There is a ring of irony when a place popularly called the Millennium City is renamed to mark the purity of an appellation linked to an ancient epic. The change of name from Gurgaon to Gurugram by the Haryana government may be a proud celebration of heritage, but this is no ordinary suburban town. It is home to local offices of half of the world’s biggest Fortune 500 companies that generate annual earnings of more than $1 trillion (`65 lakh crore). Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Nestle are among them.
The renaming would have a quaintly pleasant edge were it not for the fact that Gurgaon, with its condominiums, malls and digital-age office parks, has grown in a haphazard way that raises hard questions about its future. Gurgaon’s per capita income grew 5.4 times between 2004 and 2012, nearly twice the state average, with matching tax contributions. But the recent agitation for job quotas by members of the Jat community that hurt Gurgaon’s industrial belt was a harsh reminder of its rustic past and uneasy present. Admittedly, it has come a long way from being a farming town to a blue-collar industrial centre and then a cutting-edge services hub.
The fact is that thousands of acres are offered for industrial and residential development in the area with little more than roads to give it soul or substance. Gurgaon’s master plan has been revised at least three times in the past eight years or so, and the latest one is telescoping growth to 2031. What we need are hard commitments and timelines that promise a host of facilities from electricity and pavements to long-term assurances on clean air and water, not to speak of robust security, public transport and other facilities that support modern cities.
However, modern is not a word that sits easily on the tongues of those who strive to takes us back to the Mahabharata. May we suggest to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar that Gurgaon is actually a latter-day Kurukshetra for India’s competitive edge in a globalised corporate war? We are happy to welcome the past in the city’s nomenclature, only if it offers a matching future. What the Millennium City needs is a fundamental overhaul, not a cosmetic makeover. What good is a brand name if the product does not match up? As Guru Dronacharya might have remarked: A true archer does not take his eyes off his mark.