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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Why Gurugram should not be a model for other cities

India, however, stands at a crossroads, and if it comes to choosing the path of development, other states must not get swayed by Gurgaon’s and Haryana’s fiscal muscle because they don’t give a holistic picture.

opinion Updated: Feb 12, 2019 22:36 IST

The city of Gurgaon generates around 60% of the total revenue of the state
The city of Gurgaon generates around 60% of the total revenue of the state(Praveen Kumar/HT)
         

In a move that could affect the Aravallis and other forest areas in the state, the Haryana government has decided to amend the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA). This proposed amendment is misguided. It will only encourage real estate developers and the Haryana Urban Development Authority by allowing untrammelled construction in areas where it was previously banned due to the enforcement of PLPA. This could adversely affect the catchments of Badhkal, Surajkund and Damadama lakes in the state, which is struggling with water challenges. The groundwater level in Haryana has dropped by more than 50% in the past four decades, show government figures.

Many states aspire to be like Haryana, and have, as the jewel in its crown, a city such as Gurugram. In 2018, Haryana chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar had told this newspaper about how 200 Fortune 500 companies have set up their offices in Gurugram, and it was incumbent on his government to burnish the city’s image. Gurugram generates around 60% of the total revenue of the state. According to a PRS analysis of the state’s budget (2018-19), the Gross State Domestic Product of Haryana has been growing in the range of 7% to 9% between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

But behind those numbers, and behind the chrome and glass towers and malls and golf courses that are Gurugram’s signature, lies a troubling portrait of myopia and rapaciousness that could sit well in a dystopian JG Ballard novel. The glass-fronted buildings devour electricity; the diesel powered malls are just what the environment does not need; and the golf courses guzzle water in a state that is already stretched in terms of that particular resource.

There is a lot more that is far from rosy. Haryana has the lowest forest cover in the country (3.59%). According to the 2011 Census, Haryana’s child sex ratio is (0-6 years) is 834 females for every 1000 males; India’s is 933 females for every 1000 males 2011 Census. The Gurugram district’s record is poorer at 830 females for every 1000 males . The state claims the sex ratio has improved to 924 in 2018 , according to figures released by the state government in January. In the recently released Niti Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goals Index , Haryana is at number 18 among 26 states. All seven Union Territories rank above it.

In the development versus environment debate, Haryana chose, years ago, which side to be on. The state has made a Faustian pact with development. This latest decision of the government is of a piece with that. Notwithstanding what Gordon Gecko said in Oliver Stone’s film, Wall Street, greed is not good. In the medium and long term, citizens will pay the price for the state’s greed.

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First Published: Feb 12, 2019 22:36 IST