Cramped public spaces in India letting loose urban rage
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.