Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where's the proactive citizen?

The growth of Ashok Nagar-KK Nagar-Vadapalani-Valsarawakkam as a residential and commercial belt has been explosive in the past decade. Unfortunately, like in most Indian metro cities that are growing beyond their means, civic planning in Chennai too has not been able to match such growth. So, in a situation like this, what can the citizen do? Lots, if you ask me. Being proactive and setting out to do something positive ranks on the top of my list. Getting together to bemoan lack of facilities and help is easy, but the difficult part is to try and do something that will make a difference.

I bumped into such a ‘proactive citizen’ last week. Premila Rajan must be proud of what she is doing. She hasn’t achieved the success that she is aiming for, but she has made a good beginning. The problem is, of course, garbage that you find strewn all over the city nowadays. In this case, Rajan found to her utter disgust garbage piling and rotting outside the Padma Seshadri School main gate in KK Nagar, as well as on Ramaswamy Salai, by the side of the school wall. Nobody seemed to care and for days the garbage just remained, growing larger and rotting further. Rajan decided to do something and began calling Neel Metal Fenalca (NMF), the agency that is supposed to clear garbage in the area. Repeated calls to the agency’s KK Nagar supervisor resulted in the garbage being partly cleared. Yet things did not fall into place. For example, the supervisor promised to place an extra bin but that has not happened. Every time garbage accumulates, Rajan has been calling NMF. Not once, but several times. And finally there is a clearance operation. A sad state of affairs, you’d say.

This is only one part of Rajan’s initiative. She now plans to write a letter to the PSBB Parents Teachers Association, urging the body to do something. After all, what is the point in talking about a clean and green environment inside the school campus when the outside is littered with garbage and nobody seems to care a damn! Indeed, it will make a difference if the school authorities complain, she says. So, are they listening? An email Rajan sent to the school, based on the email id provided on the school’s Web site, has evoked no response. A telephone call to the school ended with an administrative staff member saying casually that she will do the needful. Rajan has also been trying to rope in support from other parents who wait for their children outside the school gates. She has given them the NMF telephone number and asked them to complain too. She hopes she will get the support she is looking for.

I am convinced that residents and PSBB students can do a lot to get rid of an eyesore like garbage in the area. I do not know whether Exnora has school wings in the city, but if there aren’t, it is something Mr Nirmal and his team should seriously look at forming. Imagine the impact students can create on the concerned authorities with their campaigns and action for clean environment! This would be much more meaningful than planting saplings. M.S. Soundararajan and G. Govindaraj, Exnora stalwarts and residents of KK Nagar, have contributed to making the lives of people living in this part of Chennai better. I now urge them to provide the lead in KK Nagar by campaigning, with residents and students, for a garbage-free environment. And, of course, we need more Premila Rajans to come forward.

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