TRUE, BHOPAL looks better than before. The City’s beautification plan has been going apace for three years now. New developmental projects are on. Main roads that remained broken, potholed and dilapidated for a long time are being widened and remetalled. Saplings of flowering and decorative plants have been placed along the main roads and footpaths.
Trees along the main roads have been suitably trimmed to allow clear view to the drivers. Some of the City squares have been given the much-needed face-lift.
But all that is not enough for a City aspiring to be a Singapore or a Kuala Lumpur. Certain aspects of City’s development particularly those relating to water supply, civic conveniences, vacation of encroachments, removal of dangerous hoardings, erection of electric-sub stations, cleaning of the filth-filled nullahs, repair and maintenance of roads and streets particularly those in the City’s far-flung colonies, street-lighting, lawless traffic, badly-managed parking lots, management of hawker-corners, upkeep and maintenance of open spaces, and last but not the least poor sanitary conditions cry for attention.
Let us take encroachments first. No sooner the construction of a footpath nears completion and sometimes when it is even halfway, vendors start positioning themselves on whatever level and vacant space they see.
The squatters leave no space whatsoever for pedestrians. Encroachers convert their innocent looking ventures into full-fledged tea/fast-food addas with cane/plastic chairs spread all over the footpath and additional seating arrangements made out of stone-slabs, wooden planks and whatever.
The location of these stalls is carefully chosen by encroachers to snatch all vantage points for attracting customers and ejecting every other legitimate user of the space. What is deplorable is that at any given point of time scores of customers (the number in the evenings may be as large as 25-40) can be seen hovering around these stalls sipping tea, gossiping, using filthy language, passing comments and smoking and littering.
Their two-wheelers are parked haphazardly on the footpaths and/or on the adjoining roads causing traffic accidents; fracas, littering and stuffing rainwater drains with the leftovers.
The illegal squatters also attract all sorts of bad characters waiting for their preys, tailing unsuspecting ladies for snatching purses or collecting required intelligence on who is who in the locality to plan their operations. Cities like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior have been experiencing a spurt in chain and purse snatchings, burglaries, robberies and even dacoities.
No vending unit can be set up without the blessings of powerful politicians of the area who in turn have link-ups with the higher ones. Since they are illegal encroachments on public spaces, cause of filth and muck, obstruct traffic and most certainly are the source of spurt in crimes like chain snatchings, thefts and burglaries, the authorities concerned must act without fear or favour and initiate necessary action to have the squatters evicted.
The City is woefully short of clean and efficiently managed public conveniences like toilets and bus stands. There is not even a single toilet in the City for the convenience of ladies. The existing ones for men are so terribly filthy and repulsive that they need to be bull-dozed out of existence. One situated on the footpath in front of the Indira Market is a standing shame.
A few Sulabh Shouchalyas are under construction in different parts of the City but it will need hundreds more to eradicate the problem of open defecation and public urination, the unseemly spectacles that have given our country a bad name. Open spaces are full of filth. A case in point is the Dussehra maidan in the Bittan Market complex. This issue must receive immediate attention.
The so-called beautification of City squares is a tad too garish for taste. The traffic islands have been turned into traffic continents choking traffic and walking a hazard for the pedestrians. The City’s open spaces are in very bad shape. The Dussehra maidan in the Bittan Market is a case in point. Of late it has become a dumping ground for garbage generated by the neighbourhood.
Nobody obeys the traffic laws and those entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing traffic laws seem to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. While the number of vehicles have increased exponentially, the old problems of rash and negligent driving, ignoring lane rules, disobedience of traffic lights and inadequacy of traffic constables continue.
The repair and maintenance of roads continue to be hopelessly slow and inadequate and they are dug up at will without notice. Like footpaths, Zebra crossings are encroached upon by drivers depriving pedestrians of their use.
There is urgent need for taking corrective measures and building up functional infrastructure if those in the administration really want Bhopal to be counted amongst the foremost cities of the country and an attractive destination for investors.