Changing course of urbanisation

Indian polity has remained hesitant in welcoming urbanisation as a defining trend of the twenty-first century and is therefore not fully equipped to address the related challenges. This has been reflected in policymaking too. It is no secret that Indian cities are not in a healthy state and the increasing inflow of people is going to make the situation worse. This article tries to capture trends in urbanisation and throws light on the preparation of our local governments in handling the crucial challenge and changing the outlook of polity and bureaucracy towards urbanisation

100 Years ago, only 2 out of 10 people were living in cities. By the middle of the 21stcentury, seven out of 10 people will be living in urban areas. This illustrates that evolution of cities happened at a fast pace in the last century. In this period, cities became larger in size and new cities emerged. In 1950, New York and Tokyo were the only Mega Cities with more than ten million inhabitants.
In 1980, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Osaka joined the ranks. It is interesting to note that no Indian city was a Mega-City till that time. And, here comes 2010, there were 20 Mega Cities in the world and Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta from India were among them. Now, Bengaluru and Chennai are also part of the list.
According to the 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects produced by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), Tokyo is the world’s largest city with an agglomeration of 37 million inhabitants, followed by New Delhi with 29 million, Shanghai with 26 million, and Mexico City and São Paulo, each with around 22 million inhabitants. Today, Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing and Dhaka all have close to 20 million inhabitants.
By 2020, Tokyo’s population is projected to begin to decline, while Delhi is projected to continue growing and to become the most populous city in the world around 2028.By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities, those with more than 10 million inhabitants, most of them in developing regions. However, some of the fastest-growing urban agglomerations are cities with fewer than 1 million inhabitants, many of them located in Asia and Africa. While one in eight people live in 33 megacities worldwide, close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in much smaller settlements with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants.
The story of India’s urbanisation is linked with its economic prosperity and people’s aspirations. Everyone living in a village looks for better health and education services for himself/herself and his/her family and for this, economic prosperity is required. India claimed to be an agrarian society but the agriculture sector is losing its sheen and that is visible in the contribution of agriculture in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. Agriculture contributes only 15 per cent to the national GDP. It is also interesting to note that cities contribute over 65 per cent to GDP. So the general perception that one needs to be in a city to be financially well-off is not mistaken.

Most cities evolved with industrial boom and later by the proliferation of Information technology and service industry. Bengaluru and Hyderabad are striking examples. Many big indian cities were built around a single industry in the past but no longer will cities evolve in this fashion. today, cities are planned in a way to become self-sufficient, For example, Gurugram and Noida in Delhi-NCR


Most of its cities evolved with industrial boom and later by the proliferation of Information Technology and service industry. Bengaluru and Hyderabad are striking examples. Many big cities of India were built around a single industry in the past but no longer will cities evolve in this fashion. Cities of today are expected to reflect an increasingly connected and global world. They are planned in a way so as to become self-sufficient. For example, if you talk about Gurugram and Noida in Delhi-NCR, it is difficult to characterize these cities as they have hundreds of corporate offices dealing in various sectors and also have a variety of manufacturing industries.
The increasing population in cities and the expansion of urban areas is reducing the land parcel for agriculture.It is expected that cities could go for vertical farming. Small but self-sufficient cities may emerge. These cities will have all the facilities available at their citizens’ reach. Technology is also changing the way cities function. Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, drones, sensors, automation technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have become part of urban eco-system in many cities around the world.
The present government took note of it and rolled out a series of initiatives to address the pressing challenges of urbanisation and related issues. They put out a detailed agenda for improving civic services and infrastructure in cities through a range of Missions including Swachh Bharat Mission, Smart Cities Mission and AMRUT

