As long as I can remember, those given the responsibility of keeping the drains clean and unclogged in Delhi have continued an annual charade that would be revolting had it not been so ridiculous
Quite a few of my childhood memories have a connection with Delhi. I was born here and even when we had gone to Aligarh for 10 years, we came to Delhi almost every summer to spend time with our father’s cousins and my childhood memories of summer and monsoons are intractably intertwined with Delhi.
One of these memories forced itself to the top of my mind in a kind of a déjà vu situation this last Saturday. The image that triggered the memory was an overflowing manhole near Kotla Mubarakpur and it reminded me of an exactly similar situation at Kucha Pandit Near Lal Kuan in Shahjahanabad in the monsoons of 1958, when we were visiting Delhi for the wedding of a cousin.
Coming to think of it full 55 years have slipped by, from an 8-year-old I have grown into a senior citizen of 63. From the dreams of an equitable self-reliant society we have woken up into the dream world of unabated consumerism of imported trash and yet, or perhaps because of this, our manholes, our underground sewers and our storm water drains are as choked today or perhaps a little more so than they were more than five and a half decades ago.
From the time that I began to read newspapers on a regular basis till today the rulers of Delhi and those given the responsibility of keeping the drains clean and unclogged have continued an annual charade that would be revolting had it not been so ridiculous.
This farce of drain cleaning and holding each other responsible for water logging goes on regardless of who controls the Municipal Corporation and who presides over the Delhi Assembly. Whether the Congress controls one and the BJP lords over the other or both are controlled by minions of the same political apparatus, the slanging match goes on between the CM and the bosses in-charge of sewage disposal.
When things begin to go out of hand more people are called in to muddy the dirty waters further. The MCD, PWD, CPWD, Delhi Jal Board, the Central Ground Water Authority and a host of others join the cacophony and nothing gets done, the noise gradually abates as the monsoon begins to run its course and we wait for a rerun come the next drizzle.
Why do the drains in Delhi get clogged every year? This is a question that has not been addressed adequately and till that is done we will continue to suffer the way we have for as long as I can remember. At the risk of making a whole lot of people very unhappy let me say what I have to say on this issue.
Next time you are out early, look out for the staff sweeping the streets, They collect leaves, plastic, shreds of paper, shards of broken beer bottles, cigarette packets and other debris of an increasingly wasteful society and systematically push it all through the roadside openings into the storm water drains. They do this because they are invariably without push carts to carry the litter to the nearest rubbish dump.
The sanitation staff does this because that is precisely what all of us also do. All of us, citizens of this world class city, continue to litter the streets and throw what we can into the storm water drains running down our streets.
This has to be put a stop to. Who is going to do this is something that this city of multiplicity of authority has to decide and decide quickly or it stands a very good chance of losing its self- awarded title of ‘World Class City’ and it might lose it faster than Berlusconi lost the premiership of Italy. Remember that he also lost because of his filthy habits.
The multiplicity of authority does not end with MCD Roads, NDMC Roads, Cantonment Board Roads, PWD Roads, CPWD Roads etc, where these agencies are responsible for cleaning and de-silting of drains running along roads under their charge. Each one of these agencies has separate staff for de-silting and removal of silt. The sight of filthy silt and rubbish dug out of manholes manually and piled on the curb and on roadsides for days till it finds its way back into the drains or in rare cases removed if the staff responsible for removal arrives, is common knowledge but what is not common is this ingenious explanation given by an unnamed official of the PWD who was quoted in a Delhi daily on Thursday. He said “ Even though all measures had been put in place to clean the roads’ drains before the rains, the silt – which had been left out in the open to be cleared out later – went back into the drains due to the early monsoon, choking them”.
Incidentally, the CM had announced a few weeks ago that manual cleaning of drains has been discontinued in Delhi. Here is a picture taken on Ho Chi Minh Marg, opposite the Savitri Cinema flyover on Tuesday, June 18 at about 11.30 am that tells a different story.