Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Phataka Stalls, Ctizens & Rulers of the City!






“Some legislators only wish to vengeance against a particular enemy. Others only look out for themselves. They devote very little time on the consideration of any public issue. They think that no harm will come from their neglect. They act as if it is always the business of somebody else to look after this or that. When this selfish notion is entertained by all, the commonwealth slowly begins to decay. ”… Thucydides

Thucydides was an Athenian historian and general. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC. And what he wrote about rulers which is our elected members or self declared leaders that too some two thousand five hundred years back, it stands true even today, especially when it’s our dear Pune city! Now with the title like “Phataka Stalls & Pune City Rulers”, one must be wondering what the link in between these two & with the quote? 

Well, let’s start with phataka i.e. fire cracker stalls; we all have exciting memories from our childhood of burning firecrackers & it was fun to go to the phataka stalls with holding hand of our Dad & try to get as many varieties of fire crackers in the limited budget we had. Those were days of not the fancy fire crackers but standard few items were always on the list of all kids; atom bomb then small crackers called as lavangi, rockets, anar i.e. tree of fire, then there uses to be snake pills which when burnt used to emit black dirty smoke & a snake of tar; then there was floor fire wheel i.e. bhui chakra, that’s all! Not alike today’s fancy fire work which goes high up in sky & cover the entire surrounding with smoke & sound & burns a big hole in the pocket too! Also the volumes were less & most importantly we used to burn crackers only in Diwali not like on today’s any time any day & any event! The phataka stalls were limited & were at few places & it’s these stalls which are in news recently. 

Since last few years phataka stalls like Ganpati Idols stalls & Rakhi stalls are mushroomed all over the city but then Ganpati & Rakhi don’t cause fire nor needs any safety measure which are a must for phataka stalls. One such spot is our beloved PMC has been giving permission to phataks stalls which eventually has become a market in itself along the river side road, where I also live at one end of the very same road. First it’s just temporary arrangement as Sanas Ground near Saras Baug where earlier phataka market was used to be but Hon. High Court directed PMC not to use play ground for phataka stalls as ground gets damaged. So some brain in PMC came out with option on then newly made DP road which eventually became the major link between city & fast developing suburbs like Sinhagad road & Karvenagar. Also the area along this DP road got developed & no more the peaceful, traffic-less DP road which starts from Mhatre bridge remained that peaceful & the phataka stalls become a nightmare for the traffic as well residents along this road. But by then like man eater tiger gets used to human blood, the PMC has got used to the revenues coming out of the auction of these phataka stalls & needelss to say as any deal in PMC there was lot more in these auctions than that looks on surface. So in spite the increasing pressure from residents as well commuters using this DP road for not allowing the phataka stalls along this road yet PMC continued to allow the stalls here every year, making mess of the traffic for nearly fifteen days & even putting safety of the entire locality at risk!  There are lot more issues as the road is extremely busy at evening hours, the phataka stalls & their goods vehicles adds in the chaos of the traffic is one aspect. Already along this road there are number of illegal marriage lawns & restaurants in the so called green belt, their parking is all along the same road only. Then the testing of these fire crackers is big disturbance to the surrounding which includes even Mangeshkar Hospital too. Also some fifty odd stalls are there & approximately three hundred staffers working at these stalls which are mostly class-four poor people, lives at these stalls for twenty days. These people perform their daily rituals like bathing, eating & other things on the footpath itself making the scene very embarrassing especially the women on morning walk! In addition these people makes lewd comments to the women on morning walk on the road which is a normal routine for neighboring citizens. And then for name sake there is a fire fighting truck at one end of the road but if something goes wrong then in no time the entire market will be burn to the ashes such is mess in peak hours, so a safety is a big hazard which no one cares. Joke is right from fire dept to traffic police every concerned dept has said “No”, for this location for the phataka stalls yet year after year the phataka stalls get auctioned & gets this location.

