We don’t seem to be getting our priorities right. Before we build smart cities, we need smart people. They seem in short supply if the growing number of incidents of violence in urban areas is anything to go by.
In Gurgaon, a Manipuri man was beaten up by his neighbours on Monday for objecting to them parading around in their underpants in front of the victim’s family. His calls to the police were in vain because the latter could not understand him. In another incident, a man was beaten to death in Delhi in a dispute over a car parking spot.
People in our cities seem on a very short fuse. It takes little provocation for them to resort to violence. To say we lack both civility and civic sense would be an understatement. Simply put, we do not seem to be able to live in closed spaces in any degree of harmony. Almost every day that we see road rage flaring up into violence, perceived encroachments of space result in fatal encounters. The police themselves are no slouches when it comes to resorting to disproportionate force against citizens. How often we have seen the police first beating someone accused of a crime before taking him away for questioning. Those in urban spaces do not believe in respecting public spaces.
And, of course, our political class leads the way with its do-you-know-who-I-am attitude when it breaks the law. In fact, if any space is prohibited for a particular activity, we take pride in violating that. The problem is compounded when the victim is from, say the North-East of the country. Instead of trying to instil Vedic pure thoughts in our children through imposing the works of half-baked writers like Dina Nath Batra on them, it would be well worth it to teach them civic sense and civility, both essentials for community living. As urbanisation grows, there is no option but to observe the rules and a certain amount of respect for the space and dignity of others. Community spaces cannot be seen as belonging to nobody and hence anything goes. The fact that they are called public spaces means they belong to us all. But, from all the recent incidents, it would seem that old habits die hard. We will not change and we don’t want to change.