Monday, October 02, 2006

civility: from politics to public.

I am not sure of the exact definitions of civility. my definition of civility here relates to the civilisation or rather culture of civic bodies in the state that present a pathetic state.

Elections are coming. Curiously enough, Tamil Nadu, especially its capital Chennai, was the only big city in the nation to have a system of direct elections to the post of Mayor. The present DMK government has done away with it, inspite of opposition from its own allies.

It is a well calculated move. The ruling party, with a strong alliance, believes in sweeping majority of the local bodies, esepcially the corporations and muncipal corporations. Then it will have power at every level.

It is accepted that karuanidhi's government is a performing one to that of Jayalalithaa's total inaction. For example, take the city of chennai itself. Except for the dozen parks, the previous government has failed to improve the infrastructure in all aspects, may be she can claim to have successfully finished new veeranam scheme. Her claim will stand exposed only at the time of an overall drought when the city develops a crisis for drinking water.

Coimbatore is the next big city. I have been there for three years. The infrastructure is nothing but pathetic. Neither the state or the district administration has an idea of the growth potential the city has and the level of insufficient infrastructure at present.

The previous Mayor was nothing but a clown. A flower merchant in the past, you cant see anyone more stupid than him. Of course, he made lot of money. The previous commissioner, insiders say, earned about four crores. I am not sure about the charges. But money sure can be made out of every signature. It saw three scams. None of it has been uncovered so far. No one resigned also. Cases have been registered.

I also had an opportunity to know the amount of money spent on panchayats through the district rural development agency. About 50 crores every year. May be more. It is all political. The ruling party gets everything on its own, for its own. Of course, others do benefit. But, only a bit.

Politics has a strong hold over panchayats. Effective panchayati raj system can remain only a dream. Seriously speaking, there needs to be an analysis of the fund allotments to local bodies for which there is no audit system is in place.

There are quite a few panchayat presidents, really good. In fact, they are national models. But the majority are selfish and greedy. The official machinery is 80 percent corrupt. It all, especially the delivery system, depends on the boss. The new regime has sent the right signals by posting young IAS fellows as collectors in most of the districts.

Mention should me mentioned here about the conduct of the last local body elections. It was totally rigged. We were witness to a state social welfare minister pa valarmathi going around with goondas capturing booths in alandur one by one. At the counting for mayor elections, no one was allowed. Stalin was to be defeated. However, he won.

It was violence everywhere. Democracy was murdered. Not many wrote about it. It only indicated how big a dictator Jayalalithaa will turn in the next four years. Ruthless can be the only word. No discussions. Only rule of (her own) law.

We will have to see if rigging will be there this time. The two phased elections sure has raised doubts. DMK is known for electoral rigging, especiall in elections conducted in two phases. Expect them to do it scientifically.

Jayalalithaa does everything with fanfare to earn a bad name. Karunanidhi does it all in silence and of late to others' praise. Comparatively speaking, k is better than j in all aspects. especially in governance.

What kind of civic culture are we expecting. Solid waste management, for which source seggregation is the key, has not been implemented in any of the corporations. For the people, it is not even an idea. When are they going to buy to bins? When are they going to be supplied with two bins?

It is a long ask. Tough task. The corporators, or the councillors, majority of them also have a role to play. But they are all keen in taking the cuts. Share the spoils. We will allow you to sign. Otherwise, council will not pass any resolution. This has been the case with most of the civic bodies in the state.

Should we make elections to local bodies non-political. Few nights ago, I heard C Rangarajan, talking about the need to keep SHGs out of politics. He remarked how politics has ruined the co-operative movement. It is time we think on these lines.

For, the present elections are going to serve mainly the elected representatives and not the general public. The time has also come to provide space for public personalities to enter politics. If we don't we will continue to be ruled by a nexus of politicians and criminals.

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Stories From The Soul Town

There lies a magical land. Surrounded by the green ghats to the west, gurgling great rivers on the east, the valley with the very blue sky. A temple town of the tamils. Sitting on the dancing rock on the highland overlooking the valley, the writer procreates the lives of the people of this lesser known south west. Full of strange yet simple souls.