west reeled for centuries from the aftermath of indiscriminate industrialisation
following the dictates of wealth over health and wellbeing. The
consequences were that urbanisation increased in almost direct proportion
to industrialisation, and Lewis Mumford, in The Culture of Cities
records: "Between 1820 and 1900 the chaos of the great cities
is like that of a battlefield
In the new provinces of city
building, one must now keep ones eyes on the bankers and the industrialists
and the mechanical inventors. They were responsible for most of
what was good and almost all that was bad... they created a new
type of city: that which Dickens, in Hard Times, called Coketown.
In a greater or a lesser degree, every city in the Western World
was stamped with the characteristics of Coketown."
childish belief in the industrialist as the divinely appointed agent
of a Higher Power", Mumford notes further, "prepared the
way for the complete un-building of the city." There was no
limit to the chaotic urban proliferation since all established standards
of tradition, order, decency and aesthetics broke down, and the
sole controlling agent was 'profit'.
lessons of the disastrous consequences of rampant industrialisation
are well documented in the centuries since the beginnings of the
industrial town. Yet the industrilising countries of the Third World
have followed the same path of regressive urbanisation and the 'Coketowns'
of the West visit almost all cities of the third world with their
anarchic prosperity, in smoky industrial pigeon holes and massive
clusters of slums. Commenting on the sale of Mill land in Mumbai,
a national Daily observed: "In a market economy, there can
be no development, even or especially for the poor or those deprived
of fresh air, if the market is not allowed to function."
True words these, but where in any of the industrial cities of India
do the poor or those deprived of fresh air have any kind of access
to a semblance of healthful living? Will the men who once worked
in the now defunct mills have such access? Mumbai was once, and
Delhi is today, a thriving city where the phenomenal wealth of the
city is directly proportionate to its growing slums.
nature and constitution of our industrial cities and towns is stuck
in a time warp of, not decades, but centuries. Their growth has
not been organic and organised but haphazard and confused, subject
to rampant corruption and the dictates of the land mafia. More often
than not, these create and produce severe environmental dangers
that hold not only urban populations to ransom but entire regions
of virgin forest and other ecologically sensitive areas that are
scarred and irreparably destroyed. The Bhopal Gas tragedy - to which
over 22,000 deaths were 'directly attributable' - is one horrific
example of what unregulated industry can do, and its massive power
of destruction. Factories and industries across the country continue
to discharge effluents and noxious gases untreated into the environment,
and hazardous industries continue to exist cheek by jowl with overcrowded
residential areas and slums in innumerable towns.
independence the government has promoted the labour intensive small-scale
industries to help with job creation and encourages decentralised
industrial development. These industries account for 40 percent
of all industrial production, 35 percent of the total exports and
employ almost 17 million people in 3.2 million units. The resultant
clustering of these industries leads to serious environmental problems.
One small example can be found in the clusters of textile dyeing
industries that have led to severe problems for towns situated on
small rivers like Pali, Balotra, and Jodphur in Rajasthan, Jetpur
in Gujarat and Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu.
larger cities polluting industries are required to be located in
designated areas, but this is seldom implemented. For years, administrations
turn a blind eye to illegal units, ignoring appalling working and
living conditions. In Delhi, thousands of such units flourished
for decades, and in large parts of the city, residences, industrial
smelters and sweatshops melded into an indistinguishable mass, chunks
of putrefying hell on earth. Suddenly, overnight, in year 2000,
the Supreme Court ordered the closure and removal of thousands of
polluting units. In a natural historical cycle, cities continually
grow and purge themselves of all offending contaminators without
such wrenching anguish, but in Delhi, at one felled swoop, 138,000
workers and their families displaced, with no provision for housing
or other facilities in areas where these industries were relocated.
the zeal to develop the industrial sector is not backed with a comparable
zeal to develop orderly cities. "When you know how to build
cities and to rule them," said John Ruskin, "you will
be able to breathe in their streets, and the 'excursion' will be
the afternoon's walk or game in the fields round them".
administrations and city municipalities in India certainly do not
know how to build cities, let alone how to rule them. Industrial
townships set up by corporate entities and business houses, in some
cases, however, have done somewhat better. One of the best of these
was set up by that great pioneer Jamshetji Tata. Today, Jamshedpur
is the outcome of the compassionate and far thinking vision of that
one man. Inspired by the ideas of the great planner Robert Owen
and his plans for industrial townships built as 'garden cities',
Jamshetji, who passed away before the town was completely built,
had already set the guiding principles that would shape the city.
In a letter to his son Dorab in 1902 he wrote, "Be sure to
lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-
growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns
and gardens. Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks.
Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques, and Christian
churches." Today, Jamshedpur is among the greenest of India's
cities, with a 75 percent literacy rate that is unparalleled in
eastern India. The water is of such high quality that it is one
of the few Indian cities where one can drink directly from the tap.
Each year, Tata Steel arranges for the cleaning up of over 120,000
tonnes of garbage, spends Rs. 25 crore on the Tata Main Hospital
which takes care of employees and the general public, and expends
Rs. 139 crore the upkeep of the city. The story of Jamshedpur is
heartening, but behind the-well intentioned altruism is another
dark secret of industrial development. Set up in the tribal heartland,
the success of the township would have come at some cost for the
tribal inhabitants of the area.
is the other face, the flip side of large scale industries that
make inroads into virgin territories, which give little benefit
to the original inhabitants and the natural habitat. Today, the
ecologically sensitive habitat of the Sunderbans, a 'world heritage
site' and home to the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve is being threatened
by a 'five star mega tourism project'. The Rs. 500 crore plus Sunderbans
Tourism Project is part of Sahara India's tourism circuit in West
Bengal, and is intended to "develop five virgin islands in
the 36,000 square kilometres of water area in the Sunderbans."
Similar stories are being repeated with mega projects in, among
others, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and that ethereal land of
mists, Arunachal Pradesh.
forces' must be allowed to function unhindered and development must
make inroads into all parts of the country. But when the two run
unchecked and unhindered, bound by no semblance of rule of law,
we set in motion a pattern of development that took the West centuries
to recover from, harkening back to a model of industrialisation
that the West has long turned its back on.
Published in The Pioneer, March