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Earth Day. Heritage Day. So, why not Citizens’ Day?

Updated on: 22 April,2024 07:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Fiona Fernandez |

Our sutradhaars Lady Flora and Sir PM suggest that the city should have a day dedicated to citizens everywhere, so they get a platform to voice their opinions especially given that the elections are right around the corner

Earth Day. Heritage Day. So, why not Citizens’ Day?

Representational Image. Pic/Pixabay

Fiona FernandezLady Flora noticed that her friend, Sir PM, aka Pheroze, was busy reading a note at their adda inside Cooperage Bandstand. She also spotted a stack of envelopes beside him. “Pheroze, what’s up? I can see intent written all over your face,” she smiled, nudging her friend to spill the beans, which was never a problem. Sir PM gladly began his mini monologue, “I assumed you would have heard about it by now. I had installed a suggestion box near my pedestal to help citizens. The idea is to allow them to note down their issues and concerns about the city, and I, in my humble capacity as a former city administrator, will promise to do my best to ensure that these are shared with the powers that be. I know, I know… Such an idea could be fraught with challenges. But I felt what good of my past legacy and [clears throat] standing, if I cannot put it to better use. After reading so much about the endless civic issues across newspapers, especially mid-day, I honestly feel more needs to be done by the babus and netas. This citizen suggestion box is a small step. But a start, nevertheless.”

Lady Flora liked the sound of it. “So that explains this pile. May I read a few, if you don’t mind?” she nudged. Curious was her middle name, after all. “Please go ahead. This has always been on our minds, collectively,” exclaimed Sir PM, burying his head back in the notes. “Listen to this gent’s request. All he wants is to remove the litter that lines railway tracks along our railway lines. He writes about it being a long, continuous eyesore. I see his point. That last trip to the boondocks to meet the honourable Union Minister…where was it? Ah, yes, Kalyan…that was an eye-opener. Others cited problems about endless infrastructure projects that had increased pollution levels, while some were worried about climate change and rising temperature levels. A few were worried about the constant threat to our existing green cover.”

Half-an-hour had passed. Lady Flora was soaking in the insightful letters--some were handwritten while others were neatly typed out. “This lady has lambasted civic authorities for permanently dug-up roads in her locality. Imagine, the poor thing lost her balance and her foot was in a cast for weeks, while another citizen wrote about the lack of footpaths in the city,” she trailed on.

“You know, my Lady, with the upcoming polls, this is a great chance for us, citizens, to be heard loud and clear. I propose that it becomes mandatory to have sessions in every neighbourhood within every ward where citizens get to interact with their candidates. This happens in some places before every election—be it general, state or at the BMC level—but it’s not enough. An all-encompassing effort is important to drive home the point of a better city,” Sir PM suggested. Lady Flora was all ears, and to add momentum to their thoughts, good Dr Viegas, who had returned from a musical evening at the NCPA, joined in the discussion. He gave Sir PM’s idea a double thumbs up. “Pheroze, this is pure genius. And I propose that we call that day, Citizens’ Day. If you read the papers, you will come across World Earth Day—which happens to be today, or World Book Day, so on and so forth. Why not have a day that’s purely dedicated to the cause of the citizens?” Dr Viegas remarked. Lady Flora was delighted, “Bravo Viegas! I can already imagine people signing up to be a part of this collective effort. They must be given the freedom to openly voice their concerns, share their grievances with these candidates, and see for themselves, who will be willing to put their necks on the line to improve their respective constituencies. And yes, depending on who gets voted in, the big A—Accountability—will automatically come into play. That will be Part 2 of this effort to empower the citizens, and insure the city.” Both gents applauded Lady Flora’s utterances.

The trio had wrapped up reading the notes from the suggestion box. “I will prepare a charter based on these issues, and propose the grand plan to have Citizens’ Day in every ward. I am hopeful about their enthusiasm in taking this to its logical conclusion. Delhi’s pollution, Chennai’s flooding and Bengaluru’s water crisis; naturally, I am worried about our city,” Sir PM’s concern was palpable. “Why should it reach that stage? We must learn lessons from those cities and push for quick, effective solutions,” suggested Dr Viegas. “I agree. You should have been in politics,” chuckled Sir PM, adding, “The powers that be—politicians or administrators —must work together, irrespective of which party they belong to.” As always Lady Flora had the closing line:  “This is our time—the citizen’s time to speak up for their city, and for the leaders to listen to us, for once”.

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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