Memo to Arvind Kejriwal: Why on earth would Delhi want to be like London?

Dear Arvind,

Actually, we have corresponded so often I feel I can take the liberty of calling you Arvi.

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

So, Arv, old friend, this idea of yours to make Delhi like London; this is less a political platform to launch your rocket and more a rickety plank off which you are walking from the deck of a sinking ship, even if the metaphor is a bit double-sided. You see, London is a city under 95 percent camera surveillance and has over two million foreigners living in it at any given time and these are people without British passports.

Can you visualise our capital with two million non-Indians all over the place? In London, half a million people are from France itself and that is more than the populations of Bordeaux and Toulouse.

Can you conceive of playing host to half a million people from any neighbouring country alone? London also has three million non-Brits born in the city. Even if we count all the Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis in Delhi masquerading as Indians with Aadhar cards and stuff, it will not amount to a fraction of that. Some statistical studies put the foreigner at 37 percent of the daily population flow in London. Delhi is probably at 10 percent, of which 97 percent are from neighbouring countries.

London is a historical city slammed in the face by crime and pollution. It is fighting a losing battle against noise pollution and carbon emissions which, of course, is a dubious distinction it shares with Delhi.

But Arvi, let’s get a bit real. London cannot pick up its own garbage and has a huge problem with landfills and waste disposal. Come to think of it you are probably on the button; that is also a bit like Delhi so really, even if we run with that ball why would you want to make it more so? Okay, both have polluted rivers, no idea how to get rid of human litter and a major unemployment crisis so why is this your idea of Shangri-La?

The more I write the more I think we are twin cities. Like Cinderella’s two ugly sisters.

If you tell a Delhi voter this is your master plan you have either not been to London in a long while or you are going by travel brochures. British red buses are iconic and can hardly move. Like our transportation. The housing rents are going through the roof. Ditto Delhi. The Underground is probably on the brink of being declared a relic. Essential workers are spending four hours commuting. Beer can cost up to £6 (roughly Rs 483) per pint. Traffic is not bumper-to-bumper; it is like a static painting or a badly buffered movie that goes from one scene to another on your iPad.

Places like Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Camden and Hackney are infamous for soaring crime rates with Westminster leading the pack. The number of homeless people is soaring and there is no room for fresh housing. They have over 15,000 homeless persons and there, it is a non-contest, we are miles ahead. If we become like them and they cannot handle 15,000, how we are going to handle 20 times that number if we become like London?

Add to this the fact that people are not dying early as they did in the early 20th Century and London has to cater to 1.2 million elderly people, which places huge pressure on the medical services. Hello Delhi.

This is a quote from Smartworks, an organisation which keeps tabs on the British capital: Strikes, London Bridge carnage, floods, and an all-round general sense of heaving. The coming years are going to see London’s infrastructure, and patience, pushed to breaking point. With transport budgets being cut and big infrastructure projects still to be confirmed, we need new ideas to make our existing infrastructure work better for Londoners of all ages and abilities.

Does that ring a bell?

Truth be told, Arvind, old friend, we are almost identical to London as far as problems are concerned so when all is said and done you might like to think of another city if you want to retain your seat.

Out there in London they are saying, "Stop before we become another Delhi."


Published Date: Mar 16, 2017 07:49 am | Updated Date: Mar 16, 2017 07:49 am


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