Tourism development and encroachment-free-footpaths must go hand-in-hand

Encroachment free footpaths for tourists. Picture courtsey Unsplash

Urban India needs to clear up its footpaths as bulk of tourists need EFF. Roads and pavements are like TWINS.  Why don’t we treat them equally with subtle care and maintenance?

By Professor B. R. Sant*

Average tourist is like an average student

I  remember  when I embarked upon my teaching career in 1951-1952 at  Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at the grass-root level of first year of I.Sc.  Most of the today’s management terminology then was unknown. We were still in the ‘black-board and chalk’ era. I was teaching 2 sections, one English with some 50 students, the other Hindi section with some 120 boys sitting in some 15 rows in a typical steep  theatre-like class room.  Bulk of the students were in the last 10-12 rows  and they were mediocres but with great enthusiasm and ambition.  Intuitively, I made a strategy  –  I must be heard and understood even at the 15th row.  My success as a teacher rested on these back-benchers  and their performance. Tourism faces the same situation.

Why this clamour for EFF?

We need to take care of the bulk of our tourists, call them middle class, call them pilgrims, call them just visitors to the city.  Almost every family will have their relatives and friends coming to the city for the first time.  They are plain and simple ‘tourists’.  We are committed to provide them with EFF.  Many, even among the tourism profession, may not be fully aware that pedestrians MUST walk ONLY on pavements, and not on roads.  The only other option to EFF is chaos, anarchy, and frustration.

Tourism is not just star hotels, entertainment, theatres, cultural centres, top class restaurants, and AC taxis.  It is providing clean, safe, secure, and comfortable walking places, the sidewalks, not in the vicinity of tourist places alone, but in every nook and corner of the city because the tourists may be lodged anywhere. The concept and reality of EFF must penetrate the entire city, e.g. the entire Greater Hyderabad.

A glimpse of footpaths/sidewalks elsewhere

Most Letters to Editors of newspapers in the last 2-3 years keep repeating:  “Hardly any pedestrian infra in Hyderabad”,  “Footpaths encroached”. But who listens, who reads, who cares?   Kolkata’s famed trams have slowly driven into history, covering hardly 15 kms (8 routes) from 1960s  70 kms (52 routes).  The main reason:  illegally occupied pavements which force pedestrians to walk on the road.

Look elsewhere in the world!  The emphasis  on safe and accessible “walkable public places”  is growing. Brazil and many other countries aim meeting 8 principles of sidewalks:  proper sizing, quality surfaces, efficient drainage, universal accessibility, secure connections, attractive spaces, permanent security, and clear signage.  Says a Brazilian official about attractive spaces:  “Streets are a fundamental part of the urban environment.  Sidewalks can play an important role in making the urban experience more enjoyable.  Interesting, vibrant sidewalks that can captivate people and make walking more attractive will ultimately facilitate more physical activity while reducing traffic congestion”.

The footpath “encroachers”

Traditionally, footpath encroachers always meant the visible, mostly daily-wage earners, the hawkers/vendors/pedlars. They were merely using, not usurping, the footpaths.  We ignored all these decades  the bigger culprits, the invisible or the  partially visible, the house/building/shop owners who were  quietly occupying footpath-spaces infront of their premises for their personal pleasure and gain.  Their illegal occupation was resulting in continuous shrinkage of pavements to the point of  causing severe hardship/harm to the walking public and huge loss to the exchequer. Our civic agencies have to deal with both the types of encroachers, the temporary (visible) ones through eviction/removal but with compassion. It is the second (permanent) category of encroachers that needs a stringent  action.  They are generally affluent, rich, and influential class of people.

A New Strategy to check encroachment in a respectable manner

This strategy is for the above mentioned  property owners who may be difficult to discipline . The new strategy  involves correlating their property details  viz., sale deed measurement (SDM)  data with actual construction activity. Like the Aadhar card or PAN card, SDM card will be the check on encroachment.  The core idea is that property owners should not and  do not go beyond their “four-walls”  limits even by an inch. Details of new strategy at  tarnakatimes.com/we-want-to-walk-we-are-pedestrians-please-provide-us-encroachment-free-footpaths/March 20, 2019.

I have suggested  to our State Government to incorporate the New Strategy in the form of a  POLICY ON EFF  as a part of their New Municipal Act. Further,  I have also submitted proposals on EFF to Adminstrative Staff College of India(ASCI)  who have been asked by the CM to draft a  Master Plan for making Greater Hyderabad as a ‘global city’.  Both my proposals are under active consideration of the government.   In both  these events, tourism and culture gets the maximum benefit for increasing their promotional activities

What CII Panel on Tourism and Culture needs to do?

This Note clearly shows the urgency to make Greater Hyderabad (to start with) totally free of footpath encroachments for the safety and comfort of (tourists) pedestrians.  The task is gigantic and challenging, but not impossible. With State and Central elections over recently, “now” is the right time to initiate Operation EFF.  There is a  built-in opportunity for Telangana to  pioneer the new concept for other States.   Initially,  a massive Education, Awareness, and Orientation  Programme [EAOP]  has to be undertaken jointly by Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Municipal and Urban Development(MAUD) with  CII as the nodal agency.  At some stage, professional expertise (say consultants) may have to be brought in.   Our versatile Panel members under the guidance of our esteemed Chairperson  can  discuss and  draft a modus operendi.  I expect a 30-36 month  period for the EFF to be in place in Greater Hyderabad.    Immediately, we may consider as follows:

  • Panel Chairperson and Telangana CII President may brief the Hon’ble Minister of Tourism and Culture on the highlights of the theme subject of Tourism vis-à-vis EFF.
  • Our Panel Chairperson  may constitute a small TASK FORCE of young and motivated persons from and outside the panel to prepare a Master plan to initiate, pursue, and implement the theme subject of Tourism vis-à-vis EFF.

*Professor Sant, who is a Member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Panel on Tourism and Culture, has been a teacher, management expert, and motivational speaker. 

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