All power to the flower

The week before last, we heard Deepak Parekh’s perspective on the government’s development efforts in our city. As the chairman of the Housing Development Finance Corporation, he was very optimistic about the government’s plan for our city. The same optimism percolated into the speech of Niranjan Hiranandani, the speaker last Tuesday. As you well know, he heads the Hiranandani Group, so for him it was a matter of picking up right from where Deepak Parekh left off.

He began: “Those living in South Mumbai are about to receive a gift that they would have never imagined.” The gift he was referring to was a three hundred acre garden, stretching from Nariman Point to Ballard Estate, with a canal going upto Badhwar Park. In case the numericals don’t translate into some sort of pictorial depiction of the size of this garden, the speaker further elaborates: “Azad Maidan, Cross Maidan, Cooperage Maidan and Oval Maidan put together, make up the size of this new Maidan.”

While the bright idea of infusing a few shades of green into the otherwise greying landscape might suggest a hint of ‘goodness’, in the coming years the importance of South Mumbai will come down. This will be due to the infrastructure projects that are underway that will soon connect South Mumbai to the suburbs; Incidentally, a recent study has shown that out of every hundred jobs created, only two of them are city centric.

Further, the speaker highlighted a few more consequences that are to follow the completion of, what many consider, the most ambitious infrastructure projects. He asserted, “In the next seven years, you will have an addition of 170 kms of metro and suburban lines.” The cross harbour bridge will open up enough land, which is equal to the whole of Mumbai and more. So that we’ll soon have enough vacant land in the region “stretching right from Puram to Khopoli.” What’s better is that by the next fortnight, we will be able to put our cars onto a ship, which will take us to Mandwa.

The outcome of such connectivity will help address the issue of unauthorised housing. As the speaker explained: “When the British left India, there was no such thing as an unauthorised house, in the city of Mumbai.” Today, in a population of 1.2 crore people, almost 50% of the people live in slums. Hence, the prime minister has given developers, like Niranjan Hiranandani, the challenge of providing authorised housing for everyone by 2022. But according to the speaker, even if we somehow manage a 50% GDP growth per annum, for the next five years, we will achieve only 30% of the prime minister’s target.

Now, if you’ve already become pessimistic after hearing the statistics, Niranjan Hiranandani was yet to share a promising reality: When Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari decided to connect every city in the country with national highways, they realised that the only way to do so was to increase the per day execution, which, back then, was a mere 4 kms. This wasconsidered a huge achievement a few years back, but that has completely changed. According to the speaker, we are now able to execute 25 kms of national highway in a day, and continue to chase the target of 40 kms.

So Niranjan Hiranandani concludes that “when aggression is shown, there is no reason why targets cannot be met.”