And open letter to the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, NEA, LTA, & Singapore Traffic Police  

On the even of Deepavali 2013 I spent a couple of hours in Little India soaking up the spirit. The area was buoyant, celebratory, and in anticipation. People spilled out from temples, shops and side lanes and business was heaving, with Singaporean’s, our migrant workers, and tourists, shuffling along crowded roads and footpaths, looking, buying and generally taking in the moment.

Considering the importance of Deepavali to the Singapore, non resident and migrant Indian communities and to the country in general, I was surprised at the lax general traffic and crowd control I witnessed along the main stretch of Serangoon Road, despite the fact that pavements were packed, people were spilling into the direction of on-coming vehicles, and drivers were being spooked at every traffic light with hundreds of people unpredictably waiting to cross the road regardless of the traffic light indication.

I am not a fan of police omnipresence, overt enclave control or ‘perceived behavioural’ control, neither am I suggesting it. However, the entire area could have done with far better general crowd and traffic control on this important night. But my observation is that it seems to have been largely left to chance. 

I happened to visit Serangoon Road again the next day, on the morning of Deepavali, around 1030AM. 

I was appalled to find garbage strewn streets, hawker centre, and side lanes. Many areas were a soggy mess. Only one set of privately contracted garbage collectors appeared to be cleaning up Campbell Lane. Otherwise, most areas were appallingly filthy.

I am puzzled as to why Serangoon Road was left in this state overnight. There are many festivals, music performances, and public events in Singapore that when viewed in the aftermath are an absolute disaster of garbage. While I wince at the lack of civic mindedness of people at all of these events – I do agree that it is also a personal act of duty to pick up your own garbage – I have also seen the strict Singaporean standards set at most, with post-event clean up crews who begin the moment festivities end and which is followed through immediately in the morning.

Why then, does it appear that on the eve and day of Deepavali, Little India has been neglected by the otherwise thorough, zealous standards of the LTA, the traffic police and the NEA?  If anything, this felt like an extension of the daily negligence of Little India’s cleanliness, flow, and traffic; now just more pronounced.  

There is no reason to gentrify Little India the way many other otherwise organic enclaves have been in Singapore. And this letter is certainly not a call to do any such thing. That Little India has an ebb and flow all of its own makes it thankfully one of few places in Singapore where a genuine culture of living, shopping, eating and interaction actually occurs. In fact it would have been extra joyful had the most visited stretch of Serangoon Road – between Little India arcade and the Perumal Temple – been entirely closed off for the eve of Deepavali and day itself, allowing easier passage for all and creating an even greater social and celebratory spirit. 

But neglecting Little India when needed in the areas of positive traffic and crowd control on the eve of an important festival especially, and through serious lack of post celebration clean up, is entirely unacceptable. As it is also, on a daily basis. 

I look forward to your replies. 

Thank you. 

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