Thursday, 30 November 2017

Rotary and Human Development

Dr.  Devendra Kothari PhD[1]
Population and Development Analyst

Forum for population Action

On factors holding India back, my biggest disappointment is the low level of human development.
Bill Gates,
Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Times of India, November, 2017

The post explore the role of Rotary movement in India in the post Plus-Polio era.

In recent years, income inequality has become a serious issue in the socioeconomic development of the country. India is second most unequal country in the world and it has increased over time, as noted by the Nobel Laureate Thomas Piketty in his recent paper. The average income of an adult in the top 1% is about 70 times the average of the bottom half and 35 times that of the middle 40%. [2] Also, the Human Development Report 2016 does not speak very high about India’s achievement in enlarging people’s opportunities and improving their well-being. India ranks 131 among 188 countries when it comes to the Human Development Index. The HDI combines a country’s average achievements in health, education and income.
One of the most important features of inequality is 'low level of human development’, a factor that causes low productivity. Productivity, a measure of the efficiency of the human capital, can be measured by per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  India has become the seventh largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2016, as per IMF but still has a very-very low per capita GDP. The country placed at the 123rd position among the 186 countries. This is perhaps the most visible challenge. On the other hand China’s GDP per capita value in 2016 was more than two and half times that of India.  Now question arises, what Rotary can do in unlocking the human potential?   Last time Rotarians played a catalytic role in eradicating the physical disability caused to children under age 05 by the disease of polio. [3] Now they have to take care of the school going children of 6-14 years inflicted by the “disability” of poverty, inequality and incompetence. This “disability” can be addressed by focusing on Human Development.

Central to Human Development approach is the concept of capabilities. Basic capabilities valued by virtually everyone include: good health, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. Other capabilities central to a fulfilling life could include the ability to participate in the decisions that affect one’s life, and to have control over one’s living environment. HD is, therefore, about the real freedom ordinary people have to decide who to be, what to do, and how to live. HD based  strategies have been used as a weapon to empower people in many developing countries; these have proven to be quite effective, as has been seen in East Asian Tiger economies and lately in China.

The definition of HD as “enlarging people's choices'' is very broad encompassing many issues. One has to narrow it down.  To start with, the process of human development in India must focus on improving the quality of school education; strengthening WASH factors (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), enhancing primary health; reducing gender gap; and most importantly stabilizing the population by reducing incidence of unwanted child bearing and infant mortality.

This calls on policy makers to promote a ‘whole child’ approach - that is child and his /her family to human development interventions. We, therefore, propose a framework – HDPlus - to unlock the human potential. The focus will be on all government school-going-children aged 6-14 and their families. They will be provided all the selected human development inputs, if needed. Additional inputs could be added looking to the needs of the people/area so this framework is being titled as “HDPlus”. It will be implemented by the government agencies in collaboration with other civil organizations like PulsePolio campaign in the 1990s and 2000s. [4]  Further, the focus of the various government schemes like Swachh Bharat, Skill India, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya Yojna, etc. will be on the families of Government-school- going- children.

The framework focuses on children from the government elementary schools (primary and upper primary).  Now question arises why government schools are being selected to start with? The Indian government lays emphasis on elementary education involving children aged 6 to 14 years old. 80% of all recognized schools at the elementary level are government run or supported, making it the largest provider of education in the country. Further, even if some people have lost hope in government schools, the fact remains that they are catering mainly students coming from the poor families and they are present each and every corner of the country; and as such, they are very important link in our efforts to unlock human potential.

Though private schools are surging ahead if we see recent record books, the excellence of government schools over the years cannot be overlooked. The sudden fall of a section of these schools is a cause of worry, as they are the only hope for a large chunk of poor students who cannot afford to go to private schools. In leading private schools, while the primary focus is being laid on inculcating reading and writing habits, with weight age on co-curricular activities, many government schools are yet to take up these key areas earnestly. Along with academics, the prospect of all-round development is something which attracts parents, in this era where only smart kids are perceived to stand apart.[5]

Here, the Rotary movement has a very crucial role to play as catalyst to motivate policy makers and public at large as how to forge ahead on HD agenda as it did in case of polio eradication. And the PulsPolio could be our guiding strategy to unlock the human potential.

