Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

I happened to be in Delhi this weekend as it was the main city on the way to my destination - Khurja - to observe fieldwork. Khurja – unknown to many - is a small town in western UP some 150 Kms from Delhi. The town's population is only 1 lac in sharp contrast to neighboring Delhi's population of 1.26 crores.

The contrast was alarming in a lot of other ways too. The 150 KM seems like a time trail with a gap of 150 months between the towns. Apart from one being a small town and another the country's capital, yet the differences are too stark and even surprising for me.

First let’s talk of basics … Khurja full of overflowing gutters, and garbage strewn around and monsoons only made it worse. There was only one "khotwali' in Khurja where I couldn’t even spot one havaldar. Khurja had only one Hotel with only10 rooms! The town had no restaurants. Yes not even one! There was a roadside Dhaba where we had to go to have our fill. The main mode of transport within the town is cycle rickshaw and if you want to go to the railway station (5 KM from main town), then its a tempo rickshaw ride. People are filled in like sardines and I was lucky to be inside the sardine tin and not hanging out like some others.

In sharp contrast, Delhi was much better and cleaner, except some parts in East Delhi. Accommodation for visitors to the capital is not at all a problem as I am sure Delhi has more than 2000 hotels. In Delhi one can see that even security is very well taken care of. Transport in Delhi is well taken care of with its Metro or Rickshaw and the nice CWG buses which some commuters use.

Now let’s come to other things. Delhi is known for eve teasing but even then the advent of the metro has changed the way the women in the city feel about their safety. Girls are no longer afraid of being groped at as in the Blue Line buses and are free to wear what they want and travel in the ladies compartment of the Metro. In Khurja post 7 PM it is difficult to see women folk. Even in the day they walk in groups or with other male members of their family.

Cinema being one of my passions I was irked that Khurja has only 2 theatres. One theatre, which looks the younger of the two, currently plays the Imran Khan Starrer 'Delhi Belly' while the older one plays a suggestively titled ' Taank Jhaank'. This feels so distant from the many multiplexes sported in the capital city.

I strongly feel that this disparity in the distribution of developmental resources is somewhere close to the whole poor - rich divide which haunts India. The silver lining to the cloud is that there is hope though - I saw all the top FMCG brands in Khurja. Maybe not the really classy ones like Loreal but definitely the Garnier Shampoos and the Gillette shave gels were there.

All in all a question that comes to mind … if the FMCGs could see hope in the Khurjas of the country then why can't the government?

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