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Posts Tagged ‘Gurgaon’


Intermission
Nirupama Subramanian | Harper Collins | Rs 250

There was a time when Indians working in the US did not dream of returning home. That is not true anymore. At least not of the engineers and techies that are returning in droves and setting up shop in Bangalore and Gurgaon. Why this shift? Subramanian offers no insights. Instead she uses both these places as a backdrop to spin a story on an extra marital affair between a CEO of a start-up company and a Punjabi beauty. Life is so difficult, she moans, when her maid runs away with a driver. If only the garbage, the poverty, the potholes and the pigs would disappear…

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The Columbus Affair
Steve Berry | Hodder | Rs 395

“For 500 years historians have pondered the question: Who was Christopher Columbus? The answer is simply another question: Who do you want him to be?” This is how Steve Berry, the bestselling author of The Jefferson Key, introduces us to his version of Columbus. Combining legends, facts and creative fiction, Berry takes the reader on a thrilling adventure that spans Europe, America, Jamaica and South America to reconstruct the story of the Spaniard that has captured the imagination of several generations of conspiracy theorists. You may buy his story, or you may not. The thrill is in how you read it.

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Sachin: A Hundred Hundreds Now
V Krishnaswamy | Harper Sport | Rs 250

On 16 March 2012 at Mirpur in Dhaka (Bangladesh) after opening the innings for India, Sachin nudged the ball to behind the square leg in the 44th over to cross the final barrier: a hundred centuries in international cricket. In this account of the master batsman’s incredible journey, sportswriter V Krishnaswamy takes us through every hundred, every peak scaled on Sachin’s way to the top.  Along the way he also looks at two other sportsmen, Viswanathan Anand and Leander Paes, to understand the sporting world in which Sachin flourished. The book includes introduction by Rahul Dravid and Sachin’s coach Ramakant Achrekar.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 17 June 2012)

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A few months ago, a lawyer friend, residing in Delhi Land and Finance colony aka DLF Qutb Enclave now renamed DLF City in Gurgaon, called me up distraught. Like many Delhi citizens he invested in a piece of land with a desire to build his own house in the “integrated township” advertised by the DLF. While buying the land from DLF neither he nor his future neighbours were told that the plots allotted to them would abut a local village cremation ground. Today, with their houses built around the ground, which also includes a kindergarten school, the residents are at a loss to know what to do with the stink that emanates from the compound that is used for both burning the bodies as well as defecation.

My friend’s first reaction was to approach the Haryana government to address the problem. But he was in for a rude shock when he realized that the land on which his house stood was acquired by DLF and the cremation ground, belonged to the local village panchayat, hence out of the purview of DLF. Stuck in the stinking hole, he now plans to sell the house and move elsewhere.

The story of the rise of DLF as India’s largest real estate developer is a telling one. The company was started in 1946 by a feudal Punjabi landlord, Chaudhury Raghavendra Singh, the year the country saw unprecedented scale of communal violence that spread from Calcutta to Bihar, UP and Punjab. The decision to partition India had already fallen and Chaudhury anticipating mass migration and mass housing it would require, swung into action. As Ramachandra Guha records in “India After Gandhi”, “Almost half a million refugees came to settle in Delhi after Partition.”

Tapping into feudal connections and the air of insecurity that prevailed around the capital in 1946-47, he convinced farmers to sell their land to him on credit. They would be paid the principal plus interest once the land had been carved into plots and sold. This led to the development of 22 urban colonies at Delhi’s peripheries including South Extension, Kailash Colony and Greater Kailash. But then his business nearly collapsed when in 1957 land development in Delhi was taken over by the state administration.

As the DLF public relations handout describes, “Following the passage of the Delhi Development Act in 1957, the state assumed control of real estate development activities in Delhi, which resulted in restrictions on private real estate colony development. We therefore commenced acquiring land at relatively low cost outside the area controlled by the Delhi Development Authority, particularly in the district of Gurgaon in the adjacent state of Haryana.

This led to our first landmark real estate development project – DLF Qutb Enclave, which has now evolved into DLF City. DLF City is spread over 3,000 acres in Gurgaon and is an integrated township, which includes residential, commercial and retail properties in a modern city infrastructure with schools, hospitals, hotels and shopping malls. It also boasts of the prestigious DLF Golf and Country Club with night golfing facilities.”

What the handout doesn’t say that DLF acquired the land in pockets, unable to buy out many other villages that stuck to their land unwilling to move. Hence, the dilemma my lawyer friend finds himself in.

Meanwhile, seen from the surviving village panchayats’ perspective life is about decomposition of village structures and loss of traditional livelihood. Their villages continue to survive like isolated islands amid dense urban jungle where property speculation over the remaining rural land is rife and crime, rampant.

In the 1991 census Gurgaon had 688 villages with a population of 1,288,365 today (according to 2001 census) that number has shrunk to 60 and the population halved to 119,901.

The lawyer has taken the cremation ground case to the Chandigarh High Court, where ironically there is already a case pending against the major colonizer in the area, the DLF Ltd. The contesting Residents Welfare Association of urban settlers charges it as the “Biggest Land Scam in the Country.” Are we surprised?

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