Yesterday night saw a Bangla movie, ‘Macher Johl’, beautifully inscribed a recipe with relationship. Don’t remember name of actors, what influenced me was the story line and the clean way of picturisation. I never saw it on newspapers or theatre, why so? May be because it was a regional language movie? Or we don’t have the information? The movie is about a famous chef visiting his home town and meeting his mother. Macher Johl means Fish Curry in Bengali. The chef prepares this favourite dish for his mother while she was admitted in hospital going through a difficult phase. Rest I will not say, but what happened next brings the climax. The film explains the sentiments of our society. Every one of us have different views on our life and may be we all are correct or incorrect. Still we need to take a stand on the important aspects of life at certain point of time. Certainly I liked the film.
Hero is the name of a stray dog. When it was only of two or three months, we found it at our door steps about six months from now. It was looking cute and my son Dipen started a fond with her. (Her is used because its a female dog and I don’t want to use that word for female dog) We, that is my family along with my wife Pratibha and me started an intimate love with Hero. We fed her, played with her and gradually most of our society friends also started recognising her as one of the member in society. We never tied with a collar or a chain to keep her at home. One day we thought of dog bite, as she used to bite many of us innocently. Therefore contacted a doctor who came home and vaccinated her. Then every day two times she was given food and used to bath her every Sunday afternoon. These activities led to a very close bonding between my family and Hero.
Few days back all of a sudden, we couldn’t found her near our home. She always use to play in front of the internal road of our society. Initially we thought she might have gone some place outside and will come back. But no, not even next day and even day after. We were worried and went around all the neighbouring societies, found many dogs but not our Hero. I could sense the tenseness in my son Dipen’s face. He is 14 years old and very affectionate about the dog. He asked me again and again about his whereabouts. I had no answer. My wife came with a news that some lady complained 3 days back about stray dogs to municipal corporation and stray dogs catchers came and took away some four dogs. Once again we tried to search her but no success. It was very painful, tried to enquire what to do from one of my doctor friend. He said that the municipal corporation catches the street dogs and do their vasectomy operation that is make them infertile and again leave them back at the place of pick up.
My son Dipen was restless, he called me when I was busy with my office work and asked me to go to that stray dog hospital and see if I can find our dog. I was not even sure whether the Hero will be there or not. All these left me with no clue. I enquired my municipal corporation doctor who heads this department. He explained all the things that earlier my friend explained. He asked me to go that hospital of stray dogs and can try my luck. If I find her, I can tack back home again. He asked me to go the next day as that day the time was over. Next day again I had a meeting upto 1.30 p m and I was supposed to reach the hospital before it closes at 2 p m. I requested the concerned person at the hospital to please be there till I come. I travelled, its near an outskirt railway station called ‘Bhestan’, about 15 km far, cutting traffic I managed to reach the stray dog hospital. The administrator of that place was cooperative and let me inside where all the city stray dogs are kept. I went around and around but could not found Hero. Lost hope, and a last try I made to see again, and suddenly I found her in one cage along with another black dog. It was the moment that I will never forget in my life. I found her. I thought about my son and my wife, how happy they will be when I take Hero back home.
Upon my request, the stray dogs administrator released him from the cage. Already the operation was finished, so there were fresh wounds in her abdomen. I took her in my car and brought back home. The sight of coming home back is not possible for me to explain. My wife saw her and the satisfaction on her face told me many things. Dipen was yet to return from his school, I waited eagerly for him to show him his favourite Hero. He came and saw her. The scene was unbelievable. He said nothing but was very disturbed due the sight of wounds of operation. Most importantly, I can see the eyes of Hero, and thinking what she is thinking. I could read many things but not all of coming back Home.
