Need for overall development, not region-specific or location-specific
There have been many agitations for development in many parts of our country. The recent history of the State of Andhra Pradesh being split into two, is a case in point, and it marks the end of a big struggle for justice of a particular portion of the State, as opposed to good development in other parts of the State, particularly the rain-fed regions of AP, which have come under the new State of Seemandhra.
This brings to focus the need for balanced development, according to the needs of a particular region. It is always wise to not concentrate too many industries or even service sector organizations, within cities or in the vicinity of cities, as this can lead to massive concentration of power, and all natural resources in one big city or one geographical area.
Thus, we have Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, that have grown beyond their means, and only certain amount of development in other places. This gives rise to regional conflicts and when politicians enter the fray, everything becomes very complicated.
For example, in the case of Chennai, except for Coimbatore, none of the other cities has seen any significant industrial growth, with the sole exception of Tiruchirapalli and to a limited extent, Salem. The other parts of the State remain hugely backward.
The clamor for setting up industries in the Southern districts of Tamil Nadu, have not gone too well, with the State Government, as well as the industrial organizations, who cite reasons of inadequate air connectivity and the distance that is very huge. The answer could have been to have some inter-State collaboration, so that Trivandrum could have been the industrial city, and feeder units being established in Southern districts of Tamil Nadu, which are very well connected to Trivandrum.
Such plans are Utopian dreams. We neither have the Vision or the forethought to bring balanced development. Years ago, in the very fertile rice belt of Tanjore, in Tamil Nadu, and its environs an overzealous Member of Parliament, sought to bring aqua farms to that belt. This turned out to be the worst experiment. Instead, if only agro-based industries could have been developed, the results could have been totally different. Near huge mango plantations, in areas that are not well developed, why not have mango processing units set up with State Government concessions, so that the entire area develops,and the farmers can simply supply the mangoes to the manufacturing unit at reasonable rates. In fact, that will be a win-win situation for both parties.
Such research-based solutions are totally missing in balanced development. Instead, we have politicians who push their cases for some development, without the least thought of the damage to the environment at any stage.
Certain private organizations, like the TVS group of Chennai, have taken a big lead in this regard. They have spoiled the environment. There are thousands of trees within their factories and their environs, and the money spent on developing and maintaining beautiful gardens is really substantial. Each factory, has its own effluent treatment plant, that purifies all the waste and industrial water, and makes the same water available for gardening, thus saving all ground water.
Many companies should learn from such experiments.
One of the ways of identifying the exact need and nature of development, is to study the basic requirements and then work out further details. In most places of Coimbatore district, in Tamil Nadu, for instance, there are huge water tanks that supply drinking water to the residential colonies of those places. Water sometimes is supplied only tor two hours, and even this is done once in two days. But the people store water, and maintain the surroundings very clean. Even with minimum of water, they are able to survive. Very good roads, all of them tar roads connect the villages to other parts of the city, and there are several routes to reach any particular place.
What then happens is that there is a huge amount of buying and selling of commodities of all kinds, in cash, and on credit. The huge number of transactions, help to develop the economy of the place, and the number of service establishments in each place, are simply superb. For example, within just two hundred meters, it is always possible to get one's cell re-charged. Medical help of some kind is available in some place or the other, within a one hundred meter radius. The city has world-class hospitals, and for any emergency,sick or injured people are rushed to these hospitals.
What seems to have taken place in Coimbatore district is the planned model. It is the Vision of the local people, and the panchayats concerned. Another beauty is that small industrial units, all feeder units to some automobile giant in Chennai, have sprung up in places that are accessible thorough very good roads, but in some rural area.
Overall development is possible, if there is no influence of caste or political influence of any kind. It is disastrous if politicians enter the fray and have their own developmental agenda, which is very often their own political agenda.
The new Government at the center, is now talking of smart cities and ports with private enterprise. This is fine indeed, but all this should not boil to real estate development, killing the original idea of balanced development. If everything is left to the private parties, the poor will be pushed to the rock bottom. This is reason why the poor and the economically weak sections, stay in places that are more than one hundred kilometers away from the city center. This is another headache, as travel becomes a big problem.
Our planners, environmentalists, economists and captains of industry have to form voluntary teams to figure out what can be done, and how. Merely developing big cities, as we have done thus far, may not solve all problems of development, as other people in less developed areas will be up in arms, demanding justice.
The answers are not that easy, and even new experiments like the "smart city" are put into action, a whole new paradigm shift is urgently called for. That shift will then seek to address the real problems of balanced overall development.
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