Home of Telugu spirit? Global city? Hyderabad is neither and both.
From the nizam to Naidu and from Charminar to Cyberabad, Hyderabad has travelled a long way. If, under the nizam, Hyderabad chose to be politically isolated from the rest of the country, Chandrababu Naidu journeyed the other way. He attempted to make Hyderabad India’s gateway to the rest of the world by transforming it into a “world-class” city, comparable with Asian cities like Singapore and Shanghai. The city soon became India’s signature calling card for the success of economic reforms as well as its claim to global significance.
Underlying the spectacular transformation of the city were the local elites’ ambitions of wealth, power and recognition. Hyderabad was supposed to signal the arrival of Andhra Pradesh as a big player on the national scene. It was, therefore, not merely a centre for economic growth but also a political investment. And yet, quite ironically, it was Hyderabad’s rise that probably also fuelled the demand for Telangana and the division of the state.
It was the city again that energised the counter-movement for a united Andhra. But the range of emotions on display over the last couple of years, including envy and despair, hurt and pain as well as greed and anger, does not necessarily represent any real passion and loyalty to the city. It is not the city itself, its rich history, ethos or culture, but the more recent Brand Hyderabad, and the value the brand offers, that the protagonists love.
Hyderabad’s phenomenal expansion made it the second largest and sixth most populous urban development area in the country, and the largest contributor to the state’s tax revenues and GDP. Much before it achieved iconic status and became the favoured site for IT-related services, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, it was like its IT cousin, Bangalore, the preferred location for numerous public sector units, central research and development institutions and defence establishments.
At the same time, it hosts the largest concentration of some of the finest educational and health facilities in the state, if not the country. Besides this, Hyderabad is also home to numerous high-end research and development centres, both in the public and private sector. It also has more special economic zones in its suburbs than any other city. To many, Hyderabad offered an El Dorado of opportunities.
Among its other attractions has been its pluralism, which has been an integral part of the city’s life. From the nizam’s imported
soldiers and Arab trader settlers, independent India’s government machinery and public sector units to the post-liberalisation service industry, Hyderabad has constantly made space for a diverse population. It is home to multiple religions, languages and cultures. It is a city where India’s north, south, east and west blend almost seamlessly.
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