A New-sletter for Planners!
Welcome, fellow urban thinkers! My name is Karthik Girish, and I am extremely delighted to introduce to you Planning Tank's very first newsletter, Planning Times™. This is a new adventure for us, as we have never before published an issue entirely dedicated to the discipline of planning. We think that this can be a stepping stone, that will refresh, encourage and inspire our website visitors, to embrace the interdisciplinary nature of the profession of planning, and discover many different facets of cities. We do hope you agree with us on our journey to educate and create awareness of this astounding, yet often confusing fraternity of planning.
The goal of this newsletter is to publish up-to-date and quality articles and content relating to the vast topics that comprise planning. As we aspire each issue to be engaging and insightful, contents would revolve around modern-day issues in planning and knowledge dissipation in various aspects.
What can you as a reader expect? Well, for starters, this newsletter is theme-based. Every month, we wish to come out with a different theme, and we would try to encapsulate all that is to be known about it within the issue. We expect that our readers would like to receive quick bursts of information, rather than a long-drawn chunk of words, hence every issue would consist of only six to ten sections to satisfy your daily pleasure of planning bibliophilia ;). The first section would consist of various forms of content about the theme; articles from various sources, book reviews, technical paper reviews, interviews with planners, etc. The newsletter will also pick up one issue reported in our newspapers, and provide our point of view of the issue. One of the sections is also dedicated to content from our peer organizations. And to make it a little more fun, we also bring out certain toons and posts from our Instagram and Facebook pages!
Needless to say, any articles and content that you wish to submit, either individually or collaboratively, are much appreciated and will make a substantial contribution to the early development and success of our.....no, YOUR newsletter.
And now, a few words from our dear Founder & Manager of Planning Tank, Shubham Aggarwal:
"For the past 7 years, we have been working in the 'background' and on the 'back-end'. We are now ready to take on bigger challenges and connect with you in a much better manner. We wish to increase the contribution from our readers and move towards a more participatory approach by means of crowdsourcing. Along with Planning Times, we now have different platforms within Planning Tank to accommodate your diverse contributions. As we publish subsequent issues, you will hear more about what we have to offer and how we plan to give back to the community. We look forward to your continued support to make the planning profession better!"
In this issue
As an inaugural theme to the newsletter, we have decided to convey everything 'about urban planning' as we know it, to our readers. The second section will be dedicated to exploring all about the unauthorized colonies present in India's capital city, Delhi. We have also picked up the recent issue of the Punjab and Haryana farmers' protests in Delhi and tried to understand what we feel about the issue. Finally, the editor-in-chief of NOSPlan: Organization of Students of Planning, Chaitanya Lodha, has a few words about planning being a profession that is better learned and understood in a group, than in isolation.
Let us know what you think about this issue on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Tell us what you love, what you hate, and how we can continue to make this the best planning newsletter you’ve been longing for.
Slow and steady wins the race! This was one of the first morals every child learned at their homes and schools. This moral value is also reiterated when we learn about planning theory and techniques. The way how we planners formulate our plans is with a steady goal in mind, with carefully thought techniques, to make decisions that are the most effective. Just like the turtle in the story, he realizes his potential and takes steady steps to accomplish the final task.
This is Terra the turtle! Terra is a reminder to the readers that planners plan cities with well managed and well-planned efforts. It might be a seemingly slow process, but the timely interventions, optimality of resources, and the struggle to beat all odds and resolve issues of the citizens will enable the planners to succeed and cross the finish line! Terra is here to remind you about your determination, perseverance, and emotional strength, that will lead our future urban thinkers to be the better planners of tomorrow.
Theme of the Month
Urban Planning – A largely unknown profession
"Planning", the word even in its most non-exclusive terms is about thinking ahead, to sort out and accomplish a coveted objective, a nitty-gritty course to solve an issue or preventing one from rising. Thinking ahead and the way toward working towards the objective is an intricate undertaking, particularly when it includes an expansive mass of individuals, sentiments, issues, and space. This diverse perception brings in confusion among the people in the profession and the outside world. Adding to that, a lot of planners’ convictions are very not the same as what they truly rehearse. It isn't right to classify what can be known as a profession and what has essentially been labeled an occupation because of a specific arrangement of limited criteria. In doing so, we end up losing the center of what is imperative and additionally we become careless in regards to other complex measurements. Hence, the lesser-known profession becomes even more off-sided with changing notions of theory and practice.
