This past week, the price of petrol went up by about four rupees, exceeding Rs.57 a litre. It has been a non-event for the media, since journalists are now comfortable enough to ensure their car-borne mobility even with costly fuel. But what about the walking classes in Tamil Nadu’s capital and elsewhere?
There is not a penny available from the higher prices, to fund more buses, better trains and importantly, create walkable footpaths. If any confirmation were needed on official priorities, the Chennai administration quickly announced millions to repair roads (once again!) because the Northeast monsoon has stripped it of the paper-thin surface. But it is mum on repairing footpaths, which have been in a shambles even before the rains. This reflects the major preoccupation of Tamil Nadu’s scandal-ridden political leadership of both centrist and right-wing Dravidian parties.
For some strange reason, the actual effects of fuel pricing, the number of bus services in operation, their quality, the comfort level of passengers in train stations and so on do not seem to interest the media. Understandably, the Radia tapes and Wikileaks are engaging the attention of the nation as a whole, and the media is at the core of the scandals. Yet, are there no scandals to be revealed in road building, the purchase and junking of buses in record time? The amount spent on roads in Chennai alone runs into hundreds of crores each year, including new road outlays. Where is the money going?
On Sunday morning, I took a walk along some of the designated areas meant for pedestrians in Chennai. Traffic was relatively light, but what is in store for walkers? The pictures in the accompanying slideshow tell the story quite well, I think.