Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

A smart city is one that uses information and communication technologies to enhance citizen engagement. It is a neo-vision which seeks to improve the delivery of services in urban areas. The following story maps out the steps being taken by India to explore this concept in practice.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Understanding the Olga Tellis Judgment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Encroachment of Public Spaces

A 37-year-old Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court which held that pavement dwellers are different from trespassers. This may become a game-changer in the Jahangirpuri case.

What is the Olga Tellis judgment?

  • The judgment, Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation, was given in 1985 by a five-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud (F/O Justice D.Y Chandrachud).
  • It is agreed that pavement dwellers do occupy public spaces in an unauthorized manner.

Key takeaways of the Judgment

  • Opportunity to depart: The court maintained they should be given a chance to be heard and a reasonable opportunity to depart before force is used to expel them.
  • No use of force: The Supreme Court reasoned that eviction using unreasonable force, without giving them a chance to explain is unconstitutional.
  • Right to life: Pavement dwellers, too, have a right to life and dignity. The right to life included the right to livelihood. They earn a meagre livelihood by living and working on the footpaths.
  • No misuse of powers of eviction: A welfare state and its authorities should not use its powers of eviction as a means to deprive pavement dwellers of their livelihood.

What led to the judgment?

  • Sometime in 1981, the State of Maharashtra and the Bombay Municipal Corporation decided that pavement and slum dwellers in Bombay city should be evicted and “deported to their respective places of origin or places outside the city of Bombay.”
  • Some demolitions were carried out before the case was brought to the Bombay High Court by pavement dwellers, residents of slums across the city, NGOs and journalists.
  • While they conceded that they did not have “any fundamental right to put up huts on pavements or public roads”, the case came up before the Supreme Court on larger questions of law.

What were the questions discussed before the Supreme Court?

  • One of the main questions was whether eviction of a pavement dweller would amount to depriving him/her of their livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • The Article mandates that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty EXCEPT according to procedure established by law.”
  • The Constitution Bench was also asked to determine if provisions in the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, allowing the removal of encroachments without prior notice, were arbitrary and unreasonable.
  • The Supreme Court also decided to examine the question whether it was constitutionally impermissible to characterise pavement dwellers as trespassers.

What was the State government’s defence?

  • The State government and the corporation countered that pavement dwellers should be estopped (estoppel is a judicial device whereby a court may prevent or “estop” a person from making assertions.
  • Estoppel may prevent someone from bringing a particular claim from contending that the shacks constructed by them on the pavements cannot be demolished because of their right to livelihood.
  • They cannot claim any fundamental right to encroach and put up huts on pavements or public roads over which the public has a ‘right of way.’

How did the Supreme Court rule?

  • The Bench threw out the government’s argument of estoppel, saying “there can be no estoppel against the Constitution.”
  • The court held that the right to life of pavement dwellers were at stake here.
  • The right to livelihood was an “integral component” of the right to life. They can come to court to assert their right.
  • If the right to livelihood is not treated as a part of the constitutional right to live, the easiest way of depriving a person of his right to life would be to deprive him of his means of livelihood to the point of abrogation.
  • Any aggrieved person can challenge the deprivation as offending the right to life.
  • Removal of encroachments without prior notice was arbitrary; the court held that such powers are designed to operate as an “exception” and not the “general rule.
  • The procedure of eviction should lean in favour of procedural safeguards which follow the natural principles of justice like giving the other side an opportunity to be heard.
  • Finally, the court emphatically objected to authorities treating pavement dwellers as mere trespassers.
  • The encroachment committed are involuntary acts in the sense that those acts are compelled by inevitable circumstances and are not guided by choice.

Way ahead

  • It is not a free choice to exercise as to whether to commit an encroachment and if so, where.
  • Trespassers should not be evicted by using force greater than what is reasonable and appropriate.
  • He/she should be asked and given a reasonable opportunity to depart before force is used to expel him.


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Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Explained: Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smart City Mission

Mains level : Significance of Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs)

The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister has announced that 80 Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs), an integral component of the Smart Cities Mission, have already been set up.

What is the Smart Cities Mission?

  • The Smart Cities Mission aims at developing 100 cities, which were shortlisted, into self-sustainable urban settlements.
  • The mission was launched on June 25, 2015 and was projected as one aimed at transforming the process of urban development in the country.
  • Among its strategic components is ‘area-based development’, which includes city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development), plus a pan-city initiative in which ‘smart solutions’ are applied covering larger parts of the city.

Focus areas

  • Key focus areas of the scheme include the construction of walkways, pedestrian crossings, cycling tracks, efficient waste-management systems, integrated traffic management and assessment.
  • The scheme also assesses various indices to track urban development such as the Ease of Living Index, Municipal Performance Index, City GDP framework, Climate-Smart Cities assessment framework, etc.

What is an Integrated Command and Control Centre?

  • The Smart Cities Mission includes setting up ICCCs for each such city as a vital step.
  • These ICCCs are designed to enable authorities to monitor the status of various amenities in real time.
  • Initially aimed at controlling and monitoring water and power supply, sanitation, traffic movement, integrated building management, city connectivity and Internet infrastructure, these centres have since evolved to monitor various other parameters.
  • The ICCCs are now also linked to the CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems) network under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The ICCC acts of a smart city acts as a “nerve centre” for operations management. It processes a complex and large pool of data sets at an aggregated level.
  • It is the nodal point of availability of all online data and information relating to smart services included in a smart city, such as like LED street lighting, CCTV surveillance cameras, air quality sensors, etc.

How did the ICCCs help in management of Covid-19?

  • During the pandemic, they also served as war-rooms for Covid-19 management.
  • During the peak of the first wave, when countries were struggling to figure out ways of combating the virus, the government used the ICCCs as war-rooms for managing the outbreak, with real-time surveillance and monitoring of districts across the country.
  • Converted into war-rooms, the smart cities’ ICCCs used the central data dashboard and provided information about the status of Covid-positive cases in various administrative zones of these cities, officials aware of the exercise said.
  • The war-rooms were also used for tracking people under quarantine and suspected Covid-19 cases.

What is the current status of the Smarts Cities Mission?

  • The ambitious project, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, had an initial deadline of 2021 for the first lot of 20 smart cities out of the 100 selected.
  • Although the project was announced in 2015, the cities were selected over a period of two years between 2016 and 2018, each with a deadline of completion within five years from the time of their selection.
  • On the recommendation of NITI Aayog, the timeline was extended last year until 2023 due to delays caused by the pandemic.
  • According to current Ministry data, the SCM has so far covered over 140 public-private partnerships), 340 ‘smart roads’, 78 ‘vibrant public places’, 118 ‘smart water’ projects and over 63 solar projects.

What next?

  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has begun work to finalise its recommendation for providing ICCCs as a service to states and smaller cities.
  • The Ministry aims to finalise an ICCC model and implement a pilot project across six major states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.


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Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] 6 years of Urban Transformation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various schemes mentioned

Mains level : Urban transformation

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has commemorated 6 years of the three transformative Urban Missions vis. Smart Cities Mission (SCM), Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U). All these missions were inaugurated in 2015.

[A] Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY)

  • PMAY is an initiative in which affordable housing will be provided to the urban poor with a target of building 2 crore (20 million) affordable houses by 31 March 2022.
  • It has two components: for the urban poor and also for the rural poor.
  • This scheme is converged with other schemes to ensure houses have a toilet, Saubhagya Yojana electricity connection, Ujjwala Yojana LPG connection, access to drinking water, and Jan Dhan banking facilities, etc.

[B] Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT)

  • AMRUT was launched with the focus to establish an infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation by implementing urban revival projects.
  • The components of the AMRUT consist of capacity building, reform implementation, water supply, sewerage and septage management, stormwater drainage, urban transport, and the development of green spaces and parks.
  • During the process of planning, the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) will strive to include some smart features in the physical infrastructure components.
  • Rajasthan was the first state in the country to submit State Annual Action Plan under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).

