By Amrita Kohli:
Once the city of Nawabs, now one of stone, Lucknow is presently under a major make over. How good is this transformation? Let’s decide for ourselves.
The city is practically covered in Kota stone which is being used in enormous quantities to construct smaraks (monuments), parks and just one too many impractical constructions taking over precious road space. Towering dome-like creations have engulfed the city and even more are under construction. Unnecessary expenditure has already taken place and it’s not stopping any time soon by the looks of it. It all came into conspicuous attention when the road leading up to the airport came under the scanner. The path was compact and not very well lit, with a stream on one side and small woodland on the other. Next thing the city dwellers know, the forest was stripped down to its last tree trunk and a rather large collection of workers began the tedious task of making the road broader. In the other part of the town a colossal monument was seen taking shape. It marked the beginning of many more to come and brought into focus the soon-to-be-famous Kota stone used for its creation. Once the Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Smarak was completed, construction work spread across the city like wild fire (one that was intentional). The route to the airport came back into the spotlight and trucks loaded with more Kota stone, bulldozers and concrete mixers suddenly took the area by storm, constructing and de-constructing ruthlessly that, which should have been left alone. Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Maidan came into existence; its requirement is left to be articulated. Currently, the same area is being further adorned with fountains on enormous foundations creating traffic disturbances along with devastating air and noise pollution. Accidents have increased manifold due to these “architectural” creations, which to be frank are not even pleasing to the eyes.
Time has certainly elapsed but the work hasn’t stopped; nor has the requirement of crores of rupees for all that is still left to be done. One, or the other road is almost always blocked, the dividers are never just right because they are done, undone and done again and again. Grills are reinforced on the road edges only to be removed and put back in. The roads are graveled over and over and more of such unfathomable work goes on relentlessly.
The city went into bitter resentment when houses and shops around the area mentioned, were bulldozered down to the ground, one most have not recovered from. Yes, certain areas of the city are cleaner and the roads are wider and smoother but expanses of land used up for parks with stone carved elephants and statues could have been used productively. The area could have been utilized for the plantation of trees or housing allotments for the underprivileged.
Also, no one can disagree that a certain populace of workers has benefited with employment opportunities but again, at the cost of what? Most of those workers are now suffering from various diseases due to the inhalation of stone dust. Lack of first-aid and improper on-site facilities like drinking water, have also accounted for several grievances among the labor force. Many are also seen sprawled on the pavements late at night for what can easily be judged as a lack of shelter, a prime necessity. Now while the city is enveloped in posters and statues of our beloved Chief Minister (and her purse) waving and smiling down at her followers (in name) one cannot help but wonder if this metamorphosis will ever stop. The inhabitants of the city are tired of the incessant construction work, cannot be escaped. What, they ask is the need for such indiscriminate waste of essential resources collected from taxes they pay after much hard-work?
The need of the hour is to cut back on inconsequential work and plan out what really needs to be done for the greater good (and no, beautifying the city does not come under greater good, nor does creating extra memorials). Those who have been rendered homeless need shelter and possible employment, electricity used to sparkle up the city should only be used for lighting purposes (there is no need for the city to be viewable from space), areas which are overly crowed and dirty need particular attention, special care has to be taken to prevent crime, creation of more statues, parks, gardens, fountains, and/or any massive proportions has to stopped and resources need to allocated beneficially and should be accounted for. The city requires the above and more for the moment and we hope only the city and not those in charge are cast in stone.
The writer is Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.
Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Martiniere1-Lucknow.jpg [The La Martiniere school and college]