BJP MP Varun Gandhi’s new book focuses on the problems that major cities in India face and how to solve them. “The Indian Metropolis”, Mr Gandhi’s fourth book – the first two are poetry – took “three tumultuous years” to write, the MP from Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit told NDTV.
“The sheer tumult faced by urban migrants during the lockdown was a seminal moment in understanding the lack of humanity and inclusiveness in our urban model,” Mr Gandhi, 42, said.
In the weeks following the strict March 2020 lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of economically weak people who migrated to the cities walked back home hundreds of kilometres.
The reverse migration sparked a fierce debate on the living conditions in cities, where the poor could not sustain themselves anymore after the lockdown kicked in.
“After spending almost half a decade understanding and discussing the travails of rural India, the idea of writing a dense tome on how Indians live in urban India was a tall order. And yet, as I interacted with thousands of Indians living in our cities and recovering from the pandemic, it became evident that life in our cities was challenging,” Mr Gandhi said.
“For many, a daily commute was a horrible experience, while seeking jobs was almost futile task. For most urban Indians, our cities are unliveable and too expensive. Many questions arose. Why are our cities so hard to live in? Why do they lack in the most basic of facilities, such as pedestrian-friendly areas? Why are India’s cities so bereft of beauty and a sense of aesthetics? Why is the groundwater and the air still so polluted, years after identifying the problem? Why do our policymakers remain apathetic to solving such issues?” said the BJP leader.
“… We clearly need a national conversation on our urbanisation journey. This book seeks to be a footnote in our journey towards better cities,” he added.
“We need a national conversation on our urbanisation journey. Simply celebrating the launch of another metro line or an expressway, or even the odd water ATM will not do – building a whole-of-systems approach to solve such challenges will require having conversations in a holistic manner with all stakeholders. National attention remains curiously lacking on tier 2, 3 and 4 cities – a building being demolished in Noida will attract media attention, but the lack of affordable housing in other cities won’t,” the Lok Sabha MP said.
Mr Gandhi published his first collection of poems, “The Otherness of Self”, when he was 20.
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