Today, on the 610th Foundation Day of the city, is as good as a day as any to think about what kind of a city would I want it to be.
I grew up in Ahmedabad. The city and its people have shaped a lot of who I am today and for that, I will be forever grateful. It is for this very reason that the future of the city matters to me.
It is great that Ahmedabad is a Smart City and a World Heritage City. It is important for a city to respect its past glories and learn from its history along with being the early adopter of new ideas.
There are innumerable metrics that can tell you whether a city is progressing or not. I prefer the simple yet, in my opinion, the most important question to ask in this case:
Is the city a better place to live for everyone today than it was yesterday?
If we are all not able to answer this question with a resounding YES, we have work to do! On this journey, it will be important to acknowledge our failures, change our opinions, and celebrate smaller victories.
How would I define ‘better place to live’?
- Has the city managed to eradicate absolute poverty and absolute hunger?
- Is there affordable housing available for people across the economic spectrum?
- Is clean air and water accessible to everyone?
- Are all children in the city able to access quality education?
- Does the city treat all its citizens equally irrespective of socio-economic background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ability?
- Is the city safe?
- Does the city allow its citizens to actively participate in its decision making and governance?
- Do people in other cities aspire to move to the city?
I am sure that some of these sound really ambitious but I truly believe that if we start to imagine what we want to be possible, we will find ways to make it possible.
If I had to do an honest assessment today, I would say that even though we have come a long way, there is a long way ahead. Over the last 620 years, we have seen that the city has potential to become incredible. We have seen growth across all metrics and for a very large group of people. We know that change is possible.
It would be hypocritical to ignore the widespread challenges that multitudes of the city’s residents face today and focus only on past glories or current strengths.
There are some very real problems that the city still has not overcome and our first step towards solving them would be acknowledging these problems. The religious divide, the socio-economic divide, the apathy around citizen engagement, the lack of clean air and water for certain geographies, and inequity by design are some of the problems that I feel really strongly about.
I know that I am not alone when I say that I have hope for the city.
I have hope that the city will lead by example when it comes to preserving the good parts of our culture and adopting the ideas that will usher in the future. I have hope that the city will welcome people from all over the world with open arms and cohabit with them. I have hope that citizens will do what is best for the greater good instead of just focusing on themselves.
I hope that one day, we would all be able to confidently say that we live in a city which is the great place to live for everyone.