Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little India & Selfish Traders

I lived in brickfields for a while in the early nineties, paying RM 850 for a condominium at Palm Courts, a hefty sum back then. At that time, only professionals and well to do can afford to purchase a unit, costing RM 180K at Palm Courts.

Presently, Palm Courts is no longer a place Malaysians would like to either buy or stay as it has turned out to be a mini Andhra Pradesh (a state in Indian, just above Tamil Nadu), full of Telugu Indians mainly from Hyderabad. They are mainly IT professionals working in many MSC companies in KL, Teknologi Park and Cyberjaya.

However the condition of the place does not look anything like resided by professionals. It is poorly managed and there some ongoing disputes between the residents, owners and the Joint Management Body.

It used to be good to live in Brickfield, it’s proximity to KL, the central trains station, availability of cheap Indian, Chinese and Malay food and other amenities.

The current ongoing plans to renew, reorganise and develop Brickfields as a Little India of KL had many residents and traders up in arms with Federal Territory Ministry and DBKL. They are, if reports are found to be true, instigated by other quarters with vested political agenda.

The ministry has gone ahead to implement one way traffic dispersal system on Jalan Tun Sambanthan without building a suitable car park, claims the traders and residents. Visitors and patrons of shops also complained on lack of parking and also frequent summons by traffic police.

Although there are daily traffic jams caused by various roadworks along the main road , it does not really take long to reach either end of Brickfields as the traffic keeps moving. Traffic situation have actually improved over the days as people becomes more familiar.

Let me tell them something (which is applicable to other Malaysians as well). In my 17 years of visiting Brickfields for various reasons, I never had any problems parking there, either near the YMCA area or near Sri Kota and never in my lifetime have I ever parked at non parking area, double parked or parked at the road side. It just takes some driving around to find a parking lot at the back alleys.

These complaints of lack of parking are just lame excuses by traders and visitors. It’s no different from other KLites, who, if possible want a parking lot right inside the shops. They are just plain lazy to find a parking lot and walk to their intended shops.

The traders also claim that business had dropped by 80% recently. I doubt if this is true. They maybe affected but not as much as claimed. My recent visit proves that even if some of the stalls were relocated, loyal customers will still make an effort to find them, as I did. If business had dropped by 80%, most of them would have closed shop, but what I found at the temporary stall area is to the contrary. They just as busy as before.

The residents and traders cannot deny that, If compared to 90s, Brickfields, they have benefited tremendously from the development of KL Sentral, establishment of two 5 star hotels and also various up market condominiums and apartments. Currently there is another shopping centre coming up right in front of KL Sentral and few more upmarket buildings and residencies.

In my recent visit there, I found that hundreds or even thousand of office workers crossing the Jalan Tun Sambhanthan during lunch. Tell me that the business there has not increased many folds as compared to before and that property prices and rental rates had increased in tandem.

The government should just ignore these protests and move on with the project. The fact remains that most of the traders don’t live there, and more importantly, many of them do not pay much tax. If we chose to listen to them for the fear of losing votes, this project will never be completed as selfish traders and residents will continue to protest as they only look after their interest and theirs alone. These are some ungrateful traders who don’t wish to think about long terms benefits and returns of this project.

At times, while it’s good to engage key stakeholders for their inputs, there are times where these sessions turn into long drawn unnecessary championing of interest of some undeserving parties. There should be a breaking point and government must just move on. The residents and trader just need to bear with the inconvenience, not for long as this is a fast track project.

Without this redevelopment, Brickfields will look no different than the filthy and dusty streets of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. The traders Association, instead of wasting time protesting, could well undertake initiatives to ensure their member traders commit to keep Brickfields clean.

The should focus on how to make their shops and stalls look clean and professionally maintained to improve the overall image of Brickfields. There is no point of spending millions to improve the infrastructure and amenities there if the traders and shops insist of maintaining their shops the old fashioned Indian way and more so when it is hardly maintained, aesthetically.

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