Compare Pune and Chicago. Both have roughly the same population but there is a stark contrast in their liveability. Despite being two centuries older than Chicago and having a much older municipality, crises such as acute water scarcity and hopeless traffic jams haunt Pune. These problems are commonplace in almost all Indian cities, despite large budgets and fleets of officials. It is time we ask: Where are we going wrong? In my opinion, we have gone wrong in deciding what qualifies as planning and what does not.
City management and planning is a formidable challenge. But the statutory bodies entrusted with this responsibility do not seem to recognise the enormity of this challenge. Nor do the colleges that claim to be imparting actionable knowledge of planning place planners at responsible positions.
The success stories of the cities of the West that emerged from the detritus of world wars are worth examining. When philosophers, architects, engineers and free-thinkers (planning had not emerged as a profession then) sat to reflect upon how cities should be constructed anew, a flurry of theorisation began. In the genesis was Lewis Keeble’s blueprint theory which saw planning as an extension of architecture — “what architecture does to houses is what planning does to cities”.
Planning in India, and its education, differs from the West. The curriculum for budding planners does not infuse some of the most essential components of the systems theory of planning. It fails to enable the students of planning to answer basic questions like how to compute the number of buses a city’s transportation system would require. The answers to these questions lie in the systems approach that absorbs mathematical modelling as a key ingredient in its recipe of planning.