Lovely’s Lane: Alok Rai

Guest post by ALOK RAI

It was bound to come sooner or later. The wonder – the absolute, outrageous, impudent surprise of it all is that it has come so soon. The Games have barely limped to their pathetic conclusion – and those of us who are waiting for the post-Games reckoning are waiting but impatiently, inadequately consoled by the sound of the sharpening of the knives, the braiding of the hangman’s rope – or, most likely, the Japanese water torture of the promised Shunglu probe. And in the midst of this unfolding fiasco, this still-running disaster, the lovely Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely, Delhi’s Transport Minister, has made the suggestion that the insult of the Games lane, the closing off to the public of a significant part of the road which has been made with public money, be made permanent. This – as we were told in full-page ads paid for by us – was done with threats of  a hefty fine or, worse, far worse, being exposed to the courtesies of a Delhi cop. The ineffable experience of crawling along patiently (but proudly, always proudly!) while sundry others flashing CWG insignia whizzed past in the CWG lane – an experience that so many of us chose to miss, could now become a permanent feature of the metro experience. I can’t wait!

Tourism exhibits in CWG village
Tourism exhibits in CWG village

 

To be fair, one can understand the temptation. After all, the city has been beautified – after a fashion. If one half-closes one’s eyes, and moves fast in a chauffeured, curtained limousine in carefully selected areas, one can almost pretend that one is in a European city. All the marks of the Indian city – the indigent and the unwashed, the daily wage earners and the hand-cart traders, have been driven away, banished, erased. Even mere citizens have been frightened off the streets – Dadwal and Garg and others with similarly euphonious names have convinced the bulk of Delhi’s citizens that if they the citizens – we the people, so to speak – are not appropriately frightened of terrorism, then they are liable to fall under suspicion of being terrorists themselves. The message in either case is the same – stay at home. And they are – those that have stayed in Delhi, that is. Countless others have gone away, sometimes electively, but in the case of thousands of vendors and hawkers, they have been told – yes, by the police, I don’t know if there are any written orders, but I know that these vendors and hawkers don’t routinely take two week autumn breaks – told to absent themselves from the City for the duration of the Games. So. And the absence of written orders only makes it worse, not better.

Now, if only this could be made permanent…

Welcome to the Lovely City. I had occasion to see the sort of thing that Mr Lovely has in mind. Moscow’s traffic jams are famous. At a time when cities vie with each other for the dubious primacy of being the most congested and chaotic – Mexico City, Bangkok… – Moscow is right up there near the top. But the parasites who travel in the curtained limos need have nothing to do with the stranded folk patiently inhaling exhaust fumes in the barely-moving ordinary lanes – because of course, and this must be another ironic distinction for the once-socialist republic, in Moscow there is a VIP lane that one enters only at one’s peril. I have seen harassed citizens – possibly trying to keep an appointment, get to hospital, or whatever – being rudely shoved aside by the kind of gun-toting louts one sees hanging around our parasites, too. And indeed been rudely thrust aside too. But now Mr Lovely wants the privilege of being able to do so with the blessing of the law itself. So that the crooks and knaves with fluttering flags and flashing beacons can get faster from nowhere to nowhere.

I have a very simple solution for the security problem that will be brought forward as an argument for claiming the privilege. Create a state-of-the-art maximum-security seven-star facility in some distant, sylvan location – all marble and granite and gilt, done up to the nines in the Mall Chic to which the ruling elite so transparently aspires – and keep the worthies there. That way they’ll be safe – and we’ll be safe from them. Safe from them and their louts. In these days of high-speed digital communications, with bits traveling along optical fibres at the speed of light, surely we don’t need all those VIP atoms rushing about in wheeled metal traps – in constant danger, alas, of themselves being rendered into bits, albeit of a more primitive kind? I fear, however, that my well-meaning suggestion will remain unheard, and Mr Lovely will persist with his outrageous suggestion of making the CWG lane a permanent feature. High-sounding reasons will be advanced – he mumbles about public transport, ambulances, etc, but one would have to be terminally stupid not to see what the point of the permanent reserved lane would be: it would be reserved for Mr Lovely and others like him, the flags and beacons, the guns and the goons. Parasites only.

In that eventuality may I, in the land of Gandhi – I mean the bald one – recommend that the citizens of Delhi, who have put up with the humiliation and the outrage of the CWG 2010 in the hope that it would be temporary – normal, chaotic life would resume, livelihoods get restored – mount a serious campaign of civil disobedience? Reclaim the city that was once ours – or so we believed – until it was hijacked by Lovely & Co.?

