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A sorry tale of two cities

On Friday, a mere 60 mm of rain saw Delhi go under its train services suffered, its roads were waterlogged; some even flooded, there were massive power outages, and with signals on the blink, the traffic came to a virtual standstill for hours.

People could not reach offices, commuters could not reach airports and train stations, and children could not reach school.

Instead of the "World City" that Delhi was touted to be at the beginning of the Commonwealth Games last year, this season's (and last year's) rains have proved that India's capital still lives in the prehistoric times as far as urban planning is concerned. Much like Mumbai, really India's pre-eminent cosmopolitan city, and by now, surely an urban ruin.

Both cities have municipal corporations that are hellholes of corruption, there is hardly any governance to speak of, and their infrastructure is crumbling, unable to bear the weight of a growing, ever more demanding population. For instance, Delhi's new drainage system was finalised in 1977.

Thirty-four years later, it has still neither been updated nor implemented. Mumbai's municipal corporation spends hundreds of crores each year in desilting its drainage systems, but it has not been able to overcome the fundamental problem of waterlogging.

India has some really bright planners who could if supported by adequate political will transform our moribund cities. Close to a decade ago, Maharashtra's myopic and utterly clueless -- government had, not so modestly, said that Mumbai should become the next Shanghai.

While China's Shanghai is now the world's fastest growing city and is testing magnetic levitation trains for superfast urban public transport, Mumbai is yet to get its first Metro train link.

Both Maharashtra's and Delhi's governments need to learn from its historical mistakes. If they don't, our cities may be condemned to repeat them.

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