Monday, March 26, 2018

P for Pune or P for Parking?





“The way humans hunt for parking and the way animals hunt for food are not as different as you might think.” … Tom Vanderbilt.

I must first congratulate Tom Vanderbit, author of famous urban classic, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, for taking up a subject which we live virtually by now, especially in Pune. As look at our daily routine & the time we spend in driving, and then the Tom’s words will hit you more deep! Well I am sure by now Punekar’s have mastered in hunting the parking places as when I read the news about hohallah about parking policy by our "Mai Bapp" PMC, its Tom’s above words which came to my mind first! I appreciate Puneakr’s for opposing anything many a times just for the sake of oppose, especially when it’s something related to the city & the latest issue is parking policy proposed by civic administration of PMC. Well since long parking has become a serious curse, like a cancer to the city streets & things have become so serious that recently a tech guy was killed out of parking problems as he objected few people to park their vehicle in-front of his bungalow gate. And this is not the first or last such case, there has been major fights over parking, especially in old city or gaothan areas where the existing wadas of buildings don’t have parking in their premise & people has to park their vehicles on roads or where ever they get secure place. And I think here is the crux of the main parking policy, whether roads which are a public property, can or shall be used to park private vehicles free of cost & if yes why? Well, anyone will say one must pay if he is using public place for use of private purpose but then the answer isn’t as simple as it looks on face. The parking issue is like an octopus, with multiple tentacles which are spread from public transport to building by-laws to urban development polices to real estate calculations to auto industries balance sheets to politics! Agreed last one i.e. politics is like environment i.e. connected to everything related to society or say human beings! And I really wonder any political party (even the one in ruling in State) has understood this cancer named parking first & second has a will to cure it? Because this is not something which has arise in a day or week or even year; parking issue was bound to gulp the city some day as if any sane person is reading news papers over last few decades & the statistics of addition of new vehicles on city roads, would have guessed this present scene long back. Now as usual everybody is busy (even media) in analyzing or blaming is proper word for the parking scene as well parking policy. And opposition parties are first to jump in as what better time they can have than this to show their apathy for the citizens! Even the various NGO’s are in split whether to support the so called burden on citizen’s pocket or to support the logic in first place behind implementing the paid parking on road policy!

Well, this is specialty of Pune as whatever the outcome may be yet we need controversy about the subject here. Let’s see, what this so called parking policy rather entire parking aspect is. Till early 1980’s Pune was never bothered of parking as the term was restricted to only for the people who used to live in bungalows in parabhat road or camp locality i.e. rich citizens! The city was known for cyclists & tangas which doesn’t need much space for parking’s as well distances were not much to travel, even use of auto rickshaw was only for few. The real estate was just strengthening its roots in the suburbs & no wonder the then city planners who made policies related to parking as well road widths didn’t see any need to accommodate parking space for cars as well two wheelers (an error of our planners which made the entire city suffer later)! So most of the roads are hardly 6 meters or 9 meters wide & many buildings in 80’s you see today without any parking provisions i.e. ground floored structures. Even the major artery roads of the city like Karve road or Sinhgad road were not made wide enough, though in later DP’s (development plans) an effort has made to correct the mistakes but the damage has been done by then. IT parks was not a term which was heard of & industries like Telco & Bajaj were settling themselves but their employees are happy to commute by company busses. On weekends people used to take a rickshaw or PMT to central parts of the city like Deccan, Laxmi road or MG road as cars was only for riches. Even two wheelers were not required & on week day’s right from collegians to mid age citizens won’t mind paddling & yes cycling was no fashion thing but a day to day activity. And all you have available in two wheelers is Bajaj scooters or Luna mopeds & bikes means Rajdoot or Bullet, that’s all. The city was calm & pollution free from exhausts of vehicles, the roads were enough to accommodate the private as well public vehicles & only traffic jam time was some peak hour at evening or morning, unlike all day long jams today everywhere.

