Gurgaon Has Flourished With Private Planning
Sample this: If Connaught Place, national capital New Delhi's central business district (CBD), is turned over to a board of central planners, what would be their masterplan? In all likelihood, these planners would not be able to match the planning of generations of merchants on what to sell, where to sell and how to sell. In fact, the number of transactions that happen in a market like Connaught Place, one of the busiest CBDs in the world, is way too high for a board to know or pay attention to.
In Soviet Russia, for example, there was a centralised planning system and merchants often complained that they had to keep goods in their shops even when there was no demand for them. The government factories had to produce these goods because the production quotas demanded so. This is the extent to which a central plan may affect businesses.
Urban local authorities, along with state and central governments, provide infrastructure throughout the world and face dilemmas similar to that of merchants in Soviet Russia. Modern history is full of examples of boondoggle projects by governments that did not accomplish any great task, except employing people.
Gurgaon in focus
Part of the National Capital Region (NCR), Gurgaon had no urban local authority planning its infrastructure for very long. While many believe that the city flourished in spite of the absence of planning, others think Gurgaon is proof enough that no one will take care of the garbage in a city run by private corporations.
To have some perspective, it is important to step back and see what the truth is like. Gurgaon is, by all means, ahead of most Indian cities. About a third of the houses are connected to a centralised sewage system in the city. This shows progress because 4,861 of the 5,161 Indian cities and towns did not even have a partial sewage system until 2011.
This is proof enough that even when the government failed to provide the necessary infrastructure, the private sector flourished in the city. This also means that infrastructure is important but many highly paid professionals may be willing to live in a city without it.
A closer look would, however, tell that Gurgaon did not flourish because there was an absence of planning. The planning was done in a different way. As the government did not provide infrastructure in Gurgaon, real estate developers and private corporations had to promise infrastructure within their property lines. This attracted the working class in great numbers. The city's population rose from 1.21 lakh in 1991 to over 15 lakh in 2011. Real estate developers like DLF had to attract multinational corporations to build offices in the city. One company followed another till it became a beeline for Gurgaon. Like merchants in Connaught Place, real estate developers, corporations and households in Gurgaon had to plan day in and day out on how to evolve and grow. Not having a centralised plan did help the private planner to remain flexible. The Gurgaon plan was a plan that individuals, households and firms made on the basis of self-interests. This explains the success of Gurgaon to a large extent.
The long-term plans of developers that involve building sewage systems, producing electricity with diesel generators, carrying employees in private cabs and hiring private security can't be tagged as the absence of a plan.