The Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is understandably delighted that the city of Hyderabad has once again topped Indian cities in the Mercer Quality of Living report for 2017. The global consultancy firm’s annual report ranks cities on a variety of factors and is aimed at expatriate workers and companies employing them. It is, therefore, a useful guide to assess the livability of our cities, though hardly a definitive one. However, while KCR, as he is known, may be busy patting himself on the back, it is important to note a few things. Hyderabad, Pune and Bengaluru are ranked 144, 145, 146 respectively in a list of 231 countries. This means Hyderabad is not even in the middle of the list and it has actually slipped five points from last year’s rankings.
On a national scale, it is important to ask why a country with such global aspirations does so poorly on a livability index. Mercer’s index considers factors such as political and socio-cultural environment, medical and health considerations, public services and transport and housing. While these are skewed to an expat’s perspective, they are indicative. Across the board, it is possible to say Indian cities are devoid of reliable public transport services, green spaces and don’t implement effective waste management techniques.
The overall problem then is a lack of imagination and planning for the future. Hyderabad, for instance, flooded during the rainy season some months ago.
The reasons for the floods were stated to be encroachments on waterways and an old, dilapidated sewerage system. Further, construction had been allowed on low-lying flood-prone areas. Action was promised and ministers claimed thousands of crores would be required to overhaul the sewerage system. And yet, the state government’s new budget makes no mention of such a plan. And it is unlikely that any of its citizens will hear of such a plan until citizens are once again forced to wade through knee-deep water to get to work.