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Ethics and City Planning

I was on the bus reading a paper. The headline said '$ 500 billion + was spent by the world last year on arms in contrast to $ 32 billion on world aid for eradicating hunger'.

I wondered if situation in Indian cities is any different? 35 Crores for a by-pass (BB_PP) but not 200 buses the same money can buy. The talk of spending 3500 crores on Sky Bus (when 350 can get you a fleet of 2000 buses with all the required infrastructure) or Metro (3-5 times the cost of Sky Bus).

Working in NHS, a Public Health service in UK, we have to deal ethics at 1:1 level with patients. But there is a constant debate on who should get what treatment and why. Should an alcoholic of 20 years with 10 failed rehab attempts get a liver transplant at the cost of tax payers money, should breast augmentation be offered free on NHS or should this money be spent on basic health provision, making it better and easier in access to all.

The Ethical Principles at conflict and hence influencing our decisions are as under -

  1. Need alone - Pune deserves better, what ever the cost
  2. Maximising (Utilitarian) principles - popular among economists, since they are broadly utilitarian in focus i.e. maximise aggregate population benefit. The focus is on the consequences of any action taken (not the action). Thus if maximum population will benifit from 'x' we will do it whatever it takes (even slavery can be justified this way).
  3. Egalitarian principles - the basis of most democracies - focus is on removing inequality. Thus, Pune would not be allowed to spend massive amounts on projects such as Sky Bus or Metro Rail - as other areas such as health, education, etc suffer (in the context of India it is the 80% living on less than a 1$ a day that pay the price for money spent elsewhere). This vital principle should be kept in mind to decide on the most cost-effective ways of solving infrastructural problems.
Our leaders and civic officials remain blind to most obvious problems, but as citizens, we need to ensure that the ethics and values are not forgotten in the decision making process. In the context of Pune, focus should first be on getting a bus based public transport (even the fancy Bus rapid Transit System demands huge expenses and may not appropriate on all roads).