New Delhi: The growth has been phenomenonal in the last five years. The sleepy City Beautiful is now reckoned as the Smart City of India as it has reconciled growth with development and expansion minus chaos. In fact, it is one of the neatest examples of how urban development can be planned and implemented and how administrative will can give a dream, its brick and mortar shape.
Gen SF Rodrigues, Governor, Punjab & Administrator, C’garh
Gen Rodrigues has been holding controls as Administrator of the Union Terriority of Chandigarh spanning all of 144 sq km expanse nestled between the states of Haryana and Punjab, during this phase of transition. The General is down-to-earth in his approach to building on the legacy of Le Courbusier. His priorities are not only a quick turnaround for the city from being a city of tired babus to that of restless professionals but also administrative efficiency and community welfare. “Our aim is to bring greater efficiencies across government departments so that the city can truly represent the ‘shining face’ of modern India,” he says with a confident smile.
Taru Bahl met General (Retd.) SF Rodrigues, Governor Punjab and Administrator Chandigarh to get a sense of what the future holds for the Union Territory. Edited excerpts:
Q 1: Chandigarh is a city of the future. What is its vision statement?
A 1: We are in the throes of transition, shedding the old and embracing the new. On one side is the city’s intrinsic character, the way it was envisaged by Corbusier and on the other are aspirations of today’s middle class. Managing needs of people without disturbing their comfort zone is critical. Transition must be gradual and seamless, through mass participation, where every single rule of law is obeyed.
Without altering original master plan, we are undertaking urban development. A 20-year projection for the city will represent the new and resurgent face of India while a responsive, transparent and accountable system of governance is installed.
This cannot be done unless everyone comes on board and is made to feel relevant. Concept of partnership will ensure that development momentum is not lost. If I have to put down the vision statement in one line, I would say, “Everything should be available to the least of our people”. Our activities, projects and initiatives are therefore based on this central vision.
A : We have been promoting Chandigarh as a city of multiple competencies, so you have an IT City, Film City, Education City and Tourism City all integrated into the City Beautiful. But rather than be at cross-purposes or invade others’ spaces, there is synergy, with one dovetailing into the other.
Each city will be self-contained with a separate traffic circuit. Bangalore while it was wooing the IT sector, lost focus of other things and became just an IT city, creating a disastrous situation for residents and investors. Our evolving will improve residents’ quality of life, strengthen access to services, boost tourism revenues and push up employability. Along the way, it will change old perceptions: for too long we have been known as a sleepy city with white beards and grey hedges.
Q 3: Chandigarh is a new city, founded 58 years ago; built for 5 lakh people today it has over 11 lakh. What is its development plan?
A .We are focusing on three areas: human development, infrastructure and environment upgradation and protection. To unclog roads for example, we are in talks with RITES for Mass Rapid Transport System (routes are being surveyed). A low-loading bus system is on the anvil and to decongest choke points, we will have our first flyover. An inter-state bus stand will streamline busy streets and save commuters’ time.
Q 4: In late 90’s it was promoted as ‘Convention City’, did this happen?
A 4: Chandigarh is a preferred destination for conventions and with the administration recognizing it as a regional hub, this will get an impetus. Upgradation of supporting infrastructure in residential sector, healthcare, sports and community development has been initiated. An international airport, spread over roughly eight acres at a budgeted cost of Rs70 crore will be operational by 2008 and has been welcomed by corporates and NRIs .
Q 5: As an education city, drawing youth from nearby towns, how do you make learning relevant to their needs and aspirations?
A Deemed University status has been accorded to Government Medical College and Hosptial and Punjab Engineering College. All government schools will be provided with model school facilities. Young people will find avenues to grow and seek employment opportunities through the many mini cities.
Twin projects of IT park approved as an SEZ for IT and Technology Habitat, will lead to private sector investment and FDI; attract investible surplus capital; encourage public-private partnership (PPP) in infrastructure and industry and boost export and growth of ancillary units. An estimated 25,000 jobs will be created in the next three years along with an investment of Rs1000 crore by private sector.
600 girls have been trained as nurses to be absorbed in the international market. This programme will be expanded further. Education city is spread over 150 acres and will house centres of excellence headed by professionals from different sectors.
