A massive wave of urbanization is taking over our planet as we know it today. The word “urban” gained gravity in the last century. It paved the way for prospering a new and modern change in the history of civilization. Gradually we move into the era of globalization, technology, and rapid economic growth. Hence, the urban population from all across the world continues to increase at an alarming rate. Urban development took a restrained turn in India in the 21st century.
In their paper, Rakesh Mohan and Shubhagato Dasgupta discuss the policies for accelerating urban growth, for the same.
The Situation of Urban Development in India
It is believed that as a developing nation, India will see people migrate from rural to urban in exploding numbers in search of economic opportunities. However, the country witnessed slow but steady urbanization. In the last few decades, its levels in India have been low. Despite that, the increase in numbers has been tremendous due to the high population of the country. It creates a unique situation for India as a whole. The paper hence prioritizes how urban development takes place at such a colossal scale.
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While weighing the past trends and future projections, a deceleration in urban growth can be observed.
The reason encompasses crucial differences at both rural and city levels to identify the cycle for urban development. On the one hand, there is an inadequate increase in rural productivity. To add to it, restrictions on the location of industries, reservations related to small industries, and low investments in urban infrastructure failed to lay the ground for the prospective migrants.
The last few decades saw service-sector-led economic growth in India. The emergence of IT-driven cities followed much later. Hence, the urban population of the country differs from that of the rest of the world. In India, urban areas are preconceived as unruly and stink of inequity, chaos, slums, poverty, and environmental degradation. The paper acknowledges the development of a country under such fiscal governmental conditions. However, it also highlights the need for an impactful change. The country was in dire need of policies that relieve rural areas of their excessive hands.
According to the future projections, 2030 will see 41.4% of the Indian population living in urban areas.
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It would mean that our cities had to accommodate an additional 300 million people! Hence, the task that lay ahead for the policymakers of the nation was a daunting one. In absolute numbers, it could create a historic moment.
Solutions for Urban Acceleration in the 21st Century
Different urban centres experienced interesting patterns of development in the late nineties. It largely depended on their size class. For varying scales of cities, masterplans are often bound to fail. Unrealistic calculations for infrastructure costs make them non-operational. Here, any up-gradation in urban infrastructure could directly impact economic growth. In addition to broader coverage, the country also demanded improvement in the quality of such infrastructure! It was the only way the metro towns could prosper.
The paper hence reviews the key financial and land policy constraints inhibiting the approach and its expected outcomes. Most importantly, it highlights the new actors in urban policy-making, judicial activism.
Public Interest Litigation has brought several issues to light in the past few years. They have forced governments to take matters related to urban plight more gravely. It accounts for improvement in the quality of public transport, management of municipal solid waste, and more, with better-stipulated deadlines to ensure the attractiveness of cities. Yet, the on-ground situation hardly supports the challenging policies. While there are instances of instrumental change in the urban environment in a few cases, others experience a much worse condition that has curbed urbanization in such cities.
The paper further discusses the components that constitute macro-economic policies and their impact on urbanization in India. The national fiscal policies, consequences of ongoing globalization, controlling industrial growth, and social sector policies related to education and healthcare become the game-changing factors in urban development. Hence, an in-depth understanding of the same allows for greater openness to identify, capitalize, and build on several opportunities.
Consequently, cities are now big and complex. It becomes more crucial to revamp the state-level development, as opposed to central. As a response, policy-makers focus on mega-city management concerning the regional context.
Outlook towards the Future of Urban Development in India
An understanding of urban growth requires knowledge of the whole process of urbanization, its history, the factors impacting it, and its impact at a global level. A strategic outlook towards the future for urban development in the country focuses on increasing investments in urban infrastructure services. An adequate provision removes any constraint in the growth of any sector, including agriculture, manufacturing industries, extractive industries, or the tertiary sector. Eventually, the rise of these sectors is the principal aim for the future of a country.
The paper takes the reader by surprise. When the world expected urban acceleration in India, the country witnessed a unique situation. Urbanization surged at a slow rate while the non-agricultural sectors grew exponentially.
The authors break down the reasons why the formulation of urban policies did not receive adequate attention in India. At the same time, they put forth an optimistic view of the prospects of city management for the country. It helps to identify the areas where urban policies were in dire need of upgrading at a time when a major population on Earth was becoming “urban.”