6 thoughts on “Lovely’s Lane: Alok Rai”

  1. CWG was an eye-opener, to me at least. We saw the power of a ‘demon-crack-it!’ State in its shameless nakedness. I am left with no doubts whatsoever that if something is not done to tame the State’s unbridled nature in time, it has got all that it takes to fashion a Fascist monster. Time travel shall no longer remain a utopian idea. We shall soon find Fuhrer’s lording over us, ‘in the national interest’, they would say. Alok’s call for “a serious campaign of civil disobedience” brings skeptical thoughts in my mind. Is it possible, if at all, to mount such a campaign of dimensions the fabled Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement commanded, especially in times such as these when the society is confused in its fracturedness like never before?Despite having in possession modern means of communication, of getting in touch, we saw the formation of no such campaign during recent hullaballoo over price hike that too despite the fact that aam janta had been hit at where it hurts most. The ‘opposition’ proved to be a Knight in shining armour made of card-board. I think everybody living in the city should now seriously begin thinking as to how a successful resistance could be formed against a belagaam State. Let me tell you, the State is a headless-monster-without-a-heart, a machine whose embedded algorithms have gone berserk, which have taken over the intended logic altogether. People whom we see as our representatives in the Parliament or public servants in the State machine-ry, do they really remain so once they become the nuts-and-bolts of this machine? In these post-political times, when the logic of the market determines our lives in who-knows-how-many-ways, i wonder whether people who are in the business of thinking things for us, the academics and so-called public intellectuals, are really serious about what they say, or are their exhortations just rhetorical gestures towards a neverland? The need is to devise a strategy at the ground level, to begin thinking about the logistics of such a ‘campaign’!. Lets begin mulling over possibilities of ‘Resistance’ and kick the ‘post’ out of the Political!

    PS: Interestingly, it seems that the proposed civil disobedience ‘campaign’ is being called on behalf of the many nouveau rich or moneyed class, who have not yet been able to get themselves be counted among the political/elites of Delhi, who shall soon have to haggle with autos and Blue-lines for space on the road. Also, many people who thought they could sneak into the coveted elite circles have been shown their actual place. I won’t be surprised if instead of disobeying the law in a civil manner these people should soon begin fighting each other outside the VIP pass counters flashing their DO letters.

  2. Just lovely, lovely, lovely,if it happens. Of course the bureaucrats will justify the need and the lawmakers will enact the laws and the judiciary would ratify- because it would benefit all the stake holders.And the fourth estate can be taken care of by extending special privileges. Of course it can be done. And they shall do it keeping in mind the greater good of the country and population. Because if the leaders and rulers are not amply protected then how will the country protect itself. For their greater good the masses surely can live with a bit of inconvenience.
    For a certain rich class of people it is suggested that one portion of the road can be made into a toll road, which would also increase the tax collections so that it can be spent on the poor people .

  3. Very well said. I thought our priorities were pretty well highlighted when, on the day the police announced the Rs 2000 fine for CWG violations, they also advised us they would start enforcing the Rs. 100 fine for not giving way to an ambulance…after an appropriate education campaign. Wow! 100 bucks for getting in the way of a potentially dying person…2,000 for slowing down an international athlete or VIP. Lovely’s lovely plan has nothing to do with ambulances–any one can see that! I think your action proposal is brilliant… and while we are at it, let’s close the BRT bus lanes and cycle lanes to the VIP’s–red lights or no–who seem to feel it is there right to drive just about anywhere they like.

  4. Rightly raised matter, Mr Rai.
    For a steep fee even during the CWG games, passes were being sold to car owners who could afford to pay–and those ‘diplomatic’ enough to get them could enter and zip away in the safety of the CWG lane.
    True, Mr Lovely’s not so lovely plan, is surely not for the ambulances, but it is for those amongst the elite who may want to escape sharing the road with the “unwashed”. And so we move from different modes of transport to different lanes all based on the principle of who can pay more or has more water to be washed and perfumed more. We already have the DND road, which is only for those who can pay. Now we have headed straight to a situation where our public roads, which is still one collective place, is being segregated lane by lane to those who cannot pay, can pay, can pay more than others. A neat regime of class-apartheid hey? Mr Lovely, Mrs Sheila Dikshit , Mr Manmohan Singh you have done it.
    Well, they would have , if we don’t speak up now and fast.

  5. This is an age old tradition of providing previlege to the previleged by the power that be. If you are out of the circle its for your view.

  6. Reserve a lane, by all means, I say. Let the buses, ambulances and fire brigades use them. Oh wait- that was (almost) the BRT.

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