But as this was like peace before tornado, just the way they show in some fiction movie, with one curse of some witch, a small boy gets turned in to a huge ugly monster; the city’s traffic scene was on the verge of curse & before anybody can do anything about it the traffic & parking has taken the form of a monster! Agreed as I said we as a planner failed to understand this monster named traffic in making is equally true. As post 90’s, the city’s economy itself started changing with entry of IT as well Education Industry (pardon me for the term) along with growth of Auto Industry as well other industries in & around the city. This made happen two things, the existing city which was just like a big town started expanding its perimeter & more numbers of people started coming to make this city their home. This was a burden on city public transport (whatever little it was) & obviously the then PMT now PMPML wasn’t equipped by infrastructure & by will to accommodate this suddenly increased in traffic. Rather with any other professionally driven transport organization, this increased distance, newer destinations & traffic commuter’s increased numbers would have been boon to increase business, but not for our PMT as well its top bosses who were politicians first then anything for the city. And here is first entry of the cancer named traffic been made in Pune as people were required to travel for their job, for their daily shopping needs, for schooling & even for entertainment on weekends & there was no public transport system in place to take care of their travel needs in & around Pune. Obvious outcome was buying private vehicles & at the same time i.e. late 90’s suddenly with our free economy policy, there were hundreds of option in two wheeler markets in the name of Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Hero, TVS Suzuki & it’s like flood gate for two wheeler buyers! Within next ten years by 2000 the city is no more cycle city but two wheeler city. Even at least by then the traffic planners as well city rulers should have awakened against the threat of traffic yet nobody did anything & soon in every corner of the city two wheeler companies show room can be seen making all sorts of finance schemes available for buyers.

Post year 2000 there was IT boom which made average citizen of Pune richer & so did everyone connected to IT i.e. service industry too grew in leaps. And then real estate blossomed like anything, every square inch of land become gold & with all this new inflow of money then next buy was obviously four wheeler as not only it become a status symbol but need also. As for the family of four to go some place together a rickshaw could accommodate only three passengers & with the kind of rickshaw service (read their way to accept or reject the passengers depending up on destination) it was never a strong option for public transport. And when every other segment of the city (read society) was becoming stronger on financial as well status front the public transport of the city (now PMC & PCMC  both) was keep on becoming weak. I really doubt that for the benefits of auto industry this was deliberately done by our rulers as look at any city in world the public transport has grown or say prospered along with the city which was exactly opposite case with Pune! Result was by end of 2017 we have nearly four million private vehicle (two & four wheelers), narrow roads & no public parking places!

Now what PMC & PCMC did is make the parking norms stringent i.e. keep increasing per unit (read flat) parking space within the new projects. But this is like making bigger garbage depot to accommodate more garbage, which is not going to work ever! As what about the existing development & their occupants vehicles & second is now the scene is most homes have two numbers of four wheelers & three numbers two wheelers & no building can accommodate this kind of vehicles, the planning becomes impossible both financially as well physically making space to occupy such vehicle load! And then what we were going to do when all these vehicles comes on road & put in use? You can make space for parking at night in a building where the owner is residing but what when he takes that vehicle out for buying grocery or he goes to drop his son to school or when he goes to his dentist? Where he is going to park his vehicle at all such times as there is no place on road & public parking reservations have not made available in the volume they are required is a fact?

Here is where the civic body comes with a unique funda, the new parking policy i.e. make people pay for parking of their vehicles when it’s on road. Logically it’s correct that if you are using public place for your private parking then you have to pay for it & it’s applicable in most of the big cities across the world. But then why a person in first place required getting his private vehicle out on road often, is the question I will ask to our rulers! At the same time look at our DC (development control) rules which instead making enough parking lots reservations & strengthening public transport infrastructure, focus on accommodating more vehicles in the building. This is in a way encouraging people to buy more vehicles at the same time this parking of vehicles takes out space for every other activity mainly the trees & children’s play area. No more any kid can play around the buildings as there is no space & all the time you are warned by the security watchmen that your cricket ball can damage society member’s cars! The trees are cut under the name that it’s leafs & branches make nuisance & its same story outside of buildings, on roads too; actual purpose is accommodate more vehicles on roads & in buildings! High time for our planners to accept that if we plan our city around the vehicles we will never able to become a good livable city, instead we should plan the city around tress & humans! Agreed these words might sound a bit dramatic & “gyan” types but that’s the fact we have been neglecting over the years & how much more price we want to pay for our negligence?

The only way to cure this parking cancer is make the public transport efficient as till we don’t do that, we don’t have got option to millions of private vehicles & then these vehicles will need space to park which will be never sufficient (even stand taken by media houses like Sakal also says so). Issue is not just about domestic vehicles, what about commercial vehicles or even public transport vehicles which occupies most of the road drive ways all night? We are unable to give parking space even for PMT busses & we are trying to frame a policy for pay & park, how citizens are going to accept it? I own a private vehicle & I don’t mind paying some parking charges to park my car on public road but is it the final solution of parking as problem is not parking but the millions of vehicles itself, is we are conveniently forgetting! And then allowing vehicles to park along the roads, what about reduced drive ways & traffic jams it creates? And now by latest news only on five roads pay & park has been finalized (one more joke), as what this thing is going to make difference? Imagine we have 10 lac (one million) of four wheelers & wit average 20 feet length for parking it makes one two crore feet length of roads to accommodate all these cars, even say 20% of cars will be on roads (applying safety  factor discount) still it makes forty lac running feet of road length & that makes  twelve lac meter length means nearly one thousand two hundred kilometer length of city roads to accommodate just 20% of cars & I haven’t considered 35 lac (3.5 millions) two wheelers in it! Now you can imagine the grave danger we are dealing with of this parking named cancer!

