Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

Postcards of Change: Stories of hope from bleak urban landscapes

PM Manmohan Singh is presented the first copy of Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia’s book. From left: Siddhesh Inamdar and Krishan Chopra of HarperCollins, Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express Group, Dr Ahluwalia, Dr Manmohan Singh, Sunil Jain, Managing Editor, The Financial Express, Vandita Mishra, Opinion Editor, The Indian Express PM Manmohan Singh is presented the first copy of Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia’s book. From left: Siddhesh Inamdar and Krishan Chopra of HarperCollins, Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express Group, Dr Ahluwalia, Dr Manmohan Singh, Sunil Jain, Managing Editor, The Financial Express, Vandita Mishra, Opinion Editor, The Indian Express
Express News Service | New Delhi | Posted: February 9, 2014 4:32 am | Updated: February 9, 2014 10:48 am

A growth in India’s urban population has come with its accompanying problems: crumbling infrastructure, absence of clean water and sanitation. In Transforming Our Cities: Postcards of Change, economist Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia documents innovations from across the country that have ushered a change for the better and brought hope to our bleak urban landscape. The book will be released on February 10.

Published by HarperCollins, Transforming Our Cities is the latest addition to the Express Book Series, which was instituted in 2006. A collection of Ahluwalia’s columns published in The Indian Express and The Financial Express, it records cases of transformation in Urban India.

“Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia is one of the best known applied economists in our country and her work shows a great ability to use the tools of economic analysis to understand complex issues of our times… In this book, she presents a highly readable and non-technical account of local initiatives in different towns and cities of India,” writes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the foreword to the book.

The first copy of the book was presented to the Prime Minister on Saturday by the author and editors at HarperCollins and The Indian Express group. The book will be released in New Delhi on Monday at an event presided over by Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

The book release will be followed by a panel discussion on ‘The State of Our Cities’. Panelists include Leader  of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Dr Sanjaya Baru, director for geo-economics & strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies and Barkha Dutt, group editor, NDTV.

The postcards of change come from all corners of India: from Navi Mumbai which is showing others the way in sewage treatment, from Rajkot, one of the cleanest cities of India and from Karnataka where a project has brought water 24×7 at an affordable cost to about 30,000 households in three of its cities.

The stories of change are heartening and address some of the most pressing challenges facing Indian cities. There is Magarpatta City on the outskirts of Pune, “a shining example of how urban areas can expand to accommodate the needs of urbanization without hurting the interests of landowners through forced or unfair acquisition” and then there is Vijayawada whose municipal corporation took up the challenge of relocating slum-dwellers and successfully implemented an initiative under a public-private partnership model to provide housing to the urban poor. “We need to ensure that our governments plan and manage our cities so as to deliver services in line with our expectations and aspirations. We need to voice our concerns when this does not happen and help bring about the change we expect. The good news is that change has begun in urban India, and it is making a difference in a few cities,” says Ahluwalia.

“Isher’s stories cut across barriers of geography and politics as she has been so wonderfully non-partisan in choosing the datelines for her postcards. She tells you that all is not lost, and a lot more remains to be done,” says Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group.

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