Counting down to our 200th. issue (June 19), we are featuring a special Cover Story from the past. This is from Vol 3, No. 19, Dec 27, 2013 to Jan 2, 2014.
The fixation to build a ‘New‘ Delhi post Independence made the Capital and its new residents quickly forget the traditional culture and roots of Dehli – though fortunately they are surviving within the walls of Shahjahanabad. The failure of the government to ‘develop’ ‘Old’ Delhi, post Independence (and even post ‘New’ Delhi), led to the alienation and almost the death of an ages-old culture that represents the very idea of Bharat. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself in Gurgaon (erstwhile Gurugram), as a swish set of politicians and bureaucrats, aided by builders and corporates, has allowed the traditional ‘Old’ Gurgaon to be eclipsed by a glass and chrome city - which has more gated complexes and malls per square km - or even in the absolute - than any other city in the country. The biggest irony, and tragedy, the ‘old’ residents allege, is that while the government has its seat in the ‘Old’ City, all the plans are made for ‘New’ Gurgaon - a virtually ‘private’ area. The feeling of discrimination, of being given lop-sided treatment, has become more acute after the inauguration of the Rapid Metro in DLF City, and the expansion of roads in ‘New’ Gurgaon - while the ‘Old’ City is still crying for basic infrastructure and amenities. The ‘Old’ City residents allege that HUDA, MCG and the District Administration have failed to assimilate this part of the City into the Master Plan, and it therefore has to virtually fend for itself. Bhawani Shankar Tripathy, an activist, agrees, and says that the infrastructure that is being developed in the ‘Old’ City is quite poor - in quality as well as quantity. “All the initiatives, whether these are related to traffic management, expansion of roads, street lighting or security of women, are targetted towards ‘New’ Gurgaon. The Traffic Police has started one-way systems around the Galleria Market, but the same zeal is missing when looking for solutions for the ‘Old’ City,” laments Tripathy. It could have been tried around the Sadar Bazaar. The appalling lack of equity in development, with too much focus on ‘New’ Gurgaon, is also due to the fact that powerful builders with strong ‘connections’ have managed to skew the development agenda to master-plan their future. All major projects - such as the Rapid Metro, its expansion till Sector 56, the Metro expansion to Sohna Road, the new ‘Golf Course Highway’ - are going to benefit the residents of ‘New’ Gurgaon only. The Entertainment hubs - Malls, Kingdom of Dreams, the upcoming Appu Ghar, and even new hospitals, are anyway only in the ‘New’ City. The collaboration and contribution of HUDA, a government agency, in the building of the Golf Course (DLF) Highway, is another example of how the priorities – and the spends - of the government have changed over time, allege ‘Old’ Gurgaon residents. Sharad Goyal, a prominent businessman, says that the discrimination is quite visible. ‘Old’ Gurgaon is asked to make do with a vintage bus stand that stinks, and will not even be upgraded (despite announcements), while the ‘new’ City Bus Stand has been proposed in “New’ Sector 29. On the health front, the Civil Hospital, the main ‘Old’ City lifeline, has been left in a shambles, and the new facility in Sector 10 is still awaiting ‘inauguration’ - for 5 years now. Meanwhile, more than 5 new ‘7-Star Hospitals’ have come up in ‘New’ Gurgaon – mostly on subsidised public land. Even the MCG, 6 years in the running now, has not been able to deliver any new project for the residents of the ‘Old’ City. “Here they will find reasons as to why it cannot happen’; in ‘New’ Gurgaon they will find a way to make it happen. ‘Yes We Can’, for the Administration and citizens alike, only applies to the requirements of ‘New’ Gurgaon(ites). This is the ‘peculiar’ mindset that is ‘ruling’ Gurgaon today. The interests of the builders and the corporates are being promoted, while the ‘original’ inhabitants are being pushed into the background,” alleges Goyal, who is extremely unhappy with the way the City is ‘growing/developing’. The locals allege that the State government is happily showcasing the glass and chrome ‘New’ Gurgaon as its great development story, notwithstanding there being no power to run these buildings and Gurgaon being on the brink of a major water crisis. The multiplicity of development agencies, like HUDA, MCG, private builders and the District Administration (not to mention the Zila Parishad), is also being stated as a reason for the poor maintenance and development status of the ‘Old’ City. The residents want to know why new projects are being announced – almost every day - for ‘New’ Gurgaon, whereas the ‘Old City’ continues to be left in the lurch. ‘Old’ City residents cite bottlenecks at Hero Honda Chowk, Signature Tower, MG Road and Sadar Bazaar, a lack of sewerage and drain water infrastructure and no parking facilities, as major problems that have been perpetually left unresolved - even as people suffer. The pathetic state of the Udyog Vihars, the foundations of employment and opportunity in the City, is an example of the shift in priorities – from a long-term vision and plan to a short term ‘land trade’.
