How good are we at maintenance?
A few days back we carried the news of the collapse of
a part of a historic building in Galle Fort which currently
houses several important institutions. Obviously this is not the
first such building to collapse. Such occurrences only highlight
the state of neglect of public and historic buildings.
It must be said to the credit of the authorities that much
more public buildings are built and put to use than those that
collapse. We are, in fact, very particular to report such
occurrences and each opening of a building gets the glare of
publicity. Auspicious times are keenly observed and celebrities
are welcomed to the occasion and visuals are sent for safe
keeping to be used as future remembrances.
However, once the buildings are put to use not much attention
is paid to their maintenance. You could see most public
buildings badly maintained with cracks in walls or roofs,
unkempt interiors, broken toilets and moss gathering exteriors.
Not only buildings-look at our roads, byroads and bylanes.
The moment roads are repaired and macadamized or carpeted they
will be dug for cable laying or pipe laying or for some other
purpose. If there is nothing else to do, the islands in the
middle of the road will be either widened or narrowed. Due to
the lack of constant maintenance and repairs small crevices on
road surfaces would develop into potholes with ever increasing
diameters. The side drains being not properly maintained roads
get inundated even with minor showers.
Besides most road repairs go on for long periods with the
result that once they are completed the parts repaired at the
first instant needs repairs again. Any one moving along the city
roads could see unfinished repairs with edges upturned or
lamp-posts remaining dangerously in the middle of a widened road
Roads that are not maintained slow down the traffic, cause
traffic congestion and even make them accident-prone. To it
should be added the man hours lost by commuters who travel to
their work places and the loss of foreign exchange for
additional consumption of imported fuel for the vehicles on the
Perhaps the road development authorities, should learn a
lesson from the village rural mothers who believe that a stitch
in time saves nine.
Speaking of road repairs and maintenance one wonders whether
we should use mechanised equipment such as backhoes even to dig
a one foot wide, two or three feet deep trench by the side of a
road. Couldn't the idle labour of the unemployed be better used
productively and cheaply for such purposes?
This is part of a wider problem of where our inability to
choose the proper technology results in wasteful expenditure. A
remedy requires thinking out of the box and forging out a policy
for optimal use of our human resources and available technology.
Much ado about nothing
Americans, at least some of them, are funny people.
They are making a big fuss about President Barack Obama bowing
before Emperor Hirohito in Japan. The decent fellow he is, Obama
had only respected the tradition of the host country.
The critics, on the other hand, consider it infra dig for the
President of the United States, the only superpower in the world
to bow so low before a leader of a less powerful country,
however friendly it is.
They have wrongly interpreted their President's gesture. It
is nothing more than expressing the goodwill of the US towards
Japan, its close ally. After all Obama did not lie prostrate
before the Emperor or worship him the way Buddhists do by
keeping his knees, elbows and head touching the ground.
This is certainly much ado about nothing. Perhaps it is a
reflexion of the air of superiority or the arrogance with which
the United States treated other nations throughout. President
Obama's gesture may be the change he promised. Conservative
elements seem to resist it and the present controversy is also a
part of it.
Pondering over the predicament President Obama is faced with
we could offer him some sound advice. Why not change over to the
oriental way of salutation as we say Ayubowan with cusped palms.
You need not bend down and you could even keep your body erect.