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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014
They aren't magicians
Prathap Suthan, Hindustan Times
April 13, 2012
First Published: 22:18 IST(13/4/2012)
Last Updated: 22:21 IST(13/4/2012)

It's a pity that we are going through this now. It's more pitiful that we'll have to go through this again after a few years. The truth is that even if everyone votes in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections tomorrow, and even if the best people win, nothing is going to change.

I would love to be wrong, but I am certain that I will end up being right. This is because though we have been scathing about how those in power don't care about our problems, we are forgetting that the problem is more complex than we think. And - surprise! - it's got nothing to do with inefficiency, corruption, bribery, favouritism or red tape.

Apart from the genuine handicaps that our leaders face, the size of the problem is a problem in itself. Even if the present - or former - corporators were effectively equipped and focused, they wouldn't have achieved very much.

But it's encouraging to know that all the problems that bother us also bother our corporators. They, too, are victims.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not a pessimist. I am an unabashed optimist. I hope for the best. But when reality looks dreadful, I prefer to not take an unwise decision. It's better we call a spade a spade. We - including our corporators - are facing a problem that can't be resolved. Delhi is an endless and evolving quagmire of problems and it will be foolish to hope for any kind of deliverance even in the next 50 years.

The city's water pipes are antediluvian. Power cables can be found lying bare on roads which are full of potholes. Let's not even talk about the traffic situation in Delhi. Drains are generally clogged while sewers are usually uncovered. Drinking water isn't fit for even toilets. Footpaths are rare to find thanks to illegal construction. Public garbage bins are overflowing and serve as breeding grounds for many diseases.

Plastic bags and cigarette butts can be seen in every nook and cranny. Paan stains  adorn various walls and corners, and streets are full of phlegm and discarded personal hygiene items. Men can be spotted urinating along with dogs, and children are often seen defecating on sidewalks.

There are flies. There are fleas. There are cows sitting in the middle of roads and monkeys swinging from one tree to another. And then there are all kinds of wastes - medical, chemical, biodegradable, household, industrial and, who knows, even radioactive. There is Culex, Anopheles, Aedes, dengue, encephalitis, malaria and chikungunya. And occasionally swine flu too.

There are people with all kinds of 'connections' - nephews of the police commissioner,  brothers of ministers and even wives of the president. There are those who steal electricity; those who impulsively bribe policemen or bureaucrats; and those who curse under every breath.

There are millions of people who live in Delhi but can't understand the impact of the city's problems. Some of them, unfortunately, don't even know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Now you tell me, what can our corporators fix? Where should they begin? How can any elected group of people change the smell, texture, and the biology of a city like Delhi? After all, none of them is a magician.

Some believe that educating people is one of the solutions. But what do we do about those who are educated yet take immense pride in breaking the law? What about those who are intolerant of others' views and don't think twice before resorting to violence to prove their point?

Despite all the optimism, regard and sympathy I have for human excellence and limitations, I am afraid that all our votes won't yield any positive result.

There's no doubt that we will elect a new team, perhaps the best team. But we will end up throwing them in the deep end.

As rational Dilliwallahs, we should be aware of what we want our corporators to achieve and, more importantly, what they cannot achieve. We need to be sensitive towards their limitations. The best that they can do is shoot for the trees rather than the moon.

Let's urge them, push them, and provoke them to permanently fix all of Delhi's problems one by one rather than trying to find temporary solutions for all of them at the same time. Our expectations have been our biggest problem. Our corporators are as human as you and I.

I am certainly not envious of those who will win. Yet, for all of us - and for the sake of our beloved city, Delhi - I sincerely hope for the best MCD team to come to power.

Prathap Suthan is chief creative officer, iYogi. The views expressed by the author are personal.


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