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Mains Test Series

Issues relating to poverty and hunger

Q. Urbanization is not synonymous with development. Discuss in the context of Inequalities in the Urban Landscape in India.

Introduction:

Urbanisation is the process of transformation of a rural way of life into urban civilisation through development, migration, or change in economic activities. India is rapidly urbanising, and about 50% of the population is estimated to live in cities by 2050.

Urbanisation not synonymous with development:

  1. Lack of basic amenities: Often, basic infrastructure like clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, etc., are absent from such areas, denying decent living conditions to masses and sudden outbreaks of diseases, which can pose a bigger threat to surrounding areas.
  2. Slums: A shortage of land to cater to the increased demand due to immigration from rural areas has led to the development of slums.
  3. Community costs: Urban sprawl diminishes the local characteristics of the community. Small businesses often get hidden by the visual noise of larger stores.
  4. Pockets of development: Development by private entities is generally limited to gated communities, putting the larger population in peril. For instance, water logging in Gurgaon.
  5. Dwelling crises: due to heavy inflation in the urban housing market, lowering the standard of living.
  6. Environmental Degradation: The growth of urban areas can lead to environmental degradation, including air pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. This can have negative impacts on both the environment and human health.
  7. Heat Island: Urban areas are associated with a concentrated pocket of heat that affects the local environment and infrastructure, straining power grids, melting roads, etc.

Inequalities in the Urban Landscape in India:

  1. Gated communities: Urbanisation has led to the development of gated communities, where only certain people, usually wealthy, have access, leading to exacerbated social differences and inequality.
  2. Ghettoisation: urbanisation has led to the formation of ghettos or segregated neighbourhoods based on race, religion, and caste. For Example, Dharavi in Mumbai has a higher proportion of people from so-called “lower castes” and Muslims than the rest of the city.
  3. Social discrimination: People from certain castes, religious identities, ethnic groups, etc., may face discrimination in housing, employment, and access to public services.
  4. Social unrest and crime: Rapid urbanisation has also increased crime and social unrest.

Urbanisation – as a path to development

  1. Better Health and Education: Cities have better infrastructure and, therefore, a better standard of life. These are the markers of development.
  2. Better Governance: In cities, public offices are within easy reach, and the government is more responsive.
  3. Efficiency in transport and Economy: Cities make supply chain linkages easier. Cities are the essential need of a functional economic system.
  4. Dilution of Discriminatory Identities: The caste and racial identities are diluted in the urban rush. Therefore, cities dilute discriminatory identities.

Conclusion:

Urbanisation is central to India’s Economy. For India to become a global player, urban India needs to take a giant leap, with Indian cities being well prepared to deal with current challenges and a competitive future. 

However, several bottlenecks and impediments, such as lack of basic infrastructure, traffic, air and water pollution, etc., have been restricting urban planning capacity in the country. India has thus taken up this challenge through various schemes such as AMRUT, Smart City Mission, HRIDAY scheme, etc.

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