I move on the streets and find people blaming the “situation of the society” and “failed development”. This gives me a sense of responsibility. I feel that my job has rising prospects for the nation’s growth. But when I think about it, these prospects are more abstract than tangible. The ones who have already established themselves in the field are far out of reach, and the ones who have aspirations are the ones I am struggling with. The struggle to bring a change, the struggle to make an identity of my profession, the struggle to give a face to my work, the struggle to drive the development of the nation!
Planners as Knowledge Workers- Key to nation’s growth!
Being a professional course, and not a technical one has its own merits. The learning part is an apt balance of being sensitive, reflective, and transformative. The inter-relationship between self and the society brings about sensitive ability, between self and the profession brings about reflective ability, and that between the society and the profession brings about the transformative ability. Taking it further to the practice part, the start is generally based on numerous hits and trials. But the following results are exemplary. The nature of the domain being multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary at once proves to be beneficial in long run.
The current times of instability and public health emergency have called for professional expertise in the field of development- now more than ever. Bringing together all walks of society and giving a shape to the growth model is something that is attributed to the skill-set of Urban Planners. Being able to make the difference at the Policy level is something that sets the Planners apart. It remains unsaid that the profession has the ability to visualize the direction of a nation’s growth, and actually being able to control it. We certainly do not want another pandemic to make us realize how mismanaged our humanity is. The role of planners must be highlighted concerning the same.
Dilli Chalo… An attempt to be heard? Where exactly lies the problem?
The Union government recently introduced major agricultural market reforms through three bills. The repercussions of these have been visible in our headlines for quite some time now. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the bills as a “watershed moment” in the history of Indian agriculture that will empower crores of farmers, there has been rising support observed from all over the country against the same. The farmers of Punjab had recently set out to march in Nation’s Capital to put pressure on the Centre to roll back the reforms when they couldn’t muster satisfactory support from Punjab Government. This has led to serious issues of mismanagement on Delhi’s border during the times of pandemic.
The three laws namely the Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 have been the center of all farmers’ protests. These legislations seem to loosen up the age-old plight of Indian farmers by promoting barrier-free trade, regulating the state control over the produce, ability to connect to private players, etc. But Marginal and small farmers account for 86% of total farmers in India. These provisions can hence have a series of negative impacts on India’s agriculture.
Free-trade outside mandis will not guarantee a Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the farmers. Additionally, removing middle-men from the system would hamper the relationship of farmers with their agents and so, corporates will not be as sympathetic towards them in times of need. Moreover, Farmers in contract farming arrangements will be the weaker players in terms of their ability to negotiate what they need. Big private companies will ultimately have an edge in the disputes. Hence, a rollback of laws, ensuring MSP, protection against privatization, sensitive involvement of middlemen, etc. are some of the main demands (among others) of farmers marching to the National Capital.
The Legal Dilemma
Entry 14 of the State List has “Agriculture, including agricultural education and research, protection against pests and prevention of plant disease”. Deducing that agriculture is a state subject would be formally correct. However, Entry 33 of the Concurrent List provides Centre and the States powers to “control production, supply, and distribution of products of any industry, including Agriculture”. Though there weren’t any laws that guaranteed MSP to date, yet the state control ensured the same. Having put the laws in place with clear goals are proving to be insufficient in contrast to the Centre’s inability and failure in guaranteeing MSP to the protesting farmers. The “grey area” of law-making seems to lie more on the side of the Centre with a clear majority. The Centre has apparently chosen to put a blind eye to other such demands taking a shed under the “legal” shadow.
