METRO OR retro? The jury is still out on that one as the year drew to a close. Indore circa 2006 was a City increasingly at odds with itself, with two distinct components struggling for supremacy. One, an embryonic metropolis trying to break free of the eggshell of mofussil mindsets, and the other a B-grade township where development efforts were frequently sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.
Looking back, Treasure Island, unarguably the most controversial structure to come up in 2006, is the perfect metaphor for Indore. All swank and glitter on the outside. Scratch the surface, however, and you run into a whole can of worms.
Let’s look at the bright side first.
With a slew of malls-cum-multiplexes, upmarket townships promising every possible amenity under the sun - and a few available only at ‘starry nights’, fuelled by rising disposable incomes and a desire to spend, and spend lavishly, Indore seems well on the way to metro-dom.
Add to this the City Bus Service. The 62-odd ultra-low luxury buses, colour-coded according to routes, proved to be a great hit with commuters. The success of the scheme, which has won laurels for Collector Vivek Aggarwal and SDM Chandramauli Shukla, has already spawned a ‘me-too’ service in Bhopal and efforts are underway to replicate the scheme in Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar. Several developing nations, including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, have also expressed an interest in the scheme.
Then there was Narmada-III, which officials say is guaranteed to slake the City’s thirst and the Rs 307 crore revamp of sewage and drainage network, and it seems only a matter of time before the City achieves parity with Mumbai or Delhi.
And we aren’t even talking about the Rs 865 crore Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for which Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) bosses have already issued an inaugural instalment of Rs 91 crore.
Upon closer scrutiny, though, the picture looks much less rosy. In the year gone by attempts to decongest roads (Subhash Chowk multi-storey parking), improve surface transport conditions (Bond Road scheme) and razing of illegal structures (Dawa Bazaar) all got mired in controversy.
For us the residents, the year gone by was the spring of hope and, too, the winter of despair. We had everything going for us, but little to show for it. We had the Narmada, but little water. We had vehicles, even the most luxurious ones - this, after all, was the year when the growing popularity of their vehicles led Mercedes to open a showroom in Indore - but no roads. At least, none worth the name.
Sadak and Paani, the slogans that led to the ouster of the preceding government continued to be as elusive as ever.
Sporadic efforts like the Bond Road project, while well-meaning, were a mere drop in the ocean. Even attempts to free up road space in the vicinity of the beloved Rajwada, the heart of the City, through the ambitious Subhash Nagar multi-storey parking came to grief. The IMC was hauled over the coals for building basement shops in the structure that was reserved exclusively for parking.
And then there were the scams. 2021 Master plan (draft), allotment of IDA land to private builders, social security and old-age pension and the Maglev scam to name just a few.
Towards the fag end of the year, denizens suddenly discovered a propensity for setting records. No matter if it was singing, dancing or recitation of religious texts - if a record was up for grabs you could bet there’d be an Indorean angling to get his name on it.
It was, however, left to Pawan Aggarwal to make a clean sweep. The 30-something businessman has announced that he will wield the broom on City streets for 51 hours non-stop to raise sanitation awareness.
And what of 2007? As Ghalib put it. “Dekhiye paate hain ushaaq buton se kya faiz, Ik Birahman ne kaha hai ki yeh saal achha hai” (Let’s see what blessings the desirous get from the unresponsive ones, a seer has predicted that the coming year would be a good one).