1st Habitat Summit – A Four Day Visit to Delhi
The day again started early in the morning. The perfect reason for me to wake up early was to see some of Delhi as I will leave in the night for Jaipur as soon as the 1st Habitat Summit ends. To see Delhi when I had just three hours in my hand from six thiry am to nine thirty am, what can be better than go and see India Gate. I took an auto and went straight to India Gate. The sun was rising from the East and in the west I could see the dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan. There was no traffic just peace and it was overwhelming to be able to see the building which has captured the souls of all those soldiers who gave there life for the country. I stayed there for a while and then went on foot to Rashtrapati Bhavan carrying my twenty kilo luggage on my shoulders. I crossed the Sansad Bhawan and I had a feeling of being in an area which controls a country which is more than five thousand years old, with a rich history that none other nation in the world has. It represents the voice of 1.225 billion of human lives. It was all here the lock and the key which opens and closes the doors to the ‘Life’. I crossed South Block and North Block. And I reached the main gate of Rashtrapati Bhawan. I was not afraid but had a feeling of ownership – I am an Indian. I had to feel it and I felt it. My trip to Delhi was successful because of this pilgrimage of patriotism I had to go through. The Summit was an excuse that my destiny had put forth me. Then luckily it was Saturday and I was able to witness full forty minute ceremony of Ceremonial Changing of The Gaurd of The President’s Bodygaurd and The Army Gaurd – The 6th Battalion The Assam Regiment. It was a good show – but only a show, I couldn’t much appreciate it’s significance even if I was appreciating symbolic things for they truly represent the real existing things. If something symbolises something, it’s a proof of it’s existence. I appreciated this symbol of courage of the soldiers and their discipline.
I came back to Central Secratriat and took an auto after struggling and waiting for the correct bus number and bus. I came to India Habitat Centre. The feeling I had was different from the last two days of the Summit.
The day begin with the key note address from Mr. Keshav Varma, Head of Global Urban Programme, World Bank Institute. Calling himself unfit for the high profile job in an organization such as World Bank and The World Bank Institute he declared his love for being in streets and believing in development form the grass roots. He said in India people don’t have an understanding of urbanization. And at the same time the small and medium cities are not ready to absorb migration. He said there are two basic issues that has to be dealt with from his own experience of a Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad.
1. Cities are excluded from economic planning. There is tension instead of cooperation in cities.
2. City management is of low level. Billions of rupees of resources in city remain unorganised.
It was interesting to know that in his term Ahmedabad was the only city to launch Municipal Bonds in whole of the South Asian region. He was successfully able to recover Ahmedabad from plague and developed it during it’s term. He considered plague as an opportunity because after that people started taking the issue of development more seriously. It was important to modernize and professionalize the administration.
The discussion topic was learning from diversity. Mr. Amitabh Kant from Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Corporation focussed on how development in a city be able to generate an economic activity such as tourism. For tourism development four important aspects to be developed were toilets, lighting, signage and visitor information centre. And a partnership in community, private sector and government in also necessary.
Mr. Amit Kapoor, Chairman, Institute for Competitiveness talked about the competitiveness of our people in general. Each one of us is rational individually but collectively we are as irrational.
Ms. Shikha Jain from Jaipur Virasat Foundation focussed on a heritage based economy and considering heritage as a resource and development policy. She informed about current projects being run in different cities in Rajasthan under the Heritage Council.
The next session was on Liveability in the Urban Design Matrix. It was mainly about planning and Delhi Masterplan was an obvious target of most of the panelists. There were flaws and lack of futuristic thinking in the plan and thus it could not be successful. The other reason pointed by Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal was because of lack of implementation which is because of bad governance. He said Strategic Interventions directed on problems in government process can be a lot helpful in the process of development. Mr. Manit Rastogi from Morphogenesis gave information on his project on Delhi Naalas. His solution I think is brilliant and simple. It has the potential for sustainable development of the city as whole.
Whose city is anyway? It was a very good session partly because of it’s humane values and partly because the chair was Mr. Arun Maira, Member of Planning Commision, GoI. I loved his way of giving speach and quoting at times from some or other book always in his hand. I liked what Meera Sanyal said about the the city she would like to see is where all the people can live in dignity. She also said a city should be safe for children, if it is safe for them it is safe for everyone. And Mr. Jehangir Pocha said that the city should be natural and not artificial in every sense. He wanted to promote in city taxation so the money generated from a city is spent in the same city only. Mr Ravi of WWF focussed that even trees and birds of a city should be taken care of in a city. The city belongs to them also. While Mr. Shivramakrishnan feels that even migrants in a city should feel that the city belongs to them also. Gated communities are something that should be unwelcomed. The city belongs to everyone. On the question to how to bring about the change all the panelists agreed that someone has to come forward, organize the community and then force the government and administration to work for the development.
The final session of the whole 1st Habitat Summit was “Creating Champion Cities”. It was takenby Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of National Capital Territory of Delhi. She talked about the diversity of Delhi and her attachment and love for Delhi. She said Dehi represents the country. And felt proud while saying that Delhi is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. She has no fascination for high rise building but she want to develop delhi in terms of social, environmental and human values. She said migration should be discouraged to megacities and medium and small size cities ahould provide best educational and economical opportunities as they are in biggers cities. She also said that we are responsible to what we actually grieve about. She appreciated childrem and women of Delhi to bring about campaign to stop crackers at the time of Deepawali and the campaign against plastic. It was good to hear such thoughts from our politicians and I feel really optimistic about the development policies of our government.
The confrence ended up when Mr. Raj Liberhan thanked Ms. Sheila Dikshit for coming to the conference and exchange of ideas. In the end I really felt optimistic about the development of our country and really proud of the people of India who are so much positive about the development of the country. In the end I think it is the need to mobilize the people to make the process of development fast and sustainable.
I came to Sarai Kale Khan ISBT bus stand after that and it was really sad that the conference ended up so soon. It was good to be in people whi also thought like me. The area of the bus stand was what is the reality, may be it was necessary for me to see Delhi’s this part after being in the area of Lodhi Road, AIIMS and IIT Delhi. It was a horrible end to the sweet dream of clean and green Delhi. But I know things will change and we fellows have a great deal of share in that. I invite all the fellows to contact me at [email protected] and 09413941059. I would like to share your and mine experiences and like to take any opportunity which comes before me in the path of development – sustainable development.