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Not a capital idea

india Updated: Apr 10, 2008 21:09 IST

As the Capital becomes overcrowded and finds its resources stretched to breaking point, it is only natural that the city will expand beyond its borders. So we have places in the National Capital Region (NCR) like Gurgaon and Noida which have become desirable addresses for those who are unable, even unwilling, to buy into scarce and prohibitively expensive property in Delhi. But the recent spate of carjackings and murders in Noida and before that in Gurgaon suggest that the NCR’s spread is taking place in a haphazard manner and almost all the construction in these areas is in the hands of private builders. They provide not just accommodation, malls, private hospitals and schools but also take care of essentials like water, power and security in the areas they operate in.

This has led to a situation where the state, already most cavalier in providing basic amenities to citizens, has abdicated its role in all these areas. This is why biker gangs are able to roam the streets of the NCR looting and killing at will. While it is essential that the government encourages the private sector to take the lead in urbanisation, it cannot shirk its duties in providing security to citizens in common areas like parks and roads.

If it is the government’s plan that the Capital be decongested, then surely it makes sense to create a conducive environment for people to move out. Private security is available only to those with purchasing power. What happens to the millions of people who come into the Capital to provide essential services but are forced to live in the NCR? Clearly, there does not seem to be any concern for their safety and well-being. The original idea of the NCR was to set up townships that replicate the Capital. That most definitely has not happen in terms of connectivity, basic amenities or security. The worrying part is that gangs that operate in these areas either have political patronage or are able to hoodwink a comatose security machinery. The public has so little faith in the law-enforcement system that they prefer to remain mute witnesses to crimes. This suggests that the NCR is not working as an antidote to urban chaos. If it is an experiment which the government hopes will be followed by other chaotic metros, then sadly, these gruesome incidents do nothing to inspire confidence that this will actually happen.