Why preserving Mumbai’s heritage is preserving Marathi asmita

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Here are some of the architects and architecture firms who designed most of the buildings in the Shivaji Park locality at this time: G. B. Mhatre, S. H. Parelkar, V. M. Suvarnapatki, R. K. Joshi, D. P. Borkar, S. J. Narvekar, G. D. Sambhare, G. W. Marathe, D. G. Vaidya, S. M. Kini; Patki, Jadhav & Dadarkar, Jaykar & Gupchup, Parelkar, Ovalekar, Gore & Parpia and the Dhurandhar brothers. The buildings around Shivaji Park, Five Gardens and the Dadar-Matunga estate were predominantly designed by pioneering Marathi Manoos. Seeking to destroy them today in the name of redevelopment is to erase an essential, eighty year old built heritage that contributed to the Marathi asmita (pride) of the city, just as much as the poets and litterateurs of the language did.

Source: Firstpost.

Proud to say that two of the names above are that of my grandfathers.

Infrastructure in India: Infrastruggles

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For the past half decade India’s infrastructure industry has enjoyed a Sea Link moment; a blast of growth when one could imagine that the private sector could deliver all the new roads, bridges, power stations and airports that the country needs so badly. The government says the boom will continue. Over the next five years it predicts that infrastructure investment will reach a new high relative to GDP, with some $1 trillion spent, half of it by the private sector. The trouble with this rosy prediction is that the balance-sheets of many Indian infrastructure firms are as potholed as the roads they resurface.

[Source: The Economist]

After the tremendous growth India enjoyed in the past decade, hope it has something more than malls to show for.

How should India urbanise?

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Focus on urban centers and focus less on far-flung regions in terms of infrastructure development (even providing reliable high-speed Internet access can open up numerous business opportunities). Instead divert those resources on making our metropolitan regions more productive and efficient. Foster an entrepreneurial climate by creating knowledge corridors around institutions of higher learning. Do not fight the natural trend of clustering by trying to spread economic growth around. Some regions will always be more productive than the others. We can instead focus on making them stronger by playing to its strengths.

If there is anything we can learn from the urban development of Silicon Valley or Research Triangle in the U.S., it is the underlying importance of the feedback loops of higher education institutions and the talent they attract. The trick in making the graduates stick around by offering them a climate of entrepreneurship through social & professional networking and heavy investment in infrastructure that focuses on quality of life. Urban areas with great weather already have an upper hand and India seems to be blessed with such regions.

Obviously, this is just a big-picture comment and specific details will be subject to debate.

My answer to “How should India urbanize?” asked here Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 8: How should India urbanise? was selected as one of the 11 winners in the Big Ideas for India contest. Rajesh Jain and Atanu Dey have been exploring solutions on India’s future developmental challenges and they rightly believe in the strength of the cities as an important factor.

Indian Megacities

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As the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most-populous state, Lucknow has attracted hundreds of thousands of migrants from rural areas, swelling the city’s population. Yet the city hasn’t completed any major new sewage infrastructure since before the country won independence in 1947. As much as 70% of residents don’t have sewage service, leaving much of the waste to flow directly into the main river, the Gomti, which has become a stinking cesspool.

Wall Street Journal has an article on India’s megacities with the tagline that they are choking India. But is that really what is happening in India? There is an inherent understanding that there is a conflicting dichotomy between urban and rural regions. But even if it does exist, quotes in the WSJ article itself contradict its byline:

Shami Shafi, a 35-year-old laborer in Lucknow, has seen his daily income drop by half in recent months to 50 rupees, or about $1, for carrying bags of potatoes and other goods in a local market. But “I’m not going back to my village,” he says. If work gets harder to find, “I’ll just go to another city.”

Atanu Dey, noted economist and widely-respected proponent of urban India points at the real culprits of urban problems.