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Soft serve, anyone?

If the height of its buildings were the only criterion to judge a city’s state of advancement, Gurgaon would well deserve the sobriquet: Manhattan of India.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2009 00:01 IST
Sanjeev K Ahuja

If the height of its buildings were the only criterion to judge a city’s state of advancement, Gurgaon would well deserve the sobriquet: Manhattan of India.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more that goes into the making of a world-class city, and our Millennium City has a fair amount of catching up to do on many of those frontiers.

The past decade has been a boom time for Gurgaon. From just another nondescript NCR town, it has become a magnet for multinational companies (MNCs) and the hub for the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

Some 150 of the Fortune 500 companies have set up base here. That means, a lot of technocrats and intellectuals have made it their home. Amongst them are roughly 4,500 expats, who have followed in the train of the MNCs. At any point of time, Gurgaon also has a floating expat population of around 2,000.

Judged by its demographics, the city definitely is high profile. But how does Gurgaon treat this population? With kid gloves?

Rude shock
Not at all. It’s business as usual — in the small town mould — for the officials and bureaucrats of the city’s public dealing departments.

For the city’s new settlers, many of whom are natives of the First World, or have at least lived and worked in the best cities around the globe, the state of Gurgaon’s ‘soft infrastructure’ comes as a rude shock.

This correspondent met Katarzyna Lechowicz, a Polish national employed with a multinational company, outside the passport wing of Gurgaon police’s office on the third floor of the Mini Secretariat.

Lechowicz had come there to register her name with the department — a mandatory requirement — along with a friend. Her work done, she was waiting patiently for her friend to emerge from the office.

She would have liked to sit down, but the office had no chairs — a common ommission in small towns but a glaring lapse when it comes to Millennium City.

“This is shocking. I am standing outside this office not only because it does not have chairs but also because my friend has been detained too long to complete the formalities,” she said.

Lechowicz and her friend Serena Ratti were also shocked to find five of the building’s six elevators out of order.

Many shortcomings
That’s just one instance of Gurgaon’s failure to shore up its soft infrstructure.

Be it traffic management or public interaction in the power and water supply offices, the available infrastructure does not match the requirements or the expectations of the people who shifted to Gurgaon looking for a ‘world class’ experience, glibly promised in the glossy leaflets of private property developers.

More than six months have passed since the Haryana government set up the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG), bringing the entire Gurgaon urban area, including privately developed colonies like DLF City, Sushant Lok, Palam Vihar, Southcity and even the HUDA sectors under its purview.

Another casualty of the pathetic attitude of the state government is the police comissionerate system that was introduced early last year.

“The IAS lobby in Haryana does not want things to change in Gurgaon,” alleged sitting MLA DB Gauba, who is a former Local Bodies Minister.

When it comes to managing traffic, the police department, which is short of traffic constables, resorts to patch work tactics, such as closing most of the openings on road medians, and even at the roundabouts.

Vehicles are made to take long detours to reach their destinations.

“It is the same scene all over Gurgaon. Just take the example of Park Plaza roundabout, which is closed in the wee hours on one side and the traffic coming from HUDA Zymkhana side moving towards Richmond Park has to take a left turn to take a U-turn to finally get to its destination,” said JK Kukreja, a resident of DLF City.