Monday, August 20, 2018

Pune, City No. 1 !

“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”…  Jane Jacobs.

Jane Jacobs, was an American-born Canadian writer and activist with primary interest in communities and urban planning and decay. She is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a powerful critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950s in the United States. The book has been credited with reaching beyond planning issues to influence the spirit of the times. Along with her well-known printed works, Jacobs is equally well-known for organizing grassroots efforts to block urban-renewal projects that would have destroyed local neighborhoods. Many writers in their career write more than one book but out of that just one book is enough to make them carve their name in the history of literature, with “The Death and Life of Great American Cities’  Jane has done that. This book as I have referred in some of my earlier sharing is like Bible or Bhagawd-gita or Kurhan of Urban Planning. Sorry if I have hurt some religious minds in comparing these auspicious books but I did it just to explain the importance of Jane’s work for urban planning field! And when the subject is about our very much Pune being ranked as No 1 city in entire country on livability index then whose better words then Jane’s I could have used! Recently the news made headline in all news papers as the city ranked as No 1 City on livability scale as per the survey conducted across the country & its extensive work with nearly fourteen heads on which all major cities are compared & then Pune has been declared as best amongst all in the category of cities up to 40 lakh population! The fourteen parameters are… Safety & Security, Power Supply (electric power), Assured Water Supply, Mixed Land Use, Economy & Employment, Governance, Health, Housing Inclusiveness, Identity & Culture, Education, Public Place, Reduced Pollution, Solid Waste Management, Waste Water Management & lastly  Transportation & Mobility! Well, it’s a through work as all these parameters combinely define life that any city offers to its citizens!

So, first of all I congratulate everyone in this city to for this honor! As when something goes wrong with the city (read services it offers) we all are eager to lash out the system, civic body or govt or each other i.e. govt (read PMC general body in our case) blames administration, administration blames (though not openly) to politicians as well citizens (read builders mostly), Builders blames corruption & license-raj, NGO’s blames all above three & poor citizens blame his or her destiny which made him or her live in this city! But when city gets honor of being No 1 then nobody gives any congratulations to others but everyone is busy in taking credit, right from the ruling party in PMC to those who have ruled in past but in opposition. And as criticism is an inherent characteristic of Punekar’s, many started pointing out flaws in this ranking system itself as well how false this honor is (I don’t blame them fully though) by pointing out lacunas the city has on all the above mentioned fourteen parameters. Some Punekars even went to the length saying this is City No 1 prize is managed by the Pune’s builders as to sale their flats which are unsold due to present recession! I wish its true as had the builder lobby that powerful to manage a nationwide survey then it wouldn’t have waited this long! And yes there was obvious sarcastic special comment from most Punekars, “I wonder if Pune is best livable city in country then what must be the scene in other cities!”

This last comment is very much important as let’s leave sarcastic part of it away for a while but really the way Americans are ignorant about any other country (read world) out of their own country (most Americans are ignorant even world out of their county why country) the same way Punekars are ignorant what happens out of Pune city’s boundaries. Well, thanks god for Hinjawadi IT park & PCMC as well Chakan/ Talegaon industrial estate now Punekar knows there is PCMC also & Hinjawadi but that’s all! Recently few months back the Gdachiroli Police (for Punekars, it’s a district at eastern end of Maharashtra which is our State) while leading a big anti naxal operation gunned down some thirty of naxlites. On this I wrote a letter congratulating the commandos team which was involved in this operation, their chief Dr Hari Balaji & SP Dr Abhinav Deshmukh, both young IPS officers wrote me back thanking about my letter to them but what was more important that they wrote, “we are thrilled & happy to know that people in Pune-Mumbai even knows such place like Gadchiroli exists in this very State & Country!” As while we criticize our city let’s see what really is scene around us & then we will know how lucky we are to have this life style. Why even go out of our State let’s compare with other towns in the State as I come from a small town in Vidarbha (Nagpur region) of this State & due to my work I have travelled all across the State to know about what’s scene on civic infrastructure or life in general, in other towns of the State!

