On the northern limits of PUNE city, a river winds through a gorge, on its way to the East. Any one, who wants to exit the city in that direction, has to cross this river. British rulers had built a low bridge here long time back, which always got flooded during monsoons and cut off this exit. A plan was mooted to build a new bridge here. The bridge was built and also inaugurated with much fanfare by some state minister, but as usual no approach roads were built in time. When subsequently the approach roads were completed, it was found out that the new bridge was just not wide enough for the traffic, which flowed on that road. There were huge traffic jams and it was felt that the earlier low bridge, when not flooded, was somehow better. No sooner, this new bridge was opened for traffic, need for a larger and wider bridge was felt.
Maharashtra state electricity corporation had signed a contract with ENRON corp. of USA to build a power plant on west coast of India and agreed to buy all the power produced by this plant at a price, which was somewhat higher than the rate prevalent in those times. In retrospection, we can say today that it was a good deal. This plant started producing power and then something went wrong. Some politicians felt that the Government was being taken for a ride by ENRON Corp. They managed to get a review committee formulated under chairmanship of an ex- civil service officer. This committee came out with a most amazing finding. They found (Only God knows how!) that Maharashtra state has big amount of surplus power and there was no need for ENRON power. The plant was closed down and plans for building new power plants were all scrapped. Today, because of this action, we have in Maharashtra, power outages extending up to fifteen hours on every single day. The life has become absolutely miserable for the people of this state. How these civil servants and politicians failed to realize, what could be envisaged even by a small child, that the power requirement of a growing economy would just continue to grow, is something one cannot comprehend.
These are not isolated cases. An unending list of such projects can be produced. One can not therefore find solace by giving a justification, that such errors of commission and omission have occurred because of the lack of quality and quantity of the cerebral grey matter for some odd state planner or a civil service officer or some state politicians have not been gratified to their own satisfaction.. Problem is much deeper and lies in our psyche.
New Delhi city is famous for its magnificent buildings and munificent parks and boulevards. It attracts tourists from all corners of the world. Unfortunately, credit for this does not go to Indian Government or people. New Delhi was built by British and even the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, was British. The downtown Mumbai, boasts of many quaint and grand buildings, which in my personal opinion, can beat any day, so called famous buildings of Manhattan and London. To take a stroll along the wide boulevards and gardens of Esplanade in Kolkatta is always a memorable experience. The magnificence of Victoria Memorial needs no words. But again all these magnificent structures have been built by the British. We only seem to specialize in devising ways, by which the grandeur and splendor of these buildings can be undermined. Recently I visited one such building in Mumbai. My heart bled to see those wonderful long and well decorated verandas being divided into small pigeon holes with help of horrible looking wooden partitions and the pathetic loose wires and cobwebs hanging from the artfully decorated ceilings.
To my mind, reasons for this lacuna are deep within us. We seem to be incredibly poor in imagining things. We are a very intelligent people. We have super builders, architects and Engineers amongst us. If a plan is given to us, we will execute it superbly. We however fail at the plan making stage. When we plan to improve a two-lane highway, we think of four or at the most six lane highways. We never think of ten or twelve lane super ways. The result is that when the new road is ready, the density of traffic has already increased so much, that the new road cannot cope up with it. We never seem to imagine things on a grand scale.
Some of our corporates seem to be thinking above this imaginary mental poverty line. In 1965, TATA Motors started to build their PUNE factory. The size of the land acquired by them in those days was stupendous. For a decade or so, few lonely buildings stood on this huge tract of land. Many wondered at the wasteful ways of TATA’s. Some one dared to ask the chairman of the company about this huge investment. The reply was “Do you know what is in our minds? ” Today after some forty years, this huge land is full of factory sheds and almost each and every car produced by TATA’s, rolls out of the gate of the same, once barren, landscape. The Refinery planned at Jamnagar by Reliance could be considered as another excellent example of such above poverty line planning.
If we do not raise ourselves above this poverty line of imagination, I am afraid, that the TAJ MAHAL would remain as the only grand structure, exclusively planned and executed by Indians ever.