India Uncut

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Cities like slums

India’s cities are becoming more and more like giant slums, says Tavleen Singh, and Mumbai’s slum-demolition drive could have set an example in correcting this trend. But, she says, it is being done in an unplanned and inept manner. Singh writes:
If Maharashtra’s chief minister has a plan he has kept it a secret. What does he intend to do to house the people whose slum homes he is in the process of demolishing? Are they going to be ordered to leave Mumbai or is the Maharashtra government going to invest in massive amounts of low-cost housing? Is he aware that the reason why more than half the citizens of Mumbai live in slums is because there is no low-cost housing? Is he aware that it is because of stupid rent control and urban land ceiling laws that a real estate market never developed and that mafiosi stepped in where there should have been respectable businessmen?

She continues:
If Mumbai looks bad you only need to drive through the featureless ugliness of small town India to see that it is a beautiful city compared to the small towns that have come up in more recent times … These are towns without a centre, without public buildings of any beauty, without parks, without sanitation, without drainage, without anything that would qualify them to be described as anything but slums. In earlier times, when central planning ordained that only PWD engineers were qualified to design towns and cities, this might have been excusable but today, when we have some of the finest architects in the world, there can be no excuse. Except, perhaps, that eternal Indian reality: the absence of governance.

Um, that isn’t an excuse, actually, but an explanation, but pedantic quibbling aside, she’s dead right. (The governance she refers to, of course, is governance by citizens, not by government. What a bummer that the two aren’t synonymous.) Read the full thing.
amit varma, 12:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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