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.

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