The Middle Ground
Rajasthan has emerged exemplary in handling the unrest rather smartly. The law attempted to create new market areas where farmers could sell their products without being subject to state regulations. In response, Rajasthan simply designated the new areas also as state-controlled markets. This move does not amend any law by the Centre. It circumvented certain aspects of the same. If the Centre wants to ensure that Rajasthan follows the provisions of the central law, it might choose to take the state government to court. However, the moment litigation is moved by the Centre, the state will question the very competence of Parliament to wade into a subject for which there is already a comprehensive state law. Given the route that Rajasthan has taken, the other state governments might want to circumvent the Central law. However, the unique nature of agricultural markets of respective states will determine the outcome. Not to deny, the alliances of various state governments with the Centre!
The Urban Problem
The rising unrest concerning Agriculture in an Agrarian Economy has caught the attention of the whole country. There have been several resignations by various government officials in some of the states showing support to farmers’ body. But these moves have, in turn, transformed the whole situation into a stage of Political-play. This has led to a serious tussle in Northern India- both behind the doors, as well as on the railway tracks and the streets. The situations of such momentum test the competence of Urban centers. The unsaid backdrop of a pandemic cannot be denied. The outburst has undermined the objectives of the country’s safety and health. It has impacted the resources meant for not just the regulation of the crowd, but also meant for the city’s relief. It is safe to say the “timing” of passing the legislation has been peculiar. While some may see the new reforms as the light at the end of the tunnel for agriculture (perhaps, better late than never), some are keen on pointing out every flaw that exists under the ambit of these reforms. With such a difference in opinion, any virus-spread cannot undermine the motives of Indian farmers- who are protesting for sustaining their lives through agriculture. This poses a serious Urban threat. However, amidst rising privatization across major sectors under Union Government, this may simply be another feather added to the cap.
Urban planning can never be done by a single person alone, in isolation. Though professionals in the field of planning have a chance to be organized, the students don’t have the same privilege. Even though this situation is not particular to planning students, they seem to be the ones facing a comparatively higher degree of challenge when it comes to working together.
Students in this field have to engage with each other. Most of the assignments are in the form of group works. There is no way out of it. Typically, in hostels, it's way easier to interact and engage. We just sit together and get the work done. Everyone is working, and help is requested by just calling out the names of the neighbors. This clears even the smallest of the doubts and helps in “course correction” if we start straying away from our path. But the lack of ease of communication amongst peers in the present situation is leading to problems.
There are small doubts numerous people have, which are usually cleared in off-hand communication. Just by poking the person sitting next to you, or if brave enough, by asking the faculty. But in the online mode, no one calls or texts each other on such minuscule issues. There would just be too many messages and calls. However, as these questions pile up, it becomes a major hurdle in understanding the concepts or the assignment. “Hey! What’s this road again? Where was this theory from? What did sir say regarding the review? How to make a new shapefile?”. This has made students cover their backs and significantly reduced their speed. The work itself is as well is suffering due to this. When doing group projects, the constant interaction brought numerous opportunities to check and cross-check the work before the presentation. This was a constant learning process. “Use this trick for digitization. Use this macro in excel. Change that projection for the population. Put that picture and map. Don’t have everything capitalized in slide”. This was a very efficient internal feedback mechanism where you can make those changes instantly without moving the data. This has been hampered due to the send button. The send button, due to its precedent of being used mostly for submissions, has created a habit that once you send your work, your job is done. The scope for feedback fall very dramatically and the iterative process of improvement halts.
Apart from this, other social dynamics have changed the learning experience in planning. Helping out seniors and looking at their work was one of the main sources of new ideas, tricks for understanding what we are supposed to do. Learning new software, tools, and often getting data. The passing of this information and data feels almost some sort of heredity, which will cause a huge loss, especially to the fresh years.
Though new tools and online resources are coming up, to solve these issues to a certain extent, like google apps for presentations and docs; there’s still a huge gap in what’s expected to what’s being produced. At the same time, these unforeseen are as well forcing students to find new ways of solving the issues, which have never been used before in that way. It's only a matter of time that things will go back to how we used to study, but learnings from this year will surely bring out unique skill sets from the students.