One city, many faces

Print edition : December 18, 2009

MANY MALLS HAVE come up in the city in recent times.-

PUNE stands on the ground that rises on either side of the Mula and Mutha rivers. While the confluence of the two at the heart of the city gave it its original name Punya-Vishaya (Land of Virtue), the elevation lent it the feel of a hill station. The cool climate, in marked contrast with that of Mumbai, once drew bureaucrats, artists and authors to the city in the twilight of their lives, and this gave it the name Pensioners Paradise. Punes journey from there to the present, where it has earned the sobriquet Students Capital of India, is a fascinating one.

In 1961, the Panshet dam, about 60 kilometres from Pune, broke and flooded the city, destroying most of its old neighbourhoods. The tragedy, however, held the promise of a new beginning. In the following years, the city saw a spurt of growth in the construction and engineering sectors. By the end of the decade, it had grown both economically and geographically. In fact, the Kothrud area in Pune made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest urban growth rate.

Today, the automobile sector is the backbone of Punes economy. From two-wheelers and cars to tractors and trucks, Punes automobile companies make them all. Some of the big names include Volkswagen, General Motors, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bajaj Auto and Tata Motors. Pune itself is a huge market for two-wheelers, which constitute about 70 per cent of the vehicles plying in the city. Pune also has a number of units that manufacture automotive parts, such as forges, truck transmission systems, clutches and automotive safety glass. Besides, electronic giants such as LG and Whirlpool and food companies such as Frito Lays and Coca-Cola have made Pune their home.

Over the years, the Maharashtra government has focussed on the information technology (IT) sector. It made provisions for incentives in its IT and ITES (IT-enabled services) policy in 2003. Additionally, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation undertook a Rs.600-million project to set up the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park at Hinjewadi over 2,800 acres (1,133.119 hectares). Microsoft intends to set up a project worth Rs.700 crore here. Besides, Pune plays host to all of Indias software giants, including Infosys, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, IBM and Tech Mahindra.

Punes surging economy is powered by an equally strong education sector, which attracts students from all over India and from abroad. It is said to have more schools, colleges, institutions and universities than any other city in the world, lending it the name Oxford of the East.

The College of Engineering founded here in 1854 is the second-oldest engineering college in Asia. And the Deccan Education Society, founded in 1884 by local citizens, including freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, was responsible for founding the Fergusson College in 1885. The society operates 32 institutions in Pune. The Symbiosis International University, which operates 33 different institutions in the city, is one of Indias largest private universities.

Other well-known educational institutions in the city are the ILS Law College; the Film and Television Institute of India; the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; the National Institute of Virology; the National Informatics Centre; the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology; and the National AIDS Research Institute.

Important defence institutions, such as the National Defence Academy, the Armed Forces Medical College, the College of Military Engineering, the Army Institute of Physical Training, and the Army Institute of Technology are based in Pune. The city is also the headquarters of the Indian Armys Southern Command.

Pune is said to have more educational institutions than any other city in the world. The Symbiosis International University in Pune, with 33 different institutions, is one of India`s largest private universities.-

Pune is not administered by its municipal corporation alone. Three cantonment boards have administrative control over the Pune Metropolitan Area. Pune has been an important cantonment town since the Battle of Khadki (1817), in which the English East India Company emerged victorious. The British, however, were the last of the many rulers that Pune saw in the pre-Independence era.

Over a millennium ago, the region was ruled by the Yadavas, followed by the Nizamshahi sultans and the Mughals. In 1595, Maloji Bhosale, the grandfather of Chhatrapati Shivaji, was appointed the jahagirdar of Pune. The town was developed by Dadoji Kondadev, who was the administrative officer and confidant of Malojis son Shahaji and the mentor of Shivaji. Kondadev oversaw the construction of the iconic Lal Mahal where Shivaji and his mother Jijabai lived. After Shivajis coronation, the town saw further development and the construction of several peths (small neighbourhoods).

One can find peths even today, with their narrow roads and small cheek-to-jowl buildings of stone. However, the city has grown in all directions. Malls have come up on University Road and near the Chaturshrungi temple, where the roads are broader and traffic moves faster. And in 2002, Indias first high-speed six-lane expressway, connecting Pune with Mumbai, became operational, ushering in further economic and industrial development.

Pune can also be called the cultural capital of Maharashtra. Many doyens of Marathi literature, theatre and films made the city their home. As the city stands rooted in its Marathi culture, its rapid development and migration of young people from other States have altered its character without posing a threat to its past. This makes Pune one of Indias truly cosmopolitan cities.

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