All posts by Gautam Bhan

Brand: Delhi

In Catal Huyuk, at the site of present day Turkey, regarded by many as the world’s first true city, communities began to form where some did not produce any of the food that they ate. This seemingly simple fact is actually the beginning of all that we recognize as being “urban.” Cities evolved, to put crudely the words of those in the know of such things, when people got efficient enough at agriculture to produce enough for all to eat, and to do so while staying put at one place. These new developments led to new needs – vessels to store food in, people to build more permanent settlements, tool makers, carpenters, brewers [evidence of making beer is as old as the history of cities] etc. Tied together by need, these people – producers now in every sense of the word rather than just farmers – stayed near each other in dense settlements that became the world’s first cities. Academics point to the evidence of a shift in life and society because archaelogical evidence shows that most telling sign of urban life: the first known jewellery, a sign of complex social systems, and an awareness of status and symbolism, that, one could conjecture, represent an evolving society that has the time to create culture rather than simply survive. Continue reading Brand: Delhi

Whose City Do We Live In?

On September 18, 2004, newspapers carried a mandatory Public Notice issued by the DDA, inviting objections and suggestions to a proposal to modify the Delhi Master Plan (2001). The DDA wanted to change the classification of six hectares of land that lay right by the Yamuna — just south of the erstwhile Yamuna Pushta slums — from “riverbed” to “commercial”. The change was needed to accommodate an it Park as part of the collaboration between the Delhi government and the Delhi Metro.

At first sight, the notice appears much like any other of the dozens one skips rapidly past every morning. What makes this notice different, however, is that, at the time of issue, the it park had already been under construction for over a year despite a 2003 Supreme Court order to clear all riverbed encroachments, and to stop all construction on the Yamuna banks. The DDA’s “proposal” was, in effect, simply a de-facto regularisation of what planners argue is an illegal encroachment. Just a few kilometres away, accused of violating the same Master Plan, and under the directive of the very same Supreme Court verdict, another kind of “encroachment” had no public notice in its defence, as tens of thousands of people were forcibly evicted from the slums of Yamuna Pushta — home to some of them for twenty-five years. Continue reading Whose City Do We Live In?