Q 6: A seat of three governments, law enforcers often run into trouble, with every defaulter knowing some higher up. Have you addressed this?
Q: It was not easy to implement law and order since dropping names is second nature here. Our policing follows the rulebook without giving credence to who the defaulter may be related to. This has taken time to bear fruit and has ruffled many feathers, but we are being taken seriously.
Q 7: How do you identify residents’ problems and ensure remedial action?
A : ‘Transforming governance: e-Governance for e-society” through Sampark, e-Sampark, Gram Sampark and M-Sampark programmes have brought together services of all departments under one umbrella giving citizens a multi-service, single window experience. In one stroke they have eliminated harassment that came from lack of transparency or babudom.
Services like tax payment, issuance of bus passes, birth and death certificates, pension disbursement, payment of water, sewerage, telephone bills and passport application are covered.
We started with 8 kiosks that expanded to 17 and with Jan Sampark we will touch 70. Redressal is speedy and so are RTI services. M-Sampark provides information through cellular phones. All this meant getting bureaucrats on board and eliminating sources of interference.
Q 8: The Planning Commission wants to replicate your model on slum development. How does this work?
Q : Slum clearance is not an ad hoc government directive. It uses an ownership model that is sustainable. We did a biometric identification system to establish a database and found 23,841 slum families spread over 18 colonies. Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) engaged services of Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) to identify key issues of rehabilitation. Chandigarh Small Flats Scheme was launched in 2006 as a one-time solution to problems of squatters and jhuggi settlements.
Plan is to construct 24,000 flats in 11 locations with all dwellers getting ownership rights at the end of 20 years. To check resale, these are allotted on licence fee basis, using a software application based workflow system to ensure accuracy.
Challenge was to devise a system that did not displace dwellers. So far relocation has entailed shifting 650 slum families to IT Park and 460 families to prefab structures, a first of its kind initiative.
Project cost is met through GoI allocation of Rs565 crore with additional Rs600 crore from revenue generated from Housing Project in IT park which CHB is developing with PPP.
Q 9: How will the IT project change the face of the city?
A : The Rajiv Gandhi Technology Park, spread over 270 acres, has a 3-phase development plan. A 30-acre campus is operational with over 1500 professionals; 12 acres have been allocated to DLF campus which has 60% occupancy and 4,500 professionals; Infosys has taken up 30 acres while Tech Mahindra, Bharti Airtel and Wipro have an additional 45 acres; 35 smaller IT companies also dot the campus.
There is the state-of-the-art Entrepreneur Development Centre, a Rs16-crore project that will provide incubation space to young entrepreneurs and a tech habitat centre which is on a 123-acre area.
Leisure and entertainment, housing, access to modern amenities have all been factored in. IT Park will have three bridges and five lakes. A five-star hotel is part of the plan and 91/2 acres of forest land will be converted into a haven of rejuvenation with an ayurveda centre and health spa. Direct employment in IT sector by the year 2009-10 is estimated at 65,799 and investment expected is to the tune of Rs6210 crore.
Q 10: Any initiatives that you would like to highlight?
A : The city is being covered for diagnostic treatment and facilities. By partnering with NGOs for staffing, we will upgrade existing government facilities. PGI is ready to announce a telemetry medicine programme. Trauma centre and medicity project will be up and running by 2010, catering to the city’s needs for the next 20 years.
The country’s first Terminal Market Project will be up by 2008 for which we are in talks with Reliance to provide a professionally managed competitive alternate marketing structure with multiple choices to farmers for selling produce. Electronic auction, cold storage, washing and packing lines, cold chains, quality testing facilities and material handling equipment along with futures trading and banking services will be part of the market.
Wheat-flour fortification programme addresses nutritional deficiencies and will be sold on same lines as iodized salt through PDS, ICDS, mid-day meal scheme and hospitals.
Aquatic park, botanical garden, theme park and multi media film city will boost tourism. Heritage tourism will showcase Corbusier’s architecture, moreso after the city has acquired Unesco heritage site status.
All this is possible with effective monitoring by 6-7 member committees. Our aim is to bring greater efficiencies across government departments so that the city can truly represent the ‘shining face’ of modern India.