Monday, March 26, 2007

Metro Rail: The New Urban Luxury !!

Unnecessary investments in cities are driving the cost upwards. All the infrastructural luxuries that are being planned in the cities were actually not necessary if the non-metros had been developed ab initio.

This infact takes us back to the fundamentals of Economics. It was emphasised right from the beginning of the economic planning, that small cities and villages should have good infrastructure. That they should be vibrant economic centers, so cities wont be burdened, so our young India does not flock to the big cities for jobs. Alas, this quintessential economic fundmental was ignored to the point of nausea.

Visit any big city (even outside India) and you will see huge investments being made to tackle traffic congestion, pollution and all the menaces of the city. Whether it is Rs. 6000 crores Metro rail or a simple by-lane for rickshaws on the left side of the road, a sub-way to cross the road or even a simple act of leaving for the office too early to avoid traffic- Govt. and the people are spending their precious time and resources to deal with the increasingly unmanageable city. The same investments would have been directed towards creating a base of industry that is spread across many cities of India.

Infact the diversity of India itself is a great economic strength. The slogan "unity in diversity " is not just a patriotic or secular statement. Nodody has realised that it can even become our economic strength. The diveristy in foods, clothes, climates, tastes, life-styles can become a great marketing tool for starting innumerable services in our country. This could have easily pushed our local economy to support jobs for the youth who then would not have thought of migrating to bigger cities for opportunities.

An indication of real progress in any country is the reverse flow of work force and capital. From congested big cities to cleaner and safer small cities. In India, this has just started to happen. Thanks to the retail boom and the yet to take off agricultural boom. But also thanks to the IT boom which has now connected the whole world, so you can stay in Bangalore or even in Hubli and still produce and distribute the knowledge wealth across the world.

We will surely see more and more companies and individuals moving to smaller cities for all its advantages vis-a-vis a bigger city. What will it do to India and how it will happen is an interesting phenomenon to be watched out for.

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