Of rudderless leadership

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Dec 2018 10:42:19



Vijay Phanshikar,


‘A picture speaks a thousand words’, was the wisdom taught to your’s sincerely when he was a young photo-journalist fifty-plus years ago. So, whenever he took pictures to embellish his stories, he was extra careful to ensure that the pictures, too, told a story all by themselves. At ‘The Hitavada’, all of us believe in this age-old professional wisdom, and often publish pictures that speak thousand words each.

Last week, we published pictures of a few temples that were demolished because those structures were hampering traffic flow or illegally occupying public places. All the demolitions had taken place as per the directive of the honourable High Court. Despite that, many of those half-torn-down structures still stand on the roads or public places, making a mockery of the idea of removal of encroachment on public places including roads. The spectacle offers a dirty picture of the city’s rudderless
collective leadership whose honourable members do not know what they are doing and in which direction the city is headed.

When the people in a city are bestowed with such leaders, they must consider themselves plainly unfortunate. For, they happen to live in a city where urban management is at its worst, or almost over the precipice. Nagpur city presents such a spectacle day in and day out not just to its residents but also to visitors who spend a little time here only to return to their homes elsewhere.  So, the city roads are in a terrible mess, though with a promise of a great future tomorrow (?!?!), not because of the remaking project that has been going on for a long time, but also because of these half-torn-down shrines that serve no purpose -- either of worship or of cleared-up passage way, thanks to encroachment removal.

But then, this is the story of the city that boasts of a glorious history of three-hundred-plus years. For, the
so-called makers of the so-called futuristic city of Nagpur are least bothered about its history or its story. They seem hell bent upon demolishing the city’s persona that boasted of certain serenity, no matter the sobriquet of an ‘expanded village’. Somehow, the city’s current rudderless leadership seemed to be wary of that name and sought to convert Nagpur into a Copenhagen or a Singapore or a Paris ... you name it!

And they were -- and are -- in a tearing hurry to demolish the old-world charm of the city and replace it with a charmless urban mess made of ill-designed cement structures and utilities. As a newspaperman, I also hear some stark and dangerous tales of how some of our leaders are thinking of altering every nook and corner of the city so that “it becomes a modern urban metropolis”. I am also told that some of them are contemplating tearing down some old structures that have lent Nagpur a royal aura. One urban planning expert (who wishes to be unnamed) also told me, “Sir, if they can, they will invade even the Civil Lines with a sense of vengeance.”

What a rudderlessness!
But then, these leaders see the dream of a Smart City. Talk to any so-called expert of Smart City concept and you will end up frustrated because he will have little to offer by way of some novelty. Each expert talks of entirely different ideas that do not match with the ideas of other experts. Some talk of introduction of Information-Technology-based services as intrinsic to the Smart City idea. Some talk of something else. And in Nagpur, nobody talks of anything specific.

But to make Nagpur appear to be on the threshold of modernity, many people talk of many things that do not have a common thread. So, some talk of multi-storied, multi-million-rupee air-conditioned markets to sell vegetables. Some talk of cement roads. Some talk of Metro Rail. And some talk of ...!
And even as all these ideations go on senselessly, the half-torn-down shrines dot the city, mocking at our judicial and administrative systems.
What a rudderlessness!
An ordinary citizen like me harbours only one emotion these days -- of intense frustration and disgust that our city is being governed by the people whose concept of leadership has only one dimension: Brazen decisions that pertain to god-knows-which wisdom.