‘The Great Divide’, FG Cover Story (12-18 Jun 2015), is as relevant today as it was in Dec 2013 when it was first published. Though the interval has seen a change of government, ‘old’ Gurgaon remains the same – if not worse, with its ever-increasing problems. The Highway, which has brought much prosperity to the Millennium City, has also become the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ - the dividing line - between the haves and have-nots. Be it the Rapid Metro, Delhi Metro, the malls, amusement parks, modern hospitals, city transport or civic amenities, all are meant mainly for the ‘new, modern’ Gurgaon. The State Government seems to beleive that developing the ‘old’ part would be a waste of money. No politician likes to visit this area. Even the extension of the Airport Metro, from Dwarka Sector 21 to IFFCO Chowk (via ‘old’ Gurgaon), has been indefinitely shelved. The local city bus service is non-existent in this area, shared autos do not ply from ‘old’ Gurgaon to the Huda City Centre Metro station, autos continue to run without meters and on their own terms, and the main artery - the ‘old’ Delhi-Gurgaon Road - is perpetually dug up. Will ‘old’ Gurgaon be left to ‘develop’ into a slum or an eyesore? Is this part of the City being taken for granted because it is not the 'show-window', or because the ‘elite’ of the City does not reside here? Gurgaon will never be able to lay claim to being a ‘smart city’ if there is lack of development in its ‘old’ area.
If Gurgaon has to truly develop as a ‘smart, new world city', then certain immediate measures have to be taken. The foremost is to manage the traffic. Maruti Udyog should be asked to load all its vehicles from its Manesar Plant and no vehicle container should be allowed inside Gurgaon. These massive containers not only hinder the movement of other vehicles but also cause huge damage to the roads and occupy parking space everywhere. All autos should be registered and fitted with meters - the 'decision' was taken 2 years ago. If the Administration cannot even implement such simple decisions, would the same people be competent to 'develop' this into a ‘smart city’? The timings of schools and offices should be staggered, to help decongest roads. The parking of vehicles on roads should be banned (at least during office hours) and bus stops should be in bays, so that buses do not stop in the middle of the road. At least 25% of the streetlights on the roads should be solar energised; this would ensure some light even when there is a power breakdown. ‘Isolated’ areas can also be covered with standalone solar lights. It should be made mandatory for all corporate, government and public buildings to have solar lighting. All road repair contracts should be for a specific period, say 3 years. The name, address and contact number of the agency should be prominently displayed on the road. Any damage to the road, reported by anyone, must be repaired by the contractor within 48 hours. All low-lying areas should be provided with water harvesting pits, to help avoid waterlogging. Every sector and locality must have an underground water tank, to store rainwater and use that for watering plants and cleaning roads. All government buildings, corporate offices, markets and prominent crossings should have CCTV cameras installed in and around their establishments. RWAs should be provided CCTV equipment at subsidised rates. Every corporate office, market, petrol pump, private school/institute and mall should be asked to provide and maintain public toilets (for both men & women) on the roads in front of their locations. Last, every locality must have a designated garbage dump. Today all roadsides are littered with polypacks full of garbage, and the ever-increasing population of pigs is ‘helping’ spread this garbage to even the cleaner areas.
It would be in the interest of the City of Gurgaon and its residents that both sides of the Expressway are developed simultaneously, so that the City could truly become a new millennium destination. We have to guard against the incompetent and/or callous attitude of a few. All the advantages that this City (’old’ and ‘new’) has over any other, including Delhi, should be utilised and boosted. Let there be ‘One Global Gurgaon’.