[C] Smart Cities Mission

  • National Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with the mission to develop smart cities across the country, making them citizen-friendly and sustainable.
  • The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
  • All the participating cities from West Bengal have withdrawn from the Smart Cities Mission.
  • Mumbai and Navi Mumbai from Maharashtra have also been withdrawn from the Smart Cities Mission.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Delhi’s Master Plan 2041


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Master Plan 2041 for Delhi

The Delhi Development Authority gave its preliminary approval to the draft Master Plan for Delhi 2041.

What is the Master Plan 2041 for Delhi?

  • The draft of the Master Plan seeks to “foster a sustainable, liveable and vibrant Delhi by 2041”.
  • It includes analysis, recommendations, and proposals keeping in mind the population, economy, housing, transportation, community facilities, and land use.
  • The current master plan of Delhi — Master Plan 2021 — expires this year.
  • The first volume is an introduction, providing an overview of Delhi in present times, its global and regional positioning, estimates of population, and projections for 2041.
  • The draft MPD presents a plan for the city for the next 20 years.

What are the main focus areas of the master plan?

  • In the housing sector, it talks about incentivizing rented accommodation by inviting private players and government agencies to invest more, keeping in mind the large migrant population.
  • It addresses parking problems and suggests a ‘user pays principle, which means users of all personal motor vehicles, except for non-motorized ones, have to pay for authorized parking facilities, spaces and streets.

How does the master plan tackle environmental pollution?

  • The draft plan aims to minimize vehicular pollution through key strategies, including a switch to greener fuels for public transport and the adoption of mixed-use of transit-oriented development (also known as TOD).
  • It also addresses improving the quality of water, which is taken from the Yamuna river as well as various lakes, natural drains and baolis.
  • The draft lays a clear boundary of the buffer zone near the Yamuna river and explores how to develop it.
  • As per the plan, a green buffer of 300-metre width shall be maintained wherever feasible along the entire edge of the river.

How is it different from the 2021 Master Plan?

  • The world has gone through a drastic change due to the pandemic, and the growing population has led to shrinking spaces and unemployment.
  • The 2041 plan aims to develop common community spaces to provide refuge spots, common kitchens and quarantine space in an emergency.
  • To improve the nighttime economy, the plan focuses on cultural festivals, bus entertainment, metro, sports facilities, and retail stores included in Delhi Development Authority (DDA)’s Night Life Circuit plan.
  • It also proposes to reduce vulnerability to airborne epidemics through decentralized workspaces, mandatory creation of open areas, better habitat design and green-rated developments to reduce dependence on mechanical ventilation systems.

What challenges will its implementation face?

  • The master plan on paper looks like a perfect document for the city’s progress.
  • However, when the implementing agencies try to replicate it on the ground, they face challenges like confrontation from political wings, lack of resources and funds, corruption in different departments, lack of political and bureaucratic will and multiplicity of agencies.
  • For instance, despite talks of increasing surface parking, removing junk vehicles, imposing fines for dumping debris, garbage burning, and segregation of waste, a lot of these things could never be implemented.
  • In some cases like, increasing parking or increasing its charges, there is resistance from politicians due to vote-bank politics. In other cases, lack of funds and improper implementation mar the projects.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Cost and complications of transplanting a tree


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Tree transplantation and its feasibility

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) wants to transplant over 1,800 trees which are inside what used to be the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) complex, as part of the Central Vista redevelopment project.

Transplantation of trees

  • The transplantation of trees is a complex and delicate process whose outcome cannot be predicted.
  • A tree cannot be transplanted by simply uprooting it and placing it in a pit dug elsewhere. The process involves multiple steps and requires significant expertise.

How it is done?

  • First, the soil around the tree is dug up to isolate the roots. The big branches are lopped off, leaving only small shoots for regeneration. This is done to make transportation of the tree to the new location easier.
  • The root system is covered with wet gunny bags to protect the roots and to keep the tree hydrated.
  • The tree has to be first sent to a nursery to acclimatize to a new kind of soil, and to regenerate.
  • Once new shoots start sprouting, the tree is lowered into a pit created in its new spot.

What factors determine the success of a transplant?

  • Even after all steps are meticulously followed, a lot depends on luck. The survival rate of a transplanted tree is about 50%.
  • Not all trees can be transplanted. While peepal, ficus, semal and sheesham are tolerant to transplantation, trees such as dak, palash, arjun, shahtoot and jhilmil are not.

(1) Roots

  • Any tree that has a tap root system cannot be transplanted, as the root goes deep into the soil, and it is not possible to isolate it without damage.

(2) Size

  • Transplanting any tree with a trunk girth of more than 80-90 cm is not advisable as the tree cannot bear the shock, and will eventually die.

(3) Age

  • That effectively means that big, old trees cannot, in most cases, be removed to another location.

(4) Soil

  • It is important to consider soil type before transplantation.
  • A tree growing on, say, the Delhi Ridge will not easily acclimatize to the soil in the Yamuna floodplain, as the two ecosystems are entirely different.

How expensive is transplantation?

  • The cost of transplanting an average-sized tree might come to around Rs 1 lakh, which included post-transplantation care.
  • For larger trees, the cost could go up to Rs 3 lakh.
  • Private and voluntary organizations, however, claim that the cost is between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 per tree.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Ease of Living Index (EOLI) 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EOLI, MPI

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has announced the release of the final rankings of the Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2020 and the Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2020.

For any such index, always note the verticals i.e. the various parameters.

Ease of Living Index (EoLI)

  • It is an assessment tool that evaluates the quality of life and the impact of various initiatives for urban development.
  • It provides a comprehensive understanding of participating cities across India based on the quality of life, the economic ability of a city, and its sustainability and resilience.
  • It examines the outcomes that lead to existing living conditions through pillars of Quality of Life, Economic Ability, Sustainability.

Municipal Performance Index (MPI)

  • It was launched as an accompaniment to the Ease of Living Index.
  • The five verticals under MPI are Services, Finance, Policy, Technology and Governance.
  • The Ease of Living Index encapsulates the outcome indicators while the Municipal Performance Index captures the enabling input parameters.

Performance of cities

  • Bengaluru emerged as the top performer in the Million+ categories, followed by Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Surat, Navi Mumbai, Coimbatore, Vadodara, Indore, and Greater Mumbai.
  • In the Less than Million category, Shimla was ranked the highest in ease of living, followed by Bhubaneshwar, Silvassa, Kakinada, Salem, Vellore, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Davangere, and Tiruchirappalli.

Why need such indices?

  • The EoLI primarily seeks to accelerate India’s urban development outcomes, including the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The findings from the index can help guide evidence-based policymaking.
  • It also promotes healthy competition among cities, encouraging them to learn from their peers and advance their development trajectory.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] City Innovation Exchange (CiX)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : City Innovation Exchange (CiX) 

Mains level : Urban transformation initiatives

The City Innovation Exchange (CiX) platform was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

City Innovation Exchange (CiX)

  • The CiX will connect cities to innovators across the national ecosystem to design innovative solutions for their pressing challenges.
  • The platform will ease the discovery, design & validation of solutions through a robust, transparent and user-centric process that will reduce barriers for innovators and cities to discover fitting solutions.
  • Built on the concept of ‘open innovation’, the platform will help in the flow of ideas ‘outside in and inside out, enhancing the skills and capacity required to deliver smart urban governance.
  • Through interaction with Academia and Businesses/Startups, the platform will benefit cities in the transfer of ideas from ‘labs’ to the real environment.
  • Similarly, by helping urban governments interact with citizens, the platform will ensure the adoption of tested solutions that will be impactful and sustainable.