At the same time when we are being so busy in de-reserving lands under so called green belts  what about reservation for parking lots all in & around the city? How many parking lot reservations are there in DP & how many of them has been actually being made in use by acquiring such reservation lands, who has all this data & who is responsible for it? About parking charges also there is confusion as why a real needy citizens has to pay same as commercial busses parked whole night illegally on road or visitors to some commercial establishment like marriage lawn (needless to say illegal) where vehicles are required to park on roads instead making any mandatory provision for them within the premise! In nutshell first make a city where people will need not have to use their own vehicle frequently & then make a pay & park policy on all roads which will not be a burden on common man’s pocket. Like the famous dialogue in our Hindi films, “insan gunahagar nahi hota, halat use gunahgar bananepe majboor kar dete hai” i.e. "It’s not the person but mostly the circumstances which makes him a criminal!" Same is true when somebody parks his car or bike on city roads! I think citizens needs answers to all these questions then only civic body has moral right to implement new parking policy regarding paid parking on roads or even about parking norms itself in the building. Or else the day is not long where like they show in Hollywood movie Madmax, all we will see around is cars, bikes & air filled with their exhausts, that day the only policy will be “Jiski Gun Uska Parking!




-- 
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

Please view my sharing about real estate in Pune at U-Tube link below..



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Monday, March 19, 2018

Pune, First Among Equals?







“Cities are never random. No matter how chaotic they might seem, everything about them grows out of a need to solve a problem. In fact, a city is nothing more than a solution to a problem, that in turn creates more problems that need more solutions, until towers rise, roads widen, bridges are built, and millions of people are caught up in a mad race to feed the problem-solving, problem-creating frenzy.”  Neal Shusterman.

Neal Shusterman is an American writer of young-adult fiction. He won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for Challenger Deep & though his above words are from his fiction work yet its fits so well with urban planning that when I read the news of our beloved Pune being ranked as number one city on comfort level (well, yet to comment on it) among 23 cities from nearly 20 States in the country!  Indeed a hard core Punekar will ask, why it needs to have some competition or survey to decide we are number one? As well some typical sarcastic (inherent quality of being Punekear) will further ask, were there really any other cities in the competition or its just Pune & few villages? But then this is Pune, here nothing goes without criticism, not even coming first in competition!  Lets understand first what was the survey or competition & then we can decide what’s actual scene; an institute names Jangrah Center for Citizenship & Democracy, Bangalore has surveys major cities in the country & the criteria was civic administration & management of the city on infrastructure front. And it’s being done since last four years & extensive data has been gathered & then last week Pune has been declared as best among all the cities on managing the city (in simpler words). As like any industry or organization or say a big hotel or hospital, a city also needs a system to run it, we call it PMC (Pune Municipal Corporation) in Pune. This body, authority whatever we call it is in actual is a system which sees that the city runs properly. Agreed it’s a complex system as many aspects can be understood by only urban planners yet here I remember, once when asked to famous film producer /director David Dhavan, that, how he defines a good movie? He replied, the movie which makes box office ringing with cash is a good movie, we call it as hit!  Pretty strait forward & clear as ultimately it’s the movie watchers for whom a movie has been made & they only decide its fate, if its good they will queue up for watching, if not then it’s a flop as empty chairs will tell the story! Same way a city is good or bad only the citizens can decide & from that angle let’s see where Pune city stands actually!

First let’s have a look at good things as with due respect to sacristies’ of Punkers’ yet the city is growing is a fact & is probably largest quality migration center in country. When I say quality migration means quality of the migrants & the purpose people come here. Unlike Mumbai & Kolkata, where thousands comes from rural of the country just to flee off from their hometown in search of food & shelter, here the case is different. 

Again keeping all due respects for the situation of migrants to Mumbai yet most of them are super poor & unskilled & are ready to earn by any means is a fact. While in Pune people come for education & become a better person by gaining knowledge as well  for jobs which are mostly white collared & which requires some skill. So Pune has capacity to draw a quality crowd, mean people feel that they can make their career here & earn with respect; both, knowledge as well money. This in itself is a big advantage for Pune as it’s the people who define a city & not the buildings or malls or industries. And it’s this educated, literate, wanting to become better types people who are citizens of Pune which makes it’s a cultural city. And mind it; this is the backbone of city as culture of any city is defined by the culture (read attitude towards the life) of its residents & sure Pune score high on this aspect. And believe me Pune is dream destination to settle down for entire younger genre not only from the mid segment cities from Maharashtra but most neighboring States like MP, Rajasthan, even Up & Bihar too! The reason is poor employment generation & civic infrastructure in these areas as well deteriorating law & order (read culture). Not many readers will like my statement but I am in the field of home making & have clients from all the segments & this feedback is from many of the younger clients who come from above mentioned locations. And in urban planning it’s always like that, gain of some city is loss of some; same way few decades back we have brain drain to USA & Europe. Even today when from all over the country people want to settle in Pune, many Punekars have found their solace in USA is a fact. Now ask why a Punekar wants to settle in California? Answer is simple, for better life style & better life style is not just more money (yes it indeed is a major aspect) but its opportunities to explore new knowledge treasure as well peace of mind too.