This year finally some sensible officer in PMC rejected the permission for phataka stalls along this road & gave alternate location for the stall owners in some distant suburb. But that is what irked our legislators i.e. elected members of PMC as well so called leaders of the society! As how some PMC administration officer of which these elected members considered themselves rulers, on its own can decide what’s good for the citizens & reject the permission to the phataka stalls! Had not the Punekars have elected these rulers because they understand what is good & what is bad for citizens of Pune? Where will now the poor citizens go to buy fire crackers as when the city doesn’t have good public transport? Why to burden the Punekars with extra fuel cost just to buy fire crackers? How the administration has neglected this aspect that the phataka stalls on DP road was a great convenience to the entire city; what if it is illegal to have stalls on road & causes some traffic disturbance to some million commuters? Are they not everyday suffering from traffic congestion & pollution so what it matters if some more delay in traffic happens, why to shout so much for it? And then the residents around the DP road, they are just one ward & not entire city! Alredy there always is sound & air pollution along with traffic problem on DP road due to few other respectable citizens who earn some little money by the marriage lawns as well restaurants in the green belt, is it big crime? So immediately all political party leaders came together & summoned PMC administration for giving permission the poor phataka stall owners to have their stalls on the DP road only & it’s not for the benefit of the phataka merchants but for the citizens is what every ruler insisted & I believe them as I believe in the people whom the city has elected!

Yet the media which always sees wrong side of any decision printed all this in news papers (read this as sarcastic) & somehow the administration of PMC remained firm for not re-granting the permission of phataka stalls along DP road, at-least till now!  But this entire episode is an eye opener, as it showed us real care takers of the citizens! If these rulers of ours think so much for the citizens’ comfort then why can’t they get down on street for many things which citizens are suffering daily? For e.g. in last many years no new bus for PMT has been purchased & the bus stops are nonexistent or in such a bad shape that commuters pray to god for their own safety while standing at these bus stops; but I have never read in news that any of our rulers has made any protest against PMT's service or helped PMT administration to improve its service! The city is having major problem with mosquitoes, stray dogs & pigs but never had I heard that our leaders have joined the citizens & protested if not acting against such problem which is a big nuisance for any person walking on streets! And the main reason for the stray dogs, pigs as well mosquitoes is heaps of garbage in open but seems no ruler of this city sees any garbage around or else they would have surely raised their voice for the same! There are no enough public toilets for men or women in the city & the public toilets which have been built are in such state that even the pigs will run away from them. But for our rulers this isn’t any discomfort for the citizens or else they would have took effort to maintain these toilets & pressurized the administration to build new public toilets. Barring  few elected members none have come forward to the concept of adopting a public toilet in the city in their wards, so I am sure public toilet is not a major issue for the city as our rulers themselves doesn’t think so!

On one side percentage of Carbon Di-Oxide in air is all time high & yet citizens’ thinks enjoyment is in burning more fire crackers! Are we Punekars so dumb that our children have to appeal us, “No Fire Crackers This Diwali”? In my dreams also I won’t expect such logical action from the so called leaders of this city, who instead of taking efforts for executing essential projects like public transport, are busy in fighting over what should be name of the company making the Metro! The list of problems citizens of our Pune city has to face every day is unending. Rather now the citizens have got used to the problem as we believe that our rulers cares a lot more for us than we think & trust that they are capable to take solve every problem related to our comforts! That’s why they want us to be happy & celebrate the Diwali with lots of fire crackers as with our rulers we won’t be having any discomfort! To all the doubting souls about intentions of our rulers, don’t worry for any sound & air pollution as already we inhale enough carbon di-oxide from the millions of private vehicles exhausts as well our ears are used to sounds from vehicles horns to drums & Dolby system speaker walls used in processions every day! So some more smoke & bang bang isn’t going to make any difference, is the message our rulers wants to give us! 

I think what better Diwali Wishes we could have got from our rulers, we should consider as luckiest city to have such people in whose hands our lives we have put in! What the great Thucydides has said about selfishness of rulers & its outcome is history & today’s mantra is create your own history; so be happy Punekars, someday you all will become history only! 

--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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