First of all, the honor is well deserved because it’s the same political scene & bureaucracy (Babu Raj) as well attitude of citizens in all other cities which Pune faces. As like Pune (read PMC) every other city which was competing with us in the segment has a Municipal Corporation, elected members, administration set up & they too face problems like political interference, poor collection of revenue due to aspects like GST or wrong taxation or demonetization generated recession! These other cities also face people not paying their property taxes in time, encroachment, illegal construction (read slums), budget constrains & many other which we in Pune also has to face. Yet we in Pune as a citizen does get much better service (read life style) in comparison to all these cities are the fact. This isn’t just outcome of we are best because other cities are worst but a lot more than that which no one ever speaks & this is why I want to congratulate everyone who is responsible to make us No 1. As indeed its great job by the civic body which is governing authority for the city i.e. PMC for us but at the same time all other agencies like MSEDCL (I still love the term MSEB), Irrigation dept & yes Police dept too has large contribution in having this honor for the city. And indeed many organizations, private sector as well NGO’s contribution in their own way is equally important.

If you refer the above mentioned fourteen parameters, each has its own impact on the city’s life but by most important is Water Supply, Power Supply, Safety/Security & Education! As if these four aspects of any city are in place then rest follows especially Employment!

Many Punekar’s will wonder what about public transport & traffic but we due respect these things we need when we are required to move around for purposes like education & employment in & around the city! Thanks, as this city provides the purpose to it’s citizens to move around as look at many other cities which neither has jobs nor things like education which will make citizens to travel for distances! Agreed many people won’t like my logic & let me clear that I am not justifying horrific traffic scene of the city but first accept the cause behind this traffic is what city offers to its citizens! Coming back to the parameters water supply is the Jewel in the Crown of the Pune & I am talking about availability of water sources not distribution! We are lucky to have nearly five dams for just one city & refer pages of history & you will find any city which has flourished over the time has been blessed with good potable water supply! Who better than a man from dry region like Vidarbha can realize importance of water as in many big cities the source itself is problem in water supply. Then comes power supply, Pune circle (region) of MSEDCL generates maximum revenue & where most towns & cities suffers huge power cuts Pune enjoys twenty four hour supply which makes it most favorable place for industries of every sort!

Speak about safety & security, here again many will say the city has no law & order but behold, have you ever visited towns& cities in our State? Well, still there are ladies section & gents section separate in cinema halls & ladies don’t go to late night shows alone in most cities! On this background look at Pune’s night life, there have been incidences of some murders & street fights but this is safest city of its size & it’s due credit of Pune Police as well the cultural background of the city (read citizens) which accommodates any visitor with respect & love! And then education, right from Symbiosis to Bharti Vidyapith to DY Patil to MIT, VIT like private institutes as well COEP,FC College, SP College ,MES College, the list is endless; indeed its Oxford of East! And it’s all these educational institutes which creates raw material for every sort of industry meaning creating more jobs here is what makes Pune more livable as well draws people from all over the country to make this city their home! And as I say once you have water, power, safety & education then no wonder rest all things falls in proper place & all one has to do is monitor the growth! I think this monitoring the growth is what we should focus hereafter as being a good city is curse too as it attracts everybody towards it, result of which we are witnessing already in forms of chocked roads & millions of illegal constructions!

The last part of above para is the matter of concern as its sure great to become No 1 livable city in the country but that doesn’t makes us perfect is what we need to remind ourselves! This honor we should take as mile stone of our journey as this tag will definitely a boon for many industries in the city (read real estate) but then no tag (read honor) comes without a burden of responsibility which in our case is fulfilling the needs of civic infrastructure of the city! Just like the student in the class who comes first, from him or her teachers expects more marks so expects the parents; here also the expectation level we only have raised high with the honor of being No 1 from our city & if we fail to deliver then the very same honor will be crowned on some other cities’ head in coming years! Till then, lets feel happy & get ready to face the challenges ahead as a city becomes livable not by the buildings or flyovers or industries it has but because of the citizens & their attitude towards the city & that makes each of us responsible to protect & maintain the honor of City No 1 & take it further ahead!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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