Note – This is a developing story. Updates (with pictures) will be added every 1-2 days.
This is a story you’ve heard before – a common citizen struggling to get basic work done by the government/civic bodies. The hope is that it will have an happy ending. Like the note above says, this is still developing, however it is time that everyone reads about it.
Let me clarify first up – this is a first-person account and I have been involved in every stage of this story.
The Early Days
The area I live in Kothrud, Pune, was once surrounded by guava orchards and not many people lived here. There was a boom post 2000 and the guava orchards gave way to high rises and a large human population.
PMPML buses used to ply to this area for many years, however there were no bus stops installed. In 2004-5 (I think), the local corporator finally decided to take it upon himself to install bus stops in the area. He did so, but without any practical planning. He installed these bus stops at spots where the buses didn’t stop (ironic, much?). Obviously, the people continued to use the buses from their usual spot, ignoring the new bus stop.
This particular bus stop was right outside my house.
As Time Went By…
The bus stop had a nice paint job, a good roof to protect one from the elements and nice metal seating to rest while waiting for one’s bus. How unfortunate that no passengers were using it. What do you think happened then?
Year 1 – The chairs were moved to the road, next to the auto stand. At least the auto drivers could rest.
Year 2-3 – It was a great smoking spot during rains or extreme heat. Also, some loud conversations in the night.
Year 4-6 – The tiles broke. Chai + cigarettes were the primary residents under the roof.
Year 7-10 – Graffiti appeared on the stop with expletives. Also turns out it was the perfect place to celebrate birthdays at midnight and just leave the trash right there.
Year 11 – till date – The space behind the bus stop converted into a garbage dump. Beer joined chai + cigarettes. After beer, people would just walk to the side of the bus stop to relieve themselves. This has really become into a public (nuisance) space!
Here Comes the Common Man
I had arguments with many people over not smoking, drinking or peeing near the bus stop. It only resulted in me losing my cool. By early 2017, Digital India had taken off and one could raise complaints with PMPML on their website. I did so in April 2017, however, the complaint was “resolved” within a few days with the following explanation – ‘The bus stop was installed by the local corporator so PMPML has no jurisdiction over it. PMPML will not take any action on it’.
My next option was to reach out to PMC as the local corporator from 2004-5 was no longer the elected representative. Do note that the current elected representative is not active on social media so I did not reach out to him.
My first complaint with PMC was closed and I was asked to contact PMPML again. Since I had already taken that route, I followed up by talking to a few people in the local ward office, but received no help. Then, in July 2017, I tweeted at PMC stating the problem accompanied by a photograph.
Several replies and reminders were sent, however, PMC refused to respond to any of my tweets (till date).
Give up? Or is there still hope?
I almost gave up. It bothered me every day; it bothered me that I was so helpless. I could not possibly stand there all day long to ask people not to pee or drink or smoke or trash that place.
Should I meet the ward officer? Should I meet the local corporator? Would they help or just aggravate me further?
On August 15, I couldn’t believe myself when I overheard my father speaking about the bus stop with three girls. I walked over to the bus stop to speak to the girls and what they said was music to my ears. They were architecture students and were working on a project to convert an abandoned public space into a usable public space. They had chosen this bus stop. Yesssssss!
It’s quite simple- the girls (they are a team of 20) will work out the design. I will help them with whatever they need to make it successful. Here’s what they’ve planned –
- Clean up the bus stop
- A former Corporator will help remove the garbage stacked behind it
- Repaint/replace the back panels
- Re-tile the floor
- Build a vertical garden behind and on the sides of the bus stop
- Install lights on both sides
- Add some kind of utility for residents to use the space effectively (your suggestions are welcome here!)
The plan will be executed in the next 10 days.
This blog post will be updated with daily photographs and updates. If you have any suggestions or comments, you can mention them here or contact me here.