Public Ownership and Responsibility
For Kohima, the capital city that was placed among the dirtiest urban settlements, as per the nationwide urban cleanliness survey Swachh Survekshan in 2020 as well as gained notoriety for theft of beautification items like flower pots placed on roadside, winning the Real Play Challenge 2022 is a consolation and a big turnaround that will boost its image. It won under ‘Places where play heals people’ category from among 94 entries across 41 countries last week, for creating caregiver and children-friendly public spaces. Considering lack of space in the densely populated city besides difficult terrains, it was innovative on the part of the Kohima Smart City Development Limited (KSCDL) and Kohima Municipal Council (KMC) to transform small unused roadside spaces into pocket parks through crowdfunding, thus providing a breathing space for children, denizens and passersby alike. The KSCDL had also said in an update that it would continue to identify public spaces across Kohima and convert them into pocket parks. However small a project may be, anything that will benefit the public should be encouraged and supported. In fact, one of the common issues faced by the people in urban settlements is lack of open spaces for children to play and the adults to take a stroll. As the saying goes “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, pocket parks will improve quality of life- the more, the better. Such facilities should be set up across the state and not limited to just urban areas like Kohima and Dimapur, though congested areas need it more.
In the meantime, one worrying trend that needs to be addressed with urgency is the indifferent attitude of the citizens towards public facilities. Most public properties, be it offices, schools, waiting sheds or parks are often defaced prematurely or even damaged. It is a reflection of civic sense deficit. For change and to make human settlements more livable, citizens should take the responsibility of protecting and maintaining public property and not just expect the government to do everything. We should shed overdependence on the government. We can learn a lesson or two from the Japanese, who take their hygiene etiquette even to public spaces, including staying back after an event to pick the litter left behind by the audience. They did the same after the opening match between Ecuador and Qatar in the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022, for which netizens showered praises on them. It’s worth emulating such sense of cleanliness and attitude towards common facilities. We also need to change our perception of public property and own it instead of blaming the government and the authorities for the mess of our own making.