Chandigarh decaying in the name of development

The contribution of Chandigarh

After having spent my childhood in Chandigarh, it took me nearly twenty years to understand the contribution of Chandigarh to the development of India. The more I travelled around the country, the more I got convinced about how Chandigarh had silently shaped the development of modern urban India.


As the first modern planned city of Independent India, conceived by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Chandigarh was deemed as a city “unfettered by the traditions of the past, a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future.” Chandigarh, indeed, has no reflection of our colonial past and has truly paved the way for modern cities with proper ur­ban planning and well laid out mas­ter plans. Most Indian cities were later built on the success of Chandigarh as a modern city.


A City now killed by whims of individuals


Le Corbusier had visualised the possibility of greedy and oppor­tunistic people trying to hijack the materialistic returns which Chandigarh could provide and so he passed on the responsibility to save Chandigarh on its citizens. While laying down the ‘Edicts of Chandigarh,” he clearly wrote, “The object of this edict is to en­lighten the present and future citi­zens of Chandigarh about the basic concepts of planning of the city so that they become its guardians and save it from the whims of indi­viduals.” Though Corbusier was foresighted enough to ensure leg­islative protection to the city but within fifty years, the termite of greed and corruption has started pushing Chandigarh to the path of self-destruction.


Murder in the name of futuristic development


“Shouldn’t Chandigarh also progress and become dynamic with time?” was the counter-question of the bureaucratic mouth-piece of the property mafia when they were recently confronted with the unsci­entific abrasive sale of property in Chandigarh.


I ask: Is a “Film-City” a require­ment of the city? Is a hundred acre ‘Amusement park” within Chandi­garh the need of a city with 114 square km of area? Is a “Milk City” and a “Vegetable market” built by uprooting thousands of farmers from Chandigarh a prudent futur­istic idea?


Is constructing commercial flats till the regulatory end of the lake, a development in the interest of the city? Is selling a two room flat for 60 lakh the dream of a socialist Pandit Nehru? Is inviting migratory popu­lation to Chandigarh, in the name of various projects, a prudent idea? No unbiased urban development expert can justify any of these acts in Chandigarh. In the last five years, the city has seen open loot and plundering in the name of development. Unfortunately all this so called development activities have made the city more fragile and less adaptable for the natural evolutionary process of development.


Chandigarh – The loose end of democratic India


The 1980’s were a bad phase for the region. During the Punjab disturbance, the bureaucratic control of Chandigarh also got disturbed. The changes effected included the Punjab Governor assuming the role of “Administrator” or the chief executive officer of Chandigarh. This change of guard has proven fatal for Chandigarh as it shifted the decision taking power from the hand of the Union Min­istry and Parliament to the hand of an unelected political nominee who has all the reasons to be tempted to act on his whims and fancies instead of following the scientific ap­proaches.


In my opinion, Governors are mostly political appointees, assum­ing power only as a reward for their sycophancy and on the basis of “who-knows-who” politics. They are not accountable to the people or the parliament either directly or indirectly and only answer to their political masters. That’s one of the reasons why our Constitution does not provide for any executive pow­ers to the Governor. Giving execu­tive powers and the control of the state to a person who does not rep­resent the faith of the people is un­democratic and against the very ba­sis of the constitution. Chandigarh has fallen into this peculiar trap and has become the only state in the country which is being ruled by someone not answerable to the par­liament either directly or indirectly.


Save Chandigarh before it is too late


There is an urgent need to get back to the basics. All the futuristic development plans of Chandigarh have to go into the hands of the ur­ban-development experts and not the non-technical bureaucrats of doubtful integrity. The desired ex­trapolated growth has to be as sci­entific as the initial concept of Chandigarh was. It has to eliminate the possibility of personal whims and plug the leakages through the legislative route. If someone is un­happy with the concept of Chandi­garh, let him or her go and construct another Chandigarh instead of tin­kering with the present one. The cit­izens of the city have to stand up and fight to protect this city.



Article in Indian Express



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