Undoing the putrefaction of Delhi

The Delhi government has announced its decision to provide Wi-Fi in the ubiquitous busses that roam, and occasionally break down, around the city. This is on top of its decision to install 1.5 million CCTV cameras, and provide free Wi-Fi to the citizens that voted the AAP to power. It is a different matter that both measures which have been often announced and touted but have seen little to nothing in actual implementation. These initiatives are all well and good, and probably appeal to that small, but enormously vocal, minority that does care about such things but I have not seen anything being done to actually improve the quality of life of the many millions that live in this dense and dusty city.

Why not start with improvement in sanitation and public amenities?

Let’s put it bluntly, we do not need to go too far away from our polished office complexes, our airbrushed apartment complexes and bungalows to realize that the rest of Delhi is drowning in its own refuse.  There are huge parts of Delhi that look more like the worst parts of sub Saharan Africa than a country which portends to be a super power. Filth and squalor are the norm , rather than an exception. Yet, no one seems to care and no one is asking any questions

It is a sign of how ass-backwards our development strategy is that we will probably have Wi-Fi in busses before we have clean toilets or rubbish free roads, how providing Facebook to the top strata is a greater priority than providing an improved standard of living to the entire city. It is important to remember that improved sanitation matters not only optically but also helps improve the health and well-being of those who would otherwise live their lives out in squalor.

One of the solutions is to mobilize more people to actually clean the city up. There is no dearth of poor and homeless folks in Delhi who would rather work an honest day’s living but are forced to starve and live on doles for want of options. On the other hand the Delhi government has allocated a princely sum of Rs 500 crore annually for advertising its own glories, in effect preaching to the choir that elected it so emphatically less than a year ago.  At a salary of Rs 4000 per month, quite a decent sum for many destitute individuals, the government can mobilize an army of over 100,000 individuals to clean up different corners of the city on a regular basis.

Other facets would involve installing toilets and a robust garbage disposal mechanism, but these ideas need more resources and perhaps some subject matter expertise, which I sorely lack. What they require first and foremost is willingness, the realization that there may be things more important to the vast majority than to be able to access Facebook on their mobile handsets.


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