They say it was the first fight for the freedom of India, the sepoy mutiny of 1857, where the company was at the verge of loosing its colony. Soon after, the British realized that they can’t have such loose control over the native. Massive restructuring was done, huge chunks of Shahjahanabad was demolished and rebuilt, and almost every British city saw a new cut-through road called nai sadak and so as an imposing ghanta ghar. This haussmannization of Indian urban led to a new planning regime, the one where planning meant a set of controls, rules to keep the native population in control. This outlook where planning is synonymous to control, a guidelines approach, governs even today the development authorities and the academia equally. Masterplans were created in closed board rooms, rendering itself appropriate to the name, to master ‘we the people’s lives, to keep we the people in control, to categories we the people into manageable chunks, where citizens are seen as commodities and mere numbers. The masterplan with all its glory is just a statutory document, so as to say that it is intangible. Thus there arises a need for tangible manifestations of these ideologies, and the typology of fly-over best suits for this.
Professionals know and politicians understand that flyovers are not a solution to transport problems, nor are it economical to build; yet major budgetary allocations in five year plans are for its construction. Public money being spent on infrastructure that is neither required nor is public. In a context where we invest huge amount of money to maintain a military to safeguard the so called motherland, our very own self elected government is taking away huge chunks of public land right in the heart of urban areas and converting it to no-man’s land using our own money. In a country where the gully or the street was the most public space demonstrating the citizen’s right to the city, is now being converted to a no-man’s land in an attempt to control, in an attempt to govern.
Spaces under the flyover is just like an international border, fenced, lit with flood-lights, right inside yet a heterotopic space. A space constructed to put the city in order, yet a stage for anarchism: for the designer to put plants which never grows, for the homeless to make a temporary bed, for the addicts to have drugs, for the police to stand guard and many more contradictory and sometimes ignored anarchic functions and programs.
New Delhi formed the ground for the raj to showcase its glory to the masses, so do the majestic flyovers in all its glory stands in a position for the masses to look with awe and aspire. To aspire for a new standard of living, an aspiration that will make them part of the rat race wherein all the racers are perfectly under control, for in you will fall apart if you don’t adhere. Glamorized lighting at night and glorified claims in election manifestos, in tune to the aspiration which can give political mileage. In a city state where almost half the population lives in slum-like conditions and only 14% drive cars, flyovers stand as a mockery to the democracy and yet an interesting case on how aspirations can be manipulated. Aspiration! A phenomenon that is always in the making yet never made, this transitory nature gives an upper hand to those in power, those own the means of production and those who decide for the masses to manifest their whims and fancies, for Nero to play fiddle when Rome burns.