Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Urban Only In Nameop-ed snap


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: JNNURM, Smart Cities mission, AMRUT scheme

Mains level: Need of developing small towns to reduce the load on the major cities


The apathy of small towns

  1. Small towns in India are something of an oxymoron
  2. They are far removed from cities in character and appearance and are constantly struggling to establish their “urbanness”
  3. 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

Transformation in lifestyle

  1. These towns have thriving marketplaces with urbanesque spaces like supermarkets, beauty parlours and gymnasiums
  2. They have private schools and clinics, a variety of fast-food eateries, modern tailoring shops and mobile and electronic stores
  3. Such entrepreneurial energy says something about the growing small-town population which desires better services and an improved quality of life
  4. But this is relatively unrecognised by the government

Schemes only focused on major cities

  1. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) covered both big cities and small towns but gave financial preference to the former
  2. The change in government in 2014 led to amendments in urban policy
  3. 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 population of one lakh and above)
  4. The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was launched to address our growing fascination with world-class cities that use technology to improve their services
  5. The common thread between these urban schemes is that they cater to Class I cities, which already have better access to services
  6. 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
  7. The percentage of the population who have access to these services in smaller towns is way lower

Why small towns are important?

  1. One-fourth of the urban population lives in these small towns (20,000 to 1,00,000 population)
  2. These 7 crore people need amenities to match up to their “urban” status
  3. Many of these towns may not be in the vicinity of big cities
  4. But though they are small in size, many of these small towns have an enormous growth potential
  5. Many studies have shown that the benefits of small town development can spill over to villages, especially in terms of employment generation

Way forward

  1. The debate between progress and development is not new — the former is largely about world-class cities while the latter focuses on a more inclusive agenda
  2. But the current government’s focus on big cities is problematic
  3. The development of small towns can make these urban centres fulfil the long-standing demand for a link between rural India and the country’s big cities and towns
  4. The growing population in these small towns needs to be backed by adequate investments by the Centre
  5. There should be a key role for these urban centres in development planning
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