Transforming India's Cities and Villages

Amit Chanda

One of the two pressing issues of our times that is impacting and shall impact our lives in great ways is the Urbanization, the other of course being the climate change. However the two are also interrelated in many ways; for instance, poorly planned and governed cities contributes to greater carbon footprintswhile impact of climate changes like droughts etcare forcing people to migrate people from the place of their origin.

Talking about Urbanization, it refers to population shift from rural to urban residency, the gradual increase in the proportion of people living in urban areas and the ways each society adapts to this change. A recent study by Oxford Economics reveals that the 10-fastest growing cities in the world in the next two decades will all be from India. But the moot question, however, remains – are we prepared enough to efficiently manage this tectonic shift of population?
People from rural India are migrating to cities at an unprecedented pace, primarily in search of better opportunities – health, education, employment, etc. Also propelling the migration is unremunerative returns from agriculture – the main anchor of rural economy. It is therefore highly imperative that the Government provides maximum thrust in urban planning so as to effectively manage this large influx of migration from rural to urban India.
The areas which require immediate attention in this regard inter-alia includes:- (a) providing affordable houses to all those migrating to the cities inasmuch as otherwise it would only lead to proliferation of urban slums. (b) inasmuch as majority of the migrating population are unskilled, it is imperative on the part of government to equip them with some kind of skills so that they can take up some kind of jobs , for instance in the manufacturing sector (C) inasmuch as issues like water supply, waste management, cleanliness, public conveniences, etc  that directly impacts the day to day lives of residents are dealt by the municipalities, it is imperative that the local governance should be strengthened and at the same time held accountable to deliver these basic goods effectively.  Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart City Mission, National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), PradhanMantriAwasYojana(PMAY), improving ease of doing business, et al are some of the steps taken by the government to meet the challenges of rapid urbanization; however effective implemention of these scheme in mission mode is the key.

However, the focus should not entirely be on improving the infrastructure and living standards of the big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, but the focus should, at the same time, while focusing on these urban centers, be on sub-urban areas –i.e. the towns surrounding or in proximity to these big cities. Government should focus on developing the infrastructure and other facilities of these suburbs lest all people migrate to the big cities. Again, these suburb centers, however, must be well connected with the main big cities through metros, trains, buses, etc.

Lastly, it is also imperative to arrest the pace of migration, if not try to stop it altogether by improving the quality of lives in rural areas – creating employment opportunities in rural India by setting up factories, making agriculture once again remunerative; setting up institution of excellence like IITs, AIIMS; improving rural connectivity and so on and so forth. National Rurban Missionis a step in this direction. "The soul of India lives in its villages", declared Gandhiji. It is, therefore, high time now that we must realize his dream of "Gram swaraj" by making Indian villages self-sustainable, while, simultaneously, transforming our cities.

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