GUWHATI, March 27 – Expressing grave concern over the deplorable civic amenities in the city, public activist Prof Deven Dutta has said that the Guwahati Development Department including its agencies GMC and GMDA, and the minister concerned, owed a lot of explanation to the tax-paying citizens for the mess they had created.
Addressing a press conference, Prof Dutta said that all aspects of civic health and hygiene from garbage disposal and water supply to drainage and unhindered access to roads and footpaths presented a total chaos stemming largely from the inertia, inefficiency and corruption on the part of those responsible for the city’s maintenance, and that the tax-paying public was being taken for a ride.
Prof Dutta demanded that the MoU signed with the Hyderabad-based Ramki group entrusted with scientific garbage disposal be made public, as the people had a right to know “how a blatant loot of public money was being perpetuated with tacit approval of the Government.”
Prof Dutta said that the Ramki group – supposed to undertake house-to-house collection of municipal solid waste at source and the dispose it scientifically – was making a mockery of its responsibility even though it was charging Rs 54 lakh a month.
“Its service of collection of garbage has been most irregular at best and worse, the garbage is being simply dumped near the Ramsar site wetland Deepor Beel, causing irreparable damage to its eco-system,” he added.
Prof Dutta said that there had been no periodical cleaning of drains – sometimes done at an interval of as much as six months. “The GDD Minister needs to get his act right immediately rather than enacting a farce such as the recent drama of sweeping a public road just for public consumption,” he said.
Prof Dutta said that taking advantage of the lax and corrupt administration, encroachment was attaining unprecedented levels in the city’s roads, streets, footpaths, and the hills, forests and wetlands.
“The authorities themselves are allowing every possible act of vandalism on the city, its infrastructure, and its natural surroundings, to the extent that it is no longer a livable city,” he said.
Prof Dutta also advocated very stringent penalties for citizens who throw garbage into roads and drains. “A large section of the citizens exhibits complete lack of civic sense, and it is only through very harsh penalties that they can be brought to the line,” he said.
Deploring the absence of a reliable mode of public transport in which citizens could afford to travel with dignity, Prof Dutta said that the city bus and trekker operators indulged in violation of every road safety norm, as they had tacit understanding with the police and transport authorities.
“recently it was widely reported how a lower-ranked police officer (ASI) was collecting amounts worth lakhs a month from trekker operators. “This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and explains why such lawlessness persists in the roads of the city as well as across the State,” he said.
Prof Dutta said that encroachment on roads and pavements, and the spurt in unauthorized markets had a direct link with corrupt practices in the GMC. “Regular ‘taxes’ without giving any receipt is collected from the unauthorized vendors in return for unauthorized use of space,” he said.
Prof Dutta also questioned why the Government was not holding the election to the GMC, and why it was trying to reduce the number of wards from 60 to 33 whereas growing population of the city warranted an increased number of wards.