Urbanisation in India has been phenomenal. The small cities like Surat, Pune, Nagpur, Jaipur, etc. are no more small now. These cities now ranges from more than 4 to 6 million population. Every people of a city need to commute from one place to another whether for work, social purpose, recreation or for any other purpose. The commuting basically takes place with the help of some sort of mode of transport. Either it is a owned private mode or public transport. Its observed that earlier the people tend to use their own vehicle may be a two wheeler or a four wheeler to reach their destination. Since the cities were never imagined to grow such exponentially, the transport scene for every city became a major issue. Its a challenge for everybody. Therefore the change in policy level came in last decade for a shift from private mode to public mode. More bus transit, rail, metro, etc. are now in place in the cities of India. Though people are shifting to the public transport, the pace of shift is slow, because its not that easy to immediately discard the luxury of starting one’s own vehicle from home to the work place and coming back. Its considered to be dependence less on any mode of transport. Also for the want of reaching the destination fast. However, the scenario of traffic in the cities are changing. More congestions, no parking spaces, diversions and many other factors are giving the public transport an advantage and only solution.
If the public transport is made easily accessible to the last end of the street and affordable and comfortable, people will definitely shift the mode very fast. Its in the interest of the transport authority that, the public transport is managed scientifically and very specifically. A continuous effort of bringing in the innovative technology and sustaining it will increase the trust of the people in the city. Initial low ridership should not be a worry but continuous improvement in the public transport will in long way help the traffic and transportation scenario of our cities. This will lead to less traffic congestion, affordable, less polluting and ultimately improved quality of life. This will increase the economic development of the nation also. The reason behind writing this blog is that, the most serious and essential socio economic problem of our cities and since cities contribute lot to nation, is the issue of city transport. More attention is required from all the concerned stakeholders related to public transport. If we are not serious enough to address it today it may become unmanageable. Public transportation in cities not only requires major policy initiatives like introduction of BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) or Metro Rail or electric buses. The crucial point is after the capital investment and infrastructure, how the organisation is implementing and maintaining it. Its very important that smallest part of the passenger comfort need to be addressed. It starts from his home, how will he reach to a Bus stand or a railway station to the ticketing, the ambience to the station, affordability, safety and the the time takes to reach his/her destination. There are many other factors as well apart from the listed above.
Introduction of e rickshaw, parking at the bus/railway stand, easy access, automatic fare collection, conducive atmosphere at the bus/railway stand, timely adherence to commuting, proper information of the timing of arrival and reaching of destination, Integrated Traffic Control System to avoid traffic congestion, Safe and timely travel, good ambience inside bus/train, availability of alternate mode from destination station to the work place are some among many ingredients of making success of Public Transport. Why I am writing this blog is just of the concern that I have of the city circulation system that I see and observe everyday. The pace have to grow at much faster rate than what it is today. Cities are growing and advancing in terms of population and internal dynamics at a very fast rate, which is natural due to migration and birth rate. We have to catch up, rather at more faster rate to cope with the public transport issue. It is the single and foremost important issue before and public authority to address.
Yesterday, saw the entire final of Wimbledon between Roger Federer and Cilic from Croatia. Before match began, expert commentator Boris Becker guessed it will be a five set match, some one commented it to be a four set game. Federer proved all of them wrong. Straight three set win. He won this Wimbledon grand slam title for the eighth time, a world record set by him single handedly. Why I am writing this blog after a long time, simply because it was amazing to watch a gentleman at the age of 35 years playing against a 23 year young player and winning by straight sets. It is the best example and inspiration of fitness and the discipline that one can maintain in life. As I could guess, he is a father of 3 kids, one daughter and two sons.
Urbanisation is a challenge to all of us. India poised 31.1 % urbanisation in census 2011, which was 27.8 in previous decade (2001). The total population reported is around 120 crore, that makes 1.2 billion out of around 7.5 million world population. Ignoring percentage figure the absolute figures of urban India is alarming. There has been over concentration of migration from rural to urban areas and it is increasing. Whether this rate of urbanisation is beneficial or not is a matter of debate and research for urban planners, managers, policy makers and researchers. What is overwhelming is that there is a huge challenge to big cities to maintain and provide a good quality of life to its citizens.
