Urban areas have long been viewed as “engines of inclusive economic growth”. But, are urban centres in India truly inclusive or even growth-propelling ?
As per the 2011 Census data, of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban areas, that is approximately 32 % of the total population. Although the rate of Urbanization has been increasing rapidly,especially in the last three decades, still India remain one of the least urbanized country in the world. In line with the global trends, rural to urban migration has been the biggest contributor to urbanization in India. However, despite this steady growth in the number of towns and cities, India is witnessing a phenomenon of unplanned and unregulated urbanization. Unplanned expansion of a city in terms of both area and population, has become a norm.
There are multiple problems associated with unplanned urbanization. Problem such as overcrowding of cities and towns with further lead to over-exploitation of natural resources, poor housing and development of slums and scanty habitations, congested roads, massive unemployment and below average water and sanitation facilities characterize Indian cities. Increasing crime rate, as reflected in the National Crime Records Bureau Data for the year 2016, and increasing levels of pollution are other inadvertent consequences. Almost all the major Indian cities such as like Delhi,Mumbai Chennai,Kolkata etc suffer from these maladies. Quality of life as measured in terms of happy and disease-free living and citizen-satisfaction is unimaginably low. Even though people are earning more yet they are not happy as the bulk of it is being spent on treatment of various ailments. Moreoever, due to imbalances in development, regional and intra-region inequalities have also risen monumentally. These changes have fuelled social disharmony and fostered enmity among communities. The divide between haves and have-nots has never been starker than what it is today. As a result of which, various social mobilizations in the form of increasing movememts from the erstwhile dominant castes such as Jats in Haryana, Patidars in Gujarat, Marathi-speaking in Maharashtra, demanding a greater share in the economic and educational opportunities has been on the rise.
Remedies for all these problems are well known, yet have not been implemented – India does not merely require urban expansion, it requires a regulated or planned and sustainable urbanization. Systematic development of urban centres along with improvements in the conditions of rural India are goals which must be pursued simultaneously. Urban areas cannot accommodate the entire population of the country hence infrastructure development in rural India is a must to begin with. The push factors which compel the rural poor to move out of their villages to urban centres in search of better livelihood opportunities need to be checked. Similarly creating “Counter-magnets” are essential to lower the burden on major cities.
Government schemes like AMRUT, Smart Cities scheme, Sardar Patel Urban Housing Scheme, which aims at constructing three crore urban houses by 2022) are some of the steps which have been taken in this direction. The requirement is to expedite their implementation as bureaucratic delays and cumbersome procedures act as major impediments in actualization of these schemes. Along with this, an integrated approach is required to be adopted, as in the solution to problems such as unemployment and police reforms lie the real success of Indian cities. A recent survey highlighted that only 65 cities in India have a network of mass public transit system. Thus it is essential that government focusses on creating mass public transport systems. Here it needs to be highlighted that since the October hike in fares, Delhi metro has lost 3 lakhs of ridership per day. This is a lesson that such measures are counter-productive and must be avoided.
It is also time to make the cities truly inclusive and empowering,e especially for Women. Women security needs to be at the top of the priority list as also making the cities more accessible to differently-abled. Installation of CCTV cameras at public spaces is urgently required. Lastly, a massive change in public behavior is imperative for inducing long term transformation changes. Problems like those related to solid waste disposal cannot be solved unless peoples’ participation is sought. For instance, a simple step like segregation of domestic waste by the educated urban middle class can go a long way in solving the problem of poor waste management. Similarly, government programmes like Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan for a clean India cannot be successful unless people willingly contribute in their success.
In conclusion, it can be highlighted that Urbanization is a natural consequence of socio-economic development of any country. However, unplanned urbanization creates a plethora of problems. Hence, government along with various stakeholders must work in the direction of planned and sustainable urbanization. The use of ICT in governance, to improve service delivery and enhance public satisfaction, is an important tool to usher the required changes and achieve desired outcomes.
– Contributed by Kunwar Suryansh
Picture Credits: sociocosmo.com