As persons associated with many struggles to protect lakes, against pollution in Hyderabad, we often wondered who bothers about the status of Hyderabad. We always were concerned whether there is ownership. We scanned different sections of Hyderabad. Residents of old city of Hyderabad, or pre-1956 city, are poor and are not in a position to alter the looks and status of Hyderabad. Many residents in basthis, slums and poorer residential areas live on the banks of nalas, tank beds and Musi beds struggle to maintain status quo, leave alone participate in growth programmes or situation correction programmes of Hyderabad city. These people may be many, more than 40 percent, and may have been the original residents, or may have migrated from different parts of the country, and the State of Andhra Pradesh. Their daily grind does not give them any scope for dreaming about the city. They might as well dream about a decent house, with water, toilet and road facilities, and higher access to educational facilities. And, most importantly, steady incomes from sustained sources of employment. They would not have wherewithal, internally or externally, to think of pollution-free and various other hazards-free environment in Hyderabad. Maybe they think, but are not in a position to have a say, or change the status-quo.
Ofcourse, the upper echelons of social hierarchy in the city have the influence and necessary resources to change Hyderabad. But do they want to change, or did they change. However, what is their contribution to Hyderabad’s dirt and clean atmosphere? We all know that automobile pollution is largely because of large number of personal vehicles, and growing number of cars. There is also enough data to support that these classes use water irresponsibly, and waste lot of water, by extracting large amounts of ground water and public water supplies. Thus, their contribution to the sewer flows is disproportionate to their numbers, and payments to water and sanitation services. Road usage is also more by these class of people, in terms of occupying them for more time and space. Their contribution to the growing mountains of solid waste remains unchallenged. Just the quantity, quality might be debatable. City investments, if any on basic facilities of water, sanitation, roads, electricity, etc., are all geared to meet the demand from these classes. But, do they feel they own Hyderabad? Their ownership, pride, or whatever related synonym, is disproportionately lesser to the benefits and facilities enjoyed by them as residents of Hyderabad. We have not seen them participating in any of the struggles to improve living environment of Hyderabad. Nor, they responded to actions that have deteriorated ecology and environment. It could be destruction of lakes, parks, watershed basins, ground water reservoirs, rocks, heritage structures, trees, footpaths, etc.
Layers and layers of migrating families, and individuals, have come here. More are likely to come. What motivates them to come to this city? Many studies have established that they come for income, employment and comforts. When do these migrants start feeling that they own this city? Is it after making/buying a home? Does the number of years of living influence such thinking? Or, achievement of their goals, when they came to this city, helps them in developing a feeling of ‘ownership? Often, migrants who have nothing to back to build such affinity, but not those who have links with the place they come from.
The question comes back who owns Hyderabad? Let us examine this question with a concrete example. Who feels bad about living with a polluted Hussainsagar, Musi river becoming a gutter and smoky, dusty road corridors of Hyderabad? Maybe, many, if not all the residents. But, then who takes the initiative of doing something about it? If there is threat to a religious place, we often find so many rolling up their sleeves, even if they are unconnected to that place. If a person meets an accident, how many do respond quickly and appropriately? Maybe a few, but not many. Such kind of responses, or lack of such responses, is what established the ownership.
However, in the aftermath of State bifurcation announcement, suddenly we find so many claimants to Hyderabad. In fact, the claim is ownership, nothing less. I was surprised to find youth who probably never set foot on Hyderabad, including school children, who might have seen Hyderabad only their television screens, claiming ownership of Hyderabad. It is fine, if the real estate investors are worried and want to claim their right over Hyderabad, and not just lands, for fear of wipeout of their investments. But, then why people unconnected to Hyderabad claim it? Are they the would-be migrants? In anticipation of their migration to Hyderabad, and fearing that their migration may not be possible, these youth and their parents want to claim ownership. How do they do it? They claim past investments as their money.
Leaving the concerns and fears of would-be migrants, and settled migrants, there are many claimants to the glory of Hyderabad. These claimants include a regional political party, the democratically accepted leader of that political party, many businessmen, and a few real estate dealers-cum-political leaders. Chandra Babu Naidu has gone ahead and said only he has brought glory to Hyderabad, and has built monuments during his tenure. A tall claim indeed. Even if one accepts these ‘ownership’, one should also wonder do they claim ownership to the growth of dirty side of Hyderabad as well?
Not many would know that hi-tech city, in and around Madhapur, with famous, infamous and glass buildings, has only 14 percent sanitation coverage, while old city with four times the same population has almost 80 percent. Deaths and debilitation due to infectious, water-borne diseases have grown in Hyderabad, in the last 15 years, because of improper sanitation and polluted drinking water. Is there any ownership to such situation as well? Is there a 360 degree ownership? Or just the brighter side of Hyderabad?
In fact, during the peak of Telangana agitation, there were many comments and opinions that Hyderabad is dying. If it was dying, why are there claimants still?