Saturday, November 30, 2019

Infrastructure, Development, Real Estate & Media!







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“Prayers don't build good infrastructures. They don't develop countries. They don't improve the poor healthcare system or the education system. God has placed man in charge of ALL.”… Oyekunle Bamigboy.

“Passionate about technology and how it makes life easier for all; I'd love to see Nigerian startups grow rapidly and become worldwide phenomenon. I coach and write on Growth Hacking, Social Media, Search Engine, E-commerce, Analytics and User Experience”, is what Mr. Oyekunle says about himself on his FB post & I was pleasantly surprised to read his thoughts about the word which is like “Sim Sim” to our dear country at present, is “Infrastructure”; because Oyekunle comes from a country like Nigeria, where Infrastructure is food & water, is all people knows about it! And reason I remember his words about infra because I was honored by Sakal papers by inviting me for a panel discussion in their yearly meet of editors of various publications as well many senior reports coming all over from the progressive State of ours i.e. Maharashtra! I am not an authority on the subject though I am civil engineer a branch which deals with most aspects of infrastructure (I will use Infra as short form of Infrastructure) yet whatever little I have understood about Infra in last many years working as a civil engineer, environmentalist, traveler, wild lifer & more that that a common man, I think high time for understanding the word itself! And what better opportunity there could have been than to jump in brain storming of media people itself who are directly connected with society (read as common man) for whom we build Infra in first place! Thus I accepted the invite & next day I was on the table amidst some twenty odd reporters & editors along with some very senior names in news media, asking me equally deadly questions about whatever little I know about infra. And these people were from entire cross section of State i.e. rural belt of Pune, Pune city then northern part of State i.e. Nagar District as well from dry zones of Vidarbha & Martahwada & so were their questions.
The very first question was how I correlate infra with current financial situation in business as general? Well, this one question itself can take entire day for discussion but I knew this was just first & then what followed was rapid fire, how I rate infra in our State, what are hurdles, why there is migration towards Pune, how this is affecting real estate (well, I am builder too), when the recession will end (sic) & lastly what role media (read Sakal) can play on this aspect? Well, this is just what I recall but enough to cover the subject I what I feel.

I took my stance like Sunil Gavsakar i.e. taking enough time to sink in all the questions & asked them, “What you think is Infrastructure or how you define Infra?” Obvious answers were; roads, dams, bridges, public transport, canals, Metro etc etc all this means Infra. I said right but just 2 marks for 4 marks question, as to list out Infra, first you have to understand meaning of Infra & then you can explain its impact on not just business but entire aspect of life on every citizen! For e.g. for a person in a small town of Vidarbha, Infra means drinking water, while a farmer in Marathwada may say Infra means water for his farm as well food for his cattle, an industrialist from Nashik will say electric supply at reduced rates for his manufacturing unit, a family from Pune will say Infra means public transport to save their commuting time to work or clean public toilets, a fisherman from Konkan coast will say Infra means proper docking arrangement as well cold storage & transportation in place for their fresh catch from the ocean to reach to the best markets while a Mumbaikar will say Infra means availability of affordable home & finally ask any young graduate (no gender bar) across the State what he or she means Infrastructure & they will answer a Job is what Infrastructure means for them!

Well, now you will know Infra is not a thing or a structure or some development, Infra is need & needs changes as per people, geography & yes as per time also. For e.g. few decades back Pune’s need for Infra was good educational facilities as well jobs & now today with both needs fulfilled (mostly) our today’s needs are public transport & affordable housing. And then there are more such as garbage treatment (nobody cares how garbage is generated in first place that’s another issue) as well safety & security which are byproducts of prosperity & Infra for that is good policing. Then the way we are growing, our next needs will be pollution free atmosphere as well good public health facilities, this is simplest example of how needs changes as the city or town or any human settlements grows with time. So Infra is something which we need at all the times to make our life comfortable & this is how it affects not just business but entire life style of a society. Because take example of rural Maharashtra or say Marathwada & Vidarbha regions which are underdeveloped. Today if we build dams, roads, homes, industries, hospitals, malls, schools, all such things here, does that assures these areas will grow & prosper the way Pune, Nashik & Thane belt has prospered? Answer is a big No as all these are physical things & we need people to use them in first place. Right now the scene in district places or towns of Marathwada & Vidarbha (including western part of State & Konkan too) is, even the smallest of establishments like a grocery shop or a small fabrication unit or a bakery are running in loss as there are no buyers & I am not exaggerating, you can visit these places or call any of your relatives or friends at these places & confirm. Indeed few units will be doing good as whatever population’s basic needs are there bound to convert in some trade but that’s all, no money spenders lives in most of district places or towns, I mean in volumes. Reason is all those who has a degree in any branch of education, has nothing to do for earning  there & then those who has a job or a business at these places, are not happy for the life style these places offers to its citizens. So, both ways the flow is on from every district of rest of Maharashtra towards Pune & now again you will understand Infra is beyond bridges, water lines or public transport etc etc & that is, social life which the city offers to the citizens. As first you need money (read as job or means of earning) & the Infra is which will create such opportunities to earn money & when the money is in, then the Infra is opportunity to use that money for comfort or leisure which we call as happiness.

And it’s all such aspects of Infra which makes some city become better for residence while others less preferred which we are witnessing today with Pune & outcome is only in Pune (in our State ) real estate is surviving, I won’t dare to say doing great! Because comparing to all other towns & cities Pune scores best on Infra scale & if this is success we are thinking as Punekar then as State this is big failure as rest all State is non-livable i.e. having poor Infra that’s why Pune is doing good & that’s definitely not a sign of healthy growth or development! And then with Pune also it’s only the unbalanced Infra which has caused rates of houses varying significantly depending upon Infra provide to the respective suburbs which again is bad sign of development. Because it make homes in certain localities costlier (read in demand) in compare with other locations, as Infra is not even all along the city.

Coming to role of media on this aspect of life, indeed media can generate (read create) pressure on the system i.e. Govt which in most cases is responsible for providing all above mentioned Infra & who actually generates this so called pressure, none other than the citizens only! But for that first the media must understand the concept of Infra & to achieve that the media (read as reporters) must speak to the masses & classes of the society, know their needs as well limitations. Because Infra needs money, to build as well to make it sustainable to run for longer period. Right now most of the Public Bodies in State (Nagar Parishad or Mahanagar Palikas) are either bank-corrupt or on the verge & sole reason again is no sustainable i.e. revenue generating planning of Infra. Indeed the scene can’t change within few months or even years but we need to find out ways to generation of revenue & find avenues like tourism for the same. Tadoba Tiger Park is best example, generating nearly some Rs 9 crores per year via tourism & this money is being used for the locals making their life better means no requiring them to leave their villages around Tadoba forest. Media can meet the ends making people understand their respective roles in building Infra & not just naming govt for lack of the Infra. Its media which must take lead & make citizens understand their needs & finding ways to achieve those needs with their active participation. Public toilets or garbage treatment units are the best examples where the end users must come forward to maintain such things in their locality as govt can’t do everything rather should not do everything. At the same time issues like property tax must be sensibly dealt as if we need good Infra then we need to shell out some money from our pocket & then only we can ask Govt to provide it as well run it properly. Its media which instead just printing head lines of farmer’s suicides, can try to reach them, unite them & work out solution which can be solved at their level, is what I personally feel!

I think this is the key aspect in building Infrastructure where media can (read as must) take lead & make every single person understand his or her responsibility towards Infrastructure. Because everyone need something or other for comfortable living but knowing what we deserve to have what we need, is what decides one’s fate & who better than news-papers can  make us realize this fact about our fate!

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Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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