Benefits of CiX

  • The CiX platform will be a significant addition to the growing innovation ecosystem of India and focuses on fostering innovative practices in cities.
  • CiX, through an ‘open innovation’ process, engages with innovators to design-test-deliver on solutions to pressing urban challenges.
  • This initiative is among the ongoing efforts to realize PM’s vision of New and AtmaNirbhar Bharat, by making cities more self-reliant and enabled to meet the needs of and provide services to their citizens.
  • The platform in due time will help our cities in adopting solutions that will enhance the quality of life for their residents and significantly improve the Ease of Doing Business.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act, 1992, which aims at promoting the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the country, provides for which of the following?

  1. Constitution of District Planning Committees.
  2. State Election Commissions to conduct all panchayat elections.
  3. Establishment of State Finance Commissions.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) Only 1

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) to revive urban water bodies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jal Jeevan Mission

Mains level : Drinking water scarcity in Urban India

The urban water supply mission under the Jal Jeevan Mission announced in the Budget would include rejuvenation of water bodies as well as 20% of supply from reused water.

Access to safe drinking water has been a grave problem for India, especially in rural areas where lack of usable water has resulted in decades-old sanitation and health problems.

Jal Jeevan Mission

  • Jal Jeevan Mission, a central government initiative under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, aims to ensure access of piped water for every household in India.
  • The mission’s goal is to provide to all households in rural India safe and adequate water through individual household tap connections by 2024.
  • The Har Ghar Nal Se Jal programme was announced by FM in Budget 2019-20 speech.
  • This programme forms a crucial part of the Jal Jeevan Mission.
  • The programme aims to implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, and rainwater harvesting.

Urban component of the mission

  • The mission is meant to create a people’s movement for water, making it everyone’s priority.
  • There are an estimated gap of 2.68 crore urban household tap connections that the Mission would seek to bridge in all 4,378 statutory towns.
  • The Mission would also aim to bridge the gap of 2.64 crore sewer connections in the 500 cities under the existing Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  • The mission would include rejuvenation of water bodies to boost the sustainable freshwater supply and the creation of green spaces.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Rajasthan becomes the 5th State to complete ULB reforms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ULBs in India

Mains level : ULB reforms

Rajasthan has become the 5thState in the country to successfully undertake Urban Local Bodies (ULB) reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance and has thus become eligible for additional reform linked to borrowing.

Which are the four other States?

: They are Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Telangana, who have completed ULB reforms.

Now try this PYQ:

Q.The Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act, 1992, which aims at promoting the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the country, provides for which of the following?

  1. Constitution of District Planning Committees.
  2. State Election Commissions to conduct all panchayat elections.
  3. Establishment of State Finance Commissions.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) Only 1

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

What are the ULB reforms?

The four citizen-centric areas identified for reforms are:

  1. Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System
  2. Ease of doing business reform
  3. Urban Local body/ utility reforms
  4. Power Sector reforms.

The set of reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure are:

(a) The State will notify:

  • Floor rates of property tax in ULBs which are in consonance with the prevailing circle rates (i.e. guideline rates for property transactions) and;
  • Floor rates of user charges in respect of the provision of water supply, drainage, and sewerage which reflect current costs/past inflation.

(b)   The State will put in place a system of periodic increases in floor rates of property tax/ user charges in line with price increases.

Why need such reforms?

  • Reforms in ULBs and the urban utility reforms are aimed at the financial strengthening of ULBs to enable them to provide better public health and sanitation services to citizens.
  • Economically rejuvenated ULBs will also be able to create good civic infrastructure.

Back2Basics: Municipal Governance in India

  • Municipal or local governance refers to the third tier of governance in India, at the level of the municipality or urban local body.
  • Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are small local bodies that administer or govern a city or a town of a specified population.
  • They are vested with a long list of functions delegated to them by the state governments.
  • These functions broadly relate to public health, welfare, regulatory functions, public safety, public infrastructure works, and development activities.
  • There are several types of Urban Local Bodies in India such as Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Notified Area Committee, Town Area Committee, Special Purpose Agency, Township, Port Trust, Cantonment Board, etc.

Development through history

  • It has existed since the year 1687, with the formation of Madras Municipal Corporation, and then Calcutta and Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1726.
  • In the early part of the nineteenth century, almost all towns in India had experienced some form of municipal governance.
  • In 1882 the then Viceroy of India, Lord Ripon, known as the Father of Local Self Government, passed a resolution of local self-government which lead to the democratic forms of municipal governance in India.
  • In 1919, a Government of India Act incorporated the need of the resolution and the powers of democratically elected government were formulated.
  • In 1935 another Government of India act brought local government under the preview of the state or provincial government and specific powers were given.

Changes after the 74th Amendment (1992)

  • It was the 74th amendment to the Constitution that brought constitutional validity to municipal or local governments.
  • Until amendments were made in respective state legislation on an ultra vires (beyond the authority) basis and the state governments were free to extend or control the functional sphere.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Redefining cities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Definition of urban area

Mains level : Paper 2- Need for new definition of urban area

The article the need for liberal and realistic definition of the ‘urban’ area in the next Census and mention the implications of such change.

2 ways to define urban areas

1) Statutory town

  • These towns are defined by state governments and place India’s urbanisation rate at 26.7%.
  • A statutory town includes all places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee.

2) Census-based criteria

  • Census adopts three criteria to define what is urban.
  • The three criteria are:
  • i) a minimum population of 5,000;
  • ii) at least 75% of the male main working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits, and
  • iii) a density of population of at least 400 persons per sq km
  • This, coupled with statutory towns, pegs India’s urbanisation rate at 31%.
  • Total number of towns (state and census) stands at 7,933, together constituting a 377-mn population.

Why there is a need for changing the definition of ‘urban’

  • There is growing evidence—mostly from satellite imagery—that India is way more urban than the 2011 Census estimate.
  • This is quite plausible because there is a large sum of money allocated for rural development, and it is in the interest of state governments to under-represent urbanisation.
  • Besides, the Census’s stringent definition was first carved out in 1961 which do not reflect the realities of the 21st century.
  • India won’t be alone in changing these definitions for Census 2021.
  • Many countries, such as China, Iran, the UK, among others, have changed the definition of ‘urban’ from one census to another.

Getting the right picture of urbanisation

  •  A more liberal and realistic definition in the upcoming census will present the actual picture of urbanisation.
  • For instance, if we just use the population density criteria like 37 other countries, with the 400 people per sq km threshold, we will add around 500 mn people to the urban share of the population.
  • This pegs the urbanisation rate at over 70%!

What will be its implications?

  • First, the budgetary allocation will reflect the reality and scales will balance between rural and urban areas.
  • Second, the urban areas will not be governed through rural governance structures of Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  • Third basic urban infrastructure like sewerage networks, fire services, building regulations, high-density housing, transit-oriented development, piped drinking water supply.
  • Fourth, these newly defined urban areas could act as a new source of revenue for funding local infrastructure development.
  • This would ease pressure on state finances.
  • Lastly, the rethink of urban definition would have an impact on the regional and national economy.
  • These newly defined urban areas will open them to new infrastructure such as railway lines, discom services, highway connectivity, creation of higher education institutes which will together increase the connectivity and resource capability at the local level.
  • This will not only boost the local economy but also ease pressure on bigger cities and help in cluster level development.


A rethink of urban definition in Census 2021, particularly with some degrowth in urban areas due to Covid, will bode well for India for coming decades in more ways than one.



Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Delhi–Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RRTS train

Mains level : Not Much

The first look of India’s first RRTS train on Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut corridor has been unveiled.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

National Highway: Cities connected

  1. NH 4: Chennai and Hyderabad
  2. NH 6: Mumbai and Kolkata
  3. NH 15: Ahmedabad and Jodhpur

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) None

About the RRTS train

  • The Delhi–Meerut RRTS is an 82.15 km long, under-construction, semi-high speed rail corridor connecting Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut.
  • It is one of the three rapid-rail corridors planned under Phase-I of Regional Rapid Transport System (RRTS) project of National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC).
  • With a maximum speed of 160 km/h (99.42 mph), the distance between Delhi and Meerut will be covered in around 62 min (1.03 h).
  • With radiating stainless steel outer body, these aerodynamic RRTS trains will be lightweight and fully air-conditioned.
  • Each car will have six automatic plug-in type wide doors, three on each side for ease of access and exit.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Global Smart City Index, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Smart City Index

Mains level : Success of the Smart City Mission

Four Indian cities -New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru – witnessed a significant drop in their rankings in the global listing of smart cities that was topped by Singapore.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following is not a sub-index of the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’?

(a) Maintenance of law and order

(b) Paying taxes

(c) Registering property

(d) Dealing with construction permits

Global Smart City Index

  • The Institute for Management Development, in collaboration with Singapore University for Technology and Design, has released the 2020 Smart City Index.
  • Its key findings rest on how technology is playing a role in the Covid-19 era.
  • The 2020 Index was topped by Singapore, followed by Helsinki and Zurich in the second and the third place respectively.
  • Others in the top 10 list include Auckland (4th), Oslo (5th), Copenhagen (6th), Geneva (7th), Taipei City (8th), Amsterdam (9th) and New York at the 10th place.

India’s performances

  • In the 2020 Smart City Index, Hyderabad was placed at the 85th position (down from 67 in 2019), New Delhi at 86th rank (down from 68 in 2019), Mumbai was at 93rd place (in 2019 it was at 78) and Bengaluru at 95th (79 in 2019).
  • This drop can be attributed to the detrimental effect that the pandemic has had where the technological advancement was not up to date.
  • From 15 indicators that the respondents perceive as the priority areas for their city, all four cities highlighted air pollution as one of the key areas that they felt their city needed to prioritise on.
  • For cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, this was closely followed by road congestion while for Delhi and Hyderabad it was basic amenities, the report said.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Issues metropolitan cities face

Metropolitan cities of India suffers from various issues. This article analyses such issues and suggests some steps to deal with them.

Inadequate public health infrastructure

  • India’s public health expenditure in 2018 was a mere 1.28% of GDP.
  • According to the World Bank, India’s out-of-pocket health expenditure was 62.4% in 2017, against the world average of 18.2%.
  • Manpower in the health sector is low with India’s doctor-population ratio being 1:1,457  against WHO norm of 1:1,000.

Governance issues

  • Factors underlying city governance include spatial planning, municipal capacities, empowered mayors and councils and inter-agency coordination, and ward-level citizen participation.
  • Twenty-seven after the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, these reform agendas continue to be slow in implementation.
  • India’s metropolitan cities have weak capacities in finance and staffing.
  • Bengaluru’s average percentage of own revenue to total expenditure is 47.9%, Chennai 30.5%, Mumbai 36.1% and Kolkata at 48.4%.
  • According to ASICS 2017, Mumbai has the highest number of officers per lakh population at 938 in the country.
  • Yet it is abysmally low compared to global cities such as Johannesburg with 2,922 and New York with 5,446 officers per lakh population

Limited powers of mayors

  • The leaders steering India’s metropolitan cities are toothless.
  • No big metropolitan cities with 10 million-plus population has a directly-elected Mayor.
  • Mumbai’s Mayor has a tenure of 2.5 years, Delhi and Bengaluru, a mere one year.
  • Mayors do not have full decision-making authority over critical functions of planning, housing, water, environment, fire and emergency services in most cases.
  • Our metropolitan cities are far from being local self-governments.
  • Parastatal agencies for planning, water and public transport report directly to State governments.
  • The State government also largely controls public works and police.
  • Globally, metropolitan cities are steered by a directly-elected leader.
  • Evolved examples include the Tokyo metropolitan government and recent experimental models such as combined authorities in the United Kingdom and Australia.


  • India needs home-grown solutions suited to its context and political realities while imbibing lessons on institutional design from global examples.
  • It is time the Central and State governments lead efforts towards a metropolitan governance paradigm.
  • The first steps should include empowered Mayors with five-year tenure, decentralised ward level governance, and inter-agency coordination anchored by the city government.

Lack of transparency, accountability and citizen participation

  • Transparent cities with institutional platforms encouraging citizen participation improve urban democracy.
  • No metropolitan has functional ward committees and area sabhas.
  • An absence of citizen participation is worsened by poor transparency in finance and operations.
  • As per ASICS 2017, India’s big metropolitan cities on average score 3.04/10 in transparency, accountability and participation.

Significance of smaller cities

  • A World Bank report notes that despite the emergence of smaller towns, the underlying character of India’s urbanisation is “metropolitan”.
  • Under this metropolitan character, new towns emerge around existing large cities.
  • According to a McKinsey report, in 2012, 54 metropolitan cities and their hinterlands accounted for 40% of India’s GDP.
  • The report also estimates that by 2025, 69 metropolitan cities, combined with their hinterlands, will generate over half of India’s incremental GDP between 2012 and 2025.
  • Despite this, India is yet to begin an active discourse on cohesive metropolitan governance frameworks.
  •  Studies by the Centre for Policy Research point that India’s spatial feature exhibits the growth of small towns beyond the economics of large agglomerations.
  • This indicates that while India’s urban vision should focus on its metropolitan cities to reap the benefit of scale, it shouldn’t ignore smaller cities.

Consider the question “Examine the issues in the governance of metropolitan cities. To what extent the limited power of mayors contributes to the issues of the metropolitan cities in India?”


India should use the current pandemic as an opportunity to introspect and reform the way its metropolises are governed.

Back2Basics: ASICS 2017

  • The Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017 evaluates quality of governance in cities, covering 23 major cities in India across 20 states based on 89 questions.
  • Indian cities scored between 3.0 and 5.1 on 10, with Pune topping the charts for the first time.
  • Other cities that came in the top five include Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar and Surat, with scores in the range of 4.6 to 4.5.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

False urban rural binary


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AMRUT

Mains level : Paper 1-Urbanisation and issues

The article brings out the issues in the rural-urban binary, which leads to the disparity in the allocation of resources to the urban areas.

Congestion and health issues in cities

  • The congestion in large cities has turned out to be their worst enemy during this pandemic.
  • Congestion is most evident in slums in large cities and poses a grave health and environmental challenges.
  • Yet, the Centre’s allocation for the rural component of the Swachh Bharat Mission is about seven times more than for urban areas.
  • Class I cities have 1.4 beds per 1,000 people. (with the population more than 1 lakh)
  • However, the urban support under the National Health Mission is just three per cent of the total allocation, while 97 per cent of the funds are set aside for rural areas.

Issues with the present urban development programs

  • The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (2005-2014) allocated the bulk of funds to large cities: 70 per cent to large cities and 30 per cent to smaller towns.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Smart Cities Mission, focus on Class I cities.
  • Both these schemes provide funds for the more developed cities that already have relatively better infrastructure.
  • But these schemes overlook the nearly seven crore people who live in smaller towns.
  • These are towns that lag behind in services and infrastructure as compared to the big cities.

Consider the question “The rural-urban binary has led to the policy formulation in which there is a huge disparity in the allocation of resources and attention on the urban area. Comment.”


The pandemic has forced us to reflect on the unequal and unplanned development of urban settlements and the absence of infrastructure to provide for the teeming millions.  The challenges of urban poverty and congestion cry for more attention, more government support.

