Tuesday, February 4, 2014

India and the Developed Nations – Planning Vs Randomness – Who will survive longer?

In a matter of a few months, a number of unauthorized shops and facilities have come up around the Jalvayu Vihar compound. A cobbler has set up shop on the foot path along with others selling vegetables, cigarettes, panipuri, momos, kababs, fruits, flowers and many other things. It is really fascinating to study how these facilities come up without any prompting by the customers. Who does the feasibility study, who determines the requirement, is there any thought given to the inherent risks, what is the business model – and above all, who allowed them to start an unlawful business in the first place?

The locality where we stay – Kammanahalli - was once a quiet, residential area in the outskirts of Bangalore. In a span of two decades, it has grown into a very popular and busy commercial hub – offering the best of restaurants, a great shopping experience and much more. The growth is unplanned and haphazard. Houses have been converted into shops; some were demolished to make way for high rise shopping complexes and malls and so on. In the original plan, there was no place earmarked for commercial activities. The same is true with the rest of Bangalore and I suppose the same holds good for the whole of India. I am beginning to believe that there are some higher forces of nature which are at play in India.

There is no order or method to the madness. In our cities, roads are carved out of nowhere, houses vary in design, size and colour and no two houses match. Electric poles are erected at random, water pipes are tampered with to provide illegal outlets and garbage is thrown in any available open space. Parking spaces appear wherever it is convenient to park – similarly any nook and corner becomes a public toilet. There appears to be no planning, coordination or aesthetics in our town planning.

Lack of planning, loosely structured rules, corruption and over population are some of the factors which govern this type of haphazard growth.

On the other hand, modern cities in Europe and America are examples of efficient town planning and administration; coupled with responsible citizens and effective law enforcement agencies.

On a philosophical plane, one can compare the growth of Europe and America to that of a well laid out garden. Lovely walk ways, with evenly trimmed hedges on either side, manicured lawns and neatly arranged flowering plants fill your eyes as you walk or drive past. Chairs and benches strategically placed under a shade, promise the best of views for a casual stroller or tourist. Gardeners appear to be ready to water the greenery and administer manure .The entire outfit is a result of excellent planning, and coordination by human beings.  

On the other hand the uninhibited growth of Indian cities is akin to that of the rain forests of South America. No planning by humans. The toughest gets to see the sun. Growth follows a pattern set by the harsh rules of nature. The fittest survive. Creepers going piggy back on tall trees to get their share of the sun is common. Competition at ground level for light and food has lead to evolution of plants which live on the branches of other plants, or even strangle large trees to fight for survival. Huge evergreen trees keep company with smaller plants and animal life. Nature provides plenty of rain and sunshine free of cost. The forest floor receives only two percent of the sunshine, yet some plants have adopted to survive in this lowlight conditions. The aerial plants often gather nourishment from the air itself using so-called 'air roots'. This is a different world altogether.

The only plus point for the Indian ‘Rain Forest Growth Pattern’ comes from the ‘Second Law of Thermo Dynamics’. For a moment compare India or the Rain Forest to a mound of firm, wet sand on the beach; and Europe and America or the beautifully planned garden to a pretty sand castle of similar volume. Over a period of time the sand castle with low entropy will disintegrate due to the constant wind and waves.

Who will survive is purely rhetorical.