I have lived in Gurgaon for the past 11 years, spending more time here than in any other city in India. I have witnessed the start of the swanky new airport terminal 3, the main eight-lane highway replacing a bunch of four dirt roads, the mushrooming of hotels, new malls with easy availability of every global brand, the birth of highquality medical tourism and the rise of new office blocks, condominiums and the arrival of the metro train. Each of these is a significant achievement on its own in a decade of transformation for Gurgaon.
Gurgaon is the third-richest Indian city in terms of per capita income. It is home to two large auto companies, marquee outsourcing outfits and some of the best technology companies. If you have the skill set, then there is a company that can house you in Gurgaon. Mercer lists best cities in terms of quality of life every year. Globally, the best three are Vienna, Zurich and Auckland. The same study for India lists Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai as the top three cities. A question everyone involved with Gurgaon – either in governing capacity or as a civil society member – needs to answer is why isn’t Gurgaon on the list in India?
Gurgaon is spread over 739 sq kms, almost the same as Singapore. Why couldn’t it have been another Singapore? Gurgaon is a fine location as long as you have your own car, live in a gated community shut off from the world, travel to office and back and shop at the malls. Very little should bother you.
However, if one looks at the statistics, instances of assaults and vehicle thefts are increasing in the city, adding to the other uncertainties that its citizens are learning to factor into their schedules. Traffic is haphazard and not predictable . The quality of basic civic services has to step up for a city whose population is close to 16 lakh today and is expected to be 30 lakh in 2021.
Across the world, cities and their administrators have realised that urbanisation without sustainability doesn’t work for the citizen and a better quality of life is a must to attract and sustain business communities, small and large. The cities of Manchester, New York, Vadodara and London have rebuilt their cities significantly from near decay.
It is time for Gurgaon to be rebuilt, with the right parks, the right walkways, enough sporting facilities, schools with natural amenities like playgrounds a garbage-free society and a public transport system that works round the clock. This will need a very different engagement and commitment between civil society, the media, the judiciary and the administration. Gurgaon has no time to lose to rebuild itself as a city for the millennials.
(The views expressed by the author are his own)