonies, ill management of resources, lack of prudence in planning, sidelining the issues such as pollution, education, slums, cleanliness, etc. are to a great extent responsible for making cities a nightmare.
We can find a temple, a mosque or a shrine at every nook and corner, even in the middle of a road while the basic amenities like water tap or electric pillar are not made available. Resources are not properly managed; corruption in institutions responsible for providing basic amenities is of the worst order. Public funds are being mis-utilised for the aggrandizement of personal or political benefits. Any positive developmental action for replacing or removing the slums or removing the illegal encroachments become political issues and are vehemently opposed and sabotaged by the politicians.
There are approximately 350 cities, having population more than one lakhs, where proper sanitary, drainage, healthcare seem to be the privileges of a handful of people, living in the posh colonies.
New Delhi, the capital of India, a metropolitan is passing through the worst crisis of inadequate mass transportation and pollution caused by the vehicular traffic. It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court has to issue very strict directives to keep the city free from vehicular pollution as the earlier advice of the apex court, were not acted upon by the Delhi Government. More than fifty lakhs vehicles run daily on the roads of Delhi, more than the total number of vehicles in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, taken together. Delhi is growing day by day with more people settling there in search of their livelihood. The city is on the verge of bursting with population explosion and that authorities are least concerned to make provisions for critical eventualities. The plight of Mumbai is no better than that of other metropolitan cities. The suburban rail network of Mumbai, which carries over six million commuters daily, is not perfect and whenever it fails a violent reaction as taken place in 1994, is always feared. The unplanned and unchecked growth of distant suburbs, depending mainly on the suburban railway network, for their daily travelling, has caused an intolerable pressure on the railways. The existing railways machinery is unable to maintain the system properly and efficiently. The haphazard growth of suburbs with or without the basic amenities provided by the builders, has taken the peace and tranquility of the city to ransom. A daily commuter comments, “The policy makers should take a ride during the morning or evening hours to find the problems and hardships faced by us everyday”.
India’s commercial capital Mumbai is an open mafia territory with more than two murders on an average daily. Open gang wars, extortions, kidnappings, sexual blackmails are the daily local’s news, that are becoming too common to raise any protest. Mumbai police had a name of repute in yester years, but now many philanthropists, planners, bureaucrats have been demanding for a total revamp of the police administration to make it free from mafia links.
Frequent power breakdowns, shortage of drinking water, overcrowded transportation are some of the problems faced by most of the cities now a day. The inhabitants of metro Chennai have accepted their fate, to live with chronic water shortage, spending not Jess than? 600 per month for water requirement, Then in Kerala, having 42 small rivers and lakes, most of the cities are facing irregular water supply. The same is the problem in many newly built colonies of Mumbai.
Yet another problem in most of the cities, particularly the metros is the proliferation of slum localities. Recently, the DDA authorities refused to take any action on the complaints of residents of West Delhi posh colonies against the slum dwellers using a pavement for defecation. In his report the Comptroller and Auditor General of India disclosed in 1994-95, that over 40000 new jhuggies proliferate in the capital every year. The court in November, 1994 had advised the Delhi Government to check slum growth and to take immediate step to improve the conditions of the urban poor. It is a fact that millions of people from the rural areas migrate to the metros and other nearby cities in order to earn their livelihood. There are no employment opportunities available in rural areas. Cities provide job opportunities for all, the professionals, the traders, the skilled or unskilled labours, and anyone who is ready to work with his body and soul. Slums are the result of migration at no cost. In spite of all the sufferings and hardships, these poor jobless people would prefer to slog at the city fringes, sleep under flyovers, or on pavements. The slum dwellers are a harsh reality. No government has taken any positive steps to solve the problem in a planned and positive manner. The government is duty bound to provide basic amenities to these poor. Are these people not contributing or serving the needs of the rich or economically affluent society of the cities in the form of presswala, rikshaw puller, daily wage labour or others?
The complex socio-economic growth of cities, has given rise to small or big crimes such as rape, dacoity, theft, kidnapping, etc. The lack of personal relation, indifferent attitude of the co-passengers, neglect and corrupt police officials, have made cities the dens of crime. A lone youth, flaunting a dagger, in a crowded bus may after pick pocketing an innocent passenger, could alight from a bus nonchalantly and none dare to stop him. Crime thrives because of the apathy of the citizens and the collusion and irresponsibility on the part of the law enforcing machinery.
Are the cities on the verge of collapse? Are we heading towards a dooms day? Can the peculiar problems of cities be tackled? Can the, cities be places for peaceful and pollution free living? Though lot of clamoring have been there to improve the lives in the metros and other cities, yet little can be expected to be done in the immediate future to halt the process of urbanization. A national urban policy needs to be trained keeping in view the entire spectrum of urban problems and peculiarities to tackle the problems. To check the exodus from rural areas to urban areas, a lot is required to be done to make available the job opportunities in rural area itself. Developing satellite towns, with all necessary infrastructure and proper transportation may prove to be a good measure to check the over crowdedness in the cities. Nothing can be done without the co-operation of the general masses to ameliorate the conditions of the cities. Proper prudent planning, sincere strategies, with involvement of society, checks on corruption, etc., can make our cities worth living. If all concerned join hands sincerely with determination, our cities may be turned from the present day ‘hells’ to the ‘heavens’ of future.