“Anna” “Anna” yelled the kids by the wayside. They were waving frantically and get somebody to who could drop them near their school. 9 times out of 10 I would have sped away, ignoring them, lost in my own world. Today I decided to stop. As soon as I moved to the side of the road, 5 kids ran toward me and started climbing all over the bike. I found out first hand that it was impossible to take five kids on a two wheeler. I told them that I could not take all of them with me and could only take a couple of them with me. The Kids got into a small discussion. I waited patiently beside them, and the eldest came out and said “Anna, take everybody or you can go alone”. I was not going to take the risk and took off alone. But so many others do oblige. The drive becomes a balancing act, and a safety hazard for the kids as well.
What Has Changed
Five years ago, the words Perungudi, Karapakkam and Metukuppam would not be familiar to many people to the people living in the City of Chennai. Today you need to be a multi millionaire to own a house in any of these areas. The IT Companies that have sprung up in these Special Economic Zones ushered in the change. The old broken road has been replaced by a 6 lane highway, numerous high rise apartments and office complexes have lined up. Many small hotels, shops have shut shop and have been replaced by fancy restaurants and shopping malls. When everybody was awe struck by the rate of development, not many thought about the people who were forced to give way for development projects. According to P.Sainath journalist and author of “Everybody loves a good Drought” at least 24 million Indians are forced to give up their habitat to make way for Infrastructure. The Kids who ask fro lifts to the schools are some of them, forced out of their homes they have adapted to settlements further down the roads. While the joyride to the office on the 6 lane highway lasts 15 minutes. Life is not sop easy for many. It is a 20 minute walk to the bus stop and then a struggle to get into the packed buses and share autos.
The frequency of buses is too little and this causes a stampede when the buses roll in to the stops. When the IT professionals complained about the lack of buses on the IT highway the government complied. Now there are A/C Buses plying between the ends of the highway every 15 minutes. The ticket fare is almost 5 times the normal bus fare and the IT Brigade hops on indifferently. The school kids are left to fight it out with the college students, daily laborers and a few others who think that the new luxury is unwarranted for. The government did fulfill its promise of introducing a new fleet with new routes, but what is the use if still there are many who cannot even get onto a bus?
Share Auto is another common medium of transport. Even the IT brigade believes that Share Auto’s are expensive and complain that the drivers are very rude. I have heard a colleague complain about a driver who said “You are earning right, then what is your problem in paying extra?” When I asked her what she did about it, she said“Who can argue with these people so I paid him extra!” Yes we do not complain, we pay because we can afford it. The Kids don’t, so they don’t get a ride in the share auto’s.
It is a pity to see many struggle for the minimum necessaties when there are so many who indulge in unwarranted luxuries.