Countries need moonshots. Without a goal in the future that excites a lot of young people (and we have a LOT of young people in India), things can get pretty restive and eventually messy. A feeling of a fixed pie focuses people into grabbing more of its share. Moonshots that can tremendously grow the pie focus people into thinking — how do I become a part of that. An obvious moonshot in front of humanity is a colony on Mars. For India, an obvious moonshot is available here on earth itself — world’s first 100 Million city.
The original moonshot was a leap of technology and it created a whole lot of technology spinoffs that created utilitarian justification for the Apollo programme. Making a 100 Million city is also a technological challenge but the benefits are humongous in the outcome itself and we don’t have to justify it in terms of spin-offs to the bean counters. Cities produce wealth and higher density of living is environmentally more sustainable (since we can optimise per person consumption).
The challenge is also not mere technological. It is sociological, political and even administrative. And that is what is great about this idea — it is a grand challenge in multiple dimensions and solving it will pull up our capabilities in all those terms. Compared to making 100 cities, creating exceptions and special laws for 1 is much more feasible. It also plays to India’s strengths and weaknesses where we have been far better at concentrating our best talent on a few problems and running them on mission mode.