Is Pune active enough with her sister cities?
In December, 2017, Austin in Texas, US, became the newest of Pune’s “sister cities”.
Since 1998, when Dattatreya Gaikwad, Pune mayor (1998-2002) tied the “sister city” knot with Bremen, a small city in Germany, at least eight other cities across the world have joined the club.
They include San Jose, Columbus and Fairbanks (Alaska) in the US; Kawasaki and Okayama in Japan; Tromsa (Norway); Vacoas-Phoenix (Mauritius); Winniepeg (Canada) and Susang-Gu in South Korea.
The Okayama garden, also known as the Pu La Deshpande garden, on Sinhgad road and Bremen circle in Aundh are the most visible symbols of Pune’s sister city initiatives.
The concept of “sister cities” initiative began shortly after the World War II (1939-45), when affiliations between the United States and other countries began and became popularly known as Sister Cities.
The latest city to tie up with Pune as a sister city is Austin, US, where mayor Mukta Tilak recently returned with a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to impact and exchange knowledge and business among the residents of both the cities. A friendship city agreement was signed in September 2018 in Pune by Alison Alter, council Member, district 10, and Tilak.
“As a Mayor , besides your duties towards your city, it is also important how one can showcase the city out in the world and bring back some interesting knowledge intake from them, “said Mayor Tilak.
The Austin Sister City initiative was signed with Aundh Vikas Mandal in December 2017 to create a sister city initiative. “Austin and Pune citizens started interacting from July 2017 and signed citizen agreement in December 2017 for sustainable initiatives on environment, culture, health, education, technology, business and government functioning. Later, on September 2018, delegates from Austin came to Pune to sign friendship agreement. Many meetings were initiated for seven days with visits to Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (MCCIA), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Natural Fabrics of India, Banjaras, Smart City Mission and Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, besides conducting a hackathon between two cities at Pune Institute of Computer Technology (Pict) before signing a sister city agreement in Austin on July 24, 2019,” said Vaishali Patkar, convenor, Austin-Pune initiative.
“During my tenure, I had tied up with three cities — Vacoas-Phoenix in Mauritius, Alaska and Okayama. The reason I choose Alaska and Mauritius was because we had a trend of our students going to these far away countries to study, hence with the tie up in Alaska (US), the MoU offered our students almost 40 per cent less in education fees, which helped quite a few of the students who opted for studies abroad. With Mauritius, it was a straight cultural exchange with the creoles and us, where they built a Maharashtra Bhavan to facilitate our tourists and make them feel at home. With Okayama, we got their most beautiful Japanese garden built here in our city as a mark of their friendship and our sister city,” said Dipti Chaudhari, who is former mayor of Pune.
During each MoU, a contingent from Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) office travels to the said city and vice versa to see what could be of interest to help the city grow.
“When we first visited Bremen, what we thought could help our city were their traffic management, river and drainage system. We also had their representatives visiting us and thus thought of collaborating on the friendship circle, and calling Aundh circle Bremen chowk. It also laid the ideas to further take their concept and use it in Smart City,” said Gaikwad. Similarly, he worked on the San Jose, California MoU too, where one of the biggest IT conferences in the city was organised in Talawade, and all San Jose companies were invited. There is also a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji that has been gifted by PMC to San Jose and it has been given a space of one acre in one of their biggest gardens.
Mayor Mukta Tilak, who visited Austin (US) with a delegation on July 24, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Steve Adler, mayor of the city of Austin, to adopt certain procedures and policies for the establishment of the Sister City relationship. According to the letter from the city council of Austin, the proposed sister city relationship between the city and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) will promote and facilitate greater understanding of the cultural, economic, and educational ideals of the two communities and their citizens. PMC has also adopted a similar resolution to establish a sister city relationship with Austin.