There are two ways of building towns and cities. One, to replicate the urban planning, facilities and structures of an existing town or city in a less densely-populated space in a planned way. Two, to build urban structures, primarily residential spaces, in a pell-mell manner hoping that it will all happily fit together and make for a shiny, spiffy new city. In India High-Rising, the second option seems to have become the default one. Take the steel’n’glass township-city of Gurgaon. The Haryana Urban Development Authority administration was asked what the administration plans to do about a gigantic open garbage dump in a ‘top-notch’ residential area. The answer said it all: “To reduce the stink, we have started fumigating the area about six times a day.” Nothing about an alternative site or that work on the proposed solid waste treatment plant would be speeded up.
This is, more or less, the story of our satellite townships, once held out as the solution for decongesting cities that are bursting at their seams. Today, the cities are in a worse shape than ever and the satellite towns are falling to bits. And the ‘cart before the horse’ method of planning is squarely to blame. The sheer number game of ‘more people (with money to spend) at the quickest time’ — not to mention the side business between developers and the authorities — slam into the need of basics like water, electricity, sanitation and security. Noida, another satellite city growing at the other fringe of the national capital, is rife with lawlessness.
So along with the cliched photos of swanky residential fortresses towering next to tarpaulin slums, we now have 200 offices of Fortune 500 companies in Gurgaon that are private citadels cut off from the rest of the surroundings.
If water, electricity and security are all ‘captured amenities’ for private use, what incentives do the ‘outside’ world in these townships have of not being islands of ‘dryness, darkness, lawlessness and filth’? What we may be seeing is a ‘trickle-up’ effect of Real India, that romanticised beast, invading Unreal India, our favourite pet.