[Editorial Analysis] Urban Only In Name

Mains Paper 1: Society

Prelims level: Urbanisation

Mains level: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies

Context

• Small towns in India are far removed from cities in character and appearance and are constantly struggling to establish their “urbanness”.

• Every small town in India has its unique story and significance but their problems are similar lack of basic services, dilapidated infrastructure, overcrowded spaces and dwindling job opportunities.

• However, these towns have supermarkets, beauty parlours gymnasiums, private schools and clinics, a variety of fast-food eateries, modern tailoring shops and mobile and electronic stores.

• Such entrepreneurial energy says something about the growing small-town population which desires better services and an improved quality of life.

Initiatives already taken so far

• The UPA government’s urban development programme, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), covered both big cities and small towns but gave financial preference to the former.

• However, the change in government in 2014 led to amendments in urban policy.

• JNNURM was replaced by the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) that focusses on infrastructural development for Class I cities (those with a popu1ation of one lakh and above).

• The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was launched to address our growing fascination with world-class cities that use technology to improve their services.

• The common thread between these urban schemes is that they cater to Class I cities, which already have better access to services.

• For example, as per the 2011 census, 50 to 60 per cent of households in these cities have access to piped sewerage and closed drains.

• One-fourth of the urban population lives in these small towns (20,000 to 1,00,000 population).

• These 7 crore people need amenities to match up to their “urban” status.

• Though they are small in size, many of these small towns have an enormous growth potential.

Way forward

• Yet, mega cities continue to be seen as engines of economic growth and attract large sums of central investments to sustain the weight of their population.

• Many studies have shown that the benefits of small town development can spill over to villages, especially in terms of employment generation.

• The need for a well-spread network of cities to counter the problems of migration.

• The debate between progress and development is not new.

• The development of small towns can make these urban centres fulfill the long-standing demand for a link between rural India and the country’s big cities and towns.

• The growing population in these small towns needs to be backed by adequate investments by the Centre.

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