Friday, June 24, 2016

Think Twice..!

It was 7th May, I was at a height of 30000 ft in an airplane, thinking about the “Oxford of the East”. Yes, I was going to stay in Pune for the next two months. A huge nervousness was rolling through my nerves, “how the city will welcome me? How the localities will be? I cannot stay hungry for long and I’m a non-junk food lover, how it would be if I don’t get my desired food. As I have never worked in an office before, I was concerned whether I would be able to deliver all that my mentor would want me to?.....and so on. Three hours passed like a few minutes and my plane landed. I saw my best friend waiting for me in the crowd, and the welcoming part was pretty good with hugs and introduction with her friends. She guided me through the city to her residence. The next day my friends took me out to have a glimpse of the city, and the very first place I was interested in, was “Samuchit Enviro Tech”. From far I could see the signboard on the balcony of a building, reciting the organization’s name. So, it was a first hand experience on how to reach the workplace from the place of stay and back.

Confused and excited, I reached the organization next day where I saw Anu, and three more interns (three more joined after me), and my mentor Dr. Priyadarshini Karve. I looked back at Anu, the only person I was familiar with, and smiled. Karve ma’am, and all the other personnel who hold high knowledge, skill and experience in their respective field, today they make a family of mine in Pune. We were asked to review the report that was prepared by Anu about the smartness of the city of Pune and its sustainability. Other than this, we discussed about the issues that were supposed to be covered during the survey for collection / assembling of data. We used ‘Survey Monkey’ for online filling up of the data collected during the survey, through which one can easily get the summary of the survey online. After 2 days of discussion, on 11th May, all of us, enthused for the survey, met at the office, and went out with four scooties fully loaded with fuel and we all loaded with courage.

So our target was 438 HH (Household) comprising of 263 general HH and 175 slum HH, which is about 1% of the total population of Ghole Road Ward of Pune, a representative of Pune city. We surveyed Ward no. 11, 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36 for about 20 days and five days were spent on uploading the data in survey monkey. Today is my 38th day in the organization and I will be back to my study town Guwahati by next week, so I thought of writing this blog about my experience. Well, a month before I knew nothing about this city, but today I have so much in my mind that I actually felt short of space to narrate all the issues in brief.

Pune is well known for its vibrant civil society and cultural richness. It has also achieved a rich legacy of participation in governance, smart city concept is like a cherry on top of the cake. It has brought transparency and engagement of the ordinary or the bottom up approach in the decision making process more transparent. But I was dazed to know that about a one sixth of the total population, which is about more than half (my survey experience) of the HIGs (High Income Group), doesn’t want to participate in any kind of conversation on the developmental issues. The arguments or excuses that I mostly came across was - “Pune is already smart as you are; we don’t want to provide you any information; we don’t have time for all this crap; we are sleeping come later (but later they never opened the door), where are you from, you have come so far to do this job?…..etc”. Such responses were mostly from the HIGs and very little from the MIGs. More shocking was an incident which happened to a friend of mine, who had carried out a survey in a HIG residence. One lady requested my friend to come next day to collect the form (the questionnaire that was supposed to be filled up on the spot), as she was very busy with other work. My friend went the next day to collect it along with me and another friend of ours. We rang the bell, the lady opened the door, but her creepy expression scared us. As we all three intended to enter the house, she stopped the two of us and allowed one to enter the room. We were at a loss to see her behavior and were standing outside, clueless about what was happening inside. About 20 minutes later, my friend came out red faced with tears rolling down. Yes, she was harassed. She was harassed by that lady for asking “insight” and “too personal” questions “like how many LPG cylinders you use in a month, how many cars you have, what is your monthly electricity consumption in units etc. etc”. My friend tried to cool her down by narrating that it was not mandatory for one to fill up every answer in finest correctness,but only approximated or average figure would suffice the purpose. Also, she explained the relevance of such data in the context of the project. But the lady kept on abusing her even by lowering her character. Our survey and its analysis are a part of a bigger project which aims to “develop a roadmap for establishing sustainability for Pune on a low carbon emission and social equity path”. This master plan would definitely need such questions to be answered to get the per capita carbon emission. 

However, this incident reminded me that - like developed countries refusing to take any responsibility for global climate change, these irresponsible groups of HIGs also do not want to participate in the carbon emission control program in our country. On the other hand the LIGs and the people staying in slums cooperated to the fullest. Many of them never enjoyed luxury holidays, never shopped good clothes in shopping malls and never had food in prestigious restaurants and also the problems in the city never bothered them. But they honored and respected the city of Pune - saying it is the greatest of all. But after our presentation of the problems of carbon emission etc. to them, they kept their heart out before us. Some of them had the knowledge of drought conditions in the city and insisted not to supply water 24x7 in their area but to help those who do not get a drop of water to drink or bath and have to buy it. Some of the scenior citizens also suggested to reduce the height of the foothpaths as it is difficult for them to climb and some wanted to know the goverment schemes in details so that they can claim for their right. It seemed they truly want to be a part of the developmental process of the city. Truly said, only education and money can’t make one as humble and big hearted as a poor, who has little knowledge and very little for a living, but has huge to give to the society.

However, the final analysis is yet to be done and the results would definitely concentrate more on the problems of Carbon Emission, the manner in which these can be brought down to an acceptable limit by justified minimum utilization of carbon fuel like petrol, kerosene, etc. and maximum on non carbon fuel like solar power, bio gas, etc. But the purpose of the survey of involving the citizens in the decision making was rejected by a percentage of HIG citizens themselves. And these are the citizens who at liberty to criticize the government tomorrow for not doing enough to control environmental or sanitation degradation or maybe that they are not at all bothered about the future requirements of the society.

So, in this way I/we knew Pune and its people. The credit for this achievement purely goes to the members of the “Samuchit Enviro Tech”, Pune. All our team mates also helped each other to reach the goal set forth. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. My special thanks goes to the kind hearted Mentor Madam Dr. Priyadarshini Karve, who effectively helped and guided us to remain enthused and we learned and solved critical issues cropped up during project execution. I also thank Miss Anu, for her tireless job to solve issues that we were unacquainted of and got first hand experience on field work. My gratitude goes to all these beloved people. And lastly, it would not be out of place to mention that I loved the city of Pune, despite the unscheduled PMPML busses, by which I traveled and criticised every day.

Geetanjali Purkayastha
Student of Ecology Environment and Sustainable development,
Tats Institute for Social Sciences, Guwahati

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