“Planning”, the word even in its most generic form is all about forethought, to organize and achieve a desired goal/objective, a detailed route for solving a problem or stopping one from emerging. Forethought and the process of working towards the goal is a complex task, especially when it involves a large mass of people, opinions, problems and space. And the one who plans is often stuck in a messy situation.
We expect to make the most productive use of our time and energy in our interactions with the outside world. Here’s an example, if there’s a meeting and a sudden detour stirs us off course, swallows 10 extra minutes of our time, even if we had given it a thought and gotten out earlier, the blame often falls on what is outside of that person’s control; and in scenarios to do with a city’s jurisdiction and functioning, the blame often falls on the planning organizations/authorities, the individuals responsible for the city’s smooth functioning. But approaching the person responsible for the chaos or the order is not easy or appropriate. Planning is all about collaboration, planners work as a collective rather than an individual, and so are the plans, a collection of thoughts, POAs, maps, policies etc. a multitude of ideas of what should be and what is. This collectiveness and the diversity of the “profession” and the “professionals”, despite the perks, are adding to the causes of rifts between the public and the planners and between the professionals themselves.
Many of a planner’s beliefs are quite different from what they really practice. And therefore, what we should be answering is a larger question of how much planners influence/input the planning process. It differs from the person to the space, planning has more opportunity in some cities than in others, different cities rates of growth or decline create different opportunities for planner’s input. Planners working in cities with a high rate of growth tend to have more influence on and input into planning activities, it even changes depending on a planner’s own definition of his/her role, the attempt to influence or input the “common mode of practice”. It is hence not completely just on our part to question the “professionalism” of a planner, without examining each in its own way.
In the world of development, no matter how effective an argument we put forward to deny this fact, planning revolves around our idea of an utopian future, on making life better for everyone without bias, be it any minute from “now” or decades from “now”.
School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi