Transforming Indian Cities

What is in the news?

1. A report by Oxford Economics states that Indian cities will make up most of the fastest-growing cities in the world between 2019 and 2035, considering the year-on-year Gross Domestic Product growth.

 2. Over 17 of the 20 top cities on the list will be Indian.

3. Surat will witness the fastest GDP growth by an average exceeding 9%. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai will be among the strongest performers across the globe.

4. While economic output in many of those Indian cities will remain rather small in comparison to the world’s biggest metropolises, aggregated gross domestic product of all Asian cities will exceed that of all North American and European urban centers combined in 2027.

5. By 2035, it will be 17 percent higher, with the largest contribution coming from Chinese cities.

Why is urbanization important?

1. India has not urbanized to its full potential. According to Census 2011, urbanization in India is only around 32 %.

2. Level of Urbanization in most other countries in Europe and the Americas is above 50%.

3. Urban centers are the engine of growth of a country.

4. Rural India is not able to manage its population because of economic considerations like fragmentation of land holdings.

Which government measures are promoting urbanization?

1.  Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT):

a) It aims at providing basic civic amenities like water supply, sewerage, urban transport, parks as to improve the quality of life for all especially the poor and the disadvantaged.

b) The Mission covers covering 500 cities that includes all cities and towns with a population of over one lakh with notified Municipalities.

2. Smart City Mission:

a) It is urban renewal and retrofitting program with the mission to develop 100 cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable.

b) It envisions at developing an area within 100 cities in the country as model areas based on an area development plan.

c) Of the top 10 cities cited in the report, 9 are Smart Cities.

3. National Urban Livelihoods Mission:

a) It aims to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor households by enabling them to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities.

b) By making the urban poor employable, the mission makes them a part of the growth process.

4. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana:

a) It aims to provide affordable housing to the urban poor with a target of building 20 million affordable houses by 31 March 2022.

5. Ease of Doing Business:

a) In the 2018 ranking of Ease of Doing Business, India has secured 77th place.

b) The World Bank has also recognized India as one of the top improvers for the year.

6. Ease of Living Index:

a) It was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

b) It provides a strong impetus to India’s effort for systematically tracking the progress of SDGs in the urban areas.

Where the challenge lies for India?

1. Without policy focused on urbanization, the process of urbanization will lead to chaos and law & order problem because of migration.

2. Apart from rural-urban migration, within city migration will also take place. This will result in changes in occupational and population structure.

3. As most of the cities listed in the report are situated on the western coast, the gravity of growth will move towards these destinations. But coastal cities are more prone to climate change.

4. Indian cities are also featured in top most polluted cities of the World. It points out that our growth model has to undergo changes.

5. Several layers of administration make it difficult to take decisions on many issues that might act as a hurdle to the growth.

6. Added to all this, building on existing city networks will be a big challenge.

How the process of urbanization has to be taken forward?

1. Regional Planning:

a) States must initiate notifying large villages as Census towns, where agriculture is no longer a predominant mode of livelihood. It will help in planning urbanization.

b) Larger cities are showing a lesser growth rate in terms of population than smaller towns/cities. So, attention should be given to these small cities and towns also.

c) Instead of amalgamation, small towns should be well-connected to adjoining large cities/towns. It will ensure distribution of population and wealth.

d) Policies like Smart City Mission, Peripheral Expressway have to be formulated for balanced regional development.

2. Infrastructure:

a) The focus should be given to connectivity, physical & social infrastructure, livelihood.

b) Growth possibility and employment possibility have to be in tandem.

3. Governance:

a) Strengthen local governments at all levels by providing them with resources to meet the challenges and requirements.

b) Cities should be made to function as independent centers to act as engines of growth.