The last decade has seen great changes in India, and no city reflects this new India more than Gurgaon does. In this Millennium City you find both the energy and promise that characterize the new India, as well as its chaos and disappointments.
The litany of shortcomings is familiar – broken roads, little public transport, power and water shortages, deficient sewage, and a high incidence of violent crime. Against this, you have considerable efforts being made by organizations such as iamgurgaon and the Cybercity Welfare Society, and by a Municipal Council that is trying hard to take control of the situation.
Gurgaon has the potential to be a role model for the modernizing country. Below, I humbly suggest five ideas for getting there.
An articulated vision
We should not underestimate the energizing power of a clearly articulated vision. We have to think a decade or two ahead while solving today’s problems. For example, Munich used to be a “car city” but decided many years ago to become an exemplar of mobility within Germany – and today taking public transport, cycling and walking in Munich are all serious and convenient alternatives to using a car. Similarly, we need to draw up and articulate sophisticated aims for Gurgaon that can be summarized by a few compact slogans and yet can guide years of our efforts.
To support substantive discussion and planning, we simply have to define KPIs and set targets. For example, we have to agree on measurable and public KPIs for the availability of public transport, for power shortages, for the level of the water table, and so on. As far as possible, these KPIs should reflect the avoidable waste – for example, the number of person hours wasted through the day stuck in traffic jams would be a great KPI. The added cost of measurement is small compared to the benefits, especially if we use innovative measurement techniques such as cellphone data for traffic jams.
Brainstorming and serious planning
Working backwards from the target KPIs, there should be sufficient exploration of alternative approaches before deciding on concrete plans. Leaders from the private sector and NGOs could be involved in the brainstorming. The Municipal Council should regularly publish the resulting high-level plans, giving them wide circulation through the newspapers.
Local supervision of execution
Leaders of nearby businesses can be given oversight on local infrastructure projects. Since they suffer most, they will be most eager to participate. Such participation should of course be optional and clearly delineated. The state should not try to force the private sector to do its work for it, as it has done in the area of women’s security by taking advantage of the delicate nature of the subject.
The Municipal Council of Gurgaon has added several interesting features on its website. What is missing is a comprehensive dashboard that shows all activities, budgets, timelines and statuses. Such a dashboard would, I believe, revolutionize Gurgaon. Think of it as a permanent RTI initiative.
These are just five simple ideas, outlined very briefly, but implemented together they may create a sustainable framework for Gurgaon’s progress.
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