Monday, January 9, 2017

Our World Class Aspirations

This article was first published in the Times of India, January 07, 2017; Co-author- Kavil Ramachandran

The sprawling Cyber Towers, Hussain Sagar and the Buddha statue, riding around Kasu Brahmananda Reddy (KBR) National Park- the 5km stretch, street food and biryani, and numerous movie theatres; endear Hyderabad to any new comer. The 158kms 8 lane ring road, beautiful landscaping near and around the GMR Hyderabad International Airport, and the median greenery all through the Outer Ring Road, encircling the city of Hyderabad, makes everyone chuckle with delight, “Is this India?” The blend of ancient and modern lends it a charm that is unique. Hyderabad has something for everyone.

Hyderabad has come a long way from being a city marred with communal riots, dust and dirt. The transformation really began around the mid-1980s when Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) served as the Chief Minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh (the pre 2014 combined State of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana). NTR put an end to the communal riots and undertook initiatives for the image makeover of the city. Notable amongst them was the beautification of the Tank Bund area. By the early 1990s, the effects of the initiatives were visible.

N. Chandrababu Naidu’s government from the year 1995 to 2004 worked towards making Hyderabad a ‘world class’ city. One of the initiatives to achieve this objective was to ‘clean up’ the city. Various policies, regulations and investments were made to broaden the roads, ramp up the infrastructure, attract educational institutions, develop parks and green areas and focus on sanitation and cleanliness.
Privatisation of Municipal services, viz., sweeping and garbage collection, was one of the steps taken to ensure timely collection of garbage. Initially only 10 percent of the city was covered by the private contractors. Slowly the percent increased to cover majority of the city, with MCH covering the balance.

In 1999, the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) became the first corporation in the country to adopt a unique “Unit System” to privatize the sweeping and garbage collection services. The entire city was divided into units of approximately 8kms stretch. These units were then allotted to pre-qualified contractors. This arrangement has resulted in significant cost savings for the MCH (Now GHMC- Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation). Resident welfare associations (RWAs) were also involved by introducing a voluntary garbage disposal scheme, wherein, the MCH provided three wheeled auto rickshaws to RWAs for the collection of door to door garbage. The entry of the private sector visibly improved the cleanliness levels in the city.

The current Government of Telangana, led by Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), has been taking steps to take the city of Hyderabad to global standards in terms of cleanliness. Mechanised sweeping of main roads in the city takes place in the early hours of the day. This is again done on a contract basis by private players.

In addition, the Government has recently proactively planned to set up a clean air authority for Hyderabad. As per Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development K.T. Rama Rao, Hyderabad has “relatively better air quality index than many other Indian cities”. Yet, measures are being taken by the government to control pollution.

Hyderabad was ranked as the best Indian city to live in by Mercer, the global human resources consulting firm in the year 2016, leaving behind cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai and Pune. Hyderabad was also ranked as the 19th cleanest city in India, out of a total of 73 cities with a population more than a million, under the Swachh Sarvekshan 2016.

Most people who come from other parts of the country and make Hyderabad their home are very fond of the city. Apart from friendly people, quality of living, being relatively safe with lower crime rates, having world class education and healthcare facilities and cheaper real estate compared to its counterparts like Bangalore and Chennai, what does stand out about Hyderabad is its cleanliness compared to the other cities in India!
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