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I love Gurgaon: A city where people take lead, drive change

I LOVE GURGAON’S SELF RELIANCE: One aspect that makes the city stand out is that here people don’t just complain, but come forward to present solutions

I Love Gurgaon Updated: Jun 02, 2017 01:01 IST
Nitin Seth
Nitin Seth
#ILoveGurgaon,Nitin Seth,Car Free Day core group
The sheer positivity and energy that the people of Gurgaon exude is simply infectious and makes one fall in love with the city.(Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

I have worked in Gurgaon for 14 years and lived there for six years. For many years, I resisted moving to Gurgaon despite my long daily commute from North Delhi. I felt Gurgaon was a concrete jungle that did not have a soul. When I eventually shifted to Gurgaon and got embedded in the city, my views changed dramatically.

I fell in love with Gurgaon. Though I moved to Bangalore last year and my family will be moving soon, we have decided to retain our house in Gurgaon because that city will always be home.

So, what made me change my views on Gurgaon? The answer is simple — the people and communities that I have experienced in this city and the sheer positivity and energy they exude.

Gurgaon, like other Indian cities has many problems — poor infrastructure, alarming pollution levels and depleting water table to name just a few. However, what is different about this young city is that citizens don’t just sit and complain but take responsibility and step up for social causes. I have been fortunate to be part of three such outstanding communities in the city — Car Free Day core group, Nasscom Regional Council and World Spa.

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As we assessed Gurgaon’s competitive position, it was clear that before we talk about a fancy vision, we had to solve the more basic problems and ensure that Gurgaon was a sustainable and liveable city. We analysed the root causes and came to the conclusion that the biggest problems that the city grapples with are poor public transportation and the residents’ fatal fascination with cars.

The vehicles eat up the road space and leave a high pollution footprint. Our roads are bad and need to be improved, but no amount of road construction can keep pace with the growth of vehicles. There is no option but to embrace public transportation and multi-modal transportation in a pervasive way.

Being part of the Car Free Day core group and Nasscom Haryana, the activists, experts and the industry heads joined hands and started lobbying with the state government to make the necessary investments into public transport infrastructure — simple things like a public bus service, walking and cycling tracks and an integrated approach to planning and execution.

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However, after a while we realised that the response from the government was very slow. We then changed track and decided that instead of worrying just about the infrastructure/supply side, where we had little control, we should focus more on awareness building and personal change.

Over the last two-three years, we tried multiple initiatives from “CEOs walking to work” to producing a music video called “Walk On” along with Euphoria frontman Palash Sen and his band mates to promote walking and cycling.

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There are 35-40 companies from Nasscom and other industries who embraced the idea of non-motorised transport. Corporates have made systemic changes in transport options they are offering to their employees (e.g., replacing cabs with shuttle buses).

Perhaps, the most inspiring and enjoyable aspect of the non-motorised transport initiative has been the opportunity to work with some truly outstanding people. One of the fascinating features of the non-motorised transport movement has been that many entrepreneurs have stepped up to provide solutions.

Gurgaon lacks a dedicated public bus service and we have been lobbying for it for years. Over the last four-six months, private operators such as Shuttl and Ola have stepped in to provide app-based shuttle bus services which are proving to be quite a game changer. Similarly, Cykul has taken the lead in providing cycle stations to corporate, making the activity a more feasible commuting option.

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A host of carpooling start-ups has come to the fore as well. There is a start-up, Baxi, providing app-based bike taxi service. That is the beauty of Gurgaon and the India that we now live in.

When government fails to provide public services, we have entrepreneurs jumping in to provide solutions. And often these solutions are more innovative and efficient.

Gurgaon is truly the face of the new India.

It presents opportunities and challenges in equal measure. It is driven by the IT industry, which represents a big hope for the country. At the same time, it faces severe urban development challenges that put a question mark on the future of the city. However, the many positive and action-oriented communities in Gurgaon offer hope. The problems of our cities are too grave for the government alone to solve. It needs citizens to step up and take responsibility. Many communities in Gurgaon have shown that this is possible. This is a wonderful example for other cities to follow.

(Nitin Seth is chief operating officer of an e-commerce company. Seth worked in Gurgaon for 14 years and was a resident for six years during which he was the managing director and country head of Fidelity Worldwide Investment.)

First Published: May 29, 2017 11:04 IST