Urbanisation as an Opportunity

Hardeep S Puri
Urbanisation is universally acknowledged as a challenge confronting Governments across the world in differing forms and magnitude. By 2050, the UN estimates that India will have experienced the highest urbanisation, with its urban population expected to almost double to about 877 million. Already, India’s urban areas contribute more than 60% to the National GDP, and this figure is expected to reach 70% by 2030.
There is no one model of urbanisation for cities to follow. Every country has to adopt the best option keeping in view its own demographics, culture and socio-economic factors. The challenges posed by urbanisation will be more significant in India given its huge population. However, demographic dividend, a vibrant democracy and strong institutional frameworks provide an exciting opportunity for India to harness the best approach to urbanisation.
Prior to 2014, the urbanisation agenda was a transactional one where schemes were launched in a silo based approach. Added to this was the all imposing role of the Central Government which virtually dictated every aspect of the scheme. Thus, while the schemes were to be ultimately implemented at the urban local body levels, every project was appraised and approved in the Central Urban Development Ministry. That skewed approach showed in the abysmal outcome of the schemes. Just one example would suffice. In ten years, between 2004 and 2014 of the JnNURM scheme for constructing houses only around eight lakh houses were constructed while in the less than six years of the NDA Government under the PMAY(Urban) Mission which was launched in June 2015, 1.13 crore houses have been sanctioned with more than fifty lakh houses completed and delivered. The rest of the houses are at various stages of completion.  
What did this Government do right ? The answer is the spirit of cooperative federalism that has been the essence of the approach to governance of the Modi Government’s policies. In the case of the PMAY(U), the quantum jump in houses sanctioned happened because every project is now appraised and approved at the State Government level and comes to the Central Ministry only for release of Central assistance.
Secondly, instead of a silo based approach, since May 2014, this Government has unleashed the most comprehensive and planned urbanisation programme undertaken anywhere in the world. This comprehensive approach has yielded enormous dividends as seen from the fact that while from 2004 to 2014, the total investment in urban development schemes was only Rs. 1.57 lakh crores, in only the last six years (2015-2021), this Government, under the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister, has had investments of Rs. 11.83 lakh crore - a seven-fold increase.
The urbanisation agenda of this Government is driven with the ‘farthest first’ principle. Within each of the flagship missions of the Urban Affairs Ministry are critical social and gender objectives embedded in such a way that it does not result in merely the construction of a house. Rather, each PMAY house is a symbol of gender empowerment, as the title of the house has to be in the name of the female member of the household or jointly with her.
(To be contd)