Friday, March 16, 2012



There is an idiom in English: PUT THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE


I am not an architect. I am not a town planner. However, through sheer observation I have discovered a unique urban town planning model – the CART BEFORE THE HORSE URBAN TOWN PLANNING MODEL.

I don’t know about other places, but this Cart Before The Horse Town Planning Model seems prevalent in the city of Pune and as I look around I find that this model is ubiquitous all over Pune, except for a few areas.

Let me give you an example.

I am sure you have heard of the famous Rajiv Gandhi Infotech Park at Hinjewadi (also spelt Hinjawadi) in Pune. This multi-phase IT Park at Hinjewadi is arguably the largest technology park in India and houses a large number of prestigious software companies including Infosys, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant, Persistent Systems, KPIT Cummins and so many more. When this InfoTech Park was being planned it was well known that thousands of employees would work here (I think the number today is more than 3 Lakh people who work in phase 1 alone and this will keep on increasing as the Infotech Park keeps expanding and phases 2, 3 and 4 are completed). Someone said that there may come a time in the near future when almost 10 Lakh people work in Hinjewadi.

It was also well known that most of these IT Professionals would be coming to Pune from all over India and since they would be arriving from outstation they would need a place to stay. However, no thought was given as to where all these employees would live. There were no walk-to-work townships planned or built for their employees in Hinjewadi by these Software Companies nor by the MIDC.

“Get the Cart and somehow the Horse will be found” seemed to be the motto. I don’t think it was incompetence alone. There seem to be vested interests too. For when the influx of IT Professionals with lots of money in their pockets started swarming Pune looking for a place to stay, dense concrete jungles started proliferating all over, especially in nearby places like Wakad, Baner and Aundh and the property prices skyrocketed.

The same “cart before the horse” philosophy was followed here too. The IT Boom led to a frenetic Construction Boom and High Rise Buildings comprising Housing Apartments were built on every inch of land without bothering to cater for basic civic amenities, facilities and infrastructure required for decent urban community living.

First let the people move into the houses. Once people start living in a place they will create the demand and, hey presto, the supply will automatically come. This seems to be the leitmotif.  

The results are there for all to see. 

Since there is no residential accommodation in the InfoTech Park everyone has to commute to work all the way to Hinjewadi and back home in the evening every day. So there is heavy traffic to and fro from Pune to Hinjewadi. The roads are narrow since no one anticipated to build wide roads before the IT Park was built. (Again “Cart before Horse” Planning – Let the Traffic Increase and the Roads will get widened thereafter). No one bothered about improving public transportation so now most of the employees have to travel in their own vehicles (vested interest?) except a few who travel by company buses. But just imagine the number of vehicles, the huge amount for fuel consumed and the pollution caused to the environment. 

Today the traffic congestion on the Hinjewadi Road is so bad that it takes almost one hour to cover the three kilometre distance from Wakad to Hinjewadi in peak hours. And things are going to get worse day by day since there seems to be no urgency to widen the roads and I dread to imagine the situation when remaining phases of the fast expanding IT Park get completed, which is happening at quite a fast pace. (More and more “Carts” are coming but there seem to be no plans to get “horses” – not to worry – there is no need to plan – voilà – like a magic wand, things will look after themselves).

This is just one example. 

The effects of this Cart Before Horse Town Planning Approach is visible all over Pune. 

You will notice that there is a woeful lack of amenities and the infrastructure is unable to cope up with the burgeoning demand. 

Public Transport is horribly deficient and utterly inadequate, both in quantity and quality, forcing people to buy and travel on their own two wheelers and four wheelers (vested interest?) and this creates terrible traffic congestion at all times on all roads leading to traffic jams, road rage and accidents. Yes, in Pune commuting is the biggest nightmare. 

There are hardly any green spaces left since buildings have come up everywhere (isn’t urban planning supposed to cater for this?) and the environment is polluted with all sorts of pollution – air, noise and electromagnetic. All over the new suburbs of Pune you have congested concrete jungles with filthy surroundings and there is no place for pedestrians to walk decently.

This Cart Before Horse Town Planning Model is not new to Pune. I think this phenomenon started around 20 years ago when localities like Kondhwa, Hadapsar, Mohamadwadi, Kothrud, Aundh, Koregaon Park started proliferating and some localities on the other side of the Mula Mutha river like Kalyaninagar and Vimannagar started springing up. I remember a classic Cart Before Horse case in which residents were moved into a building even before water supply and approach road was provided. “Move them in and, voilà, things will take care of themselves”!

I knew a Town Planner once. His name was VV Bodas. Sadly he is no more. If I recall correctly, he retired as the Head of Town Planning in DDA and I think he had a hand in planning Chandigarh too. He would have talked about things like Master Plans and Development Plans for Cities, Satellite Townships, Transportation Networks, Urban Design and Social Aspects of Town Planning etc – I wonder whether these concepts are relevant today, especially in the fast expanding Pune. You architects and town planners tell me – I told you in the beginning that I don’t know much about these things.

The salubrious Pensioner’s Paradise Pune I once knew no longer exists. And the way things are deteriorating day by day in the absence of timely urban town planning I can only visualize things going downhill. It is for the powers that be and all you architects and town planners to tell us what to do.

I told you in the beginning that I don’t know much about these things, but I have just one suggestion – all Software Companies and Industrial Units must be told to build self-sufficient residential townships near the workplace for their employees, just like all PSUs and old industries have done. This will alleviate the traffic problem to start with and maybe make housing affordable to common people like me who don’t work in the highly paid IT Sector.

Unless reversed, this cart before the horse model of town planning is certainly going to worsen the quality of living in Pune.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and he is currently working on his novel. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 

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1 comment:

Jen..The Butterfly Effect said...

Couldn't agree more with you Vikram ji!! The same is happening here in chennai Info Techs as well! 9 to 11 are peak hours and its best for school students to start before this else they'll get stuck in this 2 hour traffic! :P God..! And I liked the new idiom! Hearing it only now :D