Cramped pub­lic spa­ces in In­dia letting loose ur­ban rage

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Hu­maira An­sari and Rid­dhi Doshi ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­

MUM­BAI: In Mum­bai, 30-year-old Rose Paul has no idea why she called a stranger a ‘ Chu*** a’ ex­cept that she saw red when he took her park­ing space.

In Luc­know, a 37- year- old was shot be­cause he re­fused to take his hand off the bon­net of some­one else’s car.

In Delhi, 40-year-old den­tist Dr Pankaj Narang was dragged out of his home and beaten to death af­ter rep­ri­mand­ing two mo­tor­cy­clists for rid­ing rashly.

You might think that the first ex­am­ple doesn’t re­ally be­long, but these are all cases of ur­ban rage — a ten­dency to ir­ra­tional anger that is symp­to­matic of high-den­sity cities in tran­si­tion.

As in­fra­struc­ture fails to keep pace with grow­ing num­bers, in­equal­ity be­comes the first breed­ing ground for this kind of rage, fol­lowed by stress, an in­ten­si­fy­ing rat race, and a sense of be­ing cheated of one’s due.

“It is not exclusive to one class of peo­ple. It is preva­lent and grow­ing among the poor, mid­dle-class and mil­lion­aires,” says Dr Vivek Bene­gal, pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Ban­ga­lore’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Men­tal Health and Neu­ro­sciences. “Be­hind it is a grow­ing anomie or sense of norm­less­ness in ur­ban In­dia, es­pe­cially among young men, stem­ming from a sense of in­se­cu­rity, com­pe­ti­tion over ba­sic re­sources, in­clud­ing ac­tual phys­i­cal space, re­sult­ing in ex­treme re­ac­tions to triv­ial is­sues, and pub­lic vi­o­lence.”

The lack of down­time and open pub­lic spa­ces adds to what Gur­gaon ACP for Crime Hawa Singh calls a pres­sure­cooker ef­fect. “We are see­ing a rise in the num­ber of such cases,” adds Delhi joint com- mis­sioner of police De­pen­der Pathak. “Most of the time it is an out­burst of la­tent anger built up over time be­cause of prob­lems at home or at work, money or work pres­sures, etc. It also stems from the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing stan­dards of liv­ing in sev­eral parts of the city.”

Un­for­tu­nately, adds Pankaj Joshi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at Mum­bai’s Ur­ban De­sign Re­search In­sti­tute, pub­lic vi­o­lence and crime are not yet recog­nised as cru­cial plan­ning in­di­ca­tors in the ur­ban plan­ning process in In­dia.

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