With a population of 1320 million, destined to overtake China before 2020, India has become a noisy, crowded nursery in a graying world. Around 70 percent (that is about 900 million) of its population is under the age of thirty-five. The main concern today, therefore, is the impairment of human potential, which is not allowing India to reap its rich demographic dividend. In their recent paper Bill Gates and Ratan Tata noted that “Human capital is one of India’s greatest assets. Yet, the world’s fastest growing economy hasn’t touched millions of Indian citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. It means India must invest in the Human Development.  

To start with, the proposed framework could be implemented in few RI districts on pilot basis before covering up the entire country like PulsePolio. Media must be used extensively to propagate the HDPlus framework. A number of press conferences could be arranged before contacting the state and central governments as well as    corporate sectors.

Rotary clubs must be encouraged to take field projects, based on the Rotary HDPlus framework, to provide HD services in the field on pilot basis by joining hands with corporate sector/NGO/government.

Since this will be a long-term project, a high level committee could be constituted to manage the project at the India level as well as to work out the details of interventions and modes operandi.

If the “Rotary HDPlus” project gets success like PolioPlus, then it would a great achievement for the human cause and in turn for the world too. It will also help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of United Nations, which is one of the focus areas of the Rotary Foundation.

[1]The post was shared with the District Governor, Maullin Patel, Rotary International District 3054 and other senior Rotarians on October 28, 2017 at the Rotary Bhawan, Jaipur. The author is RID 3054 District Chairman, Human Resources Development

[2] Lucas Chancel and Thomas Pikett. 2017.  ‘Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?’  WID, World Working Paper Series No. 2017/11, World Inequality Lab, Paris School of Economics.

[3] Pulse Polio was an immunization campaign initiated by the Rotary International and carried out by the Government of India to eliminate polio in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five years against the polio virus.

[4] PulsePolio” was an immunization campaign initiated by the Rotary International and carried out by the Government of India to eliminate polio in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five years against the polio virus.

[5] Kothari, Devendra. 2017. “Managing school education in India”, in Administrative Change, Vol. XLIV No. 2, pages 78-89. Also see: Kothari, Devendra. 2016.  School Education in India needs intensive care, not a quick fix – Working Paper, Rajasthan Adult Education Association, Jaipur

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Population growth and terrorism in Pakistan

Dr. Devendra K. Kothari
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for Population Action

The provisional results of the 2017 Pakistan Census were released on 25 August 2017. According to the results, the total population in Pakistan was 207,774,520, representing a 57% increase in 19 years. The provisional results exclude data from Gilgit-Baltisan and Azad Kashmir which is likely to be included in the final report in 2018.  It appears that the released numbers are under estimated. Pakistan's population should be at least 25 crore. It seems that Pakistan's population is purposely being under reported. The Sind Government has already protested. 

India population from 1998 to 2017 grew by 30%. Pakistan's population has grown by 57% during same period, around double than India. Currently, population of India is growing 1.1% per annum. 

The Pakistani census results indicate an average annual growth of 2.4% since 1998, when the total population was put at 13.2 crore. Yes, it is a significant growth rate and has several implications for the wellbeing of the World at large with special reference to South Asia. 

South Asia or the Indian sub-continent comprises of seven countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The population of South Asia is about 184 crore in 2017 or about one fourth of the world's population, making it both the most populous and most densely populated geographical region in the world. India is the largest and the most populous country with a population of 132 crore people. Pakistan is the second most populous country in the region with population around 21 crore and ranks the fifth in the World after China, India, USA and Indonesia with the one of the highest population growth not only in South Asia but in the world. Overall, it accounts for about 12% of south Asia's population (or over 2.8% of the world's population) and 97 per cent of its population is Muslim with low literacy rate. Pakistan is one of poorest countries in the region with 6th GDP per capita in the region followed by Nepal. 

Pakistan is a federation that comprises four provinces: Punjab, Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sind, and Baluchistan; and four union territories including Gilgit-Baltisan and Azad Kashmir. The Census results reveal an acceleration in the population growth rate of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) known for the terrorism activities, even as growth in Punjab and Sind has slowed compared to previous results. 

