In these times of Anna Hazare pulling a 'fast' one on the Union Government, I believe a lot of local and perhaps quite important issues are getting marginalized or trivialized. Well, if Anna has managed to obscure Team India's abject surrender in England, anything can happen. After all this happens only in India.
Again almost ad nauseum; I am talking about the roads or rather the lack of them in God's own Country that is Kerala. My own poor little Kochi is struggling to cope with multiple problems. The influx of Bangladeshis masquerading as people from West Bengal is the worst threat to this coastal town. We never know who is an Indian today. The migrant labor might be cheap today, but it might cost us dear in future. I shouldn't considered xenophobic or a Bal Thakre clone; that I am not. I have reasons to believe in what I have stated here. I just hope I am proved wrong.
The other problems is the burgeoning middle class on a rat race that can be called 'Car Wars'. Anyone owning a small car or just one car is a small fry here. Most middle class families own two or even three cars today. Everyone is on a car these days, I repeat everyone. So where do we park all these cars ? I believe we might have to push the backwaters backwards to form a reclaimed parking lot for the Kochi middle class.
Two-wheelers are the new 'Plague'. They are here, there and everywhere. I am scared to stand with my legs apart for a short period anywhere in Kochi. There are fat chances that some smart Alec might park his bike between my legs and leave before I realize. All those who are not on cars are on two-wheelers. The worst thing about these bikes is they cover 200km with one tea-spoon-full of petrol. They come in easy installments and every youth must have them.
These bikes take away young lives thanks to accidents. But they also kill insidiously. Most of our youth hardly walks except to go to the toilet. They step out of house, hop onto the bike and go to office or any place they want to. They park their mean-machines at the nearest possible spot and finish work and are back on bike and then back home. They practically live on bikes. Thus a big section of the youth hardly has any exercise and develop obesity, Hypertension, Diabetes and Heart Diseases at very young age. We might soon become the nation with largest number of bikes and even larger number of young heart patients.
All these and many other problems we face are not unique to Kochi. They are common for every developing place. Bad roads, infrastructural malformations, drinking water, electricity and so on. But what is unique to Kochi is there never was an honest attempt on part of the rulers to even make a cursory attempt to solve the eternal problems with the roads.
The rulers change. But the rules, the policies, the contractors, the workers and the roads never change. I don't remember a single road constructed by the Kochi Corporation lasting one monsoon. No soon the monsoon announces the arrival, the roads begin to break. By August, we have a few roads in a town filled with potholes. A sham of filling these potholes with gravel is conducted every three months till April. Then the potholes are filled with a lot of crushed stones, gravel and exactly 2mm layer of tar in the month of May. The Monsoon is a lot more sincere and arrives mostly in time by end May !
Today, Saturday 27 August 2011 we are in a piquant situation. The roads are completely ragged. The much talked about Thammanam - Pullepady road widening and total revamp of Kochi roads was never taken up. But the Metro Rail is being taken up in a big way. Demolition of the North Railway Over-bridge is taken with utmost zeal by the local government.
So what do we have ? For a 'Castle in the Air' that is Metro Rail, we have a town being devastated. The already congested traffic is going to be redirected through the doomed Thammanam - Pullepady road and many other such under-privileged roads. These roads are already in bad shape and bursting at the seams. The added traffic is going to totally demolish Kochi.
The Traffic Police don't help at all. In fact they make things worse. There are no right turns or 'U' turns in most places in the city. No 'U' turns for long stretches on the highway. At the most strategically placed Kathrikkadavu junction, you can't even go straight. We are sent into a quagmire through the under-bridge and then almost half a kilometer distant 'U' turn that is unmanned and becomes a flash point for outraged drivers to vent their fury on one another. What do these 'patently stupid' measures do ? More and more vehicles are on the roads for longer periods to cover same distance and that means the traffic turns further congested.
So what are we witnessing ? This might sound a tad crude simile, but this is unfortunately true. This is quite like sodomizing an anus already ravaged by piles, fistula and fissures. Our rulers are perpetrating sodomy on my beloved Kochi.
Henceforth the catch phrase for Kerala tourism can go thus, "Welcome to Kochi, the New Sodom"