It was a proxy fight without a parallel. On Sunday, Pankaj Singh, Member of Parliament and son of a union cabinet minister locked horns with Mahesh Sharma, minister of state with independent charge, over elections of a minuscule federation that controls residents welfare associations in Noida. Does that signify arrival of local resident welfare bodies as a force in urban grass roots politics? Or was it a fratricide war, where the two opposing factions within the saffron family, were jockeying for power? It seems more of the latter with a curious twist. While the anti-incumbency factor did not affect NP Singh, who got elected in a row for seventh time as president of the federation, it did singe Mahesh Sharma, who has been long ruling the roost in Noida.
It is unlikely that Sharma would take the affront lightly, but what would be more significant is to examine how the outcome of this elections would pan out for the citizens of Noida as a whole. FONRWA or Federation of Noida Residents’ Welfare Association is a pressure group recognised duly by the Noida Authority. They have been given a piece of land with a building to house their federation office. They are also periodically given audiences and photo ops with authorities to raise issues that affect the residents. Beyond that there is little to crow about the achievements of the federation.
The elections itself were devoid of any issues. The newly elected president promptly announced that his “focus would be to make Noida a smart city.” This runs contrary to Noida Authority’s claim that they do not need smart city tag because the “infrastructure in the twin cities is excellent and is going to improve in the coming years.”
Noida was basically created as an industrial town during emergency following an initiative taken by Sanjay Gandhi, the controversial son of Indira Gandhi. It was part of urbanisation thrust. It has a sprinkle of industries jostling cheek by jowl with residential clusters. It enjoys a high per capita income in the NCR region. To begin with it had great infrastructure besides a 50% green cover, highest for any city in India. Noida Authority is among the richest civic bodies in the country. It has won various accolades as a city. But it lacks a soul or a character. Over a period of time it has come to known merely as an extension of Delhi.
But comparisons end there. The moment one enters Noida by road from Delhi the difference hits on the face on the border itself. The traffic is chaotic, hardly any traffic islands are manned, the traffic signals hardly work and even if they do they are always ignored and only obeyed as an exception, many areas are filled with filth, the industrial clusters are crowded with very poor space planning. Most roads serve as parking lots and one can go on and on.
NP Singh, the re-elected president, has called for setting up a corporation in Noida to be headed by an elected Mayor with some financial muscle. This demand is likely to be shot down by the authority which rules the sub-city like a fief of those in power in Lucknow. Politicians largely look at sub-city as a milch cow. The residents are yet to come forward to forge a cogent voice. FONRWA, which has been toothless as far as administrative influence is concerned hopefully starts teething at least in the near future.
TAGS: Noida / FONRWA / NP Singh / Pankaj Singh / Mahesh Sharma / Noida Authority