Skip to main content

In a severely congested 'smart' city, what are PSUs, Western Railways, BSF doing in Delhi?

By Mohan Guruswamy* 
One of the early text books I read on political economy started with a scenario set in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a city with huge traffic problems in the 1970s and 1980s, with a traffic jam at a major crossing on a hot summers day, that turns into a gridlock, and then leads to people abandoning their cars unable to bear the severe heat, only aggravating the problems.
This then leads to outbreaks of road rage, fistfights and soon into a welter of riots and inflicting a severe breakdown of law and order, that then spreads to others parts of Brazil. Brazil tackled the problem with its characteristic simple out of the box thinking. Sao Paulo still functions. I think India is now a better candidate to revolution coming out of a traffic jam.
Most capital cities have a concentration of government offices of various tiers and responsibilities crowded in as close as possible to the real and imagined corridors of power. In India apart from the ministries, departments and agencies, we also have a concentration of public sector undertakings (PSU) corporate offices in New Delhi. Many of these actually need not be here.
Lets take a few to illustrate this. Why is the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) required to be in New Delhi? Why must the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) be in the capital? 
It goes just as well for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Sashasta Seema Bal (SSB), Border Security Force (BSF), Indian Coastal Guard (ICG), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), and so many others who make for a crowded alphabet soup in New Delhi.
Delhi also has a Delhi government, several municipal corporations to add to the overcrowding. Then we must ask as to why the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has to be on Sansad Marg, and the Delhi High Court sitting almost next door to the Supreme Court? Apparently there is a magnetism that draws almost every other national organization to be as close as possible to that small part of India where the national leadership lives and works.
Shifting many of these out of New Delhi will not in anyway impair their abilities. DGCA can operate just as well from Bhiwadi, SAIL from Ranchi, IMD from Pune, BHEL from Bhopal, ITBP from Dehra Dun or Chandigarh, SSB from Lucknow and so on.
And why should the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) be situated in the capital when it can do its job equally well from, say, Saharanpur? No other military command is located even in the National Capital Region (NCR), let alone New Delhi. In these days of near instant communication means, proximity is no longer a criterion to effectiveness.
There are very few places in India from where one cannot communicate with a person in another part instantly either by cellular phone, telephone, email, fax and Skype on the internet. So why should everybody be cheek by jowl?
In fact shifting their head offices out of New Delhi will only unfetter them from their administrative ministries and all those little joint secretaries who lord over them. The further these departments and organizations get away from New Delhi the more effective they will get. This will curb the temptation to pass the buck upwards or sideways to the next tier next door.
Delhi is now easily the most traffic-congested city in the world. Its stop and crawl traffic is responsible most for its abysmal air quality
Delhi is now easily the most traffic-congested city in the world. Its stop and crawl traffic is responsible most for its abysmal air quality and the millions of man-hours wasted in traffic crawls and jams. The disastrous consequences of not doing anything about the ever-worsening traffic are now well known.
But all the solutions that are proposed is to further modernize it will even bigger and faster mass transit systems, more civic amenities and efforts entailing more construction. These attempts to make the national capital better paradoxically only attract more people to it, thereby adding to its problems rather than removing them.
Then there are some things that are only possible by flattening the old. How can we ever modernize the overcrowded inner areas of many of our cities without reducing the number of people in them? Our inability to protect our rivers and air are testimony to this.
Dispersing offices across the nation will not only decongest Delhi, but will also become economic drivers that will modernize smaller towns and result in far more dispersed urbanization. Imagine what a SAIL head office in Ranchi will do to decongest Lodhi Road and to the economy of Jharkhand? Or the Western Air Command in Saharanpur will do to relieve traffic around Dhaula Kuan and to modernizing Saharanpur and the economy of western Uttar Pradesh?
In fact, one can make the same argument for all our major cities. The Western Naval Command can be shifted to a new location on the west coast and not only become a more effective fulcrum of India’s Indian Ocean Region (IOR) domination, but also the fulcrum of economic growth in a virgin area, say Ratnagiri.
In fact, one can make an argument for moving the state capitals out of hopelessly over crowded cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Patna and Lucknow. This will give a much-needed impetus to the construction sector, which for the foreseeable future will be India’s main economic growth driver.
Construction also has the potential to absorb tens of millions of the rural workforce, and also create demand for industrial goods. Construction will create huge demands for not just steel and cement, but also for construction equipment, transit systems, infrastructure essentials like power and water distribution, and sewage treatment and disposal systems among others that will then drive the industrialization of India.
And let us not for a moment forget that India needs to create one million new jobs every month to absorb the world’s fastest growing labour market and soon to be the world’s largest work force. India will need to create meaningful employment for almost 800 million people by 2050. Not taking people away from agriculture will only result in a rural labor over supply but also increased fragmentation of farm holdings.
Already the average farm size is just 0.63 hectares. We see overcrowding of some economic sectors as well. Retail employs over sixty million now, and the modernization of the retail sector is held back because it involves so many low productivity jobs.
China has decided to tackle the over congestion of Beijing, now second to New Delhi in terms of air and water pollution, to shift out government offices to outside Beijing. Beijing’s municipal government, which employs tens of thousands, is now being relocated to a satellite town, Tongzhou. The Chinese plan is to create a gigantic urban cluster of 130 million people called Jing-Jin-Ji, with Jing being for Beijing, Jin for the port city and convention center of Tianjin, and Ji, which is the traditional name of Hebel province, where much of this growth will take place.
Some other countries have tried to decongest their capital cities by leaving behind the economic capital and taking out the political capital. Malaysia’s political capital is located at Putrajaya, a brand new city astraddle the highway to the international airport.
The government clearly needs to think big again and also think of how to make dreams realities
The BJP in its 2014 manifesto had spoken of creating a hundred new cities to propel India’s economic and social transformation. Since coming to power it has been scaling down that vision and the government now has the “smart” cities program whereby selected towns and cities will be made “smart”, which means nothing more than providing high speed Wi-Fi networks there. That is if one goes by the money provided for urban development. The government clearly needs to think big again and also think of how to make dreams realities.
Many of these government departments and organizations can become anchors for new urbanization and dispersing them will only enhance their independence and effectiveness. Our government suffers from too much micro-management of the routine and often mundane and a severe under management of the macro scenario. This is as much an opportunity to save our existing cities and also to build a new and better India.
---
*Policy expert. Source: The author’s Facebook timeline. Contact: mohanguru@gmail.com

