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THE OTHER SIDE: THE UNWANTED ART OF RUINING THE RICHES

Saturday, 07 July 2018 | Paritosh Kimothi | Dehradun– The anti-encroachment drive undertaken in Dehradun on the directions of the High Court could end up being one of the best things that happened to Dehradun in the past couple of decades. Whether the end result is good or disappointing would depend on what and how it’s done by the authorities after the encroachments are demolished. However, before that stage is reached, a very glaring aspect that affects various spheres of life in Uttarakhand has been revealed once again by this episode- the tendency of the authorities and even citizens to perpetuate and ignore follies which end up assuming severely problematic proportions. As hundreds of encroachments on public roads were marked and demolished as part of the drive, there were many who question why these were allowed to come up and thrive for so many years in the first place. The role of the authority concerned in actually making a mess of town planning is common knowledge which returns to public memory mainly during problematic situations like water logging, traffic jams and other imbalances in civic life which are generally ignored till it becomes hard to ignore them. One may ask whether the authorities were unaware of the illegalities and mess taking place in the form of encroachments and illegal constructions all these years. The way the government machinery is with its various branches, it is difficult to believe that the authorities were unaware especially as in many cases, the role of the authority and politicians is also alleged in actively or passively facilitating such encroachments. The Dehradun master-plan, the enforcement of which was also halted recently by the court had provision for dense tree plantation on both sides of the Rispana and Bindal rivers. However, private and government buildings came up on the banks (some claim the riverbed) and slums grew to such an extent that the wide channels of the rivers were converted to narrow conduits which now contain garbage, effluent and domestic sewage. During the rains, the rivers actually carry water for a brief period before returning to their degenerated state of being conduits for waste. Here again, it is hard to believe that the authorities were unaware of facts like questionable extraction of water from the Rispana near its source by prominent schools and others for their own use, the rise of encroachments and slums on the river area and the continued dumping of waste into the river. Instead of planning and using government resources to provide housing for all, the authorities actually spent vast sums on providing various facilities in slums. Now after the high court also directed removal of encroachments from the banks of Rispana and restoration of the river to its earlier state, some politicians are blaming the government for not presenting a clear picture of the situation in the court to defer execution of the ordered action. Then there is the recent bus mishap in Pauri district which killed 48 people. Here too, the high court, taking cognisance of the situation has sought replies from the government officials concerned. Again, one wonders whether the public representatives and officials are really unaware of the sorry state of public transport in the mountainous as well as plain regions of the state. Many opine that even the provisional state capital Dehradun does not have an efficient and convenient public transport system which fulfills all legal provisions and does not cheat the commuters in one way or another. Is it the involvement of politicians and other influential persons in this business which has prevented the authorities from putting it in order instead of going for overkill with fantastic plans like very expensive personal rapid transit system comprising automated pods on elevated tracks? One last example will suffice for now. Here again the high court recently ordered that pollution control norms should be strictly enforced on industries and that residential areas should be kept free of noise pollution generated by the use of loudspeakers. The problem of industrial pollution is often raised by concerned citizens, activists and even some members of the industrial fraternity but evidently the Government machinery has not been tackling it effectively. Far from tackling industrial pollution, the authority concerned has failed to even implement the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 which also fixes the responsibility of producers, importers and brand owners for waste collection of the varied plastic types in which their products are packed and sold. When it comes to noise pollution- the police who claim to patrol their areas regularly would obviously hear the noise broadcast from loudspeakers at late night events but when one calls the police to complain about it, the local cop tends to ask about the specific location of the blaring and obvious violation and at times also speaks of tolerating the noise for some time more citing reasons ranging from ‘faith’ to maintaining ‘cordial relations’ with neighbours. In all these cases one could surmise that the Government is evidently not doing its bit to enforce the law hence it had to be directed to do so. On the other hand it is not fair to blame the government alone as the violations in general are committed by the citizens. What is needed is an end to this unwanted art of turning riches into ruins practiced by both the authorities and the public to such an extent that alarmingly it is also considered to be a sign of ‘smartness’ by some. As in the case of demonetisation, such steps with positive outcomes in the long term may not be welcome by all initially but that does not mean they should be delayed any longer. read more post… Saturday, 07 July 2018 | Paritosh Kimothi | Dehradun–

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