Of late, our State Government has been coming up with rules and regulations that can only be termed draconian and extremely regressive, when it comes to public spaces. In the past 24 months, the only answer to certain incidents that have taken place has been to shut off all access to the locations where these happened. Thereafter, no corrective action of any kind is taken, thereby showing that what can at best be a temporary measure becomes permanent and as a consequence making the innocents suffer while those who caused the original incidents are left to go scot free. We allude to the shutting off of the Marina for all congregations, the blanket ban on all trekking in Tamil Nadu forests, and the fire in the Pudu Mandapam at the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai.
It is now almost 15 months since the flash agitation for Jallikattu took place on the Marina. As to why that protest happened and who exactly were backing it remains a mystery even now. But what people have had to live with since then are restrictions of access as far as the beach is concerned. This has, of late, become even more severe, what with the State Government having fears that those demanding Cauvery water could well congregate here. As a result, two-wheelers can no longer park along the beach and the public is not allowed on the promenade.
In a parallel to this is the instance of the forest fire at Theni, which, sadly consumed the lives of several trekkers. The Government has since imposed a blanket ban on all trekking activities. Yet another incident, which echoes these, is the fire at the Pudu Mandapam in Madurai. Following this there have been calls to remove all shops from all HR&CE temples in order to prevent such incidents. Can wholesale eviction be a solution? Shops and rental incomes from these have been an integral part of temples for decades now.
All these incidents point to the failure of agencies run by the Government. A public space is meant for the public to congregate and, if necessary, express their opinion. Even Freedom Struggle meetings have happened at the Beach. It is a Government’s duty to address such issues and ensure that the protesting public disperses peacefully.
Similarly, in the case of the Theni fire, the trekkers did buy entry tickets and go into the forest. And so permission of a kind had been taken. As to what fire warning systems there are in place, is the question to be answered. World over, there are designated trekking areas in wooded districts. These have safety warnings, places to take shelter in, in the event of disasters, and methods to track those who are trapped. It is doubtful if any of these protective measures were in place at Theni. Now, instead of ensuring these are implemented, the Government has chosen to shut off all access to trekking. What purpose does this serve? The forests will only become dens of anti-social activities with perhaps worse disasters to follow.
As for the Meenakshi Amman Temple, the public has for long noticed what was invisible thus far to our fire and safety authorities – dumping of plastics, drawing of wires all across the place and usage of lighting and power of wattage that was far beyond what was permitted. The precinct was inviting a fire and when it happens, there are calls for evicting all shops from not only this temple but from every other historic shrine. Is it even feasible to implement?
What is needed now is regulation, for which the laws exist but are sadly not implemented. Blanket bans can only make matters worse.
Well said. These are typical knee jerk reactions which assuage the media and the public with the attention span of a nano second that something is being done.
But I believe blaming the government is sub optimal. Sure, they are purely applying a Band Aid. The government (and politicians) are however a perfect reflection of public opinion. There is little appetite in public opinion for a considered, long lasting, sustainable solution. There is only the instant gratification requirement that something is being done. Hence all these moves.
A second corollary is the breakdown of abiding by the law, well illustrated in the Meenakshi Temple case. Yes, the authorities must have stamped out dumping of plastics or the “avarai pandal” of electrical wires. But then if 99% of the population resorts to it ( any our streets is witness to this) , authorities are powerless. There is a crying need to stem the utter lawlessness in our society – only we can wake up to doing it.
Love your blog.
The temple point is not correct. You, the one, who speak volumes about protection of heritage sites, how can you advocate permitting of shops within temple precincts?
The logic is simple – only if a human is alive will there be problems of health or other manmade issues. No such problems if the human is dead or in suspended animation like coma. So keep the humans dead or in coma and it is easy when you have the power. Same with Marina protests or Trekking or usage of temple premises. The only exemptions being Tamilnadu could be movies in cinema houses, sarakku at Tasmac outlets or corruption money flows, for these can never be stopped or suspended. These humans are strange anyway – they do not even know what to protest for, why and how.
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