I believe an urban renewal and community reorganization of the Little India precinct can achieve the following: (a) the creation of public spaces to be shared by Singaporeans, residents, tourists and transient workers alike (b) the improvement of law and order without the draconian hand of law (c) lead to an increase in utility and happiness among the residents and voters who live there and the workers who make it their home every Sunday.
An 8-point urban renewal and community reorganization program:
1. Two small bus bays on either ends of Little India with staggered time slots for arrivals and departures for the Sunday visitors; special EZ-link style cards to be issued just to workers to expedite boarding and remove sources of conflict between drivers, conductors and workers
2. Two drop-in centres on either ends of Little India staffed by grassroots volunteers in the Moulmein-Kallang GRC who have the power to escalate issues of grave concern (such as the non-payment of salaries and other labour abuses) to the relevant personnel at the ministries; and the empathy to refer smaller problems to the relevant non-profits who can help
3. Prepaid SIM cards targeted at Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani workers should come with pre-programmed hotline numbers to the drop-in centres. The universities can provide a source of volunteers for their community service requirements. Students who speak or are learning Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and Tamil should be given preference.
4. An amateur cricket tournament or league can be held at the fields in Little India or even at the stadium.
5. Participating F&B outlets can be part of an association of Friends of Little India. Singaporeans and residents who are part of the program can pledge to give an additional $1 each time they visit, which goes into a giant pot for Sunday food. Workers can buy a nourishing meal at a discounted rate of $1 or $2, subsidized by the consumers in the program
6. Free monthly walks around Little India run by volunteers. Community centres around Singapore should be encouraged to book walks so their residents are able to experience a different culture and become familiar with Little India.
7. A mobile library with books and magazines from Bangladesh and Tamil Nadu to start with. Later on, an expansion of library program could mean short certificate-granting courses that can be supported by govt agencies interested in productivity and labour skills.
8. A monthly outdoor movie screening which shows Tamil, Bengali and Hindi movies, programming to be determined.
Idealistic? Yes. How to find the money? Dunno also. I don’t think being cynical or apathetic to this is going to do very much good either.
For now I will continue to work on whatever I can do, in very very tiny steps.