So this city offers good education opportunities as well career making possibilities to use the knowledge you have gained. Along with it has cultural tadka also to life, means options to spend money you have earned. As why the places like Aurangabad or Nagpur, which has better geographical advantages than Pune, didn’t grew the way Pune did. Simple, ask any new graduate, give him package slightly more than what he will get in Pune & ask him to choose out of three cities, he or she will still choose Pune. Reason is this genre needs happening life & it is in Pune with social security! This “happening”, tag is so magnetic that I am having a project in nearby city Satara, where I get to interact with locals & they said the girls from Satara don’t want to marry a boy who has been settled in Satara which is just 90 km away from Pune. They are ok with a lesser salaried husband but have to be working in Pune. As they feel marrying with a boy who is settled in Satara will tie their life forever with this small town & they don’t want it. Now you can imagine as Satara has everything water, weather, peace, affordability & all these things rather better than what Pune offers yet people want to settle in Pune, so imagine what it must be for thousands of villages & small towns which doesn’t have any above things in first place!

Well, so it’s sure that Pune scores high on job opportunities, education, culture & recreation (my version of “happening”) but then does it fulfills the expectations of the residents? As I remember in Moscow Olympic, USA & its allies boycotted the game, so the communist countries got medals with tons & same this has happened in Los Angeles Olympics, where Russia & its allies didn’t participated. But it doesn’t under rate the Olympic medal, though yes the standard of records may be a thing which can be challenged. Because when there no serious competition then obviously the performance does gets affected, yet Pune is part of this very country & we also face the same challenges which other cities face & so whatever we have achieved is creditable & the civic body as well the so called govt, all must be congratulated for this number one ranking! Yet this doesn’t means as we are the best we don’t have any lacuna, only a fool will think like that, is what I wanted to point. As history  has enough proofs that cities which has been once on the top has been doomed only because they didn’t seen the change which was expected from them by the citizens & Pune is no exception! Let’s see what the scene from that dimension…is

What you expect from you city? Have we ourselves has ever asked this question to our own self ever? I did & I want my city to be nature friendly, I want to see bulbuls & mainas & sparrows in abundance around & obviously we need lots of green cover for that along with clean water bodies. I want to see river running through my city as clean, with lots of greenery around, I don’t mind occasional buildings along but I will love people spending time at leisure along the banks of the river through the city. I want roads wide enough to accommodate the vehicles yet I will like to see efficient & clean public transport so every now & then I won’t be required to take out my own vehicle. And if I do require to use my vehicle then I want enough & well planned parking places all in & around the city & yes I don’t mind paying the parking charges as I will be using public property to park my private vehicle! Whenever I feel like I should be able to use footpaths as they must be free of encroachments from vendors selling Chinese food to Wada Pav & all sorts of goods. I want the road to be pot holes free & don’t want to see digging going on days of the year. Yes one more thing, I want greenery along the roads too & not concrete paved surfaces all around. I want to see a city sky line without ugly faces looking at me from every corner via hoardings (which I know are illegal) as well at night when I look at the sky, instead a dust filled cloudy cover, I want to see the stars shining above, in short words pollution free sky I want to see. I want the public toilets clean & usable, so I need not have to hold natures call when on city roads, & I should be able to locate public toilets in city easily as there has to be lots of them around. I want public schools (read PMC schools) well equipped teaching staffs & facilities along with proper sanitation arrangements, so my maid or driver’s siblings should not be required to run around for private schools admissions. At the same time I want the city should have health care facilities for all classes of the society. I want public recreation places in city equally distributed in all suburbs, where as citizens can gather, come together & entertain themselves with art & culture. I want that no citizen in this city is required to live in slum or illegal buildings, rather nobody should dare to build any illegal structure in any form in this city! Lastly I should be able to call my friends & family members from other cities, proudly to my city & show them around, look this is why we are Number One city! And yes I am ready to pay my share of property tax to avail all such services but I have an expectation that no citizen (read politicians, slum dwellers or such) should be exempted from property tax

