Planning in India? What a farce.

I had posted this in praja.in on 4th November 2008. I am reproducing the same here.

I always wonder why we face so many problems. No sooner is a problem solved, than the solution poses a new problem. Why don’t we have long term solutions?

A recent example is the Mysore road – Sirsi Circle flyover. A much needed, much awaited solution to a long term problem. But it is now swamped with maintenance problems. The expansion joints are exposed and the solution is in importing the required materials, which is a problem in the long run.

A road is widened and ….. problems.
An OFC cable is laid and …. problems.
LPG is introduced for autos and ….. problems.
An airport is built and ….. problems.

One common attribute to all these problems is ‘lack of planning’. Are we bad at planning or don’t our plans work?

In very simple terms, planning is looking at and forecasting the future and making provisions for change.

The future could be immediate, slightly ahead or far ahead and planning could be for individuals, corporates or government.

Now look at the irony of it all. WE (Indians) are expected to plan for the future, a future on which we have absolutely no control whatsoever.

THEY (foreigners) who control it for us do not make their plans privy to us.

WE just finish furnishing our houses and make a niche to keep the latest 29″ TV and THEY introduce Plasma / LED TV’s. WE build a 15 foot garage and THEY introduce 20 feet cars which we then park on congested streets. WE wire our house for the home theater and THEY introduce wireless systems. WE put their huge 10′ dish antennae on our roof tops and haphazardly run cables on our roads and they introduce DTH. WE get their window Ac’s fixed and THEY introduce split Ac’s. We just finish painting our building and they introduce no-maintenance ACP’s and glass facades. WE buy their record players and 16 rpm’s, 45 rpm’s, LP’s and THEY introduce spool players. WE buy these and THEY introduce cassette players. WE buy these and THEY invent Cd’s – all the while changing from mono, stereo, dolby, surround sound, karaoke etc. THEY did the same with VCP’s, VCR’s, VCD’s and DVD’s. Now it is Bluray. And then there was the valve radios, transistors, walkman’s etc. WE changed from 120 / 110 / 35mm, B&W / color – Click III, Range Finder, TLR, SLR cameras. WE invest crores on a film processing plant and THEY introduce cheap Digital cameras and cheaper printers. WE invest in their printing machines and THEY invent digital desktop publishing and printing. WE get bell bottoms stitched and THEY introduce cargo’s. WE buy coil stoves, hot plates, gas cooking ranges and THEY give us micro wave ovens and induction heaters and rice cookers. WE buy their washing machines and THEY introduce washers with dryers. WE buy these and THEY introduce front loaders with heat dryers. WE wire our houses for calling bells and THEY introduce wireless security cameras. WE invest in stocks, shares, futures, gold, oil etc and THEY control the market.

WE (Corporates) get big expensive offices to accommodate big tables for CRT monitors and THEY introduce flat screens and workstations. WE buy their best push back chairs and THEY offer gas assist ergonomic chairs. WE get black boards and THEY say chalk is bad and introduce white boards and markers. WE put our data on their tape drives then big floppy’s and then small floppy’s and then Cd’s and DVD’s and pen drives, all the while changing systems accordingly as THEY deem. WE invest crores on switching to tube lights from incandescent and THEY introduce CFL’s and white LED’s. WE buy cycles and THEY introduce Segway’s. WE invest in a new glass pane factory and THEY introduce float glass.

WE (Government) plan roads for cycles and 2 wheelers and THEY introduce cheap/efficient cars. WE widen roads for driving and parking their Suzuki’s (Maruti) and THEY waste it all by introducing mini-truck sized SUV’s. When WE convert to LPG, THEY will introduce hybrids. WE mess our roads for their OFC and THEY introduce WiFi. WE upgrade our airports and fleet with their technology and their 400 seater planes and THEY introduce more efficient 800 seaters. WE buy their expensive mining equipment for coal mining and THEY introduce cheap nuclear power plants. WE build ports for their ships and oil tankers and THEY introduce QE’s and Super Tankers. WE put up huge factories to make their rotary dial phones and their strowger exchanges and they invent digital technology and cellular phones. WE try to put satellites in space for remote sensing / mapping and THEY put an embargo on us and refuse to sell their hi-res cameras and then THEY put aerial maps free on the net. WE buy their steam locomotives and they introduce diesel electrics and bullet trains and Maglev’s. WE buy their .303’s, AK47’s, tanks, missiles, fighters, aircraft carriers, submarines and THEY make it all redundant with stealth technology, smart weapons, ROV’s and rewrite warfare.
(WE provide them thousands of acres of land, manpower, rail links, electricity etc, and THEY use their brains and do most of this right under our very own noses.)

This is a small scratch-on-the-surface list which all of us can relate to. It gets worse as we get to the brass tacks.

So what happens psychologically to an Indian planner is interesting.
A phobia of the future sets in. Do I buy this now? Do I commit myself to this technology? When will it become redundant? Can I then afford to reinvest? Do I wait for the latest? When will that happen?

Uncertainty and delays in the quest for stability galore.

This is what happened to the mass rapid transport system in Bangalore (and several other projects all over India). Metro? Elevated rail? Monorail? The world is offering us the best. But what are they working on secretly to make these redundant in a few years?

WE use their shampoos, conditioners, hair colors and fairness creams to look like them. WE even try to talk like THEM.
WE even use their computers in our ancient astrology to foretell our future. What more do THEY want? Why don’t THEY just plan our future for us?

I am tired of being  ‘WE’.
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An interesting aside:

The Golden gate bridge in the US was completed in 1937 ($1.3 million under budget) with 6 lanes for vehicles and a pedestrian walkway. Presently on an average day 118,000 vehicles cross this bridge and there were an estimated 250,851,833 registered passenger vehicles in the United States according to a 2006 DOT study.( I don’t have figures for 1937, but there were 74 million in 1960. The number of motor vehicles in the US has risen by 157 million (212.16%) since 1960). (ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/w… http://en.wikipedia.org/w…)

How can they build a bridge wide enough for today’s traffic 70 years ago?

Look at our Howrah (Kolkata) bridge. The older version Floating Pontoon Bridge was built in 1874 by Sir Bradford Leslie.

“bullock carts formed the eight – thirteenths of the vehicular traffic (as observed on 27th of August 1906, the heaviest days traffic observed in the port of commissioners” 16 day’s Census of the vehicular traffic across the existing bridge). The road way on the existing bridge is 48 feet wide except at the shore spans where it is only 43 feet in road ways, each 21 feet 6 inches wide. The roadway on the new bridge would be wide enough to take at least two lines of vehicular traffic and one line of trans in each direction and two roadways each 30 feet wide, giving a total of 60 feet of road way which are quite sufficient for this purpose………. The traffic across the existing floating bridge Calcutta & Howrah is very heavy and it is obvious if the new bridge is to be on the same site as the existing bridge, then unless a temporary bridge is provided, there will be serious interruptions to the traffic while existing bridge is being moved to one side to allow the new bridge to be erected on the same site as the present bridge”.
(ref: http://www.howrahbridgeko…)

The modern version was built by the Britishers between 1937 and 1943. The eight-lane bridge carries a steady flow of approx 150,000 vehicles, 4,000,000 pedestrians and thousands of cattle every day.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/w…)

And then there is the Krishnarajapuram (Bangalore) bridge………..