Today, Chandigarh’s residents draw a very high per capita income, which is among the highest in the country. Also, we have a high literacy rate and people here are very conscious about the wellbeing and development of Chandigarh, says Manoj Kumar Parida, Advisor to the Administrator, UT, Chandigarh in an exclusive interview with Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN). He gives his insights on what makes the Union Territory (UT) of Chandigarh so unique and what the future holds for the joint capital of Haryana and Punjab.
What makes Chandigarh special?
Chandigarh was planned in 1949 but started late in 1960s. The advantage of starting late on a project is that you can get access to better technologies in the market. It started like a Greenfield project and we are thankful to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister for starting it. Best architects were brought to the city from all over the world, one of whom was the French architect Le Corbusier, a pioneer of modern architecture. Apart from him, there were some American partners and local experts as well. They came with the best technologies, selected the best locations and talents, keeping in mind the western knowledge and the Indian ambience and cultural needs.
Another reason why Chandigarh is special is that, it started as a clean slate with the best of technology and experts. Also, the local people are very enterprising, particularly those who came here after the partition. After fleeing chaos, they hastened to re-build a city. They were hard-working people who had a dream.
Today, Chandigarh’s residents draw a very high per capita income, which is among the highest in the country. Also, we have a high literacy rate and people here are very conscious. Several retired Generals, judges, IAS and IPS officers and industrialists have made Chandigarh their home and they give ideas to further develop this place. They have dedicated their lives to the nation and their experience helps us build this city.
We have highly knowledgeable residents and a perfect media penetration. We have a well qualified media and their representatives who point out the problems, if any at all. This is why the city excels in everything. Whether it comes to water and electricity supply, education and health standards, law and order, all these things which are a challenge in every other state, are maintained very well in Chandigarh.
We have been nominated by the Union Ministry of Education to represent India in an international competition called Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) where they examine, compare and rank the knowledge of eighth and ninth class students from across the world.
Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh, like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), is one of the premier medical institutions of the country.
Chandigarh also enjoys the advantage of the geographic location, which is in the foothills of Shivaliks and has a wonderful climate. Today, when Delhi is choked with pollution, we are fortunate to have clean air. The reason being Chandigarh is the only state capital to have two wildlife sanctuaries in it. We have 40 percent forests in this small territory of 114 sq kilometres and because owing to the size of the Union Territory, it is easier to administer.
Added to this, we have a perfect bureaucracy. We get our mid-level officers from Punjab and Haryana and the top-level officers come from outside the states. They have no particular pressure or influence on them. They act impartial and are efficient. We do not have an Assembly but we have an elected MP who helps us by representing the public.
A lot many factors combine to make Chandigarh unique. It remains the greenest capital of the country, and one of the most advanced and well-planned cities of India, which is why it is also called an oasis of the desert.
Now that Chandigarh has picked up speed as a Smart City, what are the challenges you are facing?
A major challenge for Chandigarh is the traffic congestion. We have a population of 12 lakh, but after adding the incoming vehicles, we reach a population of 15 lakh. Whatever little pollution we have does not have any industrial source; it is only vehicular and dust pollution. To tackle the traffic congestion, we are constructing an outer ring road where people coming mostly from Delhi and Haryana, who are on their way to Shimla or other parts of Punjab, do not have to enter Chandigarh. This project is almost in the final stage and will be completed soon. Another ring road will be constructed after this in which the people coming from Delhi can bypass Chandigarh from even further away.
The second aspect is, we need to have a public transport model covering the three cities of Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. Chandigarh being a very small place cannot have a metro or a monorail. We have to link up Panchkula in Haryana, Mohali in Punjab and Baddi in Himachal Pradesh to Chandigarh through either an underground or overground transport system.
Panchkula and Mohali are being developed by their respective state governments as future capitals. They must cooperate with us in making this public transport a success. Also, they should take up many of the ministry departments to their cities so that Chandigarh remains de-congested. Whatever new institutions, offices, organisations, public sector offices are coming up, they should concentrate on building them in these two future capitals instead of Chandigarh.
Housing is another area of concern for Chandigarh. The carrying capacity of Chandigarh is ideally 10 lakh and we have already reached 12 lakh. Now the Le Corbusier limits or heritage limits do not allow us to go vertical. We do not want to make skyscrapers, multi-storeyed buildings or apartments here. Hence, accommodating the population is posing a challenge for us.
Do you see ‘not going vertical’ as an advantage or disadvantage?
To maintain the character of Chandigarh, some sectors like the nearby Sukhna lake area, have to remain as they are. In the periphery, there are some sites near our IT park area where we can go vertical, up to a limit.
We cannot kill the Shivaliks skyline by making 40 or 50 storey buildings, there has to be some limit. The housing needs of the people are justified and the government is working on it. But it would be a tragedy if the most beautiful city gets spoiled because of those needs. There is already a fight going on regarding the height limits in the High Court vis-a-vis the heritage requirements. In-spite all of these challenges, we will stick to our plans and remain committed to this heritage.
What other initiatives is the administration looking at?
One is this Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme where infants are given food or the midday meal programme where school children are given food. In other places, many private organisations or NGOs come and give food. These organisations are selected through tenders filed by them.
We have a Model jail, also called Burari jail, where the prisoners are making quality food which is being supplied to school. This is a win-win situation where the children get quality food and the prisoners can feel the pride of feeding children. This is the only jail in the country where this model has been tried. We do inoculations for under-privileged children who have to live on streets. We go to the streets and immunise them instead of waiting for these children or their mothers to bring them to hospitals.
“Chandigarh has a perfect bureaucracy. We get our mid-level officers from Punjab and Haryana and the top-level officers come from outside the states. They have no particular pressure or influence on them. We do not have an Assembly but we have an elected MP who helps us by representing the public.”
Another major project which will come up is this urban transport model in the Chandigarh Smart City; we are going to install cameras all over the city. We are already very strict on traffic violations which will continue to be. We have already banned single use plastic.
Our sports infrastructure is one of the best in the country and we are going to have an international shooting range here, a new international centre for cultural activities and a museum of antique cars and furniture.
We have already increased the number of medical institutions in the city and we are going to increase it further. We are also thinking of introducing a large number of electric mini-buses to decrease usage of private vehicles among the residents.
These are areas where we want to experiment. We have already made it slum-free and vendor-free by removing colony 4 to Maloya. Also, Sector 17 is going to be converted into a beautiful comfort and entertainment zone.