Well, now after going through above lines, one must be thinking, I m day dreaming or was I writing an essay about My Ideal City, so let me tell you, it’s just part of my dream, the list of things I want to have from my city isn’t complete. But then after going through above list, was I asking sun or moon from the system we call govt? As if we are Number One city on comfort or administrative systems then why can’t I have what I listed above from my city? Here is the main reason of criticizing this Number One thing, as with whom we are comparing? Agreed, Pune has many better things than most of the cities in the country but that doesn’t makes us an ideal city, is a fact our rulers must understand & accept! A lot has to be done yet right from balanced & equal water supply type basic things we are unable to achieve is a bitter truth. We are growing as a city not because we are good but we are the best available option & indeed that too is commendable thing yet if we doesn’t aim for being good then better & then best, in no time we will become bad, that’s how even best of the cities have become history! Pune culture & knowledge base citizens are the strength of this city & let’s not forget; only those cities have survived which has conserved their strengths. Finally speaking about getting number one city position & being happy about it, well we have every right to celebrate this tag but like Amir Khan says at the end of movie Dil Chahata Hai, “perfection ko improve karana mushkil hota hai” ! So if we keep considering ourselves as perfect then that’s end of our improvement, is all I will say for the rulers as well citizens of our city; till then lets enjoy being Number One!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

Please view my sharing about real estate in Pune at U-Tube link below..



Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !
 (Click the links below)



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For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Balgandharva Rang Mandir & Dying Heritage of the City!





“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind”… Branch Rickey.

Wesley Branch Rickey was an American baseball player and sports executive. He was perhaps best known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barriers by signing African American player & he turned a motivational speaker in later years of career.  Often great quotes have come from great players or artists as may be because their performance itself becomes our heritage for the next generations, which gets reflected in words coming from them, is what I feel. As when I read the news successively about a proposal of demolishing existing Balgandharva Rang Mandir i.e. BRM (actually theater isn’t the term I will like to use) it’s the words used in the quote came to my mind. Will share a bit about BRM, the work started in 1061 & the building get in to operation in 1968 (year of my birth, a coincidence), considering the speed with which our govt departments actually works, that was pretty fast I must say. Spread on nearly 30,000 sft area of land, this 1000 persons capacity theater cum auditorium soon become pride of Pune & a modern times heritage. It has also got an art gallery, first of its kind that time in Pune, spread over 3000sft in addition to theater & spacious parking. What’s more important is its most strategic location as it right in the centre of city & on JM road which is probably the link between east & west of the city. No wonder soon the BRM becomes a land mark not as a theater for dramas & many cultural programs but became an address by itself for modern Pune.

And what more irony it could have been there that in golden jubilee year (50th) of this iconic structure, discussions are going about demolishing it! Since the news got out there has been as usual debates, commotions going on in social as well news media from both sides. No wonder every political party now days wants to be part of anything which is trending socially, so immediately all other parties other than ruling parties jumped in to oppose the decision of demolishing this heritage structure & pride of Pune. Well, its these same political parties when was in ruling I don’t remember giving a damn about maintaining this pride of Pune neither ever bothered that it’s been put on use for which Balgandharva Rang Mandir has been built. Because for years now there has been war between the artists’s associations versus the political part for allowing this building to use for respective use.  As the building belongs to PMC means as political bosses (as per the logic which goes in PMC, that any public building is owned by them) wish they will use it. No wonder with its central location & vicinity to PMC itself, most of the political events are carried out majorly in BRM. This makes impact in very bad way on cultural programs as most of these political problems are fixed at eleventh hour & as per the convenience of political bosses, it affects schedule of pre-booked cultural events like dramas or some art show. At the same time the kind of visitors come here for political events, well we all know the way our dear ‘karyakartas” of all parties uses any public property; making life difficult for the actual users who come here for art & culture!  And then when you say owe something, it’s not done by having your name on property card of that structure, it’s by the way how you maintain or look after that structure & on this front why Balgandharva Rang Mandir but every public structure no govt dept deserves to own, such pathetic way they are maintained. Even about BRM, right from the artists to audience, everybody has slammed PMC for worst maintenance of sitting chairs, back stage arrangements, sound as well AC systems & lastly the toilets; well do I required to say more about the public hygiene aspect of our city? And it’s not only the Balgandharva Rang Mandir, look at any so called monuments or heritage buildings in the city or even the places like Paravti or Railway station & many such, what we see is disgusting state of maintenance which actually displays the true culture of our city i.e. our dirty & negligent attitude towards our so called heritage, though many die hard Punekars won’t like it but it’s a bitter truth! Name one single place (not Malls or IT buildings) where we can take our outsider guests & show them cultural or heritage places of the city! And for a city which boosts itself as cultural capitol of the State, this surely isn’t thing of pride!

