Tag Archives: high-speed rail
Mind the Infrastructure Gap: Indian Cities Battle Polio; Equivalent Chinese Cities Vaunt Metro Systems
A recent piece by the evergreen Jason Burke near the front of The Guardian’s main section (Immunisation push propels India towards victory in war against polio, 3rd January 2012) attracted this blogger’s attention as it was filed from an exotic place that Mediolana’s blogger-in-chief has had the opportunity to visit: Moradabad, a moderately dystopian city located a little over one hundred miles from India’s political capital, New Delhi. The article noted the recent inroads made against polio in one of Uttar Pradesh’s least salubrious corners, with an immunisation drive expected to culminate in Moradabad being declared polio-free at some point later this year.
Indeed, in the story of Moradabad lies a very Indian paradox: it is a settlement that is slightly reminiscent of a mini-Chongqing in that despite being host to nearly five million people, few people outside of northern India are aware of its existence; yet notwithstanding its size and considerable industrial output – the city is known as a global manufacturing hub for brass products – it features in a news item chronicling the eradication of a disease that blights only some of the very poorest and/or most chaotic countries on Earth, including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
While not wishing to sound hyperbolic, this is a patently insane state of affairs. India’s status as a potential world superpower – a country of over one billion people with English as its lingua franca and culture of valuing education should logically fare well in the first half of the twenty-first century – will always be compromised so long as so many of its citizens are living in needless squalor; provision of the basics, from sewage to transportation, are all too absent in the lives of many Indians. Even India’s financial nexus of Mumbai – a global metropolis with a population of over twenty million people – is not scheduled to get its first underground railway line until November this year, leaving the Delhi network as the sole reminder that even outstanding urban transformation projects are not beyond South Asia’s capabilities.
By way of comparison, cities of comparable size to Moradabad in India’s neighbour and major competitor, China, are building or expanding state-of-the-art metro systems, with some, such as Kunming, soon to enjoy the benefits of being on a high-speed rail network. Though to some degree the infrastructure gap between the giant Asian rivals is perhaps down to the tenuous nature of the rule of law in the PRC, with the Chinese government able to metaphorically and literally bulldoze any obstacles to its development plans, this by itself is not enough to explain the chasm; while Chinese city dwellers can board Maglev trains, too many Indians still fantasise about a life free from diseases which in most of the rest of the world are either rare or of historical interest only.