The question is, who does one hold responsible, and who does one drag before the judiciary for persistent civic mismanagement in Delhi — the city that considers itself world-class

Someone had once said that the tragedy of the liar is not that no one believes him but that the liar begins to believe his or her own words. The truth of these wise words is laid bare every year, with clockwork precision, come the summers. The first pronouncement issues forth mid-May, the lies are repeated towards the third week of June and then reiterated early July. The assertions in May and June are made through the public relations department of the issuing authority but the third proclamation is virtually made from roof tops in full view of the print and electronic media. Changes introduced in the civic administration of the city have led to an almost three-fold increase in the number of these statements since the trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation.

I am sure you have realised that I am talking about the tall claims made year after year about Delhi being ready for the monsoons. When there was one municipal corporation these statements emanated from the MCD and NDMC and also from the CPWD because apparently they also own some drains. Now with three MCDs the frequency of MCD statements has multiplied and every time someone from one of the municipal corporations makes a claim about everything being ship-shape not only do the other two corporations make similar noises, the other agencies too have to show the world that they are also not behind anyone as far as working diligently in the service of the citizens of Delhi is concerned. So they too repeat the ‘truisms’.

One had thought that things would be at least a little better in the small territory administered by NDMC. These fond hopes were based on the information that the NDMC is among the richest municipal bodies in the world and that they have neither a large area nor a large population to look after. One had also thought that with all our law makers, the executive and the judiciary living within this area in close proximity to the higher echelons of our bureaucracy and the entire diplomatic corps would ensure that the municipal body would perform better than their counter parts in the three municipal corporations.

A short drive from Lodi Road to Pandara Park was all it took to shatter these dreams. The photographs that accompany this piece were all taken between 5.45 pm and 5.55 pm on August 21, 2013, an open man-hole callously covered with a wrong sized slab is designed to ensure that anyone taking even one careless step would live to regret it for the rest of his/her life. A few steps away there is a gaping hole with iron rods sticking out and it can ensure at least a fractured ankle if not more, the gaping hole is filled with all manner of flotsam and jetsam, broken branches, pebbles, leaves, rags and other bits and pieces ideally suited to clog drains.

The question is, what are they doing inside the covered drain that runs next to the Mausam Bhawan opposite Gate Number 2 of India Habitat Centre and more importantly, why has the footpath been broken to reveal its hidden treasures? And once they have been revealed, why weren’t they removed and the gaping hole repaired?

The other two photographs were taken at Pandara Road as it turns towards India Gate after the Pandara Road Mosque. The first shows you an open drain with its lid placed next to it. There is a pile of rubbish that was pulled out of the drain and left there as is the norm all over this aspirational world-class city. The second photograph shows you the open jaws of the drain waiting patiently for yet another unsuspecting victim. There are a few questions that raise their ugly head -- who is eventually answerable in this city, who does one hold responsible, who does one complain against, who does one drag before the judiciary?

There is a glimmer of hope that we might have the answers now since the Delhi High Court has taken cognisance of the matter and issued notices to all concerned to appear before it and take responsibility. Two questions, however, remain – 1) will they make some specious excuses and tell white lies with the conviction of the devout as they have been doing in the case of the continuing pollution of the Yamuna river and 2), why is it that those charged with such duties perform them only when hauled up by the courts?

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