Last October my wife and I visited Jaipur after a long hiatus - of around 35 years and what we saw was highly agreeable. It has grown quite a lot since we were here more than thirty five years ago and it is still growing. The "Resurgent Rajasthan" campaign is giving it the impetus, it is now a city of 40 lakhs (4 million), double the number of Bhopal where we live. The new areas are beautifully laid out. “Vaishali” is one such new development where the roads are wide and commercial buildings both, massive and good looking. It has now a new airport - small but functional. An agreement seems to have been negotiated with Thai Airways for ground management – a concept that I have not seen implemented anywhere in India so far.
Having seen earlier most of the touristy sites this time we just wanted to take in the ambience – the Rajasthani colourful environment, cuisine and so on. We were there before Dussehra which is, perhaps, a huge festival in Rajasthan. The traditional market was being repainted in pink and its gates were being beautified by ornate murals in white over a pink base depicting religious and historical themes.. At several places effigies of ten-headed Rawan were on sale but the sellers occupied spaces away from edges of the roads. Jaipur’s iconic heritage monument, the Hawa Mahal, was resplendent in its beautiful freshly painted pink visage. None can avoid this beautiful monument as it is plumb in the traditional market place.
As we came out of the airport we hit a top class road, clean and uncluttered with shacks and gumties as we find in Bhopal. Roads all over Jaipur were found to be of high quality unlike in Bhopal where care is taken of only such roads that are used by VIPs or the ones that are kind of showpieces. I do not know about the quality of the roads inside the colonies but I am sure it is better than what we have in Bhopal. Sanitation is also of a high order and the local municipal corporation seems to have taken the "Swachha Bharat" (Clean India) campaign seriously.
The best aspect about the city is clean and hindrance-free traffic. Quite obviously, the traffic management is of a very high order. Two-wheeler riders wear helmets and even the pillion rider does so. We did not see any two-wheeler carrying more than two riders. No one takes the wrong carriageway to save on time and fuel or no one overtakes from the wrong side. All this discipline is because of strict oversight by the traffic police whose members are generally present in strength at important junctions. Two-wheeler riders and auto rickshaw drivers, the most frequent offenders of traffic rules, are afraid of deviating from rules as the police are there to ensure strict compliance. They are not ineffective or corrupt as in Bhopal who overlook traffic violations in exchange of a few rupees. Besides, the media seem to be keeping a hawk-like watch over the policemen. Any adverse report in the media is monitored by the Chief Minister's office and apparently inquiries are held and action is taken swiftly. As a consequence Policemen seemed to be pretty effective in a quiet and efficient manner ensuring, inter alia, all heads on two wheelers are helmetted, no one drives while talking on cell phone, no one drives on high beam and no one takes the wrong carriageway - including the autos and two-wheeler riders who are notorious for such breaches of rules in Bhopal. What is more, the electronic traffic signals are observed in pretty fair measure. No wonder, the city is largely free of jams.
Another remarkable feature of Jaipur's traffic management is the way the roads have been kept free of vendors pushing hand carts or establishing themselves wherever they happen to find custom regardless of the space available on the roads. Jaipur has cleverly created "no-vending zones” where vendors are just not allowed. We didn't see any vendor in any of the "no-vending zones” we happened to come across. Vehicular movements were therefore found to be smooth as there were no hindrances from hand carts or other encroachments as we come across in Bhopal. We also did not come across any small-time automobile workshop operated on the road-sides from a hole-in-the-wall establishment like we do in Bhopal particularly in its older parts.
The authorities have ingeniously attempted to solve the problem of rapidly increasing number of passenger cars in business centres like the traditional old market. A big underground parking lot has been created not far from the market for the vehicles of those who own or run the shops. They commute to their respective shops, if necessary, by using a pedicab. The space in front of the shops thus is left free for shoppers' vehicles. Something like this is necessary for the New Market area of Bhopal. The problem of parking elsewhere in the town also seems to have been resolved well as densely parked vehicles did nowhere seemed to hinder traffic movement.
A conscious move to beautify the city is apparently underway. While a few squares are being re-laid with cobbled stones like in European towns, tableaus of statuary are on display on some central verges. Wherever there are roadside walls they have murals on them, some were getting fresh colourful ones. Roadside plantations are also being carried out in a big way. Despite being close to a desert Jaipur gives a pretty green appearance with quite a few parks, the biggest of which is the Central Park the green lawns of which we saw being watered by sprinklers and used by entire families for rest and recreation. Mobility of commuters has been taken care of by the BRTS running seemingly without any controversies. A metro has also been introduced recently and is up and running.
The city fathers of Jaipur largely seem to have done well in taking care of the citizens' basic needs. Like most municipal councillors in the country they too probably are incompetent and corrupt, but quite clearly less so than their counterparts in Bhopal who look for money in practically every activity or venture. Bhopal seems to be like its poorer cousin, deprived, misgoverned and neglected.