'Delhi Enjoys a Special Place in India’s Heart' - The New Indian Express

'Delhi Enjoys a Special Place in India’s Heart'

Published: 13th Apr 2014 06:00:00 AM

When I was growing up, Delhi extended as far as Lodhi Road, and beyond that were ‘the suburbs’. Today, the limits of the National Capital region of Delhi have spread greatly, and its reach embraces nearby cities in a vibrant hub of opportunity and growth with the capital as the focal point.

The most striking feature of Delhi’s transformation has been the shift in population. The number of inhabitants in the metro more than doubled between 1971 and 1991 and, although the rate of growth has slowed down, the population increased from 9.5 million in 1991 to nearly 17 million today. Almost every part of India is represented in this diverse, polyglot city, a true microcosm of the country.

The other significant development has been the rapid rise in state GDP. In real terms, Delhi produces twice as much as it did in 2004-05. Today, Delhi is the richest state in India, where citizens enjoy a per capita income of over Rs. 2 lakh, three times the national average. The aspirational lifestyle of its people is evident in the number of malls and retail shops across the city, meeting the needs of every income group from the new middle-class to the affluent.

In fact, the highly productive services sector is the main income generator, accounting for over 85 per cent of the gross state domestic product (GSDP). Within this, there has been a remarkable growth in the segment of finance, insurance, real estate and business services which contributes 45 per cent of Delhi’s GSDP. As a business person who has deep roots in Delhi, I deeply appreciate the entrepreneurship and professionalism that makes the state stand out today in economic terms.

This change has been accompanied by a structural shift in infrastructure in the city through the years. A huge number of new colonies has come up throughout the capital and I still find it amazing to see the fast development of high-rise buildings clustered together in mini-townships. These are productive and dynamic hubs, as much home to citizens as generators of new entrepreneurship opportunities. And then there are the iconic infrastructure facilities in which Delhi has led the rest of the country—the Delhi Metro, the Indira Gandhi International Airport, flyovers and underpasses, hospitals and sports stadia, among others.

Of course, given that Delhi is one of the cities with the highest population density in the world, there are always infrastructure gaps—the number of registered vehicles in the city has gone up from just over 5 lakhs in 1980 to almost 75 lakhs now—but it is not far from world-class status. However, I wish that issues such as power and water availability, maintenance, garbage collection and cleanliness could be addressed effectively. Delhi must also accord its women much higher levels of safety and security.

Overall, I am happy that many characteristics of the capital have not changed—its respect for history and archaeological sites, its vibrant arts environment, and its little local shopping centres which remain friendly neighbourhood stops. Delhi enjoys a special place as the heart of India, however much it changes.

(Ajay Shriram is President, CII)

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