Delhi another London? Only if…

An Indian politician wished Delhi would be at par with London soon. Who wouldn’t? It is a noble thought, of course. But he said it as if it was almost there.

Here, I disagree. I have been to London, and I have lived a good part of my life in the Delhi region. The difference is not only apparent, it is fucking stark!

Of course, the obvious things stand out. London has a population density less than half of Delhi, a per capita income more than ten times that of Delhi, and what can be assumed to be a very capable administration. Most people are not only literate, but highly educated and cultured. Whereas we all know or will soon know about the reputation that precedes the Delhiites.

I’m sure most Indians share my skepticism. Although optimism was never for the weak, but for the disruptor. For Delhi to become another London, it has to clean up its act. Immensely. Being a gorgeous, world-renown city is perhaps more than just a matter of income. Delhi was recently ranked among the dirtiest cities in the world by active times. With solid waste management virtually absent, this inclusion is hardly a surprise. Despite a very efficient metro system, roads are jammed, with autos (or what our western friends like to call tuk-tuks) honking away needlessly. Some more public transport system, like the metrinos lie in the wait, but it remains to be seen if they are to ease the situation.

Delhi is plagued by problems that Londons perhaps once was. Delhi’s smog situation last Diwali bought about comparisons with the great London smog of 1952. Delhi will also see a sizeable influx of poor migrants from the neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar for the foreseeable future, as the capital provides them an opportunity for better income. This was also true in London once upon a time, when the UK wasn’t as loaded with colonial cash as it is today.

India’s capital does have its advantages though. A growth rate of almost 9% CAGR in income, a technology ready populace that is richer than most of the country, even Mumbai, the financial capital of India (in terms of GDP per capita), and an array of top-notch educational institutes. The need of the hour is quick and efficient decision making, a long sought after skill that most heads of Delhi have not been found to possess. Perhaps the thing most needed to realize its dream of Londonizing is able administration.

Let’s see where the city heads from here. I’m hopeful. I have to be!


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