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.