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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

Visit to 'sister-city' Bakersfield leaves city mayor disillusioned

Shaheen P Parshad, Hindustan Times  Amritsar, April 24, 2013
First Published: 20:30 IST(24/4/2013) | Last Updated: 20:31 IST(24/4/2013)

Rather than uplifting his spirits as any visit abroad would do to an ordinary man, city mayor Bakshi Ram Arora's visit to Bakersfield, the sister-city of Amritsar, has left him disillusioned with his own city. Reason: Amritsar, he says, is a far cry from the squeaky clean, law-abiding and 'utterly honest' Bakersfield, given the monumental garbage heaps, rampant violation of law, instances of crime and political support to law- breakers in Amritsar.

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"In Amritsar, instances of law violations far outnumber those in which law is seriously enforced and observed," remarked Arora, who returned home on Wednesday.

Bakersfield is a city near the southern end of San Joaquin valley in Kern County, California. It is roughly equidistant between Fresno and Los Angeles, which are 110 miles to the north and south, respectively.

He said that he was invited by Bakersfield mayor to celebrate Baisakhi, which is known as the 'harvest festival' abroad. "We have reciprocated the gesture by inviting him and his delegation to Amritsar for Diwali celebrations this year," the mayor added.

Arora said that he was surprised to see the residents of Bakersfield observe law with utmost sincerity. "People in Bakersfield will stop at street signal even on a virtually empty road,  but such obedience is a rarity in Amritsar, where jumping traffic lights is quite a common violation of traffic rules," he said.
 
He attributed the law abidance in Bakersfield to strictness on part of authorities. "There are cameras all over the city to catch people if they end up breaking the law or jump a traffic signal and the fines imposed on the violators are very high to the point of being intimidating. Violators who fail to pay up fine are taken to court. Amritsar is still to get CCTV cameras, though there is a proposal to install these at public places," the Amritsar mayor said.

Arora maintained that apart from jumping the traffic signals, the UK city levies heavy fines on those caught littering streets, spitting or urinating in public. "I held detailed discussions with my counterpart in Bakersfield on this issue. The gist of the discussion was that as far as Amritsar was concerned, political interference had to stop to allow serious implementation of the law and its obedience by the public," he averred.

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