Mere Shahar Ki Shaadi

By Tarun Sharma

Understanding public policy and engaging with it seems like an alien concept still, especially in smaller cities. Citizens don’t always think that they can be a part of policy at various stages (its formulation, implementation, even pushing it back). Partly because they have never been given a choice as well. In such a scenario, I have often found that it becomes easier to relate with urban policies, if one thought of the city as a person. It allows perceiving a city as an equal to oneself. And hence the way urban policy impacts the city, it is the same way it impacts the citizen as well. So if a city is being married to someone, you, as a citizen will also get married to it!

In the past, the parents used to unilaterally decide and give away the hands of cities to Programs as per their own will. In the last few years, they have started arranging ‘Swayamvars’ of various kinds (competition are conducted on who will be married to the Programs). In these Swayamvars, cities have to compete for the spouse. For some such Swayamvars, the spouse is already decided for a certain number of cities and then the wedding takes place as and when the city is able to win the spouse. In others, an open competition is announced and all the cities are invited to compete. It is already decided how many spouses the project will marry into. Such Swayamvars have multiple stages and the final wedding takes place only when the cities pass through all the stages of the competition. As is usual in Indian weddings, a significant amount of money transfer takes place as well. It is mostly from the Programs to the cities. As weddings always had vows, the weddings of cities also have vows which are also tied to the money transfers. These vows are binding. In fact, they are a kind of (one-sided) pre-nuptial agreement where the city agrees to the terms of the spouse Program. For example, Program comes with its set of conditions on when and what kind of offspring (project outcomes) will come through the marriage and the same is written in such agreements. The agreements also prescribe the way in which the money can be spent by the city, the people whose help the city can take, and so on.

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