Delhi is suffering in many ways. From having become a modern metropolis with broad roads and flyovers sensibly linking far-flung colonies to the centre, the capital city has descended into sheer chaos over the last few months. It seems as if there is no management or administration at work, no agenda of what requires to be done on a daily basis, no direction at all. Garbage lies piled up at road corners that were always clean and neat; the roads look dirty and unswept; litter embellishes the paths meant for pedestrians; the traffic is more unruly than it ever was; none adheres to any rule or regulation and none is accountable.
What was done to this city over the last 15 years to restore and then reinvent it for the new millennium had been very successful. But the process has diluted rapidly, leading to the onset of anarchy ever since the last government of Delhi lost the election and demitted office. The damage is obvious and visible. Today, beggars and squatters are seen washing their clothes in the water channels that run along Rajpath and then drying them on road-dividers opposite the National Archives. Nowhere in the world does this happen. Vendors tap on car windows at every traffic light, conmen strut the streets having taken care of the beat cop, eve-teasing is rampant, spitting and peeing in public common — these are the sights that meet the eye morning, noon and night. Welcome to Incredible India.
Why is it that people do not resort to urinating in public anywhere else in the world? What provokes the Indian male to do so? How can we stop men, and it is always men and not women, from opening their car doors and spitting on the street? They spit while walking, they spit while driving, they just spit randomly. Not just that, they blow their nose and fling the phlegm on to the roads, spreading germs and disease. We define ourselves as an emerging economic power, a modern nation state, which intends to compete with the world. Do we not see the dirt and filth that surround us? Have we lost all sense of pride? We are given a short shrift by the world and nothing is ever agreed to on our terms because we present this ugly truth about ourselves. We are acceptable only because India is the largest market for the world to exploit.
The poorest countries of the world have not lost their sense of pride. Nowhere in the world does one see the kind of dirt and garbage on the streets and in the parks as one does in India. Be it in Africa, America, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, Russia or the other European nations, people care about public space and their country. Why are Indians unconcerned about their habitats and the environment? Instead of walking down a road to the pedestrian crossing, we will scale the fence or bend the metal to create a gap in the fencing. The policeman will watch and ignore. The municipality will never undo the damage. The city will be disfigured and none will care. This is the plight of Delhi that is in a limbo without a leader.
This city has descended into an oversized, expensive slum with litter, stagnant puddles, broken fences, damaged pavements and pot-holed roads. All this is a result of zero maintenance. The sad part is the lack of concern and the inability to carry on the good works that were in place. Our inability to understand that continuity is critical in changing scenarios, particularly if the trajectory has been one of constant change and improvement, is as unfortunate. We have seen this city don the garb of a metropolis with an excellent rapid transport system, order in its growth, adequate greenery, and so on. Suddenly, all this is falling apart. Delhi, today, is crumbling.