Original article:


Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Smart Cities Mission and the public health


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smart Cities Mission

Mains level : Paper 2- Lack of focus on public health in smart cities mission

“Smart Cities Mission” lacks the focus on public health. This article highlights the consequences of this. The article suggests strengthening the of local governments and provisions for the livelihood through an urban employment guarantee scheme.

“Smart Cities Mission”: Progress so far

  • The ‘Smart Cities Mission’, a flagship programme of the government, completed five years, in June 2020.
  •  The Mission had sought to make 100 selected cities “smart”.
  • Cities are being developed under “Area-Based Development” model.
  • Under this model, a small portion of the city would be upgraded by retrofitting or redevelopment.
  • Many of the projects undertaken under the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ are behind schedule.
  • According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, of the 5,151 smart city projects, only 1,638 projects have been completed.
  • In terms of expenditure, of the total investment of ₹2,05,018 crore, only projects worth ₹26,700 crore have been completed.

Lack of focus on Public health in Smart Cities Mission

  • ‘Smart Cities Mission’ has given little importance to basic services such as public health.
  •  An analysis shows that only 69 of over 5,000 projects undertaken under the Mission were for health infrastructure.
  • These projects are for an estimated cost of ₹2,112 crore, amounting to just around one per cent of the total mission cost.
  • Hence, public health seems to be a major blind spot in India’s smart city dreams.

Public Health: Essential local government function

  • ‘Smart Cities Mission’ had the stated aim of improving the quality of life of urban residents.
  • Further, public health is an essential local government function in India’s constitutional scheme.
  • As per the 74th Amendment ( 12th Schedule), “public health” is one of the 18 functions that are to be devolved to the municipalities.
  • However, public health infrastructure of cities has often been neglected over the years.

Strengthening Local Governments

  • Success of Kerala in containing the pandemic has shown how a decentralised political and administrative system can be effective.
  • It is important to strengthen local government capacities.
  • Investment in urban public health systems is needed.
  • Promoting programmes that improve the livelihoods of urban vulnerable communities should be the priority.
  • Programs such as the National Urban Livelihoods Mission and National Urban Health Mission, need to be strengthened.

Focus on Urban Employment

  • It is time to consider the introduction of a national urban employment guarantee programme.
  • Kerala has been running such a scheme since 2010.
  • States such as Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have also recently launched similar initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Consider the question “Covid pandemic has highlighted the lack of focus on public health in our Smart Cities Mission. Suggest the measures to make our cities resilient and source of livelihood. 


As Indian cities face an unprecedented challenge, it is important to get the priorities of urban development right and invest in programmes that improve the health and livelihoods of its residents.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Ease of Living Index and Municipal Performance Index 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ease of Living Index and Municipal Performance Index

Mains level : Urban development

The surveys to determine the Ease of Living Index (EoLI) and Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2019 has been initiated by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs. Both these indices are designed to assess the quality of life of citizens in 100 Smart Cities and 14 other Million Plus Cities.

Municipal Performance Index

  • With the MPI 2019, the Ministry has sought to assess the performance of municipalities based on five enablers namely Service, Finance, Planning, Technology and Governance.
  • These have been further divided into 20 sectors which will be evaluated across 100 indicators.
  • This will help Municipalities in better planning and management, filling the gaps in city administration, and improving the liveability of cities for its citizens.

Ease of Living Index

  • EOLI is aimed at providing a holistic view of Indian cities – beginning from the services provided by local bodies, the effectiveness of the administration, the outcomes generated through these services in terms of the liveability within cities and, finally, the citizen perception of these outcomes.
  • The key objectives of the EOL Index are four-folds, viz.
  1. Generate information to guide evidence-based policy making;
  2. Catalyse action to achieve broader developmental outcomes including the SDG;
  3. Assess and compare the outcomes achieved from various urban policies and schemes; and
  4. Obtain the perception of citizens about their view of the services provided by the city administration.
  • For the first time, as part of the EOLI Assessment, a Citizen Perception Survey is being conducted on behalf of the Ministry (which carries 30% of the marks of the Ease of Living Index).
  • This is a very important component of the assessment exercise as it will help in directly capturing perception of citizens with respect to quality of life in their cities.
  • This survey, which is being administered both online and offline, has commenced from 1st February 2020 and will continue till 29th February 2020.
  • The offline version involving face-to-face interviews will commence on the 1st of February and will run parallel to the on-line versions.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Fastest growing cities in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various keywords mentioned

Mains level : Urbanization in India

 The Economist has put Malappuram at the top of the “Top ten fastest-growing cities” in the world.

Anomalies in the data

  • The total fertility rate (TFR, the number of children a woman is likely to have in the childbearing age of 15-49) in Kerala is 1.8 as per NITI Aayog data from 2016 — below the replacement rate of 2.1.
  • Another Kerala city, Thrissur, is No. 13, and the capital Thiruvananthapuram is No. 33 on the UN list.
  • Tiruppur in Tamil Nadu — which has an even lower TFR of 1.6 — is No. 30.
  • Surat in Gujarat (TFR of 2.2) is No. 27. There is no representation on the list from high population growth states like Bihar and UP.

What does “fastest growing” refer to? How is a “city” defined?

  • The list based on data from the UN Population Division refers to “urban agglomerations” (UA), which are extended areas built around an existing town along with its outgrowths — typically villages or other residential areas or universities, ports, etc., on the outskirts of the town.
  • The Census defines a UA as “a continuous urban spread consisting of a town and its adjoining urban outgrowths or two or more physically contiguous towns together”.
  • The NCT of Delhi is a UA that includes the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) areas, as well as 107 “Census towns” — erstwhile surrounding villages where more than 75% of the population is now engaged in non-agricultural pursuits.

A pace of urbanization

  • The Economist has listed the rate at which the populations of the UAs are expected to increase between 2015 and 2020.
  • Since data on India and many other countries were not available for 2015 (the last Census in India was in 2011), the UN report used projections of UAs’ populations — estimates based on past population growth data.
  • The rate of growth between 2015 and 2020 thus calculated provides a measure of the pace of urbanisation.

How does urban population grow?

  • Urban populations can grow when the birth rate exceeds the death rate when workers migrate to the city in search of jobs; when more areas get included within the boundaries of the city; or when existing rural areas are reclassified as urban.
  • The low fertility rate in Kerala means the increase in the population of Malappuram and other cities is not because women are having more children; rather it is because more villages are being transformed into towns, and city borders are expanding.
  • According to the Census definition, an urban area is either a census town (CT) or a statutory town (ST). An ST is any place with a municipal corporation, municipal council, or cantonment board.
  • A CT can be a village with “urban characteristics” — a population more than 5,000, population density more than 400 people per sq km, and with more than 75% of the population not engaged in agriculture for their livelihood.
  • When a village becomes a CT, its population is included in the urban population of the district.

Could migration have caused the increase?

  • Migration can either increase or decrease the population of a town.
  • Kerala sees both emigration — migration from the state to other places — and immigration — the migration of workers to the state.
  • Also the remittances that emigrants send allow the residents of villages to move away from agriculture, which changes the status of a village to census town.

Why these cities are growing so fast?

  • These cities are seeing rapid urbanisation, and the main reason is the inclusion of new areas in the UA’s limits.
  • In 2001, there were two municipal corporations within the UA of Malappuram. In 2011, the number of municipal corporations had doubled to four, and an additional 37 CTs were included within Malappuram.
  • The population of the UA (excluding the residents of the outgrowths) increased almost 10 times in the same period — from 1,70,409 to 16,99,060 — obviously because of the inclusion of existing urban areas in the town.
  • Similarly, Kollam UA grew from one municipal corporation in 2001 to 23 CTs, one municipal corporation, and one municipal council in 2011.
  • Its population increased by 130%, even though the population of the original ST of Kollam actually decreased by 4%.

Why is this not seen elsewhere in India?

