Urbanisation: India’s Double Edged Sword
The urban exodus has led to a proliferation of slums, inadequate water and sanitation facilities, clogged up traffic and lack of education and healthcare facilities. Most Indian cities score low on the ‘liveability index’.
While the opportunities that rapid urbanisation presents are enormous, the challenges are equally daunting. One cannot rule out the possibility of a long-brewing crisis that could implode given the lack of preparedness of our cities to handle an urban influx. This gives rise to so many questions. Where will the additional people live and work? What kind of settlements can absorb this influx of people? How many new mega cities will emerge and where?
What infrastructure will provide connectivity and mobility for the masses? The choices made on urbanisation today will impact India for the next couple of decades.
Need for Urban Cleansing
India has always under invested in its cities. The urban infrastructure deficit is apparent in every aspect, but more so in transport networks and affordable housing, both of which need vast financial resources. Budgetary allocations for urban infrastructure are miniscule and hence private funds have to be attracted on a large scale.
Indian cities need to be empowered to mobilise their own resources. This would enable them to reduce their reliance on the state and centre whose finances are already constrained. Many cities around the world have the power to levy their own taxes and raise money directly from the markets. With these powers comes accountability to its citizenry.
There are several countries that have made dramatic changes in managing urban growth. China is the most significant example of city transformation in recent times. India can no longer manage urbanisation based on a gradualist, incremental approach. The country needs a thorough urban cleansing – which starts with the need for a change in the mindset. Citizens have to be passionate about the cities they live in. This can be inculcated only if there is a sense of ownership of public goods and civic pride.