Comments

Anonymous said…
These establishments are in Delhi probably even before you were born. You are the one who crowded Delhi, not these organisations. Since all the ministries are in Delhi only, the organisations need to be in Delhi. But, why are you required in Delhi? Why can't you move elsewhere?

TRENDING

HSBC shareholders seek exit from funding Adani's 'contentious' Australian coalmine

By Our Representative  In a move that may embarrass India's top business house known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shareholders of HSBC, a British multinational investment bank, the largest in Europe with total assets of US$2.715 trillion, are likely to decide at its AGM on May 28, 2021 a plan to exit coal financing related to the Adani Group, as it begins digging the Carmichael mega coal mine in Australia, reports Melbourne-based South Asia Times.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Ciminalising 'tool' created, name: Gujarat Land Grabbing Prohibition Act 2020

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Rejitha Nair* The year 2021 in Gujarat opened its account with 647 alleged land grabbing cases under investigation, 16 FIRs filed against 34 land grabbers within 35 days of Gujarat Land Grabbing Prohibition Act 2020 (GLGPA), as informed by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Gujarat State, in a press conference on January 22, 2021. He further informed that of 647 alleged cases, 605 applications of land grabbing were received by different collectors who have initiated suo moto proceedings in 42 cases. The total land in these cases is estimated to be around 1.35 lakh square metre, worth Rs 220 crore as per jantri rates (ready reckoner of land prices in different parts of the state). By March 15, 2021, at least six even cases are before the Gujarat High Court. Of about 11 cases reported in the daily newspapers, in three cases, grabbing of government land is charged, and the rest are land disputes between two individuals. The promptness of the district collect

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.