Woes of urban India [Archives:2008/1181/Community]

August 14 2008

By: Rajendra K. Aneja
[email protected]

Despite excellent GDP growth, urban India continues to be chaotic. The traffic of Mumbai, India's commercial capital continues to be utterly indisciplined. Taxis, cars, buses, motor cycles, scooters, cycles, delivery vans, trucks, crowd narrow jammed roads, endangering the lives of pedestrians. Ancient, broken down, tiny taxis lumber the weary roads. The public transport revolution, has yet to touch India.

Stray dogs rule the streets, sometimes in the daytime, but definitely in the nights. Try walking into a bylane in the night, and at least 3-6 dogs will start howling and prevent you from entering.

Celebrities continue to dazzle. actor Hrithik Roshan's Merc S series car skirmishes in Panvel and cricketere Dhoni's batting are yet the toast of the town. The starlets wearing low cut dresses, continue to dazzle commoners through covers of glossies.

About 15 to 20 per cent of Mumbai's road remain dug/state of repairs, every year, over the last many decades, specially the approach roads to the international airport. Roads continue to be repaired year after year, and contractors grow richer by the year. A brand new car, can become a rattling tin box, within 2 years, on the roads. Ministers, chief minister came, got promoted to the Center and moved on, but Mumbai remains the tattered old lady it was.

Dirt, filth, flies abound. Roadside hawkers continue to sell food in unhygienic conditions. Vegetables and fruits are yet sold on pavements, sprinkled generously with soot from passing vehicles and dust from the streets.

The much trumpeted retail revolution has yet to embrace south and central Mumbai, where prohibitive land prices and rentals preempt retailers from setting up glittering hypermarkets.

Salaries and incomes have increased, People talk of Rs. 1 crore (i.e. 800,000 AED), with the same ease, as they spoke of a lakh rupees (AED 80,000), a decade ago!! But, living costs have increased. India is on double digit inflation. This will put pressures on the labor and lower income categories, and could lead to widespread street discontent and demonstrations. There are scattered silver linings:

a) Realistic movies: Bollywood, renowned worldwide for producing saccharine movies of boys chasing girls around trees, is finally producing ground-real movies. Movies like 'Parzania' and 'Black Friday' provide insights into India's fractured psyche, and reveal how distant away we yet are, from being a mature democracy, at the subconscious level.

b) The Supreme Court: is faster with decisions, and is asserting the authority of the judiciary, providing some vibrancy to the democratic process. For the first time, since Independence, the Supreme Court is not merely showing speed, but also courage.