Forget about changing the entire India – How about changing our immediate surroundings??

Every day when I walk from our ‘new’ home to catch a train or a bus, my mind doesn’t stop but notice the little things around it. Be it the walking zones, restricted parking lots, pedestrian walkways on busy roads, free drinking water fountains, sheltered bus stops with a time table, multi-purpose shops, post office, banks, ATMs, parks, primary school, high school, kindergarten, play home, playgrounds, restaurants, cafes, fitness centre, sports complex, dedicated garbage and recycle bins and their respective locations, trees planted, florist garden, town hall, places of worship and a Gemeinde, in simple terms it is a municipality or a corporation office.

Mind you; this is a ‘Dorf‘- German translation for a village and not the central city itself.

This serene village is close to the central city of Zurich. This locality reminds me of my layout, as it is termed in Bangalore.

My locality in Bangalore has almost everything this village has, just that it is more chaotic and that chaos is down to the lack of simple practices being adopted with time. Though there are zones of calmness, you are never away from the disorderliness. Not an intolerable situation; it just requires a degree of attention and sustained maintenance to make the change from the chaotic state. The idea is to reduce the chaos and not eliminate it.

The point that has amazed me ever since I got a taste of Switzerland (since 2009) is its policy of dividing the small country into smaller Cantons (states) and each state into petite zones (Gemeinde). Each Canton has a different set of rules, and four languages are spread out in these 26 Cantons, English being not one of these four languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansch). On a larger scale, India resembles this system.

Depending on the region you come from, the primary language dominates the area. English is slowly making its way into the Swiss culture, though it is not compulsory to know it.

In this little country of approximately 41,000 m2, there are close to 2,500 municipalities. India, too has a similar mechanism. We have Union Government, states, divisions, districts, taluka (Tehsil or Mandal), which is divided into Municipal Corporations, City Municipal Council, Town Municipal Council, City Panchayat or Gram Panchayat.

Any geographical location (with the best of my knowledge) in India can be traced to India’s aforementioned administrative structure.

Having established the basics facts and figures, the critical aspect of development comes in ‘drop management.’ I guess I am coining this term concerning citizens or residents becoming responsible for their nearby surroundings as a means to community development, just like that tiny drop in an ocean. India is nothing but a sea of people, and we are all but a drop.

For starters – How many of us have to compulsorily register in the local ward before living in a particular locality? Do we have such a rule? If yes, I have not seen it being enforced. If not, why don’t we appeal to respective local wards to have such a register, which maintains the record of all the individuals who live in that particular locality?

It is a simple process. Land-lord or a newly constructed apartment builder must have a clause to have a future resident/owner in the local ward office as a part of the process.

It starts with this, and in the longer run, helps many residents in getting their voter ids or having to show their proof of residence and what not. A simple letter of authorisation or a local ID card is good enough. The newly built apartment complexes have such security measures to keep a check on their residents. But such issues are privately managed and lack authenticity as a proof of residence.

This will also eliminate the hassles of running around houses to collect data for the census or enroll for the Aadhar card.

I had not voted when I had the only opportunity back in 2008. Since then, I have never been in my home town during the elections. And like me, there are plenty of silenced ones by not having their names in the Voter’s list.

Such confusion could have been avoided if there were a simple registering process when any new occupant moved into a new place. And when there is a need to shift to another location or a different ward, de-registration is a process through which one can register in another municipality or ward by merely showing the de-registration letter.

Similar registrations must be encouraged for private and other business establishments.

I believe this process will at least streamline the residents * with proper housing. I know there are a lot of private associations that do this work. However, unless the government is involved, even at a local level, the changes and their impact will fade away. Just make it a rule, and enforce it, and soon it becomes a habit.

Let the municipality or a ward collect a small tax from the residents if required, and improvements can be seen within the precinct. It will also be encouraging if provisions are made for individuals to volunteer in their free time in getting few things done for the local area.

Secondly – To sort the parking mess, have zones marked with clear lines to highlight parking. Else collect fines, which can only be used to improve the area. Free parking, dedicated parking, and public parking with a nominal fee can be allotted in each of the areas.

Yes, this means you cannot always get a slot right in front of the place of interest. Well, aren’t we experiencing this already?

Thirdly – Garbage disposal is also an issue to deal with. Somewhere things have to change on this front. Throwing whatever comes into the dustbin will not help the slowly evolving recycling industries in India. There are glass, plastic bottles, cartons, papers, organic waste, and other miscellaneous waste.

Have an acceptable timetable for collecting each of such wastes or provide few stations where resident and commercial establishments can come and dispose of plastic trash, glass wastes, cartons, papers, and organic wastes, respectively. It might not be easy initially, but with such provisions, you can expect cleaner surroundings.

Lastly – Most of the residents have dogs and pets. They must take care of the dump while they are on a stroll. A provision for disposal pet covers can be provided to ensure the pet owner does this cleanup act on public roads. Why would you expect the government to clean for your pet’s mess?

And street dogs – It is the ward’s responsibility to ensure they find a proper shelter. Well, someone has to care, right. It is in the neighbourhood looking for protection.

The point I have mentioned may not be the first time people would have thought this way. Developing India as a whole is impossible, so I won’t even think about it. I would not want to waste time and resources which cannot be entirely monitored unless a larger group is involved across India. Why don’t we take a good look at our surroundings, understand them better and deal with them in the best possible way? Idealistic – Yes, that’s how it looks like, and that is how ideas come to reality.

This is not an instant process but not an impossible task either. With generations getting exposed to global best practices in keeping the surroundings and neighbourhood cleaner, I am confident it is a matter of initiation and acting locally while thinking globally. This way, drop by drop, each ward can take care of itself, and when looked at as a whole, the district, the state, and the country appear better. Just give it a little effort and time; results will be there to be seen.

*Note: There are issues about illegal housing. A process of registration helps new residents to identify houses that are legal vs. Illegal establishments. It is not that citizens are not smart or in-disciplined; what we all lack is awareness.

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