Last three days, Times of India, the leading news paper is reporting about cities and urbanisation. First by the government of India in relation to Smart Cities and minister of urban development talking of City liveability index, Second by an architect of Delhi expressing concern of cities with good spaces and good life going to be converted to slum like situation and third today, Supreme court of India directing cities to make effective ways to manage solids waste generated by the cities. It seems clear that there are challenges in cities and effective steps are needed to meet these challenges, if we are concerned to provide good quality of life to our city people.
There are some out of box suggestions that comes to our mind without support from the statistical data. A question that always remains tricky, whether India should or should not promote urbanisation. There are theories and researches which are affirmative and negative both. But all these were when, there was a beginning of urbanisation in the world, first of its being the Industrial revolution in England. The European and American cities has more than 80% of urbanisation, yet these countries provide a good quality of life. Here human development index generated through UNDP is being taken as a benchmark value to compare quality of life. Comparing these countries, Indian cities are less urbanised, but if the absolute figures are taken, then scenario is different. The Western countries has very less population compared to the South Asian countries like China, Pakistan and India. The question is whether can we adopt the same model. Answer is not in certain terms as there are doubts in our country like India. Whether there is an answer or not is also not known.
The major cities of India are Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Surat, Puna, etc. The characteristic of urbanisation in India is that, the people migrate more towards these big cities rather than a village or an hamlet or a small town developing into bigger place. There is an over concentration of population in few cities of India. The common implication of these are: huge slums, absence of public transport system and therefore traffic congestion by private ownership vehicles, solid wastes everywhere making the city aesthetics bad. These are what obvious visible for any individual. Apart from these unhygienic conditions, less water for drinking purpose, water logging during monsoon, inefficient social infrastructure like schools and hospitals, etc.
People migrate to cities for the want of opportunities. These include income, education and better health facilities. On the other hand because of migration and increase in demand city authorities struggle to provide better infrastructure. People start living in slums, unauthorised construction, traffic congestions, health epidemic, etc are all the manifestation of this process. Yet people migrate to get more incentives. The question arise for what is the solution? Whether we should allow the continuous process of urbanisation and keep on improving the city living condition, or stop migration by improving rural areas with more opportunities so that they don’t migrate. There is no immediate or direct answer to this problem. One has to keep in mind that cities contribute around 65% of national GDP as reported in planning commission and other reports.
There are concrete efforts in last one and half decade, to improve the city living conditions by pro active efforts from the Central as well as State governments, like Urban renewal mission, Smart cities, State government housing scheme, etc. These schemes has also brought changes in city infrastructure both in physical and social. Yet there is a demand for more from the cities, local self governments for provisioning of social and physical infrastructures. Two days back, the government of India announced a scheme of measuring city liveability index, which is a good step, so that policy makers can make out where attention is required and identification of best practices from better performing cities. There will be a competition for city managers to improve their ranking and that will benefit the citizen of that city. It remains to be seen what parameters and methodology will be adopted to do this exercise.
In the end, the question still remains un answered, whether we can afford with this rate of urbanisation in India and shall make policy for more or concentrate towards rural areas by creating more self sustaining villages and lessening urbanisation.
Read today Times of India, delighted to know that Government of India, Ministry of Urban Development has launched ‘City liveability Index’, which will help a city to know where it stands in ensuring the quality of life to its citizens, as said by honourable Minister of Urban Development, Mr Venkaiah Naidu in a conference of Smart Cities at Delhi yesterday. Its my satisfaction that I am doing a research on the same topic for PhD from SVNIT, Surat. In a very limited way I could spread this exercise to a limited circle. But today Government of India has launched it officially and it will be very useful to the city dwellers and the city managers in achieving good quality of life.
My thesis is focussed on to how to evolve a methodology to find out quality of life of each city with common parameters, like it is being done for calculating Human Development Index by UNDP. The method shall be simple and also the data shall be easily available and acceptable. Little different from the HDI, the city liveability index shall have different parameters for consideration like physical infrastructure, governance and environment apart from economy, health and education. By giving proper weights and importance the co efficient of these parameters can be calculated and city liveability index can be found out. The index may vary from zero to one or any other suitable scale. However this will benchmark the cities and will push competition for better achievement by the city managers to perform more for better ranking. Ultimately this will enhance quality of life.