Is Gurgaon a metropolis

University of Cologne

Today our e-excursion went to Gurgaon or Gurugram. Actually, we had already arrived in this boom town on the R excursion (meaning: the one that actually took place) and were about to explore this prime example of rapid, globalized urban development in India. But due to the decision to return home, we had to exchange their exact inspection for long waiting and organization times at the airport.

On my first visit to Gurgaon in 2005 - nota bene: only fifteen years ago! - Large parts of the metropolis, which today has a population of over one million, were under construction. At that time we drove along large areas prepared for construction work, which shortly before had mostly been arable, partly fallow land. Land expected to be built and the first large construction sites dominated the scenery at that time. The small town of Gurgaon on the city limits of Delhi, but belonging to the National Capital Region, quickly became a globalization hub at the end of the 1990s due to its proximity to the international airport. In 2016 it was renamed Gurugram - Guru's Village - ostensibly to honor the historical and mythological significance of a Droṇāchārya or Guru Droṇ, an incarnation of Brahma.

The rapid rise of the new city “from the retort” becomes visible in film documentaries such as “Gurgaon, the new urban India” or “Gurgaon: India's Private City”. Here you can find interview statements that report on large agricultural areas: 30 years ago, “Gurgaon was nothing more than a plot of rocky soil, with a small market place and no railway link with the rest of the country”. A "sleepy, dusty, quite town with no municipal government". Numerous documents available on the Internet prove the massive redesign through infrastructure construction, the construction of numerous office and residential high-rise buildings in international styles. Residents of the gated colonies emphasize the good safety standards, large parks and open spaces, the high quality of the residential units and leisure facilities. They also praise the international level of services - from health and educational facilities to many shopping malls, entertainment and sports facilities - and the 24/7 supply of water, electricity and communication connections.

The company “Delhi Land & Finance” (DLF) was the first and is still the largest and dominant private investor today. Marketing films show their own, privately operated metro line and numerous post-modern office and residential high-rises they own. There is a kind of separate government within the city. A private urban enclave has arisen here, in a very short time. An example for India? It is certainly not that simple - because for the large majority of the population with a low level of education and income, these types of cities are not yet an option.

Frauke Kraas