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How swachh?

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweeping the Delhi municipal polls, one hopes it puts into practice what it has been preaching across the nation ~ cleanliness.

There are several pockets across the capital that sorely need a liberal brush of the broom, starting with the entry points into the city ~ airports, railway stations and inter-state bus terminals.

Any incoming passenger stepping out of these three locations is surely in for a shock at the nightmare that unfolds.

A colleague narrated how an elderly relative from Chennai, visiting Delhi for the first time, anticipated a swank city. Stepping off the train, he could not believe the sight of the platform that he had landed in Delhi. Moving out of the station, he was even more disillusioned at the sight of the filth and the chaos.

Whisked away into the Metro station and then by car to the final destination, he was suitably impressed. Yet the first impression refused to leave him.

This is true of almost every visitor to Delhi. And the Capital receives a fair number of visitors ~ tourists, job seekers and transit passengers, to name a few. The impression most carry with them is of a bustling modern city that is well-maintained.

This lasts the longest with air travellers, as Delhi's airport is now modern and quite spic-and-spank. However, the city's railway stations and bus terminals are a different story. Stinking ~ there are no wash-rooms in sight and so people relieve themselves on the platform itself ~ and filthy, any visitor would imagine the entire city to be as dirty.

One hopes the BJP councillors quickly take up this clarion call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and clean up the city. Passenger facilities and cleanliness at the rail and bus stations must be a priority, not just to showcase the city but to set an example for the rest of the country.

Traffic chaos

Traffic-control lights remaining nonfunctional for days and months, in Delhi's National Capital Region result in frayed tempers and cumulative loss of man hours for commuters and policemen.

Damaged light signal posts, leaning over for weeks after an impact, are dismal reminders of civic apathy.

Yet no roving repair crew is deployed for speedy restoration of orderly flow of vehicles. In contrast, in the Turkic-Mongol tribal Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, their pre-1992 Soviet Union Republic era traffic management discipline continues.

There is a citizens' fault reporting system and the traffic police ensures that technicians rush to restore functionality.

Traffic snarls in NCR are aggravated by reckless drivers flouting road rules, defiantly cruising on the wrong side of the road, along the side-walk pavements.

Brazen helmetless two-wheeler riders forever resort to unsafe manoeuvres to get ahead, despite there being nothing solid between them and a crash. And policemen contend with disorderly vehicular streams to just keep them moving, to avert exasperating gridlocks.

Reserved seat?

One of the many good features of the Delhi Metro is the respect shown by the younger generation to senior citizens and women.

Apart from one compartment being reserved for ladies, seats are reserved for ladies as well as senior citizens and physically handicapped in the rest of the train.

Being conscious about it, young travellers willingly leave their seats for them. However, at times this mark of respect goes astray, a colleague narrated. On his way to office in the Metro the other day, a girl in her 20s offered her seat to an elderly gentleman, who boarded the train.

But, much to her consternation, instead of taking the seat, he turned to a beautiful girl standing next to him, urging her to sit down instead.

The girl, perhaps not thinking rationally, readily occupied it. This gesture of the older man did not seem not appropriate to the girl, who had vacated the seat. Perhaps smarting from a sense of insult, the young girl couldn't resist an outburst while getting off at her station.

"I offered the seat to you, not that good looking girl. This is inappropriate," the girl tartly told the old man. Realising that something had gone amiss on his part, the other co-passengers also gave him funny looks. Certainly, his chivalry did not go down well, instead attracting jeers.

Brazen stalker

Despite some very stringent laws and measures taken by our law enforcers, one is often amazed at the growing boldness of the so-called Romeos.

A colleague narrated how she was recently unnerved by one such person, who stalked her for quite a while. A resident of Gurgaon, she took the Metro to office and had to change trains at Rajiv Chowk to reach Noida.

Running on to the platform, where a train had just entered, she asked people standing around about the train's destination.

A man in the crowded train confirmed that it was going towards Noida. After getting in, and regaining her breath, our colleague noticed that the man, who was wearing aviators even inside the train, was shamelessly staring at her.

Our friend decided not to react to the situation and simply get off when her station came. However, to her surprise, the man followed her as she walked out of the station. He then caught up with her and asked for her phone number or any social network address.

It took all of our colleague's courage to give a firm response, enough for passers-by to notice. She relaxed only after entering the office building.

Yet she was upset at what might have happened even as she was amazed at the bold manner in which the man accosted her, sure that he would not get into any trouble.


One wonders whether the debate over agricultural tax is just a coverup for the real crisis that Indian farmers are facing.

Contributed by: R V Smith, Samir Pal, Nurul I Sarkar, Ishita Malhotra and Asha Ramachandran