Monday, February 26, 2024

Can we be the change?

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By Naba Bhattacharjee

Shillong has quite a few innate unpleasant characteristics which adversely affect most of us. Can we get together and make an honest effort to try and change a few of them – those within our individual realm on priority and convince others who have the authority to take the initiative for the rest? Gallons of water wasted from leaking pipes before being “plugged” with old cloth or rubber strips cut to size from tyre tubes. Major portion of garbage spill over on the road in course of transportation to either treatment plant or for dumping in some secluded forest areas or water body in “vintage” trucks with card board barricades.  Red beacons fitted on the entire fleet of private vehicles owned by the VVIP, VIP and relatives.  After the recent Supreme Court ruling, sale of books on Indian constitution has witnessed a quantum jump together with hits on relevant internet sites to ascertain whether one falls with the domain of “constitutional” heads. Red beacons – the ultimate status symbol will not be given up without a fight in the “three months” of extended glory! Then there are the blaring sirens to announce “one has arrived”, radiating from every seventh vehicle, reminiscent of bomb alerts while the “bomb” sitting inside takes sadistic delight as ordinary vehicles veers frantically to the left to give “right of way”. Building laws are totally stretchable for the rich and influential and the sky is the limit for the upwardly mobile. Earth- shattering rhetoric in wedding and funeral gatherings but not a whimper when price of essential commodities are among the highest in the country. And living with the phenomenon of once risen never to fall theory. Has anyone ever heard of a bandh being called to protest price rise, water scarcity or dilapidated road conditions?
Bandhs can be declared even by an individual without any organization or reason with guaranteed success if declared on a Friday or Monday, through enthusiastic support of the white collared hooked to another “paid” holiday and section of the media ever ready to proclaim the bandh. Space could be considered below the daily weather forecast to improve public information on the issue. A common sight in the busy streets are of individuals behind the wheel talking on the mobile phone, totally oblivious of the danger posed to others by slowing down in mid course or dangerously swerving off course. At times having the temerity to respond, “Wait! Don’t you see, I am talking”! A common man running from desk to desk for months for a license, permit or clearance without a clue till the “bridge” is located to liberation after paying the requisite “toll tax”. Products both manufactured and grown within the state cost more than in neighboring states.
Then there is the case of a few departmental heads controlling their organization like personal fiefdom bereft of any accountability merely by crediting accounts of those who matter. An SPTS bus charging ten times the normal fare during a recent bandh on the plea of few passengers while “shared” taxis squeeze in as many as possible with the driver just managing to be inside with his seat too occupied by two.   Hawkers firmly ensconced on every available space on main roads and foot path while hapless pedestrians are forced to engage on a tight rope walk similar to negotiating a mine field. Plumbers allowing perennial flow of water only through those pipes which are greased along with their palms. Gas agencies in few localities behaving like extending a favour with body language and verbal tirade similar to a jail warden distributing food to convicts standing in queue. There is no respite to the plight of Aam Aadmi.
Perhaps it’s time to have an Aam Aadmi party to look after the common person’s needs.

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