To correct this situation, Bhawani Tripathy suggests that HUDA should be made to quit the City, at least in ‘Old’ Gurgaon, and this area should be handed over to MCG, which is an elected body and accountable to the people. “MCG should be divided into two zones, with two Zonal Commissioners - taking care of the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Gurgaon respectively. This could at least bring some semblance of equity in development”, he points out. A number of activists are apprehensive that, with the development of the Northern Peripheral Road (NPR), also known as the Dwarka Expressway, ‘Old’ Gurgaon will be further sandwiched between ‘New’ Gurgaon and the ‘New Sectors’ - as there is no proper connectivity proposed between these areas and ‘Old’ Gurgaon. Ashok Rana, President of the Sector 23 RWA, says that no one knows how the Expressway will be connected to the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway. “The current plan is to connect the new areas through the Palam Vihar-Jwala Mill Road, but it is highly impractical. This road is not even able to bear the current load of traffic and there is little scope for expansion,” says Rana. The poor condition of the ‘Old’ Delhi-Gurgaon Road, which has not seen any expansion and has been under maintenance for the last few months, shows that this area is not on the priority of the government, alleges Rana. In his opinion, to renew the ‘Old’ City, the government will have to bring in better transport facilities, expand the roads and build flyovers and underpasses in certain key bottleneck areas. Meanwhile, new alarm bells have started to ring, as the government has allowed major IT projects and commercial complexes on the ‘Old’ Delhi-Gurgaon Road, as well as conversion of factory complexes into offices in Udyog Vihar. The setting up of an IT SEZ by Unitech, and some other projects (including a five-star hotel), are likely to put additional pressure on the creaky infrastructure in this part of Gurgaon, says Sanjay Sharma, a resident of Sector 23. Sharma says that one of the reasons for the lesser focus on ‘Old’ Gurgaon has been the lack of corporate offices and residential condominiums. “This part of the City is primarily ‘old’ house residences, and has its own charm. There is less commercialisation, and the populace is more or less middle class,” says Sharma. In his view there is need to focus on the basic amenities of life - such as good transportation, better civic services, more public space for people and sports centres for the youth. He also believes that while the sectors close to the National Highway are in better shape – on both sides – the condition worsens as you start moving away. The presence of a large number of unauthorised colonies in ‘Old’ Gurgaon, as also the disputed area around the Air Force Ammunition Depot, are also being described as reasons for the lack of development ‘this side’. While government officials point out that they cannot start development in these areas, the opposition parties rubbish this argument. Gaje Singh Kablana of the INLD says that the wards where opposition parties have won have particularly seen little development - a number of Councillors from ‘Old’ Gurgaon belong to the INLD and BJP. The two City MLAs have also failed to push local causes. Rana, of Sector 23, says that none of the Councillors or politicians has fought for infrastructure projects for ‘Old’ Gurgaon. Sonia Vaid, who often visits relatives in Jacobpura, in the heart of ‘Old’ Gurgaon, says that Sadar Bazaar and other nearby areas are choked with traffic, lack basic sanitation and are hubs of encroachment. Sharad Goyal is more radical in his approach, and says that unless people are united and come out on the roads, to force things, nothing is going to change in the City. “The inhabitants of ‘Old’ Gurgaon, through their organisations and RWAs, and with the help of media, will have to send the message that they won’t accept the status quo,” says Goyal.
Old’ Gurgaon residents say that the government must come good on its promises to build flyovers to connect the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ City – and so help bridge the ‘India-Bharat Divide’. It should also work towards creating better transport connectivity with Delhi - particularly through Dwarka. Yogender Dagar, a resident of Sector 22, says that children from ‘Old’ Gurgaon have to suffer a lot while travelling to Delhi University, and even other parts of Gurgaon. Bhawani Shankar Tripathy alleges that even education providers like FIITJEE and other institutes now prefer to concentrate in ‘New’ Gurgaon. “Lack of transport connectivity even across the Highway makes it difficult for people to travel from the ‘Old’ City,” he says. It is because of this that the residents of ‘Old’ Gurgaon had launched the ‘Metro Lao Sangharsh Samiti’, which is aimed at pressurising the government to extend the Metro line to the old part of the City. Though that movement had dwindled somewhat, the launch of Rapid Metro in ‘New’ Gurgaon has once again kindled the fire of discrimination for the ‘old’-timers. Prem Kishan Gehlot, an ‘old’ area resident, says that a large number of senior citizens there need support in terms of better transport and social clubs, which were promised by HUDA Administrator Praveen Kumar. “If this does not happen, people soon will have to come onto the streetws to protest,” he says. Several residents allege that the situation is similar to how the State government discriminates against South Haryana. “’Old’ Gurgaon is the ‘New’ South Haryana for the politicians, as the government prefers the builder-developed, controlled and operated ‘New’ Gurgaon,” alleges Goyal. While the residents cry government apathy, Praveen Kumar, the new MCG Chief, is now promising to change the face of ‘Old’ Gurgaon - particularly the Sadar Bazaar area. “We are planning to build a multi-level parking facility in the ‘Old’ City, which will decongest the area; sites have been identified. I am also planning to set up a sports stadium at the Kamala Nehru Park, which will help the youth in a big way,” says Kumar. He promises that the MCG areas in ‘Old’ Gurgaon will see better development and civic facilities in the ‘days to come’. The residents of the City are hopeful that change will come, especially since elections are round the corner and the government will be in poll mode. The sword of AAP is also now hanging over the Congress - Dilli door nahin hai. The residents want the government agencies to work in a cohesive manner, rather than depending upon maverick officials wanting to run their fiefdoms independently. Gurgaon residents do not want to bank on any further promises, but want an institutional mechanism that will bring development as well as social cohesion to the City as a whole – else it would never be able to meet its Millennium aspirations, let alone goals.
The Highway, which cuts the City virtually in two, is testament to the existence of an India and a Bharat not just within the same country, but even the same city. 'Old’ Gurgaon is also a ‘Walled City’, like ‘Old’ Delhi; it is just that the wall (that we have ‘constructed) above the Highway (NH8) is not visible to us. Ironically, Maruti, the fountainhead of ‘New’ Gurgaon, is considered ‘old’, as it is situated ‘across’ the Highway. Even ‘new’ private colonies ‘that side’ have unfortunately been labelled ‘old’ – and therefore been deprived.
In Gurgaon, education, health, housing and several key areas have already been almost privatised. Why are politicians and bureaucrats only working for the capital gains of builders, developers, industrialists and middlemen, question the ‘Old’ Gurgaon residents? When will this stop? Surely it’s time for an aam aadmi campaign!