So, on this background I question to all the Punekar’s do we deserve to have heritage structures like Balgandharva Rang Mandir in first place? And if yes then what we are doing to maintain them in proper condition & shape as well put to right use for which we have built them? And when we have failed to perform our duty towards this monument to allow it to exist with pride then what moral right we have, to say not to demolish it? Now, the aspect of necessity of demolishing BRM comes in picture as it’s not the action but intention behind the action is what matters me most. No specific reason has been given to demolish the Balgandharva Rang Mandir by the rulers rather this is what bug me most, as if your intentions are clear & clean then why are you afraid of justifying the action by putting it in open? As if Punekar considers BRM as their heritage then let them know the need to demolish is more important for the city & build something better at the same place which will fulfill the increased cultural as well artistic needs of this so called Cultural Capitol City! But then inside currents says different story as the very convenient location for the Metro interchange nearby this place can be used as parking need for the Metro travelers & to cater that under the name of rebuilding of BRM, this existing structure is planned to be demolished is what inside whispers says! If this is the truth then the action of demolishing needs to be condemned as city already lacks on cultural outlets is a fact & BRM is one of the finest (like a fraze in Marathi, “wasarat langdi guy shahani”), I mean whatever we have at hand in comparison to that, & demolishing it & building something which will be focused around a parking lot & other commercial activities & in between all that somewhere an auditorium for performing arts, is definitely not accepted! As we are in 21stcentury & if only parking is the issue then it can be done below the building, keeping the building intact or even below the PMC building itself. Joke is when we knew upcoming Metro & its route since last ten years, yet the new building has been build in PMC premise recently which could have been build with multi level parking-lot below it for the proposed Metro interchange at PMC; but then planning was, is & will never be our forte, is unfortunate fortune of this city! Agreed both above options wouldn’t be easy but then surely it would have been lot easier & less costly than demolishing BRM & taking away cultural outlet for the citizens for at least next five years. As that much time will be required to build anything new with best possible speed of our govt system & then who guaranties that interest of the citizens will be taken care in new structure? As once the existing structure is demolished then we will be entirely at mercy of the new PPP model where interests of the commercial benefits occurring out of this development will be more important under the name of feasibility of the project!

Here I remember one of the cases in Amsterdam, Holland with my friend who resides there. In his neighborhood there was a beautiful park & a public building. After some years the civic body realized that to maintain this building isn’t a viable or feasible thing so they deiced to convert it in a commercial development. But before that they called every family living in the visual vicinity of this existing public building & park, showed them the proposed development in which all care has been taken not to disturb the view of day to day activities like parking or traffic in the neighborhood. Opinions in written has been asked by the residents around, their suggestions incorporated, the purpose & need of demolishing the existing public building was explained to them & only after consent of majority of the residents around the said public building was demolished & a new development was done! I think this is where a developed country defers from our beloved country, which we considered as progressing but the said progress is just for few & never for the masses. Though this doesn’t defines the so called opponents (read political parties) of the demolishment decision of BRM right, as they are opposing for their own selfish reasons & surely not for the interest of the city. 

At the same time BRM isn’t the first heritage to give way for our so called development plans of future as I remember when I came to Pune in mid eighties there was a huge fountain at university road, where stands now a fly over. That fountain in a way was heritage for the city as lets first understand how we define something as heritage. By Cambridge Dictionary a heritage means, “features (read monuments) belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance”. Well, this definition is by dictionary; by me, a heritage monument, it can be a place, a surrounding, a structure which has been part of our society where people has spent their time as well which has been part of memories of the masses over sizable time span (mostly for good reasons). A heritage can be manmade or even natural too as not necessary as it’s not the creator but the people who are beneficiary of these creations makes it an heritage. Like the university road fountain, there are many such places in every city around which memories of generations has been tied of & this is what we need to understand while we think of development. Rather high time a city level policy should be made (by the way, there is a heritage cell at PMC) not just to identify the heritages but how much weightage we give them while we restructure the city for future needs. Because a heritage for one generation may be obstacle or inadequate for next generation, in such case does it really remains a heritage or not is the question. Agreed BRM is here for fifty years & have been witness to many important moments in these five decades but may be its purpose is done can also be other side of the coin. Only thing is today its BRM tomorrow it will be PMC building itself as looking at the spread & volume of workload, sure the existing building of PMC will be required to rebuild to take care the expectation from the same & so does many public buildings. As all these buildings which today we are calling as heritage are built for need of past era & may be they are not suitable for today’s demands. But demolishing of such structures is justified only if they are really failing to deliver for what they have been build for & we (read govt) has taken genuine efforts to maintain them in their best form. Which definitely is not the case with BRM & that’s why personally I feel we should rethink demolishing of BRM! 