Elections setting the tone for renewed urban agenda
In 2014, the present government showed its intention to improve basic services and infrastructure in cities to support the economic prosperity of the nation. The NDA government promised a series of urban transformation schemes for cities. They launched Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, Swachh Bharat Mission, Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Housing for All and several other schemes for urban transformation.While the impact of these schemes in the last five years is debatable, these initiatives set a tone for new-age urban agenda of the Indian government.
General elections in India are around the corner. Political parties in India have always given focus to the woes of rural populace in their political agendas. Whether the conditions of rural areas and people living there have improved or not is a separate topic of discussion but their problems such as the state of agriculture, farmer distress and rural infrastructure have hogged the limelight in political discourse over the years.
This is true for this election too. However, in addition, cities are gradually getting some space in political parties’ poll promises. Political parties have started talking about the staggering problems of cities and have given them due attention in their manifestos. Another reason is the rising aspirations of citizens. As economic prosperity and technology improved, people got exposure to better facilities and information.
People living in Bareilly are able to see what kinds of services are being rendered in Barcelona through YouTube, TED and other mediums available on their smartphones. It became evident that the focus of political parties towards cities will shift with the perception of people towards their dream city. However, the shift seems to be slower than expected. Political parties have several poll promises for cities in their manifestos but Indian politicians’ idea of cities is still hovering around basic services. Their urban agenda could have been better if they had consulted experts or the people on the ground.

General elections in India are around the corner. Political parties in India have always given focus to the woes of rural populace in their political agendas. This is true for this yEar too. However, in addition, cities are gradually getting some space in political parties’ poll promises. Political parties have started talking about the staggering problems of cities and have given them attention in their manifestos


Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come out with an urban roadmap and says, “through the development of infrastructure and connectivity, we will ensure the further development of suburban townships and new urban centres.” Interestingly, BJP has not talked about Smart Cities Mission this time while in 2014 building 100 smart cities was one of the major poll promises.
A similar approach can be seen in the manifesto of Indian National Congress (INC) that says, “Congress promises to formulate a comprehensive policy on Urbanisation after wide consultation. We will address the issues concerning towns and cities including city governance, livelihoods, housing, habitat, pollution, climate change, urban transport and disaster management.” They have also promised to support state governments to build new towns and cities as well as satellite towns. But these promises are not indicative of any specific outcome.
BJP has also promised to establish five regional centres of excellence on urban issues. These centres will provide support to states and local bodies on issues of urban governance and growth. The party has also promised to extend Metro services in 50 cities of the country. They have also committed to launch the National Urban Mobility Mission.
The objective of the Mission is to provide technology-based urban mobility solutions to all urban local bodies and increase the use of public transport to enhance walkability and cycle use. Under this mission, we will incentivize cities to integrate the public transport systems such as metro, local trains and local buses with the private service providers in the sector such as, private bus operator, private taxi operator, the auto-rickshaw, e-rickshaw services, pedestrian and cycling infrastructure for seamless and smooth last mile connectivity. We will also promote a common mobility card/ticketing across different modes of transport. It is also promised to turn National Clean Air Plan into a Mission and focus on 102 most polluted cities for bringing down pollution levels by at least 35 per cent.
Congress party has also talked about strengthening the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act for devolution of financial powers and to empower mayors with a uniform five-year term.
There are a few more promises featured—slum upgradation, building of night shelters, a housing scheme for the poor, safety of women, promotion of non-motorised transport, etc. They have also promised to establish Aajeevika Kendras (Livelihood Centres) in all major cities and towns where a migrant worker may register himself/herself in order to access government services, healthcare, crèches and schools for his or her children, skill development and training centres, and legal services.
Communist Party of India has also given their idea of new age urbanisation. They have criticized the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) arrangement in Smart Cities and said that they would repeal it if voted to power. They have also committed to empowering ULBs and the mayoral system.
They promoted the idea of Livable Cities instead of Smart Cities. The major distinctive poll promise in their manifesto is “recognising people’s right to water”. The party has also made similar promises as made in Congress party’s manifestos. The common thread joining all parties’ manifesto is the promotion of non-motorised transport.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Feed Your Inbox with Urban Update Weekly Newsletter
We respect your privacy.