Skyscrapers — but no sewage system. Meet a city run by private industry
March 21, 2016
What happens when a city is managed almost completely by private corporations? Visit Gurgaon, India, a boomtown of millions without a citywide system for water, electricity or even public sewers.
The city of Gurgaon, roughly a half-hour’s drive south of New Delhi, has survived without a functioning municipal government for roughly four decades. If the city of 2 million residents needs to pave a road, or hire police, firefighters or garbage collectors, a patchwork of private companies makes it happen. Or … not.
“It’s a weird place,” says Shruti Rajagopalan, an economist at SUNY Purchase who grew up a short drive away from Gurgaon. She co-authored, with her colleague Alex Tabarrok, a 2014 study of its strange inner workings. “It shouldn’t exist, theoretically.” And yet, the city is a magnet for India’s middle class. The population has swelled by more than 1,600 percent over the past 25 years. “People are just clamoring to move to Gurgaon,” she says.