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Megacity Narratives

The role of public transport in integrating labor markets, discussed in the South Asian context

TheSouthAsianIdea Weblog

By Anjum Altaf

The discussion of megacities has drifted into a combination of oh-my-god and pie-in-the-sky narratives displacing potentially sensible and useful analyses.

As an example of the first, consider how often one hears that Karachi had a population of 11 million in 1998 and is twice that now – as if that was enough to clinch the argument that we have a mega-problem on our hands.

My response is: So what? I am not particularly bothered if the population rises to 30 million. What matters, and this is the real question we should be asking, is whether Karachi is well managed and whether its management is improving or deteriorating over time.

Suppose the answer is that Karachi is not well managed. If so, does that have anything to do with its size? As a test, I would ask the proponents of the size-is-the-problem argument to go live in Mirpur…

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Milne Do: Easing travel between India and Pakistan sounds exciting! Sep 1, 2022

The Milne Do hash tag on twitter piqued my interest today. Apparently, there is a petition doing the rounds to request both governments to ease visa restrictions to allow Indians and Pakistanis to visit each others nations easily.
Thousands of families that were displaced during Partition would get a chance to see the hometowns if their forefathers, some tweeted. Others highlighted the tourism potential if the visas were eased.
It’s quite a thought isn’t it? When we were kids, our make believe games comprised of Indo-Pak wars. Pakistan was the worst possible enemy and this was a hatred you had to embrace to prove your patriotism as an Indian. Over the years, much has changed. India travelled down a very different path and has emerged as a significant economy with global impact. Pakistan has progressed too, but it’s increasing leaning towards extreme Islam places it on shaky ground on the global stage.
Relations between our nations has improved hugely diplomatically and in the popular imagination but intelligence and security networks still paint a picture of suspicion and intent to harm.
I can understand a government being paranoid and refusing to ease visa restrictions when a Pakistani national has just been sentenced to death for an act of heinous terrorism against India. And yet, perhaps easing travel will serve another quite different purpose of discovering cultural similarities that might obfuscate the need to place religion or terror at the center of the debate. It will be interesting to see how this debate unfolds. All I know is that if the visas were possible, I would be on a train to Lahore and Harappa in a jiffy!

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