In an exclusive interview with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN), Mukesh Kumar Meshram, Divisional Commissioner, Lucknow, gives his insights on various initiatives being taken by the city’s administration. Expressing his views on various facets of city life, Meshram gives us a glimpse on what the future may hold for the City of Nawabs.
You have held many important positions in the state and taken several initiatives in UPSRTC, Department of Commercial taxes and the Department of Medical Education. As the Divisional Commissioner of Lucknow, what are your focus areas?
Lucknow is one of the fastest-growing cities in Uttar Pradesh. A lot of infrastructures have been created in the city and some are in process. If you set aside the NCR part of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow metro has left a footprint in the state and its network will improve in the coming times. To improve transport in the city, an outer ring road of 110 kilometers is being built which will connect highways together. The city’s zonal roads and master-plan roads will terminate on this ring road.
The challenge is to make the city’s transportation smooth. People should be able to complete their journey in a very short period of time. Also, during a medical emergency, the residents should be able to reach a hospital in the shortest possible duration.
Secondly, the city should be clean and green. Old rivers like Gomti and Kukrail pass through this city. Owing to the deteriorating condition of the river, we are taking the initiative to purify it and restore the natural beauty. It is clean up-to-the point where it enters the city, beyond which, it has gotten dirty and is often referred to as a drain. After restoration, the residents can utilise their banks for entertainment, education and socio-cultural activities. Also, there are other water bodies that need attention. Haibat Mau lake, Yamuna lake, Moti lake, and some other old lakes have to be reinforced for the benefit of the environment and for better groundwater recharging. If we improve them, the people living nearby will use them for their own health and prosperity. There should be pathways around them so that people can wander around safely. Also, there must be open spaces nearby so that people can sit and relax. Rich flora and fauna should be developed around the lakes.
“Through Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS), we aim to improve the traffic conditions. An environment-friendly mode of transport should be established in the city. In this regard, there are smart cycles which can offer lastmile connectivity.”
To beautify the city, we will be implementing ‘paint my city’ concept in Lucknow. The concept involves beautifying the city through people’s contributions. School children can exhibit their creativity by painting walls near their schools, under the guidance of a master artist. We will also beautify the parks of the city. ‘Scrap to sculpture’ is another concept which we are implementing. The scrap that is lying around can be used to make sculptures or art, which can be displayed at crossings, corners, open spaces and parks to make the city beautiful.
The city’s heritage has many faces. It can be seen as tangible or intangible. There are old buildings and places that have a rich history of their own. That history gets diminished when we move forward in the direction of technological prowess; it gets covered with many new layers. Bearing this in mind, it becomes very important to keep the historical element alive because only then you can remain in touch with your roots.
We have a library called Amir-Ud-Daula Public Library, where you would find precious manuscripts written on copper plates, palm leaves, birch barks, etc. But with the advent of digital media and other IT powered resources, the traditional practice of reading and writing is getting lost. People who read books keep their creativity intact. This is why going to libraries must be encouraged. We can use technology to make them better. For example, you can check the availability of books at your home and make reservations. Also, from time to time, we can arrange programmes where you can meet writers at the library and form reading groups. In terms of education, we have around 250 schools here. Digital classrooms will be incorporated in these schools to improve the quality of education.
What are your plans to improve the health index of the city?
The health of the city is another important factor. To make a city healthy we must get rid of pollution. People living in the city should do physical exercise and from time to time, they should go for medical check-ups. For this, we are toying with the idea of launching Health ATMs and diagnostic centres. Along with this, the theory and practice of inclusion should be applied in every city.
For health awareness and check-ups, the community medicine departments of medical colleges here, their students, NGOs and AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy), together these three can spread health awareness among the public. Nowadays, most of the diseases afflicting people are lifestyle diseases. It is becoming a very big issue; people are becoming diabetic, inactive; they are getting hypertension. If they remain healthy, their productivity would go up and when the productivity of citizens rises, the country grows.
What are your plans to improve the conditions of the weaker sections of the city in order to build an inclusive ecosystem?
Ensuring an inclusive ecosystem is indeed one of our priorities. We believe that even those people who belong to the lowest socio-economic strata should have accommodation and other facilities. The people who earn their living by putting stalls or pulling carts will get a vendor zone to go about their business. Rickshaw pullers and e-rickshaw drivers should get access to go about their work in the city in a disciplined manner. Apart from this, the ‘divyang’ or the differently-abled people have to be taken into the mainstream. We have to make all our services citizen-friendly.
“To beautify the city, we will be implementing ‘paint my city’ concept in Lucknow. The concept involves beautifying the city through people’s contribution. School children can exhibit their creativity by painting walls near their schools, under the guidance of a master artist.”
Not just human beings, we are equally concerned about other species as well. The state is also taking various initiatives to conserve and ensure the safety of the stray bovine animals. Several cow shelters have been created across the city, such as Kanha Upvan, to protect and conserve cows.
Traffic poses to be one of the major challenges in the city. What are your plans to curb this?
Through Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS), we aim to improve the traffic conditions. An environmentfriendly mode of transport should be established in the city. In this regard, there are smart cycles which can offer last-mile connectivity. Also, electric buses have been started in the city; we are running 40 such buses at present and their numbers will be increased in the near future. The use of cars should be minimised to avoid traffic jams, pollution, and unnecessary expenses.
What is your message for the people of Lucknow?
While we learn and implement the best practices across the world, the role and contribution of citizens are equally important. Voluntary work has to be encouraged because the city doesn’t exclusively belong to the officials or any contractor, it belongs to the people. People should treat their city as they treat their home. The responsibility of improving the city should be engrained in the psyche of the citizen.