Games you can play (when poor civic services annoy you)

Here’s a quiz : What does a lamppost remind you of ?
Light ?
Nah, try again….
Got it – a dog raising its leg against the base?
Yup, that’s it. But what has Bengaluru to do with lampposts?
Look for yourself – along many roads, at the base of each lamppost, lies a heap of rubble or trash, shored up in a cone shape. I counted seven along just one  stretch of some 200 metres (down 27th Cross, leading from the Jayanagar shopping complex towards Kanakapura Road).

Bricks, chunks of concrete, mud scraped up from the roadside, assorted rubbish swept up by the pourakarmika and put atop the heap like icing on a cake (except that icing and this rubbish heap are as different as politics and ethics). And of course, every passing  dog, stray or pet, does its  bit to  add liquid to the heap to ensure that the pile looks and smells more messy.

Till last month I used to get all het up and angry, and mumble to myself about poor civic services, or even dash off letters to various officials in the BBMP, but now, after a three-week long bout of illness, I have decided that getting worked up only makes one ill. It is better – and more fun – to turn it into a game.

So let’s play. This time with lampposts rooted in heaped muck.

Who leaves these heaps? At least some of the time, it is citizens who are re-modelling their shop interiors, demolishing a compound wall or  building  an extension. The workers scoop up the rubble generated and throw it at the base of the nearest lamppost. But part of the time, surely, it is  BBMP (or other service provider) that leaves rubble lying around too. It is impossible to stand vigil through the day or night to identify and catch the culprit. Most such heaps materialise overnight, and stay put for weeks, or months, till another squad comes round to demolish the lamppost itself in the name of road widening, or a heavy downpour washes part of it into the storm water drain. With predictable results…

This will not do, we as responsible citizens, should do something. Like what?

I took pictures, and wrote to the BBMP Commissioner informing him that I had a photo to back up my comments. A photograph can be used as ‘evidence’ during a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act. The commissioner (who had only recently taken charge) decided he had more important things to tackle than rubbish heaps left along the pavement. So now it’s time to play games.

How about a treasure hunt? Put up posters along the road (pasted on to those same lampposts) saying that a new jewellery store  opening  shortly in the area, has hidden a 10 g gold chain  in a small box under one of the heaps, and finders keepers?

Not good enough – people will guess that it is a hoax because the name of the store is not mentioned (and whoever gives away gold chains without reaping something in return by way of publicity?). How about this – “find the hidden box and you will have an address inside to go to, to claim your free gold chain.”

That’s it – in no time you will have people flattening the rubble heap at the base of every lamppost, to locate the treasure. Still not good enough – when no box is found, they will get angry, but also, the rubbish will now be  strewn all over, instead of being just heaped under each lamppost, so we will be worse off at the end of the exercise.

Gandhigiri, perhaps ? Each resident picking up a basketful of the rubbish, and placing it at the door of the BBMP headquarters, with a fresh rose atop each pile.

Sounds good – but BBMP might prosecute residents who bring rubbish baskets, and impose fines. Littering, you see, is an offence under the law, with fines of Rs 500 for offenders. Whether the law applies also to BBMP employees who leave rubble and litter around, I am not sure. There may be some fine print, exempting them.

I haven’t come up with something better, but in the meantime I have managed to divert my anger and indignation, at least for those few minutes.

See what I mean? Any other ideas, add your comments!

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About Sakuntala Narasimhan 73 Articles
Sakuntala Narasimhan is a Jayanagar based writer, musician and consumer activist.