The results show that 3.1 crore people reside in KP, 50 lac in Fata, 4.8 crore in Sind, 1.3 crore in Baluchistan, while Punjab — the largest province in terms of population — houses 11.1 crore people.

Baluchistan, the least urbanized of Pakistan's provinces, has experienced the fastest average annual growth rate since 1998 of 3.4%. Punjab's average annual growth rate remained the slowest at 2.1%, slightly below the national average of 2.4 %.

The concentration of high population growth in the poorest and tribal regions of Pakistan presents its own set of challenges, “making it more difficult to eradicate poverty and inequality, to combat hunger and malnutrition, and to expand educational enrolment and health systems, all of which are crucial to the success of the new sustainable development agenda,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the UN Population Division.

It will also help to expedite the growth of terrorism. One has to remember that these areas are   known as a terrorist hotbed. A fundamental problem in social and political sciences is how to explain the root causes of terrorism. The vast literature has analyzed several determinants of terrorism. However, the precise role of demographic factors for the origin and evolution of terrorism in specific geo-economic areas is hardly known. Results here show that population growth of Pakistan seems to be basic for the source and evolution of terrorism. It is observed that   terrorism thrives in specific cultural zones with high growth rates of population combined with collective identity factors and low socioeconomic development as in the Middle East, according to the Prof. Mario Coccia of Arizona State University, USA. I also believe that the high growth rates of population in Pakistan, combined with acute environmental and socioeconomic stressors, can lead to cultural deviance, frustration and anger of individuals, and terrorism at large scale as happened in the Middle East. 

The galloping population growth will pose very serious problem for its survival. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” said President Trump while outlining his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Trump had harsh words for US ally Pakistan, saying Washington could "no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations."

People in Pakistan are also worried about population growth. One of my friends said: “Control this population growth in our Pakistan before it's too late.”   “Over population and overload of Chinese debt - what a future awaits our children”, remarked another. General feeling is that “Pakistan can’t sustain this kind of population growth - we need strong policies to ensure there is no further growth – two or even child policy?”  In short, time has come to seriously address the issue of population explosion, it's eating resources and Pakistan cannot cope with it. 

Bangladesh is a good example; look at its growth rate versus Pakistan. In 1971, population of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was 7.5 crore and the West Pakistan was 6.5 crore. 46 years later population of Bangladesh is 16.7 crore and that of Pakistan grew to 20.8 crore Bangladesh controlled its population through family planning, expanding women education and empowerment, rapid growth in public health facilities, etc. Pakistan really needs to work on to control its population at a sustainable level.

Time for Pakistan is to revisit its population policy and to revise implementation strategy for family planning programme. Failure to control population means failure in improving health, education and other social sectors as well as managing the spread of terrorism. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Managing Urban India (V) (Need for rethinking about urban governance)

Dr. Devendra K. Kothari
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for Population Action


To boost economy as well as human development, Modi government must invest resources in urbanization where they are really needed. 


 “The Prime Minister Modi said revamping urban governance should be at the core of the vision of the Ministry of Urban Development while chairing a high-level meeting on urban development issues,” a statement released by PMO.

In spite of constitutional amendments to empower urban local bodies, India's cities continue to reel under poor basic services, poor planning and lack of funds. Most of these are the spinoff or by-product of the poor governance. How can we revamp the urban governance system? 

Answer is: It is time to think local. While there are multiple reasons for India’s urban woes, one of the underlying problems is the absence of powerful and politically accountable leadership in the city. Our cities have a weak and fragmented institutional architecture in which multiple agencies with different bosses pull the strings of city administration. Understandably, the most touted urban governance reform is that of having a directly elected Mayor/Chairman. Recent reports indicate that Prime Minister is keen on this reform and has asked the Urban Development Ministry to consider ways of introducing it. [1]

It is almost 25 years since the 74th constitutional amendment mandated setting up of municipalities as institutions of self-government. But the spirit underpinning the amendment has been ignored by states even as they ask for decentralization and more powers from the Centre. Now rethinking is urgently needed.  It is because projections indicate that urban population will increase by another 200 million in the next 15 years, change cannot be postponed.

