Decompress our societies

Divided we stand, United we fall

One look at India’s density of population — the concentration of people around state and district capitals, the burden it imposes on a town and state and disadvantages it creates as a result, and you’ll be convinced that it is time to rethink and reboot. Delete History, clear caches and begin afresh. The last time the world faced a situation like this was during World War II but it was nations against each other, feeding hatred, spreading propaganda and dividing humanity to protect avaricious interests. And we all know how that changed the world. Imagine this, ten times over; a worldwide pandemic, mankind united against an unknown enemy. Humankind’s fight for survival or an eye-opener to retain and re-join nature. If this global pandemic hasn’t forced you to shake old beliefs, if it hasn’t forced you to re-examine life, if it isn’t pushing you to re-assess old habits, then you live an unconscious life and only hope is you awaken from this deep comatose slumber soon.

A combination of pandemic-induced global recession and its impact on India will see India’s geo-political roadmap altered significantly. But the formula for recovery could be simple, albeit we think as one nation, without malice towards a particular section of society or 3Cs —Community, Caste and Creed. The idea is single-minded and unidimensional but could be the beginning of an effective and imminently achievable solution for all of us. We may be pushed back for a while, we may have to rejig our existing systems, create a temporary workaround, create different standards for measurements, but open up the possibility of true prosperity — the well-being of the human being.

Begin decompressing our societies. Reduce the burden on our resources. Spread out human beings. 95% of India has less than 350 people per square kilometre. Then why are we congesting cities and stretching resources? Allow people to function from their own homes and home towns. Decompression and consequent social distancing could be the only way to overcome the present challenges plaguing modern cities and societies. Geography of India has always influenced its history. 2,400 kilometres long Himalayan range, the third-largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, covered in around 15,000 glaciers. Two of the world’s largest river basins, Indus basin – including Western rivers – the Indus, Sutlej, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Jhelum. The Ganga-Brahmaputra basin including Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, and several other tributaries. Apart from the Himalayas, there are the Vindhya and Satpura ranges in Central India, the Sahyadri or the Western Ghats in Western India — all sources of other major rivers in India like the Narmada, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri and the Aravali range that is the oldest and runs for around 800 kms. With such rich resources spread across the country, natural borders to protect us and plentiful rains, why have we crowded cities to make a living?

Continuing with business, as usual, will lead to severe compromises both in terms of health and future economic growth with billions of rupees needing to be diverted into healthcare solutions at the cost of infrastructural growth, social security measures and retirement benefits, leading to a further downward spiral.

Begin a process of naturalisation to determine the citizenship and ownership rights of people. For instance, anyone born in a particular city or naturalised by the process of marriage could be one criteria for residence. Others have to displaced, albeit temporarily and dispersed — sent back to their places of birth. At the same time, through series of processes re-align industries, create an upsurge in agriculture, create equitable aggregators of farm produce, invest in efficient highways and transportation systems and utilise the workforce from where they belong. Dis-allow lobbies that create artificial inflation of prices through irresponsible development and conserve capital even further. Create effective work from home systems, utilise workforce from their hometowns instead of pushing them into de-sanitised tunnels of city living. Allow people the dignity nature conferred on them. Mitigate the learned helplessness of millions of invisible people and give them a fair share of life.

Every corner of our country has her fair share of people, talented and skilled in a particular art, craft or industry. Revive cottage industries — handlooms, pottery, carpet weaving, rope making, and create international demand for them. Create distribution channels and reduce the influence of western consumerism.

Harness the power of India’s technological prowess, utilise the mobile phone users base and offer them cheap internet connectivity so that we can move, connect and learn as one nation. Through processes of mass learning systems, vocational training guides create an environment of opportunity and employment. Create accountable and transparent law and order systems, such that people revive faith in their community leaders and stop aspiring to migrate anymore.

No better time than now to dislodge Chinese dominance to become the world’s largest manufacturer and customer. All with just one caveat — without compressing cities and states.

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