In Kochi, when a certain urban issue crops up, a solution is discussed in the media and then, it is projectised. Some implementing agency is either identified or one is created for it and the project materializes on the city. How does this happen? Why is it that we are not adding each project on the city keeping in mind a larger picture towards which each of these projects will take us? That's because, we are an ad-hoc city! One, we don't have a larger picture and two, this condition allows many energies to twist the system to suit the prevailing public mood.
Why are we afraid to put in an institutional mechanism to manage our city? Why does adhoc-ism prevail in urban management?
One day, someone said a Metro was the answer to all our problems, then, all the media told us that Metro would solve all our woes and we created a Kochi Metro Rail Limited to do it for us. The need for a Multi-modal Terminal at Vyttila came up and the Vyttila Mobility Hub was created. GIDA was created! Is this pattern good from governance point of view? What does our Town Planning Department do if all these ad-hoc entities tug at our urbanization in different directions?
If one really dig deep to understand how these entities operate on the city, we notice that the system of command that is required for it is not put in place. There are little lines that remain unconnected. This disconnect can be bridged only by political power, by the elected representatives. These tiny bridges can only be done in the legislative space.
So, the real power rests with the political parties and that’s where all these energies need to focus to get things done their way. The absence of a transparent, legible, answerable system of civic governance thus ensures that political power is the only means to get things done in an otherwise chaotic mechanism.
How does this tweaking the system work? First you work within any of these institutions and then get the media involved to spread the story. Use this as leverage and get some political backing to push your agenda. If the result is tangible and beneficial to those who work in its favour, then you have success.
The sad part is that, this is the only way you can do good work for the city too, with well meaning and non-corrupt ideas. Also, this is only way you can do any work whose sole intention is private profiteering or extreme ideas of looting public assets.
The system is like a true wildlife saga. Only the fittest survive. There is no moral dilemma here, the system is open to one and all. Do you have the courage to work it?