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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

Small change, big deal

Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, January 05, 2014
First Published: 11:41 IST(5/1/2014) | Last Updated: 17:17 IST(5/1/2014)

It is the season of political revolutions and New Year resolutions. Change is in the air, or so we are told. But everyone seems to be talking about the big stuff, like cheap electricity and free water. Is no one bothered about people like us, who live in 24-hour water- and power-backup societies in and around Chandigarh?

I hear newspaper columns are supposed to be the voice of the people, so this time I am going to list out some pertinent issues facing the proletariat-with-a-paunch. Here’s my list of wishes for 2014, some in public interest and others in my own.

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SCRAP THE MC

This is no small matter, you might think. But since the Chandigarh municipal corporation usually has a hung House, and nine nominated councillors call the shots, civic democracy in the city remains much ado about not much. Even when the voting percentage goes up to 60 — like it did the last time, after staying in the 40s for quite a while — the babudom headed currently by a former politician remains the decision-maker. In any case, elected members have distinguished themselves by making the House seem more like a noisy café, complete with  quasi-friendly jokes and sharp jibes, than a place where people’s problems are discussed.

SWEAR BY PUNJABI!

There is this man called Baljeet Singh Khalsa who has been throwing black paint on signboards in  Chandigarh that are not written in Punjabi. His next target should be BSP councillor and Lok Sabha candidate Jannat Jahan.

No offence, Ms Jahan knows I admire her for shedding all pretence of decency and using the F-word inside the MC House. But why use English when you are saying what people want to say too? Yes, I am making this request in English, but she is no hypocrite like me, and should express herself in Punjabi the next time for proper effect.

HAVE MORE SLUMS

See, the minute you hassle the slum-dwellers, even if you are offering one-room ‘houses’ to them as rehabilitation, the middle-class life becomes hell. As at least half the slum population of Chandigarh is ineligible for rehab, they start pegging their tents elsewhere. As a result, maids disappear for days together, then demand salary advance, and sometimes even seek a hike to get closer to the minimum wage bracket. Such is the extent of this horror tale that a newspaper (not HT!) put this burning issue on the front page as the lead story.

Dear Government, like you are backing that diplomat Khobragade, come to our rescue too. We may not be paying the maid well, but we have a separate glass to serve her tea!

BUILDERS TAKE OWN PILL

I was originally planning to complain about the incessant ads selling real estate on the radio. I mean, Yo! Yo! must not be interrupted by NK Sharma’s projects.

But I am now ready to withdraw my demand for setting a limit on such ads. Here’s my condition:

Builders should stay in the flats they construct for one month, with family. Maybe then they will cure the incessant problems of leaking pipes, flimsy doors, shaking windowpanes and crappy paintjobs, to mention a few.

RENAME THE SATELLITES

Or, if the government does not want to touch private builders who contribute a lot over and under the table, let’s just cure all ills of Chandigarh’s satellites by renaming them. If Mullanpur is now New Chandigarh, Mohali should be rechristened as The Other Chandigarh, Panchkula as Fresh Chandigarh, Zirakpur as Affordable Chandigarh, Kharar as On-The-Way Chandigarh, and so on. Say, Kasauli could be renamed Upper Chandigarh. Or, what the heck, just the call the whole region Mega Chandigarh!

SPREAD THE MAGIC

Once the names are done, hold a function each in these areas. For instance, the Progressive Punjab summit could be held in my pind Dhakoli (Can we please call it Cool Chandigarh?) the next time. That will help magically generate funds for smooth roads, green-hedged dividers and European-style streetlights, like it did in Mohali — even if public property remains mortgaged and teachers get lessons in patience awaiting salaries. Since investors are dying to come to this part of the world anyway, why not just benefit the local people a little. M/s Badal and Badal can take the lead, and the rest would follow their style, like a herd always does.

This list can go on, like arresting people for honking at a red light and sending them to mental hospitals, or demanding that there be tour guides at the humungous mall that is the new heart of Chandigarh, that there be open-air dancing stations on the way to Kasauli at night, that Old Monk be the official drink of Chandigarh and Niranjan’s Midnight Paronthe the national cuisine. But let’s conclude on a mildly vain point.

Wi-fi internet should be free across the region. Since everyone’s busy writing the obituary of the physical newspaper these days, maybe free internet is the only way the readership of this column can go up. Or, maybe I could start writing better.

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