  • In Kerala, urbanisation is driven by a move away from agriculture, which leads to a change in a village’s Census classification status.
  • This is evident from the large number of CTs that were included in the UAs of the state since the last Census. On the other hand, except Delhi, the more populous cities in the North had fewer CTs in 2011.
  • While the pace of urbanisation has been slower in the North, some unnaturally high increases in the population can be expected after the 2021 Census — because in some cases, villages on the peripheries were brought within the administrative boundaries of the cities.

Is it good for the economy?

  • Urbanisation leads to the growth of cities, which are sites of infrastructure like universities, hospitals, and public transport facilities.
  • There are more opportunities for the youth, which is why they attract young people and entrepreneurs.
  • In India, people moving to cities leave behind (to some extent) caste and class divisions that dominate life in the villages, and can hope to climb up the social ladder.
  • However, unplanned urbanisation can be “exclusionary”, making it difficult for migrants to live there given the high cost.
  • Unregulated housing, lack of reliable public transport, and longer commutes within these towns puts a strain on the meagre resources of migrants.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

JAGA Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : JAGA mission

Mains level : Problems of Slum Dwellers

World Habitat Mission has recognised the Odisha state government’s Jaga Mission that uses drones to survey slums. The Odisha government has become the first in the country to bag this award.

Jaga (Land) Mission

  • Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission “JAGA” is a society under Housing & Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha, headed by the Chief Secretary, Odisha as Chairman.
  • “JAGA” aims at transforming the slums into liveable habitat with all necessary civic infrastructure and services at par with the better off areas within the same urban local body (ULB).
  • It would work continuously to improve the standard of the infrastructure and services and access to livelihood opportunities.
  • It is the world’s largest slum land title project.
  • It involves the government surveying and awarding slum dwellers a legal land title.

Why land rights for slums matter

  • More often than not, slums are seen as encroachments and slum dwellers, even if they stay in slums for decades, are not provided with any legal rights over the land.
  • This illegality further condemns slums — which are an urban reality in Indian cities — to unsanitary conditions. Formal recognition of land rights allows for cleaner cities and better living conditions for slum dwellers.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CCN, Gastronomy

Mains level : Not Much

  • UNESCO has designated Mumbai as a member of UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) in the field of FILM and Hyderabad in the field of GASTRONOMY.

About UCCN

  • UCCN created in 2004, is a network of cities which are thriving, active centres of cultural activities in their respective countries.
  • UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was established in the year 2004.
  • It creates a network of those cities that are active centres of various cultural practices in their respective countries.
  • At present UCCN has 246 member cities including Mumbai and Hyderabad.
  • These cities can be from all continents with different income levels or with different level of populations.
  • UCCN believes that these cities are working towards a common mission and that is to placing creativity at the core of their urban development plans to make region resilient, safe, inclusive and sustainable.
  • Ministry of Culture is the nodal Ministry of Government of India for all matters in UNESCO relating to culture.

Objective of UCCN

  • They work together towards a common mission: placing creativity and the creative economy at the core of their urban development plans to make cities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable, in line with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 7 categories for recognition under UCCN are as follows-

  • Crafts and Folk Arts
  • Design
  • Film
  • Gastronomy
  • Music
  • Media Arts
  • Literature

 Previously, 3 Indian cities were recognized as members of UCCN namely-

  • Jaipur-Crafts and Folk Arts (2015)
  • Varanasi-Creative city of Music (2015)
  • Chennai-Creative city of Music(2017)

Note: Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between food and culture, the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food, the cooking styles of particular regions, and the science of good eating.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

World Urbanization Prospects Data


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Developing Asia group

Mains level : Urbanization in India

  • The economic outlook update released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) highlighted that the number of urban inhabitants in ‘Developing Asia’ has increased “almost five-fold since 1970”.

Developing Asia

  • It refers to a group of 45 countries that are members of the ADB.

World Urbanisation Prospects data

  • The report, tracking World Urbanisation Prospects data, states that the two-thirds of the nearly 1.5 billion additional city dwellers in the region belonged from India and China.
  • As such, between 1970 to 2017, the urban population in this bunch of countries grew from 375 million to 1.84 billion.
  • The region led the global increase in the urban population in this period and accounted for 53 per cent of it.

Low pace of urbanization

  • The ADB reports states that, notwithstanding the fast growth in urban population, “developing Asia’s urbanisation rate still lagged at 46% in 2017”.
  • Urbanisation rate means the percentage of the population living in urban areas.
  • The US achieved the 46 per cent urbanisation mark over a century ago while Japan reached there in the early 1950s. But the US and Japan are far cries at the moment.
  • Developing Asia’s urbanisation rate in 2017 was lower than the average in other developing economies (which stood at 58 per cent) and the average in the developed economies (which stood at 81 per cent).
  • India, specifically, has 34 per cent of its population living in urban areas.

Reason: Population rise

  • Developing Asia urbanized faster than the rest of the world not only in terms of absolute growth, but also in terms of growth rate.
  • Urban population in this region increased at an average of 3.4 per cent per annum between 1970-2017.
  • This is much faster than the 2.6 per cent in the rest of the developing world – mainly Africa and Latin America – and 1.0 per cent in the developed world.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

Mains level : Smart Cities Mission

  • Starting with an open data platform for the 100 cities of the Smart Cities Mission by 2020, the government is planning to make a wide range of data — from health, education to finances, public by 2024.

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

  • IUDX is a research project under smart cities mission being implemented by Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
  • The India Urban Data Exchange set up by the MoHUA for its Smart Cities would be expanded, eventually leading to a “marketplace”.
  • IUDX will be an open source software platform for cities, industry and researchers to share Smart City data with each other that could be monetised in the future, similar to the UPI for bank accounts and digital payments.

Facilities provided

  • MoHUA said that the open data platform for the 100 cities would be expanded to cover 500 cities by 2022 and all urban centres in the country by 2024.
  • It will facilitate secure, authenticated and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, third-party authenticated and authorized applications and other data sources, data producers and consumers, both within a city to begin with and scaled up across cities eventually at a national level, in a uniform and seamless way.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access (PAiSA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SKOCH Award, PAiSA Portal, DAY NULM

Mains level : Impact of DAY-NULM

  • Deendayan Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), a flagship mission under the MoHUA has been conferred the prestigious SKOCH Governance Gold Award for its PAiSA portal.

About PAiSA Portal

  • PAiSA stands for Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access.
  • Launched in November 2018, PAiSA is a centralized IT platform which simplifies and streamlines release of interest subvention under the DAY-NULM.
  • It has been designed and developed through the Allahabad Bank.

What it offers?

  • It offers end to end online solution for processing, payment, monitoring and tracking of interest subvention claims from banks on a monthly basis.
  • Claims for subvention are uploaded by banks through their CBS (Core Banking Solution) in respect of the beneficiaries of the Self Employment Programme, which are verified and approved by the ULB and State concerned.
  • The approved claim amount gets credited directly to the beneficiary’s loan account through DBT mode.
  • SMS is also sent to the beneficiary’s mobile number intimating the credit of subvention amount.

About SKOCH Award

  • SKOCH Award, instituted in 2003, is the highest civilian honour in the country conferred by an independent organisation.
  • It recognizes people, projects and institutions that go the extra mile to make India a better nation.
  • SKOCH Award covers the best of efforts in the area of digital, financial and social inclusion.


Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Urban spaces need better designed homes and an egalitarian housing policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Urban Housing; Urbanisation


Homelessness is on the rise and has been for the past half a century. Eight years ago, after the 2011 Census, the demand for new housing was at 25 lakh units. With demand rising exponentially and increasing migration numbers, the current requirement for shelter stands at 30 lakh units.

