By Kunal Basu:
In a 2015 landmark judgement, the Bombay High Court had ruled that the right to life under Article 21 of our Constitution includes the right to good roads. In light of that, the condition of roads in Delhi – the lesser said about them, the better. There isn’t a single day that goes by when the glaring newspaper headlines display the death of an innocent passerby having occurred as a result of a fall into a pothole or open manhole. The civic authorities’ repeated ‘innocent’ stance on having fixed these small-time, rudimentary issues is as much laughable as it is condemnable.
When it comes to public health, if the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) thinks it can absolve itself by mere fogging in a bid to rid the city of chikungunya, it is sadly mistaken. Reports by our newspapers and the inception of Times of India’s Citizen Reporter app are slowly bringing the lackadaisical attitude of the civic authorities’ negligence in maintaining the city to the forefront. It is only but tragic that our evidentiary laws, like the Indian Evidence Act, prevent newspaper reports from being admissible as evidence to the exclusion of having the maker of the same present in the Court. Now, that idea is more or less ludicrous, as it seems improbable that one would keep a track of every civic news report made from the time of Citizen Reporters’ inception by the Times of India group.
What is the use of creating a municipal authority that operates to the contrary of the statute law under which it was formed? Whilst Section 42(n) of the DMCA (1957) guarantees that the municipal authorities are under a legal obligation to maintain and improve public streets, roads and the like, there seem to be no living proof of such steps being implemented. Mere inclusion of words in a ‘kitaab-kagaaz-kalam’ (book-paper-pen) format does not relieve the MCD from effectively discharging its statutory duties. Neither does it absolve the MCD from taking a defensive stand that shortage of manpower and vehicles precluded it from ensuring basic civic hygiene at all times.
The State Government is not doing anything either to resolve this problem. Satyendra Jain’s statement that chikungunya in the city is a fiction of the press is as much laughable as a fully-grown adult saying that Oppenheimer, and not Albert Einstein, came up with the theory of relativity.
When will the administrative machinery ever take credence of its innumerable faults? Will it be after another four-year-old falls into an open manhole and dies? Or maybe, will fault be cast upon the parents of the two-and-a-half-year old toddler that fell into the drain, due to inadequate care?
We live to see another day, not to die tomorrow. No amount of ex-gratis payment and leeway induction of a bereaved family by the Government can be adequate to compensate them for a loss of life suffered for no fault of their own.
The only way we can possibly hope to resolve this, is to keep on praying that the voice of the press is never stifled. Only truth is a potent weapon to scare the voice of the big manand ensure that they perform their duties diligently under fear of law. The courts can perform, but they only have a limited role. The rest is up to us.