Nandan Nilekini, co-founder of and former CEO of Infosys,  is absolutely right in making a case for empowering the mayors and chairpersons of cities to deliver services and for effective crisis management.“Indian cities have been passive and subordinate to the state governments. The bulk of city taxes are collected by the state and central governments and administration is dominated by state-run agencies. The power of city administrations has been deliberately hollowed out since independence, as state governments superseded city authority and co-opted its power”. [2]

In other words, states have been reluctant to cede powers of taxation and control over their cities. The possibility of competition from the grass roots has made state political parties wary of an 'hour glass' effect, of being squeezed in the middle between a strong Centre and powerful cities. And no state chief minister wants to let go of the money and patronage that comes from controlling urban land, argues Nilekini. 

Urban governance reforms must be based on the principle of accountability. It is time to narrow accountability to a single office such as an elected mayor, as successful cities across the world do. For responsive urban governance, we need a powerful political executive in the city with more autonomy, whether directly or indirectly elected. The mayor should be the executive head of a city, equipped with sufficient legal powers and financial resources to get things done. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill to get balkanised urban governance system to function as a coherent body with appropriate legislative backing. But this should be done by states without any prompting, as noted by the TOI editorial.[3]
For local bodies to be able to function better, funds, functions and functionaries have to be devolved to them, municipal cadres have to be restructured and strengthened and the role of city officials   needs to be redefined clarifying their accountability to the elected system. The immediate ingredients of a revamped urban governance system could be:[4]         

  • Empowering the mayors/chairpersons, making them accountable to the people;
  • Enabling the city bodies to raise more resources;
  • Meaningful devolution;
  • Strengthened capacities of local bodies so that they can perform better in line with the aspirations and requirements of today’s urban dwellers; and
  • Evolving mechanisms whereby the citizen is in a position to actively and effectively participate in the urban governance process.

The foregoing discussion strongly argues that without local governments that answer directly to its civic citizens, it will be difficult to manage urban issues. India’s urban nightmare can be ended with legislative changes and capacity building. In this respect, vesting the executive powers of the Municipal Corporation and/municipality with the Mayor/Chairman would be a very positive move. Do we have the political will required to undertake this critical task?

Discussion and conclusion:
Prime Minister Modi has made a lucid and compelling case for why the government should focus and invest in urbanization while launching flagship program Smart Cities Mission in 2015. While launching 14 smart city projects in Pune in 2017, he said: “People in the economic field consider cities as a growth centre.... If anything has the potential to mitigate poverty it is our cities”. His argument should now be taken to its logical conclusion with a strategic move to empower the urban centres, as noted in this paper. 

In their recent paper, Massimiliano Calì and Carlow Menon, examined the extent to which the growth in urban areas reduced poverty in surrounding rural areas in India. [5]  Using a large sample of Indian districts, they find that urbanization has a substantial and systematic poverty-reducing effect in the rural areas.

The focus on urbanization, therefore, is particularly relevant, as it is the country with the largest number of poor especially in rural areas. There is an urgent need to increase the pace of migration from rural areas, since over 58 per cent of the rural households or around 50 percent of total labour force in India depends on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood. However, as per estimates by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), GOI, the share of agriculture and allied sectors (agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery) was 15.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2015–16 at 2011–12 prices. It means per capita GDP or productivity of labour force engaged in agriculture is very low. Since non-agricultural sectors will drive most of India’s future growth, three is an urgent need to shift access labour force from agriculture to non-agriculture activities. As such, India has to invest heavily in manufacturing and service sectors, which encouraged farmers/rural people to move to more productive jobs. So far, India has encouraged rural people to stay home by subsidizing rural incomes through programs like:  NAREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), Food Security Bill, etc.

India and China are both urbanizing rapidly, but China has embraced and shaped the process, while India is still waking up to its urban realities and opportunities, as per a study by the McKinsey Global Institute. [6]  According to the findings, in 1950, India was a more urban nation than China (17 percent of the population lived in cities, compared with China’s 13 percent). But from 1950 to 2015, China urbanized far more rapidly than India, to an urbanization rate of 55.6 percent, compared with 32.7 percent in India; and, this pattern to continue, with China forecast to add 400 million to its urban population, which will account for 64 percent of the total population by 2025, and India to add 215 million to its cities, whose populations will account for 38 percent of the total in 2025.

