Hidden Civic Problems

Residents of many localities across major cities face a different class of civic problems in areas of mixed communities, especially during community events.  Problems list include playing, noise making, wheeling, riding vehicles without silencers, or using outdated two wheelers with two stroke engines.  The list is not exhaustive.  In fact, normal civic issues of garbage disposal, parking in front of others residents, occupying pedestrian paths, dominating public spaces such as parks and other amenities, pollution and other such problems become more intensive in these areas.   Problems such as petty fights, eve-teasing, small thefts create an uneasy environment and relationships.

Ramzan_NuisanceDevout Muslims dismiss any remote connection between the public nuisance during Muslim community events and the Islamic religion.  According to them, civic problems are created by those who deviate from the norms of festivities.  Shab-e-Barat, or Ramzan is not an occasion to play on streets either during the day or in the night.  Pray, preferably in silence, is the recommended method of celebrating such festivities.  However, there is another streak of response from the community.  Complaints by affected people or the Initiatives of authorities responding to those complaints are seen as an attempt to curb religious freedom or stifle the community.

While corruption, water, and such other problems are highlighted in everyday discussion, the problems like the ones listed above are not discussed anywhere.  Forums and activists addressing conventional familiar civic problems are not addressing these less understood invisible problems.  Hidden civic problems, have additional facets due to the interplay of religious, governance and social dynamics.  The nuisances in residential areas are yet to be understood, quantified and acted upon by the authorities.  Although the problem of public nuisances is usually dismissed as insignificant problem, authorities are forced to take action about speeding vehicles during festivities.

Here is a list of major hidden civic problems that are prevalent in India

In major cities of India, hundreds of people are fined on occasions of Shab-e-Barat and thousands of violations are recorded by surveillance cameras.  The police and district administration organize a peace march to maintain communal harmony.   Public nuisance is experienced by people in localities where people following different faiths reside.  Social interactions in these localities is often hostile.  The problem resolution mechanism in these localities is weak.  Smaller differences have potential of igniting bigger group conflicts.  Increased number of hostile social interactions is witnessed in localities having moderate to significant Muslim population.

Illegal meat market provides cheap meat to the consumers but adopts unacceptable practices such as cruelty to animals, providing unhygienic meat to consumers and disposal of meat residuals in garbage bins.  Indiscreet disposal of waste meat is enhancing the severity of the problem of stray dogs.  Cow slaughter is either illegal or restricted in majority of the states of India.  Beef supply is provided majorly by Illegal slaughter houses.   Illegal slaughter houses supply beef to internal market.  There are allegations that the illegal slaughtering is feeding to a parallel economy and even funding insurgency and terrorism.   Cruelty to animals, unhygienic meat are common in illegal slaughter houses.  During community events, cows are Halal slaughtered on streets of congested localities in violation of all legal provisions.

Love Jihad, a recent trend in the era of Jihad, is a marriage of a Muslim boy with a non-Muslim girl (read a Hindu girl) with a deceptive intent after a love affair.  This is turning to be a very confusing civic problem creating apprehensions about safety and well-being of the girl involved.  Girls from disciplined families belonging to open and pluralistic communities are marrying boys of closed dominating communities having less restrictive family life-styles.  Typically, inter religious love affairs culminate with a Hindu boy or girl usually converting to Islam or Christianity. There is a greater possibility of women(girls) being victimized in these kinds of marriages.  In many instances, women are forced to adopt a different lifestyle after the marriage in a phased manner.  There are reports of psychological pressure, physical torture and killings of woman by her close relatives .Increased encouragement to love marriages has created a conducive environment for the phenomenon of Love Jihad.  Parents are playing increasingly lesser role in the marriage, conflict resolution or divorce of their children.  They are not effective in Girls from disciplined families belonging to open and pluralistic communities are marrying boys of closed dominating communities having less restrictive family life-styles.

Induced conversions to Christianity are widespread on ground in contrast to the stated opposition of the Church towards conversion by fraudulent means.  Almost all slums, economically underprivileged areas and Dalit localities are specially focused, especially in almost all localities of major cities.  Monetary help is extended to selected individuals and families among the target populations and a soft approach is followed to create a dual religious identity without being noticed by legal systems.

Probably the most severe and well-understood problem among the category of hidden problem is the problem of sound pollution caused by Horn loudspeakers of Mosques.  The loudspeakers from mosques, and madrasas are used at least five times a day for broadcasting prayers.  Special prayers, lectures, announcements, periodic cultural programmes, songs, are additionally amplified by horn loudspeakers.  Processions are always accompanied by many horn loudspeakers mounted on a truck.  The decibel level of the noise is observed to be well above the legal limits.  It is not clear how licenses are issued for continuous use of loudspeakers violating all legal norms.  Several Supreme Court and high court judgments prohibiting Horn loud speakers in Mosques are not implemented by Government authorities and politicians.

The first thing that happens in any new locality of a city is establishment of a place of worship in the form of a totem pole, a tree, a shed or a tomb.  One individual or a small family supervises the place for months and years before a better structure is built.  Typically such structure is established in the vicinity, but just outside of a planned layout.  The amount of background work, access to official information to encroach areas is a puzzle to normal citizens.

Religious institutions, authorities and social groups are yet to synchronize their actions towards finding a solution to hidden civic problems. Although living problems are seen as separate from the religious issues, there are interlinkages between the two.  There is a widespread assumption that economic and infrastructure development would simultaneously solve the hidden civic problems.  However, such an outlook may be a self deception emanating from lack of conceptual clarity and coordinated action.

URL Aseema article July 2015