Challenges in providing housing

  • Ineffective programs 
      • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana aims to provide cheaper houses quickly to low-income groups, with substantial interest subsidies on housing loans. The previous scheme, Awas Yojna, has been attempting the same since 1985 without much success. 
      • State housing boards have similar unachievable goals.
      • Every year, more houses are constructed; yet, every year the demand increases.
  • Idea of ownership
    • In the early 1950s, new houses in most cities relied on the bungalow model. The home’s ownership, independence, and property rights were paramount.
    • 70 years later, despite a 100-fold increase in city population density and land values, little has changed from that ideal.
    • The provision of shelter is still wracked by the archaic ideal of ownership and still stuck to the impracticality of old space and design ideas.
  • The unwillingness of a homeowner to rent out when the legal rights grossly favour tenants. 

Four factors need to be evaluated in the search for a new model

  1. put a halt to the growing privatization of the city – do away with more private ownership of land and buildings. The current situation creates unfortunate divides between private colonies, flats and government housing — contributing to insecurity and gated colonies
    1. Isolating quality of the Indian city has been reinforced by divisions of profession, ethnicity and economic status
    2. Cities with officially recognized subdivisions — Bengalis in their own enclave (Chittaranjan Park), lawyers in Niti Bagh, Jews in Jewtown and Parsis in Parsi Colony
    3. By discouraging homeownership, the city becomes more open and accessible to a greater number of new residents
  2. Stringent urban land reforms would be the first step in that direction
  3. Making housing part of city infrastructure projects, the government takes away land and construction from private builders and creates diverse pockets of housing in different parts of the city.
  4. Ensuring citizens have easy access to subsidized rental housing without legal rights of ownership. Rental units would allow residents to live close to the office and employment, keeping the neighborhood changing and dynamic.
  5. It is imperative that a system of tax incentives and new rental regulations be used to achieve that goal
  6. The imposition of a high un-occupancy tax on buildings that are vacant will help to inhabit almost a third of private housing that remains empty in most cities. 
  7. Stricter construction restrictions are put in place; the government should see housing as a social service and not a business venture
  8. Expanding the supply of low-income housing
  9. Current densities of residential space need more efficient modifications – smaller multifunctional and compact unit makes more sense. Given the high land values, unless there is an increase in floor area ratio (FAR) and a decrease in a home’s occupancy footprint, economies of scale will never be achieved in city residential areas
  10. Subsidies on efficient space planning, environmental considerations, and design that create shared community spaces should be encouraged and rewarded.
  11. Civic governance structures need to be separate from politics. 
    1. Brazil’s intervention in its Favelas or slum tenements upgraded individual houses after a rigorous survey of families, providing design improvements, ventilation, storage space and utilities where needed. 
    2. Singapore replaced their poorer tenements altogether with a basic high rise of low-cost low-income housing integrated into the fabric of the city. 


Housing in India is both inefficient, poorly constructed, thoughtlessly designed, and conforms to outmoded ideas that still hark to the bungalow prototype. Unless more thoughtfully-designed homes, with newer materials and technologies, and a more egalitarian housing policy become part of future government programs, it is these citadels of waste and decay that will remain the public face of the city.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Ecological perils of discounting the future


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Managing urban water bodies


  • In a report last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) called the Chennai floods of 2015 a “man made disaster”, a pointer to how the encroachment of lakes and river floodplains has driven India’s sixth largest city to this ineluctable situation.
  • The Chennai floods are a symbol of consistent human failings and poor urban design which are common to most urban centres in India if not urban centres across the world. Now, Chennai is in the midst of another crisis — one of water scarcity.

Urban Situation

  • Unlike issues such as traffic congestion or crime which are visible, environmental degradation is not what most people can easily see or feel in their every day lives.
  • Therefore, when the consequences of such degradation begin to wreak havoc, it becomes difficult to draw the correlation between nature’s vengeance with human failings.
  • In Chennai, more than 30 waterbodies of significance have disappeared in the past century.
  • Concretisation or the increase in paved surfaces has affected the percolation of rainwater into the soil, thereby depleting groundwater levels to a point of no return.

Urbanisation without vision

  • Chennai, however, is not alone in terms of suffering from the consequences of human folly.
  • Urbanisation at the cost of reclaiming water bodies is a pan-India if not worldwide phenomenon.
  • There are examples in cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and even Mexico city.
  • In Bengaluru, 15 lakes have lost their ecological character in less than five years according to a High Court notice to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the city’s administrative body responsible for civic amenities and some infrastructural assets.
  • The lakes, which are now encroached areas, find use as a bus stand, a stadium and, quite ironically, as an office of the Pollution Control Board.
  • In Mexico city, what was once a network of lakes built by the Aztecs in the 11th and 12th centuries, has given way to a downtown city centre.
  • Parts of the city, especially downtown, sink a few metres every year causing immense damage to buildings.
  • Mismanaged urbanisation and encroachments: Chennai continues to lose out on its water resources


    Case study of Telangana

  • In Telangana, the byzantine network of tanks and lakes built by the Kakatiya dynasty has disappeared over the years.
  • However, the question is not about what follies were committed in the past, but about what we can do in the present and, more importantly, for the future.
  • In Telangana, “tanks have been the lifeline of the State because of its geographical positioning”.
  • The State’s “topography and rainfall pattern have made tank irrigation an ideal type of irrigation by storing and regulating water flow for agricultural use”.
  • The Telangana example of water rejuvenation
  • The Chief Minister of Telangana launched a massive rejuvenation movement in form of “Mission Kakatiya” which involves the restoration of irrigation tanks and lakes/minor irrigation sources built by the Kakatiya dynasty.
  • From the perspective of inter-generational justice, this is a move towards giving future generations in the State their rightful share of water and, therefore, a life of dignity.
  • The city of Hyderabad is now moving towards a sustainable hydraulic model with some of the best minds in the country working on it.
  • This model integrates six sources of water in a way that even the most underdeveloped areas of the city can have equitable access to water resources and the groundwater levels restored in order to avoid a calamity of the kind that has gripped Chennai now.


International Examples

  • When Mexico city can create a new executive position of a “resilience officer” to save its sinking urban sprawls, Bengaluru can reclaim Kundalahalli lake (once a landfill) through corporate social responsibility funds in a Public Private Partnership model, and Hyderabad and the larger state of Telangana rebuild its resilience through a combination of political will and well-designed policies such as the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme and Mission, what stops us from learning from each other?
  • Why should other urban centres shy away from adopting, remodelling and implementing some of the best water management practices to avoid disaster?
  • The answer perhaps lies in the tendency of policymakers to discount the future and of their obsession of focussing on the here and now.



  • It is estimated that in just 30 years from now, half of India will be living in cities.
  • If we truly envision a great future for this country, how can we possibly risk the lives of half of our people and the next generations who could be facing a life in cities parched by drought, stranded by floods, mortified by earthquakes or torn by wars over fresh water?
  • What has happened in Chennai now or what happened in Kerala last year in the form of floods are not a case of setting alarm bells ringing, but one of explosions.
  • If we do not wake up now, we have to be prepared to face the consequences of nature wreaking great havoc on humanity.
  • We would not need nuclear bombs for our obliteration.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Ahmedabad-Kobe Sister City Partnership


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sister City

Mains level : India-Japan bilateral relations

  • Authorities from the Japanese city of Kobe exchanged a Letter of Intent (LoI) with their counterparts in Ahmedabad for a sister city partnership.
  • This will pave the way for an enhanced economic relationship between the two vibrant cities as well as the two countries.

Why such LoI?

  • The LoI was exchanged in the presence of PM Modi, who visited Kobe to address a large Indian diaspora event.
  • In November 2016, Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe inked a sister-state relationship MoU for Gujarat and Hyogo prefecture.
  • Kobe is the capital city of Hyogo. That time, PM had also visited a bullet train plant in Kobe.
  • The MoU sought to promote mutual cooperation between Gujarat and Hyogo in the fields of academics, business, cultural cooperation, disaster management and environmental protection.