McKinsey’s Richard Dobbs and Shirish Sankhe noted  that “India has underinvested in its cities; China has invested ahead of demand and given its cities the freedom to raise substantial investment resources by monetizing land assets and retaining a 25 percent share of value-added taxes. While India spends $17 per capita on capital investments in urban infrastructure annually, China spends $116. India has devolved little real power and accountability to its cities, but China’s major cities enjoys the same status as provinces and has powerful political appointees as mayors. While India’s urban-planning system has failed to address competing demands for space, China has a mature urban-planning regime (emphasizing the systematic development of run-down areas) consistent with long-range plans for land use, housing, and transportation”.  [7]

We hope that this paper will help the government in informed decision making and help formulate a stratified urban policy. It is expected to help policy makers in taking forward the newly launched Missions, namely, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Smart Cities Mission, Swatch Bharat Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation in a bid towards building a vibrant and inclusive urban India. We hope that this contributes to a better understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of medium and small sized towns in the national economy, and helps to increase their role in making relevant local contributions to the solution of shared developmental challenges.

In short, to mitigate the strains that will develop as cities expand, and to maximize the potential economic opportunity that well-managed cities can offer, India urgently needs a fresh, proactive approach to addressing the challenges of urbanization India. So India must develop policies to expedite the process of urbanization

[1] Mathew Idiculla. 2016. Should mayors be directly elected?  At¨

[2] Nandan Nilekani. 2008. It's Time To Think Local at

[3] Refer TOI editorial: Cut cities free: India’s urban nightmare can be ended with legislative changes and capacity building at:

[4] Refer article:  Rethinking Urban Governance by M. Ramachandran at:

[5] Refer: Cali, Massimiliano; Menon, Carlo. 2013. Does Urbanization Affect Rural Poverty? Evidence from Indian Districts. Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank. © World Bank. License: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 IGO.

[6] For details, see: India's urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth, A Report - McKinsey Global Institute - 2010.

[7] Richard Dobbs and. Shirish Sankhe.  2010. Comparing urbanization in China and India, the McKinsey Global Institute. A version of this article appeared in the Financial Times on May 18, 2010. Also see at:

Monday, 21 August 2017

Managing Urban India (IV): Urban Challenges and Smart City Project

Dr. Devendra K. Kothari
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for Population Action

Although India is one of the less urbanized countries of the world with only 32 per cent of her population living in urban areas, this country is facing a serious crisis of urban growth can concentration at the present time. Whereas urbanization has been an instrument of economic, social and political progress, it has led to serious socio-economic problems in India.

The sheer magnitude of the urban population, haphazard and unplanned growth of urban areas, and a desperate lack of infrastructure are the main causes of such a situation. Almost all major cities in India are facing serious problems of slum clearance, housing, inadequate civic amenities for a fast growing population, absence of efficient public transport system, the growing insecurity in the cities and so on. Problems will become more acute and may go beyond repair if immediate steps are not taken to solve at least some of these problems. Some major challenges faced by emerging urbanization in India are:

Urban sprawl: In the past two decades, Indian cities have grown tremendously—not only in population, but in geographic size. For instance, Delhi’s urban area has almost doubled in the last 20 years. This has led to an increase in average trip length from 8.5 kms to 10.4 kms, and this commuting distance is projected to increase further in the coming years. Sprawling cities and reliance on automobiles have contributed to traffic congestion, air pollution, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and poor public health. Ensuring that India’s cities of the future are both livable and sustainable requires that decision-makers find ways to shorten commuting distances and decrease urbanites’ reliance on automobiles. Developing new urban planning is a need of hour.


Slums and squatter settlements: During 2001-11, around 20 million rural people migrated to cities/towns as compared to 14 million during the previous decade. The greatest pressure of the immigrating population has been felt in the slums of the city where the immigrants flock to their relatives and friends before they search for housing. The census defines a slum as "residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation" because they are dilapidated, cramped, poorly ventilated, unclean, or "any combination of these factors which are detrimental to the safety and health".

