The discussion on the collapse of the Punjagutta flyover in Hyderabad some time back had turned into a debate on civic infrastructure in India and on why New Delhi has much better infrastructure than other cities. My argument:
- It is because New Delhi was built by the British.
- The British cared more about civic infrastructure than Indian politicians after independence.
- Yes, I know that they built better civic infrastructure for their selfish reasons, but that does not alter the point. They built better infrastructure. Current Indian politicians do not have any incentive, selfish or selfless, to build cities.
- By and large, all the cities built by the British – Bombay, Calcutta and Madras have held up better than the cities that came up after independence. But Delhi is the best planned of these, because it was the last one that the British built and the only one that was built after the advent of the car. Plus, they had special reason to build, being the capital and all.
- It will be an interesting exercise to compare the cities the British built with the capitals of the better-governed princely states, like Mysore and Hyderabad old city. I’d expect that the British and the princes would face similar incentives.