Friday, April 24, 2009

Amazing Temple Town

I have traveled upteen number of times to Madurai, the second largest city in the state of Tamilnadu, south of India. Each time this city seem to unravel new opportunities to people who come in, open up new charm in the way traffic is managed, and the way municipalities and corporations function. With very poor local administrative systems in West Bengal, it is really nice to see relatively clean roads, people with habits to dispose of waste more hygienically, and traffic moving at a much better speed with commuters and drivers apparently respecting each other, with just one or two policemen to control traffic even on busiest junctions (as everyone seems to obey the traffic signal), and the number of bye-pass roads that take you quickly out of the town to put you on the highways. Still the area surrounding the famous Meenakshi temple is crowded, but you do not get to see too many shops and stalls that clog the pavements in Kolkata or other towns in Bengal. I am also told that in this state no one would die of hunger in spite of the fact that there is very little food production in relation to the States that live on Gangetic plains. The reason : the government provides 20 kilos of rice to every family (irrespective of whether they are below poverty line or not) at a cost of just one rupee per kilo! Many people told me that the quality of rice is good, and still not many people buy it from the regulated shops, because people have enough! And still more, some of them buy it and give it to the poorest families absolutely free so that the poorest can have enough to eat throughout the month; or they just do not lift the rice simply because it is availble on the reason that, if they take what they do not need, that only adds to the burden of the government that subsidises the food grains for the poor. My own sister's family bargains on that, as they cultivate two crops of rice each year.  You can also see local buses taking passengers in the middle of the night all over the city. I have seen it almost all over Tamilnadu, making travel safer, faster and need-based. One final touch... the government gives houses to the poor, worth rupees 100,000 rupees absolutely free, provided you have some means to advance part of it to begin construction. A footnote : people had one complaint -- inspite of the fact that the Central government has made many rules governing the banks asking them to provide credit, the banks are not giving, and thus creating artificial credit crunch. Will the governments look at the problems of the people?

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