Vijay Phanshikar :
What one finds as the most striking feature of Nagpur while loose-footing around is the historicity the city is steeped in. At every nook and corner, one sees evidence of history that actually shaped Maharashtra’s Second Capital. One’s heart fills with reasonable pride that the city has seen many critical moments that decided the future of larger India – like the fall of the Bhonslas to the British, one of the last royal dynasties that gave up fighting the aliens …! But what strikes most is the previous capital-status the city enjoyed under the Central Provinces and Berar State before the formation of two States of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
That is the reason why the city is complete with all structures and infrastructures that a capital needs – Legislature Complex, Administrative Buildings, High Court, Central entities such as All India Radio, the Reserve Bank, the General Post Office, University edifices, Secretariat buildings, the garrison famously called Sitabuldi Fort, excellently laid-out parks and gardens, wonderfully designed lakes and water bodies that together constitute the city’s romance with water as a precious resource, wonderfully laid-out city areas, various ancient temples, tombs, places of worship with great history …! That is also a reason for many people feeling tempted to start demanding capital status to the city – either as the capital of Vidarbha State, or possibly the capital of India (far away from any enemy’s strike range). To the true Nagpurians who have grown up here, the loss of capital- status is always hurting.
The city is perhaps the only one in the world – or at least in India – that has lost its capital-status. If that does not hurt, then nothing else can! But what hurts most is the manner in which the city’s civic authorities have messed up its management, only compounding the sense of loss -- Okay, we reconciled to loss of capital-status. Okay, we also reconciled to the loss of much of its greenery. Okay, we also reconciled to conversion of its signature river – the Nag – into a massive gutter. (Actually we should have rebelled against that long, long back, though!) This can be a long list – which we must curtail for want of enough space. … But what we now see is an overall decline in the standard of civic management – sunken levels of sanitation and hygiene, a near-total absence of attention to correcting the fault-lines in handling of city’s affairs, badly handled projects of massive dimensions consuming a lot of money without commensurate returns …!
This sense of loss has sickening dimensions -- for it adds to the loss of the city’s capital-status. Let us not make hard and harsh judgement, of course, because the city’s civic leaders are our own people all right. Yet, when the city suffers from bad civic management for decades on end and in increasing proportions, it is not difficult to get slightly acidic in criticism. ‘Footloose in Nagpur’ is not just a newspaper column, per se!; it is expression of a wanderlust of a person who is lustily in love with the city of Nagpur. And that is where the difference is made – with a high emotional quotient playing its dominant role in looking at things – constant and changing – in the city. When one is emotionally engaged with a city, when one cannot understand why the civic leadership is so careless about its stated mandate, one gets upset. And that leads to acerbic criticism. The purpose is not just to criticise for the heck of it.
The purpose is also not to take political sides. The purpose is to express a sense of defeat that we live in a city that has not remained in good hands for too long a time. And this criticism is not of persons in positions of power; it is of the tendency that shows up in them. No matter all that, stated in other words, this is only expression of emotion of the inveterate loosefooter! n