Finally, some strong advice to the United Progressive Alliance Government. Today’s editorial in The Hindu should be a sobering reminder to the Manmohan Singh-led government at the Centre and the States, including the DMK in Tamil Nadu, that the agenda for urban development has made little progress.
“Walk the talk” says The Hindu, calling upon the Ministry of Urban Development in New Delhi to demand accountability from State Governments on the rights of walkers and commuters. The Ministry, led by Mr. Jaipal Reddy, has been a laggard when it comes to making cities genuinely people-friendly. City administrations are waging war against all classes of walkers, and creating more and more barriers to the use of buses, trains, bicycles.
As the editorial notes, putting up flyovers without pedestrian underpasses is a hostile act to pedestrians. Yet, this is exactly what the MoUD has been funding — creating monstrous structures using taxpayers’ money to aid vehicular movement, and cut off ground access for pedestrians. The situation is so bad that old people and children, not to speak of the disabled, have lost their mobility in urban India. They now confine themselves to their immediate neighbourhoods, which are also being colonised rapidly by cars and two-wheelers driven by semi-literate drivers.
There is a strong connection between public health and walkability of cities, and this also finds a mention in the editorial. The paper by Besser et al giving the evidence on walking to transit is cited by the newspaper, and the full original paper is here. Walkability is a key index of a city’s friendliness, but our rulers show little regard for it. The problem is made worse by rampant commercial activity such as shopping and entertainment, which is fuelling corruption in urban governance today.
Will Manmohan Singh and Jaipal Reddy call our State and city governments to account, before forking out more of taxpayers’ hard earned money which is being used to attack their interests?
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