Thane Richard founded Dabba, a digital radio station covering Indian culture and politics. He is also a co-founder of Jaunt, a journalism startup.
If Prime minister candidate Narendra Modi wins, he wants to bring a new kind of urban space to the country.
Election day means Gujarat is closed for business—except in Gift City.
Officially known as Gujarat Information Finance Tech City (hence, Gift), construction equipment is everywhere and dust is in the air. The development, which currently consists of two vacant towers surrounded by immaculate roads and earth dug up to make way for more, is 30 km outside Ahmedabad and 5 km from the nearby capital city of Gandhinagar.
This is the type of development that Narendra Modi supporters hope will be a microcosm for the rest of India should he become prime minister. The project, which was launched in 2007, will bring as many as 600,000 jobs to Gujarat, the government promises. Here’s a (very stylized) artist rendition of what the area will look look, according to the government brochure (pdf):
Hidden off the paved highways is Rantapur village and its lone polling station serving 1,016 constituents.
Land acquisition for development projects is a sticky situation across India. In addition to zoning restrictions on agricultural land, the fractured ownership of small land plots makes buying large tracts for projects like Gift City difficult. Still, Gift has amassed nearly four square kilometers.
Yet the residents at this polling station all seem pleased with the development. Two years after construction began, the village received continuous water and electricity. Three of the four residents I asked voted for the BJP, Modi’s party. The one who didn’t chose the Congress Party, saying the incumbents would do a better job keeping prices down. All approved of Gift City, which they praised for bringing jobs like security guards and construction. Even the Congress supporter—23-year-old Surendra Singh—had to agree.
“No one knew about our village before. Now people know our village and they come here,” he said.
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