"You have to do it. Alone."
Ashwin Mahesh speaks measuredly, offers clarity on city concerns, and brings a surgeon's scalpel clinically to challenges before us all. At his Lecture evening on August 4 he went about his pitch and thrust as he engaged the discerning participants many of who were leaders themselves. Here are some takeaways. Those who were present will quickly make the connect. You will be wiser for the read even if you were not part of the group that evening.
Go ahead, send in your comments, ideas, observations and insights. Even action plans that you are thinking the city needs. You will find volunteers happily seeking to take up the purpose with you...
- With a mere 13% being city municipal solid waste, and with 87% being industrial waste in the country, we are seriously addressing the wrong problem if we orient policy directions for MSW alone.
- It is not difficult to get the govt, any government or an agency of the govt to act. The trick is to learn to persevere. How many times will you knock at the man's door, is the key. If the officer in administration realises you are not one to quit, he will respond. Of course, you have to invent the solution or direction in a way that it falls within the reasonably flexible framework of decision making that the system offers.
- There is a serious challenge in the way that funds are accessible for things that a city needs. Budgets and access to funds are with the Govt and with the Muncipal Corporation. The ability to decide lies with the Wards and agencies working ground up. So there continues to be a mismatch.
- It is easy to berate the govt. You could be in the govt and change things if only you contested and became an elected representative. All it takes is about 5000 votes to be a corporator of a ward -- a powerful job that can help ring in change, or at least give you a say in matters of budget making. To be an MLA needs no more than about 30-35,000 votes. The process of electioneering is also well templated. Collective consciousness of city leaders and citizens is vital -- cognitive empathy is key. Empathy is the ability of people to recognize and respond to the emotions of others. It’s the foundation of both sympathy and compassion. Without empathy, you'll find sympathy and compassion are more likely to be inaccurate and may lead to increased friction and resentment.
- People in the Govt are indoctrinated to continue to believe in centralised decision making which deepens govt’s powers to retain funds and spending capacity. You heard Tushar. Such officers are appalling, not because of what they say but because of what they believe — in their indoctrination and ignorance.
- Identify the isolated inspiring examples of sustainability and encourage, promote and endorse them. Honour those communities and reward them.
- Focus on the Power of Example. Identify those examples of successful solutions and look to see if you can encourage replicating and scaling of those.
- You have to do it. Alone. Not wait for someone else to wield the baton for you to follow. Start with whatever you think you can take up, either at your RWA or housing society, or your neighbourhood, or at the level of some agency of the government. Government officials respond provided they are persisted with. Wityh participative democracy, a great deal is possible with many of us doing our little bit, and celebrating those who are doing their little.
- It is not for want of solutions for sustainability. People who can train the large mass of recalcitrant, wannabe urban consumers into using them have not existed really.
- The need to do (perceived by well intended young pro’s like you) and the want to do (that consumer behaviour dictates) are two ends of the chasm. Identify every ‘need’ and look at them from the ‘want’ angles. This is the biggest single challenge for any MBA worth her salt anywhere.
- Identify areas and sectors that can rapidly accelerate. Get them to be fully sustainable. Do not work across all sectors and secure incremental gain. There are models that can be worked on just this one premise alone among the many that these essentials hold.
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