Because with every passing year something new will come up & old has to give way for the new entrants is the law of nature. Still every generation will leave behind something for coming generation & it may not be necessarily some garden or structure but what philosophy or culture we will be leaving behind for our next generation will be the real heritage! After demolishing Balgandharva Rang Mandir building there might come some more better building on its place but the true purpose or thought process behind the decision of demolishing it, will be the real heritage we will be leaving for the next generation & that is what will decide fate of our society & not just city is the fact we should understand today!
-- 
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Empress Garden; Battle Ground For War Between Development & Nature!







“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”… Edward R. Murrow.

Murrow was an American broadcast journalist. He was generally referred to as Ed Murrow. He gained prominence with a series of radio broadcasts for the news division of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States. His team of foreign correspondents was known as the Murrow Boys & has some of the greatest names in journalism mostly known for criticizing government for all the wrong doing! His above quote is one of the most famous in describing the way government works, all around the world politics & I don’t know about the nation but when it’s our Pune city or State of Maharashtra, with due respect to our Hon CM, Murrow sadly is right!  And there are many reasons for me to believe Murrow, latest in the list is Empress garden issue. Thanks to sensitive city like Pune where few sheep still dare to take wolves head on & indeed the wolves comes with many names, posts, positions & faces in today’s world. First of all for all those who still are ignorant about what Empress garden is (especially migrants to Pune as well west side of Pune who hardly goes there) for them let me tell you if at all whatever reminisce of so called old historic natural charm of Pune is left then Empress garden makes major part of it. Spread over some 40 odd acres, area in digits is not important though, what’s important is the difference this place brings to the city. Consider Shaniwar Wada or Pravati, would it have made any difference has size of Shaniwar wada been less or more by few square feet or height of Paravti would have been less or more by some feet? No, will be the answer as things like heritage & nature are not measured on the scale of some measuring tape but the quality of life it has given to the entire society & over the scale of time! That’s where Empress Garden stood tall among many monuments in the city & best part is no human hands has build this monument but nature itself! 

Well, by now you must have understood what is Empress garden, it’s a huge garden spread on east side of Pune with oldest of the trees as well thousands of plants, creepers which are home for equal numbers of species including birds, insects, reptiles & acts a lung of this fast graying (read dying) city which is buckling under the name of development!
Our Pune city & its rulers (this covers every that govt organization which has role in making this city a better place i.e. PMC to Collector to Urban Development) always make me amaze by the way things happens here out of the blue & keep people busy in fighting over these issues. The very recent issue is govt unrevealed its willingness to build some residences for the senior officers. No harm as even govt employees need homes but problem is the place which has been chosen for doing so is part of Empress Garden & that started a war between systems named Govt & Developers against citizens who think they know the importance of places like Empress Garden!  When its development then as an engineer as well builder by myself I can’t oppose the development but question is at what cost we will be making this so called development? Rather have we really understood the term development in first place? Because if we are considering Fly-overs, Metro (now Hyper Loop too) , IT parks, Malls, Industries, Townships, Ring Roads & many such things are development then we are just fools as all these are just manmade structures! As no development can be complete without nature in it & nature comes in many forms, just the way we consider development for above mentioned structures, rivers, hills, lakes, streams, trees, creepers, birds, butterflies, even insects too, are part of nature & that makes all of them part of our development too! Here is where the tussle comes in between the so called developers & citizens who are sane enough to understand the real meaning of development but are tagged as “Environmentalists”, a term which is used like a curse by the people who under the name of development has only one motif i.e. make more money at any cost!

We need a system named govt which is supposed to be keeping control on this tussle or say war between developers & citizens, as we can’t afford extremists on both sides. We are growing & the growth has its own needs so structures like houses, malls, roads are bound to be there but then more structures means more land is space is equally true. So from where this more land for our structures is going to come from? At the same time because of our unplanned growth the so called development essential for decent life style is divided in pockets leaving some pockets totally without any good infrastructure & some pockets of the city has got every best thing around. Naturally its land in these pockets which gets premium demand & it’s here where the developers as well govt eyes their potential structures, mainly homes as they bring money! Empress Garden is victim only because its right in the vicinity or Race Course as well Pune’s elite area i.e. MG road & Cam & no wonder even the govt servants too fell for this location. Well, by now it’s not still clear that whether there will be houses on the said land of Empress Garden but because of this intention of govt one thing surely has come forwards, rather two things, one is govt doesn’t think or care for nature & second there are sane & aware citizens who fights for city’s betterment! What I wonder is about why our "Mai Baap Govt", when it owns nearly 30% prime lands officially, can plan the so called quarters for the officers  on these available lands but try to do something which will be hailed by all, is for sure? Sometimes I think govt’s such attempt to do something attierely foolish is a deliberate hoax, played to divert the attention of citizens or masses as well of media from major drawbacks the city is having! As look at the scene, entire focus is on Empress garden saving & then one fine morning govt will issue a circular that it’s not intended to build anything on Empress Garden land & citizens will celebrate their victory over the system but in the mean time many other lacunas in city planning will be neglected & forgotten along in the mood of celebration!

