She is an art lover, a nature enthusiast, crazy about Tamil music, and she is the Mayor of Kochi. After completing a year in office, Soumini Jain shares exclusively with The Kochi Post her experiences of working her magic on the city.
It’s been a year since you took charge as the Mayor of Kochi Corporation. To what extent, in your opinion, have you been able to solve the problems of Kochi?
I may not be able to say about the percentage of problems of Kochi Corporation that I have solved. Primarily, my council gave importance to the projects that had already been implemented by the previous council. Giving priority to works that are beneficial for the public, I can say that I have worked sincerely from the very beginning. And also we have started various programmes in the field of transportation, waste management, welfare, education, and sports. Likewise, we have improved the growth of Kochi to some extent.
Hailing from a non-political background, how did you feel about being elected as the woman Mayor of Kochi?
It is very important to have a political backing for a person who wishes to come forward for social work. Although I won the seat with the support of a political party, I am working impartially for the merit of the common people. I haven’t received any consideration for my work as I am a woman Mayor. And that is how it should be. As far as the people are concerned, the person sitting in this seat, irrespective of gender, should be capable enough to handle a situation with commitment. A Mayor has the responsibility to work for the betterment of the city. So instead of sitting on a glamorous seat, I am working to fulfill my promises to the people.
What challenges did you face, in your tenure so far, as a woman?
I have faced many challenges as a woman. Many times people have failed to give priority to me in public meetings and programmes just because I am a woman, without even considering the seniority of a Mayor according to the protocol. Many people told me not to remain silent, objecting to such a lapse in protocol. But I kept quiet without making a huge issue out of it, only because I want the projects to reach to the public successfully so that they are benefitted by it. I look at these experiences as a chance to make a bold person out of me.
How successful has the plan for animal birth control for dogs been after its implementation to tackle the stray dog menace? What is your take on the initiative taken by industrialist Kochouseph Chittilappally and Jose Maveli and other supporters on the issue?
I won’t support the killing of animals at any cost. More than anything, I am an animal lover. I was born and brought up in a traditional Malayalee household, where we had a Sarpakavu (abode of snake), a traditional natural sacred space near my home. There we could see loads of creatures and animals, which are dangerous and highly poisonous. But we never tried to destroy them. I was taught to give the animals their own space.
The other important fact is that we cannot solve the problem by killing a few dogs. One healthy dog can give birth to about 5 to 7 puppies at a time. People tend to dump waste, especially the food waste, on the roads. This makes it easier for the stray dogs to grow rapidly. So the first step is to stop people from doing such activities. I can undoubtedly say that ABC method is a successful programme. Through this, we were able to control the potency of the stray dogs to give birth. We have a team of experts who are handling this programme in a very effective way. Many veterinary doctors from other States came and asked us to train them in this particular programme. I think this is the successful aspect of the programme.
One of the biggest problems we face in Kochi is the pathetic condition of roads. How far have you been able to tackle this issue?
Without effective transportation, it is not possible to make travel, exchange, and trade easy. A city’s development depends upon the easy transportation facility. We have spent almost Rs. 35 crore from the Corporation fund itself for the enhancement of the road. This will continue in the coming years. The PWD has also tried to maintain and construct new roads with the funds available to them. We expect the commissioning of the metro rail this April will help unclog the traffic.
Also, we are planning to increase public transportation during peak hours. As part of this, we have planned to take up the task of reforming the transportation system to an advanced level, which is called UMTA with the help of the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL). This project is to incorporate the Metro with the city’s public transportation system to reduce the difficulties involved. We are trying to make people aware to leave behind private vehicles and opt for the public transport system. The advantage of the UMTA service system is one can choose any public transportation system to travel from a point to any destination.
What are the highlights of Haritha Keralam Project?
It is a long-term project, with cluster of programmes in it. The aim of this project is to increase the greenery of the State by expanding land under agriculture, conserving water resources, disposing waste in a scientific way, and opening swap shops for the proper disposal of e-waste.
The government is planning to follow this project as a lifestyle for every individual. I assure this programme could help us to keep diseases at bay and thus, we could bring a healthy lifestyle.
Kochi is unsafe always for women. What are the measures taken to ensure the safety of women? Can we expect a women-friendly city?
As my New Year resolution, I have taken a decision to make Kochi a women-friendly city.
As part of the safety of the women, we already have constructed toilets, bathrooms, and hostels exclusively for them with the help of many organisations. Though we have taken a lot of steps to tackle the violence against women in the city, we couldn’t do it in a successful way. So I am planning to discuss with women’s organisations and ask for suggestions on how to make this city comfortable for women.
Tell us about your love for art.
My love for art is unexplainable. It has been a part of my life for a long time. For me, it was always a stress buster. The artist is always trying to express his or her emotions, an idea, or something more. It inspired me. And at many times, it has taken me to a wonderland. I am sad I don’t have time for painting these days. But I am getting many opportunities to inaugurate exhibitions and encourage people who are involved in this field during through various events. Today, people have platforms like Biennale to promote the contemporary arts. I feel art is like cycling. Once you have learned it, it cannot be removed from your mind. So I hope I will continue it in the future.
What are your personal/professional goals?
I have set my personal goal to do good and help others. My intention is to be alert about my work by giving 100 per cent sincerity to it. Also, I want to break the barriers of the game of thrones wherever the word corruption exists. And thus, I will bring prestige especially to the women, under my rule as a Mayor.
Main photograph credit Facebook.