The city of Hyderabad has a 400-year-old history of urban settlement and if taken as an extension of Golconda, the barriers are pushed back further by more than a century. Like in all major urban settlements, the architectural fabric has evolved over the centuries through inputs from various contributing influences, both foreign and local. The end result is a layer by layer development of core areas along with expansion over succeeding centuries.
Participation of stake holders is essential in the proper administration of a city. Unfortunately in present day Hyderabad, this aspect has been deliberately ignored. So severe has been the suppression of local aspirations and requirements that the citizens have developed a sense of absolute alienation and seldom voice their concerns. They consider such an action to be an exercise in futility. In such a scenario it is extremely difficult for civic groups to put up any significant resistance to such blatant disregard for their culture and heritage. In a recent interactive programme on a Telugu TV Channel, the managing director of metro rail, N V S Reddy, chastised a member of the public, Govind Rathi, for daring to put a question to him in Urdu/Hindi. He reminded the trader from Sultan Bazaar that as he was in Andhra Pradesh, he better speak in Telugu! Ample proof that the administration considers only the Telugu speaking population as having a right to voice their opinion and considers the Urdu/Hindi/Hyderabadi speaking majority of the historic city to be subjugated dregs of society who do not know what is good or bad for themselves or their city.
Hyderabad Metro Rail will shortly begin construction of its elevated track system. Along the three proposed corridors numerous heritage buildings and historic areas will be impacted adversely. The Metro will also pass through the historic core of the Old City transiting through Heritage Precincts 10 & 11. Metro authorities have not bothered to evaluate the effect that their project will have on the city and its people. There has been a lack of transparency in the functioning of the metro rail authority which has assumed the role of an extra-constitutional body with seemingly unlimited powers, unhindered by civic regulations and not answerable to the public. The high handed attitude of Metro Rail officials is a result of the unstinting support and political patronage that they enjoy at all levels of government. Even the chief minister has made it clear that “if needed, the government will take stringent action to crush the opposition against Metro Rail Project”.
The irreversible alteration of Hyderabad’s architectural fabric, its vistas, precincts and monuments which will result from implementation of the metro project is considered insignificant in the pursuit of achieving a ‘world-class public transportation system’. The mission statement promises to ‘transform’ Hyderabad and assures us that the project is ‘not just a metro, but an urban rejuvenation and redesign effort to transform Hyderabad into a people-friendly green city’. One wonders as to why the government continues to incur expenditure on planning bodies like HMDA when the metro is the panacea for all our troubles. Renowned Hyderabadi poet Maqdoom Mohiuddin in his tribute to Bhagmati had assured us that:
Shaher baqi hai mahabbat ka nishan baqi hai
Dilbari baqi hai dildari-e jaan baqi hai
Sar-e fahrist-e nigaran-e jahan baqi hai
Tu nahi hai teri chashm-e nigaran baqi hai
(The city exists and so does the symbol of love Although you are not here, your watchful eye still keeps guard)
In the present scenario, it is difficult to believe that even the watchful eye of Bhagmati can ward off the evil designs that are being conceived for her beloved city. More tragic is the fact that the metro will thunder through her very own village of Chichlam and will surely scare away this icon of love from our city. It is a time of reckoning, a time for all of us to stand up and be counted. For it is a rare honor to be counted among those who continue to protest at the rape of our city – even in the face of a threat of being ‘crushed’. TOI