India’s G20 moment, Delhi’s resurgence - Hindustan Times

India’s G20 moment, Delhi’s resurgence

Nov 30, 2023 10:14 PM IST

The lasting assets created during the preparations for the G20 Summit will continue to contribute to Delhi’s development and identity for years to come.

As India bid farewell to its G20 presidency, it left in its wake a Capital city that has undergone a stunning metamorphosis, reflecting the nation’s ascendance on the global stage. While the international community applauds the unanimous adoption of the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration and the shared pursuit of common goals, it’s crucial to underscore the backdrop in which such a diplomatic feat was made possible.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the G20 Leaders' Summit at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9 (AFP) PREMIUM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the G20 Leaders' Summit at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9 (AFP)

This G20 Summit marked Delhi’s grandest international event since the 2010 Commonwealth Games. As such, efforts at beautification for the G20 Summit were planned well in advance, and coupled with the execution of infrastructure development projects already in the pipeline, Delhi’s revitalisation was expedited and holistic. The city welcomed 40 heads of State, various government officials, and international bodies with a level of precision and hospitality that was quintessentially Indian.

The G20 meetings and Leaders’ Summit served as a catalytic springboard, propelling Delhi into an ambitious phase of urban rejuvenation. Leveraging the global platform, the city seized the opportunity to not only host an exemplary international event but also strategically implement infrastructural and aesthetic enhancements, effectively transforming its image on the world stage. This synchronised effort became a blueprint for sustainable urban development.

From the moment one stepped out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the change was palpable. Sardar Patel Marg, Shanti Path, and nearly every road in New Delhi radiated festive cleanliness. Larger-than-life sculptures adorned the thoroughfares, depicting lions, elephants, horses, cenotaphs, and fountains. Even historical landmarks like Delhi Gate, Raj Ghat, and areas extending to ISBT were adorned, erasing the dust-laden memories of encroached pavements and roads in disrepair. The city’s resilience and commitment shone through after the July rains wreaked havoc on its basic infrastructure, especially at crucial venues like Raj Ghat that were poised to host visiting dignitaries.

The colossal task of preparation fell on the shoulders of the new Lieutenant Governor, VK Saxena. One of his initial endeavours involved the revamping of the roads leading to and from the airport. Notably, approximately 700,000 potted plants adorned the streets and pavements. The cityscape further boasted over 100 sculptures and statues, featuring symbolic representations such as yakshinis signifying the guardians of burgeoning Indian wealth, lions emblematic of India’s growing power, elephants representing the wisdom and stability of Indian civilisation, Lord Buddha as a perpetual symbol of peace, and Vighnaharta extending well-wishes to every visitor to and from the city.

A substantial clean-up effort covered 61 roads and 17 hotels, creating a pristine setting to host visiting delegations. Trees along the route, from the airport to the city centre and the Summit venue, were adorned with garlands. Delhi saw a departure from its long-standing clutter of political and commercial posters; walls, pillars, and poles remained free of visual noise.

During the Summit, despite the movement of 40 high-security VVIP cavalcades, Delhi maintained its regular rhythm. Except for specific core areas, public transport, shops, and commerce operated as usual. In a city often hindered by bureaucratic complexities, a remarkable display of coordination unfolded among various state agencies and departments.

For the local residents, this overhaul brought about a palpable improvement in the quality of urban life. The greening of streets with a staggering number of potted plants not only enhanced the aesthetic appeal but also contributed to improved air quality. The revitalised infrastructure, including cleaned roads and adorned landmarks, created a sense of pride and ownership among residents, fostering a renewed connection to their city.

On the international stage, this transformation significantly elevated Delhi’s image. The city emerged as a capable and aesthetically pleasing host for international events. Beyond the immediate visual impact, the makeover had broader implications for the city’s economy and tourism. The improved infrastructure and aesthetics attracted not only international dignitaries but also led to a surge in tourism. The enhanced appeal of the city as a destination for events and conferences will translate into economic opportunities, fostering growth in sectors such as hospitality, transportation, and local businesses. Additionally, the lasting assets created during the preparations for the G20 Summit will continue to contribute to Delhi’s development and identity for years to come.

Amitabh Kant is India’s G20 sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog. The views expressed are personal

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