Over 65 million or 17 per cent of urban population live in ‘identified’ slums in 2011, up from 52 million in 2001.  With over 11 million of its residents in slums, Maharashtra has the highest slum population. Andhra Pradesh follows with over 10 million in slums, and West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have over 6 million slum residents each. Over 1 million of Delhi’s 16 million residents live in ‘identified’ slums.  The proportion of urban residents living in slums may be higher.  State governments are unwilling to admit to their being more slums in their cities because then they will have to provide these slums basic services like water and drainage.

Indian cities abound with slums which have been termed as ‘eyesores’, a ‘rash’ on city landscape, ‘a blot on civilization’ etc. They are much more health hazards for its unfortunate poverty stricken inhabitants and also for the city as a whole. The most shocking aspect is that slums are growing at an accelerated rate, especially in mega cities.

Mumbai with 48.9 per cent of its population consisting of slum dwellers is the worst suffer. Dharavi slum in Central Mumbai is the largest slum of Asia. Here some of the side allays and lanes are so narrow that not even a bicycle can pass. The whole neighborhood consists of tenement buildings, two or three storey high with rusty iron stairways to the upper part, where a single room is rented by a whole family, sometimes twelve or more people. In this place of shadow-less, treeless sunlight, uncontrolled garbage, stagnant pools of foul water, the only non-human creatures are the black crows and long gray rats.[1]

Waste disposal: As Indian cities grow in number and size the problem of waste disposal is assuming alarming proportions. Huge quantities of garbage produced by our cities pose a serious health problem. Most cites do not have proper arrangements for garbage disposal and the existing landfills are full to the brim. These landfills are hotbeds of disease and innumerable poisons leaking into their surroundings. In a city like Bengaluru the solid waste generated daily is estimated to be around 5000 tons. The collection, transportation and disposal of this huge quantity of solid waste are posing serious problems to the municipality. Finding dumping grounds for this waste has become difficult. Dumping this sort of waste has created serious problems of pollution, ill-health and stink to inhabitants even a kilometer away. Recycling the solid waste material and converting much of it into usable products seems to be the only solution.

Sewerage problems: Urban areas in India are almost invariably plagued with insufficient and inefficient sewage facilities. Not a single city in India is fully sewered. Resource crunch faced by the municipalities and unauthorized growth of the cities are two major causes of this pathetic state of affairs. According to latest estimates, only 35-40 per cent of the urban population has the privilege of sewage system. Most of the cities have old sewerage lines which are not looked after properly. Often sewerage lines break down or they are overflowing. 

Water: Sadly, majority of the cities and towns do not get the recommended quantity of water. Gap in demand and supply of water in four metro cities, viz., Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai varies from 10 to 20 per cent. The condition is still worse in small cities and towns.  Even some cities having population more than 100,000 are getting water supply two to three times in a weak. Many towns have no main water supply at all and depend on such sources as individual tube wells, open wells or even rivers. 

To meet the growing demand for water, many cities are trying to tap external sources of water supply. Mumbai draws water from neighboring areas and from sources located as far as 125 km in the Western Ghats. Chennai uses water express trains to meets its growing demand for water. Bangalore is located on the plateau and draws water from Cauvery river at a distance of 100 km. Water for Bangalore has to be lifted about 700 metres with help of lifting pumps.

Public Transport: After housing and waste disposal, another major problem faced by people in urban areas is the lack of adequate public transport. The traffic scenario in almost all the Indian cities presents a pathetic picture with Mumbai still having the best city transport system and Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune being reasonably well served by local transport system. In all other cities, if one does not own a personal vehicle, great hardship is experienced in moving about in the city.

As the cities are growing, distances to be travelled for work and other reasons are increasing. With more than half the population being poor or belonging to low income groups, public transport is a very important facility to be provided in urban areas. Unfortunately, while the richer classes are buying more and more two wheeler and four wheeler automobiles, the average and below average citizen does not have access to adequate and affordable transport facility. As the number of motor vehicles increases, roads get cluttered, pollution increases and it takes longer to reach one’s destination. Pedestrians and slow moving vehicles do not get sympathetic treatment either by the authorities or the other road users.

