India’s rate of urbanisation is about 35 per cent, while the global average is close to 56 per cent. Another way to look at it is to understand the global variations associated with urbanisation — what triggered urbanisation in a particular country and at what point in time?

For instance, urbanisation in Europe is closely linked to the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, a process that began in the United Kingdom and later got replicated in Europe and the world. Yet another way at our disposal is to understand what happens once we start getting urbanised — namely, how do we start planning and governing our cities for its people?


What is urbanisation?

  • Urbanisation is a dynamic force that is driven by many factors that positively impact the development of a region — employment opportunities, better availability of resources, increased aspirations and a desire for ease of living.
  • All these factors hugely depend on the efficiency of the governance systems in that region. These governance systems need to be understood from dual perspectives — the kind of administrative structure that is developed in that city and the kind of services that are facilitated through that administration.
  • These perspectives become all the more essential when we look at extended urbanisation — suburbanisation and peri-urbanisation. This ranges from managing transportation (how many buses should be available per 10,000 people) to strengthening the local bodies to providing proper access to inclusive fiscal services (through urban cooperative banks) and health services (through urban health centres).
  • In more recent times, the level of efficiency in the governance structure has also played an essential role in stopping the spread of infectious diseases.


What are the issues to be focused upon?

  • Additionally, as the boundaries of the idea of urbanisation are expanding , there needs to be a concentrated focus on equipping urban governance systems.
  • As different kinds of urban centres are emerging — suburbs, cities and towns — the urban peripheries are altering.
  • While this expansion can be seen as a positive occurrence for the pace of urbanisation, if it remains unregulated, the developmental advantages are going to be unevenly distributed. Managing and monitoring this uneven spread require a robust governance system in the sector.
  • In India, we see many such clusters of densely populated centres caught between rural and urban areas — commonly called peri-urban areas (PUA) — that are going through a transformation in terms of increasing migration but remain largely isolated from the core urban centres. These areas emerge in the form of unauthorised settlement colonies, census towns, hamlets or even slums.
  • Urbanisation globally has been a lateral spread rather than a uniform expansion, making it difficult to leverage cities for growth and shared prosperity. In India, the pace at which cities are expanding has been a result of the overflowing population.


Ambiguities regarding definition

  • In India there is still ambiguity over how urban is defined. Here, we have to depend on our legislation related to grassroots governance. State-by-state variations in the demographic and other factors determining the type of municipality founded are significant.
  • For instance, according to the 74th Amendment Act (1992), there are three different types of municipalities: Nagar panchayats for rural to urban transitional areas, municipal councils for smaller urban areas, and municipal corporations for larger metropolitan areas.
  • With the constitution of nagar panchayats, the PUAs received recognition. However, these continue to grapple with issues of inefficiency, poor funding and general aloofness from the idea of welfare governance.


Way forward

  • Expanding population coupled with a scarcity of land in metro cities, it leaves immense pressure on the PUAs to absorb the population as well as meet their expectations of jobs and general ease of living.
  • In the background of relatively weaker governance systems in these areas, there is a need to reformulate urban policies that are centred on PUAs in order to facilitate a sustainable expansion of cities and the development of these areas.
  • This will only be driven if we acknowledge that governance approaches need to be embedded in the urbanisation discourse to ascertain the pace of urbanisation and the way it is done.


SourceBusiness Standard


QUESTION – Expanding population coupled with a scarcity of land in metro cities has given a rise to new problem of inefficient urbanisation in peri-urban areas. Discuss the issue in brief and suggest a way forward.