Chennai, of all places, has been ranked by an India Today “survey of 50 cities and secondary data from government records” as India’s best city.
Read on, (the story, online, required subscription, so no link is available) and you would see this semi-disclaimer. “Mumbaikars will no doubt snigger at India Today’s first survey of India’s best cities, in which Chennai is number one,” Tishani Joshi writes in her paean to Chennai.
It’s not just Mumbaikars who would snigger; it’s anyone with a modicum of common sense and intelligence.
What on earth did the survey uncover that makes Chennai number one? “The reasons are many: Things work better here, they say, quality of life is better, it’s ‘real’, there’s ‘culture’ and once you find the right people, they’ll be your friends for life,” India Today gushes.
This is so starkly different than the Chennai I visit so often to visit my mother and others in the family.
The Chennai I see is a city where you cannot get an autorickshaw driver to obey the law. “Ms Jayalalithaa, get my mother a rickshaw, please,” I wrote in June 2011. “If there’s one indicator of the collapse of law and order and the politicisation of the police force, it’s when the taxi and auto rickshaw operators take the law into their own hands, as they do in Chennai,” we wrote. Nothing has changed in the nearly two years since this was written.
The Chennai I see is a city where the availability of power is in desperate short supply. The rich have generators and the middle class invertors, the poor have nothing when the electricity is off. That’s the hallmark of a #1 city?
Traffic snarls are common, with drivers showing scant respect for laws and for policemen. Buses are bursting at the seams and clearly cannot cope with the demand.
Mosquitoes have taken over the city, making sleepless nights common to the affluent and the poor alike.
The peculiar laws make it difficult for anyone to access nightlife. Bars can exist only if attached to a hotel, which makes them affordable only to the well-to-do. To make matters worse, the government, through TASMAC, decides what brands can be served in these bars. So, I kid you not, you cannot get Smirnoff, for example, in any bar in Chennai – unless it imported from outside the country (which 5 star hotels can).
The IT survey lists the following parameters:
Housing and Transport
Crime and safety
To me, someone who visits Chennai regularly, the city fails clearly in transport and public services and entertainment. Of these, two affect the entire health of the city from a long-term perspective: transport and public services.
With failing transport, power and other public services, it’s a matter of time before we see ‘economy’ and ‘investment’ taking a battering.
Remember Kolkata? It was virtually the #2 city in India for decades for business and investment – till the government forgot they needed to address the basics.
We all know where Kolkata is now. That’s what authorities in Chennai need to think about – and India Today ought to have taken note of.
If Chennai is the number one city in India, God help all of us living in the rest of India.