People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 11, 2010

Hyderabad Old City:

A Saga of Discrimination

M Srinivas


THE city of Hyderabad is under communal fire again. Years of communal  harmony and peace are under threat. The fundamentalist forces have made the old city as their sanctuary. The socio-economic distress of the old city of Hyderabad is providing a breading ground for the communal forces of both minority and majority variety. Hyderabad is the cyber city. The government intends to make it a world class city. Behind this loud talk, the often ignored aspect is the pathetic plight of old city of Hyderabad. The old city has a hoary past, but, its presence is murky. The glaring inequalities between the old and the new parts of the city of Hyderabad tell the tale of two cities.

The public transport in the old city is fast shrinking. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) emphasises on the public transport. But, this emphasis is not seen in the old city. As a result of reduction in the number of buses, there is a high increase of three-wheeler auto transport, leading to traffic problems and pollution. The demand for introduction of mini buses in the old city, given the narrow roads, fell on the deaf ears of public transport authorities. Statistics also tell the story of gross neglect of old city. For instance in 2005, 387 buses were going towards Charminar, the historic monument in the heart of the old city.  But, now the number fell to 203. The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation has withdrawn 184 buses in the last three to four years alone. Today, only one bus depot is effectively operating buses in the old city.

The discrimination meted out to old city is not just confined to transport alone. It extends to almost all public utilities like drinking water, electricity, education or other civic amenities such as parks, cinema theatres etc.

According to the 2001 census, the difference of population between the old and the new city of Hyderabad is only 6 per cent. The total area of Hyderabad city is about 199.68 sq km., of which the new city is spread over 134.05 sq km. and has a population of 20.30 lakh. The old city occupies only 65.63 sq km. for nearly 18 lakh population. The average density of population in the new city is 19,179 per sq km, while it is 27,411 per sq km. in the old city.

The people in the old city have only 34 parks spread over an area of a mere 23 acres. Where as the number of parks in the new city is 684 covering 390 acres. There are only 13 cinema halls in the old city, while their number in the new city is 50.

The number of bank branches in the old city is only 138, while their figure in the new city is 579. In the new city, one branch of a bank serves on an average 3,000 persons whereas in the old city there is one branch for over 13,000 persons!

The city of Hyderabad has acquired the Greater character by absorbing in it the surrounding municipalities resulting in the formation of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation. But, the heritage city of old city is condemned to serious neglect. The fundamentalist and obscurantist forces are capitalising on this gross neglect. But, these forces are also perpetuating this discrimination for their vested interests. The politician-police-bureaucrat-criminal nexus is ruling the old city for decades. This nexus is taking a heavy toll on governance in the old city. This pathetic socio-economic situation is providing the fertile ground for the growth of fissiparous forces.

The ruling parties in the state never bothered to bridge this widening gap between the old and the new city as they do not have any political interests here. The money and the muscle power are holding the administration to ransom. There is a violation of basic democratic rights in the old city in the name of sensitive area thus turning the old city into an impregnable stronghold of the fundamentalist forces. However, this monopoly is being challenged today by the progressive forces.

Several government offices are moving away from the old city. The development bodies´┐Ż setup for the old city are starved of funds.

People in the old city are largely employed in the formal and unorganised sectors earning meagre incomes. Due to poverty and absence of institutional credit, the highly exploitative daily financiers squeeze the people of old city. Slums are mushrooming in the old city. The number of slum dwellers is high in the old city.

The old city lags behind in literacy and education too. For instance, the literacy rate in Hyderabad, according to 2001 census is 68.80 per cent. But, this is 71.29 per cent in the new city, while it is only 66 percent in the old city. The government schools are in most deplorable condition. Dropouts are high here. There are 471 government schools in the old city. But, 178 are running in rental buildings. While only 16 government schools are in rental buildings in the new city. This is much more deplorable given the fact that government land in the old city area is mostly under the occupation of land grabbers. The encroachment of government land continues unabated. The fate of Urdu schools is much more pathetic. There are only 19 government junior and 7 government degree colleges in Hyderabad, while there are only five junior colleges and only one degree college in the old city. There is not a single university in the old city though Hyderabad is the abode of many institutions of higher learning.

The major occupations of people of Hyderabad include petty traders, artisans, small repairing centers or workshops, etc. As a result they have unstable and low incomes. Many factories in the industrial estate in Bahadurpura are closed. This is the only industrial estate in the old city. Employment is shrinking. There are no signs of either public or private investment coming to the old city, thus making the employment situation much more bleak. As a result, there is significant migration to Gulf region in search of work.

There are 19 big and medium industries and 40 factories in Hyderabad, while the share of old city is negligible. There are only three industries and only one factory in the old city. The share of old city in small scale industries is also low. There are 1289 small scale industrial units in Hyderabad, while the share of old city is only 438. Many markets are in a pathetic condition due to absence of proper roads, parking facilities.

The bus stand near the historic Charminar does not have basic facilities like shelters, toilets, drinking water. There are 21 bus depots in Hyderabad. But, there are only three in old city and in reality only one is effectively running buses. Recently, the GHMC authorities proposed to construct shelters in 1158 bus stops. But, the old city got only 100. The old city is facing discrimination even in the proposed developmental works.

The old city is the abode of several historical and heritage sites. But, these historical monuments and places are also being encroached upon by land grabbers. The tourism sector is also hard hit by lack of infrastructural facilities.

There is a severe stress on the civic amenities like drinking water, drainage, electricity and transport due to high density of population and gross administrative neglect.

The total roads in Hyderabad is 4048 kms, while in the old city it is 1357 kms only. The total road space area is also less here. Hyderabad is witnessing a spree of construction of flyovers. But, the old city is neglected even in this. The footpaths are under encroachment causing enormous inconvenience to pedestrians. The households in the old city are facing not only frequent power cuts, but also the problem of low voltage. There are 11,725 electric transformers in Hyderabad while the old city has only 3860. There is a high percentage of homeless population in the old city. There are 112 post offices in Hyderabad. But, the old city has only 34 post offices.

Space would not suffice to list the continuing saga of discrimination of the old city. Unless this is stopped and corrected, fundamentalist forces would continue to have their vice like grip on the region.

(The writer is CPI(M) Hyderabad city secretariat member and incharge of the Party in the old city area)