National Urban Policy is the need of the hour as India is in the midst of a major urbanisation boom. With increased opportunities, urbanisation also poses various challenges to our country.
Statistical data –
- As per Census 2011, 377 million Indians comprising 31.1% of the total population lived in urban areas. This is estimated to have risen to 420 million in 2015 (UN-Habitat “World Cities Report 2016”).
- Going ahead, by 2030, India’s urban population is projected to increase to 600 million.
Indian cities face challenges in terms of deficits in infrastructure, governance and sustainability. With rapid urbanisation, these problems are going to aggravate, and can cumulatively pose a challenge to India’s growth trajectory.
Government response –
- Keeping in mind the above challenges, the government launched the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). The mission lays emphasis on creating infrastructure, improving service delivery, making cities smarter for improved livelihood and providing for faster and integrated mobility.
- Government envisages convergence across various initiatives such as AMRUT, Smart Cities, Hriday (National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Swachh Bharat.
- For 2018-19, the government increased the budget for the housing and urban affairs ministry by 2.8%, to Rs 41,765 crore.
- The centre has also formulated separate policies for urban sanitation, transport, transit-oriented development and also a national mission on sustainable habitat, each with a specific mandate and vision.
Need for a National Urban Policy –
- There is an urgent requirement of a comprehensive framework that takes a holistic approach to the interrelated challenges that have an impact on the growth of cities. Sustainable urban development needs to be led by the central government working closely with state and local governments.
- To address this, India needs to develop its own national urban policy (NUP) as an instrument for applying a coherent set of interventions in relation to the future growth of cities, in partnership with all stakeholders. Globally, around one-third of countries have a NUP in place.
Outline of National Urban Policy –
- First, such a policy will outline and highlight the importance and objectives of cities. We need to update our definition of urban areas, understand the importance of cities and what we can achieve through urbanisation with responsive infrastructure. Once the vision is outlined, this national framework will also highlight the key enablers, cross-cutting principles, desired outputs and eventual outcomes.
- Second, urbanisation in India is a complex issue, with the majority of city-related issues being state subjects. States would have to take the lead in order to make cities vibrant economic centres. However, there is a need to build adequate capacities at the state/urban local bodies level to prepare cities for future challenges. The NUP would set the common minimum agenda, involving participation of all stakeholders.
- Third, the world of the 21st century is substantially more complex than the traditional urban world of the 20th century when citizens, government and civil society were, to a large extent, the only stakeholders. The present urban scenario has new stakeholders who are more connected than ever. A NUP framework would recognise all the stakeholders and prevent cities from seeing through such participants. Once their presence is acknowledged, states and cities would be better placed to develop the right processes and systems to utilise the potential of these stakeholders.
A NUP will provide a framework for states, which would be encouraged and nudged to adopt a state version of this policy. This should have network effects that would change and define the paradigm of urban development in 21st century India.
Question: “With a major urbanisation boom, India needs to cautiously plan its direction by adopting a National Urban Policy.” Comment.
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