Sunday, October 27, 2013

Namma Metro!

I had been in Delhi for a few months in 2002, when Delhi's transformation to a modern capital of emerging India has already began. Under Sheila Dikshit's stewardship, Delhi's infrastructure has been transformed with Delhi Metro, new Airport terminals, and several other developments. This time, I am in Bangalore when Bangalore is charting Delhi's course with a lot of infrastructure development projects. The new Bangalore airport is world-class - perhaps one of the best in India. I was pleasantly surprised with the airport connectivity provided by the local government. I also boarded the Namma Metro (Our Metro in Kannada) - the local train service. It, too, was a very pleasant experience.

Trinity Metro Station, Bangalore
City's economic structures take care of themselves normally. Governments do not need to push economic activities, at least in Indian cities. What the government can minimally do is provide a strong infrastructure (along with law and order) which helps citizens do their business productively and efficiently. Infrastructure in cities like Delhi and Bangalore is a pleasant surprise in this regard. There must be many more challenges which these cities need to tackle, but what they have achieved so far is commendable. Credit goes to politicians, government, the citizens, and the businesses too (particularly in Bangalore).

In contrast, development in Pune is virtually stalled. Since I have shifted to Pune, some 6-7 years ago, the only new, noteworthy physical infrastructure which was created was Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) and some fly-overs - both of which have flopped. Former due to incompletions (or faulty strategy), and later due to faulty planning/design. The list of pending infrastructure projects includes almost every project a city needs - development of internal roads to BRTS to airport to a ring road to development plan to city metro and so on. On the other hand, the strain on existing dilapidated infrastructure is growing exponentially due to migration from all over Maharashtra in search of educational or employment opportunities. Don't really understand whom should the credit for this mess go...but any common man in Pune will tell you that Pune has both ingredients in perfect proportion for this mess - 50% hungry, corrupt politicians and 50% very vocal and near-arrogant civil society members.

In recent months, the hot topic in Pune is 'Pune's water for Punekars' (Punekars = Pune residents). All the most important topics are relegated to don't-know-where, and media and civil society is crying hoarse over parochial and utterly silly demands like these. (By the way, a question worth searching answer for is - how much rainwater falls within Pune Corporation's limits?)
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