Styles of urban planning differ from city to city and time to time. Ahmedabad’s double heritage of rigorous Gandhian organization and heavy involvement of its business community in development decisions has continued to influence its planning even till today, although, of course, the devastating pogrom of 2002 revealed the limits of Gandhism and raised questions about the city’s directions. This presentation will look at the effects of several turning points: (a) 1991: the national liberalization that freed up the city’s imagination and horizons; (b) 1993-98: the serendipitous, separate arrival of several leaders who collectively gave concrete reality to the city’s new imagination, opening the city to far greater influences from outside, and initiating new styles of road building, financial restructuring, development and town planning schemes, and greater clarity of thinking about the role of the formal planning agencies; (c) 2001: an earthquake that frightened the city into rewriting and enforcing its building codes; (d) 2002: a pogrom that reinforced already-growing wedges of segregation; (e) 2005: a chief minister who, following a visit to Shanghai, declared this the year of urban development, and pushed forward, especially, the Sabarmati Riverfront Development program, the BRTS, and the end of octroi taxation, among other initiatives, with all their mixed results; (f) 2006: the inflow of money from JNNURM, that provided the city more money than ever, but challenged city planners to use it wisely and finally, (g) 2007: the restructuring of the old mill complexes and revitalization of eastern Ahmedabad. It will also consider various points of view now prevalent in evaluating these changes.
Professor Howard Spodek is currently Professor of History and of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA. His current research and writing is focused on the history of urbanization in India, and especially on the city of Ahmedabad in recent times. He has also pioneered in finding new ways of researching and teaching world history at the college and high school levels. His publications include Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth Century India (Indiana University Press, 2011; Orient Blackswan, 2012) and The World’s History (Prentice Hall, 4th ed., 2010). Prof. Spodek received his MA and PhD in History from University of Chicago and his AB from Columbia University.