GUWAHATI, Dec 9 � It�s a shame for Guwahati, the only city of the North-east and which is set to host the last leg of the ASEAN car rally barely a week hence.
Some 90 per cent of the city�s streetlights � be it on the city�s major roads such as the GS Road or the RG Baruah Road, or the innumerable subways and lanes and by-lanes � are not functioning for years.
Commuters in this so-called gateway to the North-east, and which the Government projects as a future hub of South East Asia, have to literally grope in the dark after dusk, as the city roads and lanes plunge into pitch darkness with no streetlights beaming.
The gloomy situation has a direct bearing on the spurt in road accidents as also in criminal activities such as theft, robbery, hooliganism, roadside drinking, gambling, eve-teasing and molestation. Walking after dusk has become hazardous, as one is always in danger of confronting a dangerous situation � not to mention the chances of falling into open manholes that characterize the city�s footpaths.
The city has a number of departments and agencies such as PWD, Urban Development, GDD, GMC, GMDA, etc., that are responsible for maintaining the health and hygiene of the city by providing the basic amenities. Unfortunately, there is little coordination among the departments and this is a major reason why the city lacks abysmally in terms of a sound civic infrastructure, including streetlights.
According to official sources, a decision was taken at a high-level meeting of the departments of PWD, Power and Municipal Administration earlier this year to entrust the municipalities (the GMC for Guwahati) concerned with the task of meeting the cost for bulbs and other electrical fittings as well as energy consumption of streetlights in cities and towns.
Matters, however, failed to move forward with the Municipal Administration authorities taking the plea that Guwahati city and major towns were not under the administrative control of the Urban Development Department.
Apparently, maintenance of streetlights which is integral to urban development has remained no one�s baby since, with none of the departments concerned trying to hammer out a mutually-acceptable solution in a coordinated manner.
�This is a ridiculous situation created by the penchant of the authorities, i.e., ASEB, GMC, Urban Development, Guwahati Development, etc., for evading responsibility. The citizens are a confused lot, as they do not know who is responsible for streetlights not functioning. The ASEB, in particular, should let the people know the actual facts through the media,� public activist Prof Deven Dutta said.
Prof Dutta said that being the minister for PWD, Urban Development and Guwahati Development, Ajanta Neog has a responsibility in breaking the impasse over streetlights.
�The tax-paying people are getting a raw deal, as they have been deprived of a primary amenity. Ajanta Neog who heads three departments that are supposed to maintain civic amenities need to intervene and ensure that the citizens are not kept deprived,�Prof Dutta added.