Metros: 80pc people survive, 20pc rule

Metros across India are a tale of two cities and increasingly, a causality of the 80-20 rule. The 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto principle, is named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who first developed it in the context of income distribution and wealth of population.

In 1906, the famed economist first noticed that 80 per cent of land in Italy was owned by 20 per cent of the population. The powerful distribution concept has gone on to become a significant universal axiom with 80-20 rule of thumb applied in many situations – ‘80 per cent of sales comes from 20 cent customers’, ‘80 per cent people spend time with 20 per cent of their acquaintances’, ‘80 per cent of the body weight gain comes from 20 per cent of the food consumed’ etc.

Of late, metros and tier-2 cities, too, suffer from such skewed distribution. “Vital few, trivial many”, as one business thinker deemed the 80-20 rule, is a reality propelled by government policies. There are many examples to prove that we have succumbed to this ungodly principle but three areas – service sector, municipal budget allocation and influence peddling or lobbying will suffice for illustration. The result, as the most recent data indicates, is higher inequality and enrichment of few at the cost of many.

Pareto principle is most glaring and self-evident in the service sector. While 80 per cent population is teetering in the hands of mafia controlled public services, 20 per cent population enjoys outstanding services offered by the private sector ably supported by the government machinery.

The education mafia has made sure that the Right to Education Act does not get implemented, affecting mostly underprivileged children. With assistance from political class, the land mafia has been instrumental in grabbing land in and around most cities. Water mafia ensures that tanker business is predominant and profitable.

Then, there are the parking mafia, garbage mafia and transport mafia whose existence cause undue harassment of the middle class and the poor who are major users of such services. Contrast that to the 20 per cent population who drive their car to work, send children to private schools, get healthcare from the best of private hospitals, live in gated communities and high sky rises. They are immune to the severe problems faced by 80 per cent of city residents.

Municipal budgets also corroborate the 80-20 rule. 80 per cent of the budget goes to build the city infrastructure, while a meager 20 cent is allocated to social development. Elaborate plans are drawn up for flyovers, signal-free corridors, underpasses and road -widening programmes, costing thousands of crores of rupees for which funds magically appear.

Slum redevelopment, impro-ving public schools, developing government healthcare facilit-ies and constructing basic ame-nities for the poor are only on paper, and quite often the stated reason for not starting projects in the budget is want of funds.

Skewed allocation of fund
Why is the budget allocation so skewed? The answer lies in influence-peddling in government or what some wish to call lobbying. It also acutely suffers from the Pareto principle. Eighty per cent of the NGO’s that support social development causes and who work for the poor are facing severe financial constraints and struggling for survival.

Twenty per cent of advocacy groups funded by corporate honchos and well-connected individuals in political circles have become a force to reckon with in every sphere of policy making. Issues like signal-free corridors, speedy travel to airport and changes to governance structure gain undue importance over social development issues like schools, hospitals, public transport and slum rehabilitation.

There is a consensus amo-ngst a majority of citizens that governance in municipalities over the last two decades has been a spectacular failure. But what is more worrying is the prevalence of 80-20 distribution rule, enabled and abetted by the skewed priorities of state and municipal governments. Increasingly 20 per cent of the citizens live in ‘garden city’ while 80 per cent of the population goes through every day grind living in the ‘garbage city’.

As Abraham Lincoln famously described, democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people. Our elected representatives, in such a democratic setup, must act as a great leveller and strive to increase the welfare of all citizens.

Politicians promise a lot to the poor and the middle class during election campaigns, but once elected are carried away by the lure of Mammon and succumb to pressures from various sources to sell out the people who voted them to power. Due to disproportionate influence of a few plutocrats on government policies, citizens have fallen prey to the Pareto principle.

A holistic approach to urban development is the need of the hour to establish vibrant and thriving metros and cities. Sooner state governments rupture the stranglehold on mafia, rehash priorities and restores balance, the better and beneficial will it be for every citizen.

(The writer is Bengaluru-based money manager)
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