Only recently local and state governments have woken up to this problem and metro rail systems are being set up at great cost for mass rapid transportation. Calcutta and more recently Delhi have very well managed metro rail systems but they are still not adequate. Mumbai and Chennai have had a long history of local train services but even they are proving inadequate with populations in these cities growing rapidly. Cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jaipur, etc.  have just provided elevated metro rail on a limited scale.

Presently people rely mostly on bus transport but their number is not enough nor the roads able to accommodate all the vehicles now in use. There are frequent traffic jams further delaying people from reaching their destinations. The way forward is to restrict severely individual transport and increase manifold public transport both by road and rail. Public transport must be made much more efficient, regular, punctual, attractive and adequate. Then the need for individual transports will go down and the state would be able to put severe restrictions on use of individual transport as is being done in Singapore.

Moreover, mixture of vehicles causes uncontrollable chaos on the roads. Free movement of stray cattle and domestic animals on the roads adds to traffic problems and often cause accidents. Heavy traffic and congestion leads to slow movement of traffic, fuel wastage environmental pollution and loss of precious time.

In short, almost all major cities in India are facing serious problems of slum clearance, housing, inadequate civic amenities for a fast growing population, absence of efficient public transport system, the growing insecurity in the cities and so on. Problems will become more acute and may go beyond repair if immediate steps are not taken to solve at least some of these problems. Meanwhile the forecast is that half the country’s population will be living in urban areas in another two to three decades. So policy measures are needed to resolve the existing problems.

Policy actions initiated to mitigate urban challenges:
Making a strong pitch to consider urbanization as an opportunity and not as a problem, GOI launched two major schemes in 2015—Smart Cities mission, and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).

The AMRUT, which replaces the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), focuses of the urban renewal projects to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation.

Another important scheme is the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The first question is what is meant by a ‘smart city’. The answer is: there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. It means different things to different people. In the approach of SCM, the objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities.

The Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with a mission to develop 100 cities by 2022 (the target has been revised to 109 cities) and these are being selected on the basis of a city challenge competition. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supplies, efficient public transport, internet connectivity, and e-governance along with quality infrastructure. Under the smart city programme, each city will be given Rs 500 crore by the Centre over five years. The states will have to make a matching contribution.

The Smart Cities Mission, a flagship programme for urban India, has been presented as a participatory and inclusive development programme aimed at enhancing the lives and livelihoods of citizens. This emphasis on participation and economic growth in the structure of the Mission has been extraordinary and could lead to fundamental changes in urban governance. In reality, however, participation has been uneven and the structures upholding the Mission, ambiguous. These issues have led to several kinds of resistance to the Mission — ranging from requests for amendments to the city proposals to a rejection of the Mission itself — from both citizens and the polity.

While the Smart Cities Mission has been functioning for over a year, it has been critiqued on numerous occasions, most recently by the Brookings India Institute and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), with repeated assertions that the idea of smart cities has originated in countries whose socio-economic track records are significantly better than India’s. [2]  These reports have argued that the notion of urban regeneration through the creation of smart cities needs to be better theorized within the Indian context to allow for more appropriate forms of urban improvement with a higher potential of effective implementation.

One of the primary concerns has been the creation of a company, called a Special Planning Vehicle (SPV), in each selected city to operationalise the Mission at the local level. The constitution and powers of the SPV are fraught with ambiguity and several municipal bodies have been wary about engaging with an entity whose functions seem to overlap with their own.

One of the main reasons for the apathy of urban local bodies of some cities pertains to the Special Purpose Vehicle, which is to be mandatorily constituted for the implementation of their respective Smart City Plans. SPVs with private investments have been increasingly encouraged as an efficient mechanism for infrastructure projects. This would be ideally seen as an attractive option for urban local bodies struggling to meet investment requirement. Then why have these local bodies been so disapproving of the smart city SPVs?

According to media reports, the local bodies of Navi Mumbai, Pune, Kochi and Nashik have indicated that the essence of ‘local self-governance’ will be defeated with specific focus on private sector driven SPVs. Successful implementation of smart city solutions needs effective horizontal and vertical coordination between various institutions providing various municipal amenities as well as effective coordination between central government, state government and local government agencies on various issues related to financing and sharing of best practices and service delivery processes.

