Of big-name obsession

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Jul 2018 10:17:09



Vijay Phanshikar,


When political leaders fall prey to an obsession of big names for various projects, all they do is mislead the common people into believing that something big may be in the offing. Exactly this happened in the case of what was billed as the “London Street” project of the city.

Wishing to make use of the huge, kilometers-long space of the abandoned railway line, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) proposed the “London Street” project aimed at converting the space into an ultra-modern street with world-class facilities and amenities.

Decades later, nothing visible has been achieved in the name of “London Street”. Now, apprehensive that the people would start blasting the civic body headed by one party for the past so many years, the project has now been re-christened as “Orange City Street” project. Hoping the proverbial short public memory will work here as well, the rulers expect the people to welcome what is being billed as a project that would create a medical hub. For a journalist like me who has seen many things from an altogether different angle, it is hard to believe that the powers that be in the civic body are serious about the project.

There is a reason, also, to believe that ultimately, the “Orange City Street” project, too, would be as much a non-starter as the “London Street” project was. Just after a drive along the street, starting from the Radisson Blu Hotel on Wardha Road and going westward for several kilometers, one carries back home a feeling of sadness and disappointment about the city’s welfare in the long run. For, if a pet project of the then Mayor of the city (let us avoid taking the name of whosoever occupied the coveted position when the project was launched) can meet with such a fate, then the common man like me has every reason to feel disappointed. What a great dream was sought to be sold in the name of “London Street”! That time, several years ago when the city had a dynamic, young Mayor, this project was billed as a fore-runner of many similar projects to come to convert Nagpur into a world-class city! Fools like me believed all those words, no matter the fact that I was already Editor of ‘The Hitavada’ and was supposed to know the details of many things from inside. But let me assert that even a journalist is as ill-informed as other common people generally are. For, he, too, is all the time acting as a stenographer taking down and reporting whatever is said by the people in authority. So, in the case of “London Street”, I also believed, like others, that it would be a game-changer project for the city that was reeling under some sort of tiring rusticness.

Of course, as an individual journalist, I was skeptical of “London Street” even at the time of its launch. I realised even then that some kind of deception was being practised in the name of a big-ticket project. Yet, in one corner of my naive mind, I still hoped that my skepticism was a little off-the-mark and that something good may be forthcoming. To that extent, I realise now that I was fooled by my own naivete`. For, as the details have emerged in the past sometime, the project under the new name has stuck at the level of only the concept plan. In other words, the project is yet to be launched officially into an operational endeavour.

What a pity! What a trauma for the unsuspecting common people! Of course, some details of “London Street” project can be shocking to anybody, let alone the common man. There never was a systematic planning for “London Street” project.

Some vague idea was verbalised, but never actually discussed in minute detail. Then the authorities chose a world renowned architect to finalise the plan. That work took some time and quite a lot of money. Then after some time, somebody realised that since the “London Street” area was located near the airport, the upward elevation of the project had to be controlled. Because this detail was never fed to the architect, as we later came to know, the plan did not take into consideration that component. So, a lot of precious time and money was wasted. Then came the name-changer for the game-changer project which became the “Orange City Street” project to be made into a massive medical hub.

But the next question was: Who will build the project? So, the civic authorities tried to rope in renowned builders with deep pockets. They came to survey the site, and went back shaking their heads in the negative. The project was too expensive and commercially unviable, most of them said. So, after all the rigmarole, the project is stuck where it stood years ago, except that some in the civic power-structure claim that the concept plan is ready and would be pulled through motions of administrative operations. Let alone what may happen ultimately to this project, an inveterate Nagpurian like me fails to know why he was taken for such an ugly ride for all these years.

For a man who has spurned terrific opportunities elsewhere in the world only to be able to live in Nagpur, I do not understand why political leaders chose to fool me, also a representative of common man. “London Street” or “Orange City Street” project, thus, is one good example of bad or suspect intentions of a few in positions of power. I do not know what to make out of such projects. For a limited consideration, I have reason to believe that we are looking at a non-starter when we talk of “London Street” or “Orange City Street” project. Who will console this sad man?! n