As PMC, Collector & PMRDA has hundreds of lands available with them in many prime areas as well in suburbs in the forms of Amenity Spaces & reservations, which have been handed over to these organizations respectively by the developers & are lying vacant for years. So why can’t staff quarters of all govt officers are build on these Amenity Spaces which are already with the govt & are vacant? And then one more thing by making various govt employees homes all across the city & suburbs, let them know the problems common citizens has to face for very basic civic infrastructure like roads, water & public transport! Or else if you take a look on any govt servant’s colony, then you will realize its situated always in such locality where there rarely is any civic problem, making the govt servants (which actually are policy makers or works executioners for the city) cutoff from the harsh realities of the city life. Though barring a few exceptions like police line, all govt colonies are maintained properly as funding is never a problem. Another aspect is why can’t our govt makes a master plan for all their owned lands & then execute it stage wise! Rather many govt lands have become prey to illegal encroachments or have become dumping yards for the garbage is the scene all around the city. For e.g. Police dept alone has huge land right within the city at various locations as well around the city but mostly the potential of all such lands is untapped & while the entire Pune districts police force is some fifty thousand in numbers but the police staff quarters are just five thousand odd, in spite having such huge land bank with police dept! The case is same with most govt depts., so instead using lands like Empress Garden first go & get the own land for building staff quarters, is what govt should do. And then when Empress Garden type land grabbing incidence happens, one will surely doubt the very basic intentions of the govt, is a fact!

And then whenever such nature blessed lands are taken by the govt for any purpose, why just houses, then we all have witnessed what was the outcome. Right near MG road, camp, one big mall has been built by giving way few beautiful bungalows of govt where huge trees used to shed the surrounding, now exists just glass & concrete fa├žade, making money for the few! Same is case with thousands of big old trees which has been cut to make new roads but what happened to the plantation of new trees along these roads & making them survive, no one answers this question. Outcome is we are having roads with millions of vehicles blowing CO2 from their exhausts & zero tree shed or Oxygen emission anymore. And the story of tree cutting for our development can be seen all around Pune as right from Ganeshkhind Road to Sinhagad road to FC road, we have cut down thousands of huge old banyan, neem & piple trees for accommodating our vehicles (we even refuse to pay parking charges) & look at present status of these roads, no words can describe the damage, this we call development? Worst is in this process of cutting trees we have taken away homes of millions of birds & insects as we cut down those trees; have we ever thought where they would have gone! 
We are talking of river front development but what about the already extinct bio diversity around river rather we will be killing whatever little biodiversity exists around! And then who has stopped the govt from making the river pollution free as it’s this very govt only which turns blind eye towards every polluting stuff getting mixed in rivers & why others, it includes mixing of untreated drainage also from PMC’s very own effluent treatment plants!

Recently our Union Minister for Environment is appealing to citizens in an advertising campaign on radio channels for planting more trees, try to save nature by individual effort but his very own govt system seems deaf in listening his voice. As on one side govt spends millions of rupees for advertising on Save Environment campaign but forgets (read neglects) to do the job which it’s been getting paid for. As right from cutting trees to polluting natural water sources to encroaching green zones to pushing the biodiversity around to extinct level, everything which can be stopped  by the govt, but no such efforts are being done by the authorities is a fact. And it’s not just Empress Garden, but take a look at river side green belts or hills (Bio Diversity Parks), neither we are taking clear stand nor we are doing anything to conserve these places making them perfect target for slums which eventually will get regularized after few years! And then on one side PMPML Ex Chief was complaining he doesn’t get space to park his busses, which are back bone of public transport of Pune & is only key to reduce pollutions around us, but we give importance to staff quarters at the cost of tree cover! No wonder it’s this attitude of our govt towards development which is a cause of concern for reduction of tree cover in Pune district when all around the country forest cover has increased!

Today its Empress garden, so what next for govt staff quarters? Parvati Hills, or Shaniwar wada (it too has huge open spaces inside & around); when we will understand that by demolishing heritage places like Empress Garden we can’t change the course of history, let’s not forget this simple truth! It’s high time the wolves in govt should stop underestimating the sheep in form of citizens as when united in millions; even the sheep can outrun pack of wolves.

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

Please view my sharing about real estate in Pune at U-Tube link below..



Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !
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