In Pune, for instance, the local municipal cooperators and politicians fear a loss of autonomy of the municipality and have demanded greater representation in the board of the SPV. While these discussions could slow the pace of the Mission, they may also lead to the construction of a more regulated and accountable body as an outcome of resistance from the local polity. The Brookings India report also flagged that clarity regarding the functions and role of the SPV in the long-term would be critical for the Mission.[3]

Second, the quality of citizen engagement in the Mission has also come under criticism. The cities relied heavily on social media and telecom to reach out to citizens, which was problematic because this strategy presupposed a certain level of literacy and access to technology. The citizen resentment to the Mission in Bhopal and Dehradun resulted in a rejection of the city proposals. Citizens in Bhopal stated that they had not been consulted regarding the changes in Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar and protested against the eviction notices sent to them.
Further, the much-touted project is courting fire from citizens for want of schemes that can actually make a difference to their lives.  For example, in recently held 

the meeting of Smart  Ajmer city Ltd  (ASCL) in April, 2017, citizens argued that while the project has no place for sewerage, drainage and traffic management  systems, highly 'impractical' schemes such as sharing cycles, building Anasagar pathway, a cultural park at Subhash Bagh and painting posh areas of the city figured prominently.[4]

One of the significant resistances to the mission has come from West Bengal, where the state government has decided to opt out of competition and not submit proposals for any other city. The state government, pending a formal communication to the central government has put forth serious disagreements over the financing pattern and the area-based focus of the Mission.

The implications of the resistance are varied and need to be viewed in a constructive manner. The absence of grievance architecture could result in further resistance or worse, the creation of spatially and economically polarized cities which conflict with the very ideology of the Mission.

Lastly, the selection of big cities   is not going to achieve the objectives of the Mission.  First 20 cities selected under SCM, 16 are having population one million or more in 2011.[5]  Some important selected million cities are: Chennai (8.6 million), Ahmadabad, (6.3 million), Pune (5.1 million), Surat, (4.6 million) Jaipur (3.1 million), Kochi (2.1 million), Indore (2.1million), and Bhopal (2.0 million). And in such large cities, already having wasted interests, it would be difficult to achieve the objectives of the Mission to make cities vibrant and livable.

Infrastructure investments in small-sized cities can be cost-effective. The concentration of population and enterprises in urban areas greatly reduces the unit cost of piped water, sewers, drains, roads, electricity, garbage collection, transport, healthcare and schools. However, the cost-effectiveness of such investments is reduced when they are made too late. For instance, when informal settlements or slums are allowed to proliferate, it becomes more difficult and more expensive to install infrastructure and services because no prior provision has been made for the settlement’s development. Moreover, population densities and the spatial configuration of slums often do not allow for the subsequent development of roads, sewerage systems and other facilities that are easy to install in less dense and better-planned localities. Moreover, due to relatively less political interferences, it will be easy to expand job opportunities and that will facilitate rural-urban migration. I, therefore, believe that concept of developing smart cities is good but the selected cities should not have population more than 200,000 each or even less.

The Mckinsey report on urbanization entitled “India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth” predicts that 590 million people will live in cities of India by 2030. To accommodate this explosive growth, India would need at least 20-30 new smart cities.

The concluding post discusses: Need for rethinking about urban governance. 


[1] Refer article by Smriti Chand at:

[2] Refer article:To succeed, citizens must have more say in the Smart Cities Mission by Persis Taraporevala and Bhanu Joshi at: Also see article: The top 10 implementation challenges for smart cities in India by Pratap Padode at



[4] Refer news item: Citizens train guns on smart city schemes, at:

[5] These cities are: 1 Bhubaneswar, 2 Pune, 3 Jaipur, 4 Surat, 5 Kochi, 6 Ahmadabad, 7 Jabalpur, 8 Visakhapatnam, 9 Solapur, 10 Davangere, 11 Indore, 12 New Delhi Municipal Corporation, 13 Coimbatore, 14 Kakinada, 15 Belagavi, 16 Udaipur,17 Guwahati, 18 Chennai, 19 Ludhiana, and 20 Bhopal.