Sister Cities

  • Sister cities are a form of legal or social agreement between towns, cities, counties, oblasts, prefectures, provinces, regions, states, and even countries in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.
  • They are mostly affectionately named agreements between certain towns, cities, provinces or in some cases, countries all across the globe.
  • In each case the towns have come to an agreement or partnership, some of which are legally binding, where others are purely symbolic and social.
  • It’s here that the beauty and charm of the sister city is found: the voluntary forging of ties to encourage cultural understanding, friendship and exchange, as well as more practical applications, like trade agreements and business partnerships.

The City Diplomacy

  • In recent years, the term “city diplomacy” has gained increased usage and acceptance, particularly as a strand of paradiplomacy and public diplomacy.
  • The importance of cities developing their own foreign economic policies on trade, foreign investment, tourism and attracting foreign talent” has also been highlighted by the World Economic Forum.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Unleashing the potential of urban India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : UK's City deals models may guide reform in metropolitan governance structure.


India could learn from the U.K.’s model of City Deals


The Global Metro Monitor 2018 reports that 36% of employment growth and 67% of GDP growth were contributed by the 300 largest global metros, with those in emerging economies outperforming those in advanced economies.

The relevance of metropolitan cities

  • Metropolitan areas concentrate and accelerate wealth as these are agglomerations of scale that concentrate higher-level economic functions.
  • Nine Indian metros feature in the top 150 ranks of the economic performance index.
  • Clearly metropolises are going to be a key feature of India’s urbanisation and will play a crucial role in fuelling growth.

Constitutional provisions regarding metropolis

  • Article 243P(c) of the Constitution defines ‘metropolitan areas’ as those having “population of ten lakhs [a million] or more, comprised in one or more districts and consisting of two or more municipalities/panchayats/ other contiguous areas, specified by the governor through public notification to be a metropolitan area”.
  • It recognises metropolitan areas as multi-municipal and multi-district entities.
  • It mandates the formation of a Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) for preparing draft development plans, considering common interests between local authorities, objectives and priorities set by Central and State governments, and investments likely to be made in the area by various agencies.

Concerns with MPCs

  • Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2018 found that only nine out of 18 cities mandated to form MPCs have constituted them.
  • Where constituted, their functionality is questionable, with the limited role of local elected representatives raising further questions on democratic decentralisation.
  • Thus, the provision for an MPC has not introduced robust governance of metropolises, as the metropolises continue to be a collection of parastatals and local bodies in an entirely fragmented architecture.

City Deals’ model of UK

  • The U.K. has rolled out ‘City Deals’, an agreement between the Union government and a city economic region, modelled on a ‘competition policy style’ approach.
  • The city economic region is represented by a ‘combined authority’.
  • This is a statutory body set up through national legislation that enables a group of two or more councils to collaborate decisions, and which is steered by a directly elected Mayor.
  • This is to further democratise and incentivise local authorities to collaborate and reduce fragmented governance, drive economic prosperity, job growth, etc.
  • City Deals’ move from budget silos and promote ‘economic growth budget’ across regions.

Examples from other countries

The U.K. has established nine such combined authorities. Australia adopted a regional governance model along these lines in 2016 and has signed four City Deals till date. Meanwhile, China is envisioning 19 seamlessly connected super city clusters.

  • India, however, is yet to begin the discourse on a governance framework for the future of its metropolises.
  • It is yet to recognise that disaster management, mobility, housing, climate change, etc. transcend municipal boundaries and require regional-level solutions.
  • The World Bank notes that despite the emergence of smaller towns, the underlying character of India’s urbanisation is “metropolitan”, with towns emerging within the proximity of existing cities.

Way forward

  • It is time India envisions the opportunities and challenges from a ‘city’ level to ‘city-region’ level.
  • The Central government must create a platform to build consensus among State governments.
  • Perhaps, the Greater Bengaluru Governance Bill, 2018, drafted by the Expert Committee for Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Restructuring, could offer direction.
  • It proposes for a Greater Bengaluru Authority headed by a directly elected Mayor, responsible for the overall planning of Greater Bengaluru with powers for inter-agency coordination and administration of major infrastructural projects across the urban local bodies within the area.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Cities at crossroads: Federalism for the city


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Problems with urbanization and ways to improve it


It is time to reflect on what should be the priorities in fixing our cities. The scale of the challenge is massive whether we look at the availability of clean drinking water, unpolluted air, quality of public transport, traffic management and parking, integrated planning of transport and land use, law and order, management and safe disposal of solid waste that is generated, treatment of waste water and effluents, and affordable housing.

Importance of Cities

  • Rapid economic growth in any country is associated with a decline in the share of agriculture and an increase in the shares of manufacturing and services in its GDP, and this involves greater urbanisation.
  • Going forward, as we try to achieve rapid growth which is necessary to provide growing employment opportunities for our young work-force, we need to position our cities as drivers of the structural transformation of the Indian economy.
  • UN projections suggest that India’s urban population will increase from 461 million in 2018 to 877 million in 2050, with India contributing the largest share of global urban population growth from 2018 to 2050.
  • State governments have the principal responsibility for urban development. But in order to deliver, they can and should ensure that city governments are sufficiently empowered to get the job done.
  • This requires strengthening the finances of these governments, building their capacity to take on the new challenges that urbanisation brings, and providing an enabling environment through legislative and administrative support.

No  transformative action on devolution

  • The 74th Constitutional Amendment of 1992 gives the state governments the power to transfer a set of 18 legitimate municipal functions to the municipal governments and also devolve finances to them to enable them to perform these functions and organise the delivery of the public services.
  • Town planning — the golden goose — was not typically transferred.
  • Also, action on devolution of funds to urban local governments has been unpredictable and hopelessly inadequate.
  • The Government of India must work towards amending the Constitution to undo the injustice that has been meted out to local governments.


Past efforts in strengthening the foundation

  • In the past decade or so, the Centre has come to recognise that urbanisation is set to accelerate with India’s rapid growth.
  • First, the UPA government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Rajiv Awas Yojana as centrally sponsored schemes.
  • The NDA government followed up with a number of their own urban development missions like Swachh Bharat, AMRUT, Smart Cities Mission, and Housing for All.

State’s Role

  • An important point to note is that the national missions could deliver only where the state governments were pro-active in bringing about the change.
  • Only a few state governments have been able to come forward to realise the potential offered by the national missions.
  • The missions played an additional role in igniting a competitive spirit among the state governments in the delivery of public services.

Way Forward

  • A simple solution would be for the Government of India to introduce an incentive grant system whereby states which devolve funds to some desired degree get to top up the financial grant from the Centre.
  • This should be limited to second-tier cities, which are crucial to a new urbanisation thrust.
  • Metropolitan cities need such grants much less, since states can help them raise resources by empowering them to unlock land value. They are also better placed to develop PPPs with viable revenue models to attract private funds.


Essentially, co-operative federalism needs to go deeper, below the state level. There are no shortcuts to improving the state of our cities. The state governments need to decentralise, devolve and empower the cities. We, as responsible citizens, need to engage with the government to find collective solutions while at the same time, holding the government accountable.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Lapse and collapse: on Mumbai’s pedestrian bridge accident


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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Accountability on Municipal authority’s part to create sustainable infrastructure.



The pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, leaving six people dead and several injured, underscores the irony of India’s race to development on creaking urban infrastructure. Mumbai’s creaking public infrastructure must be urgently upgraded.

Loss of lives due to poor infrastructure

  • It was only in September 2017 that there was a stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone bridge that left at least 23 people dead, an incident that officials blamed on heavy rain and overcrowding on the rickety structure.
  • there is the chronic toll of eight people, on average, dying every day on the city’s railway tracks.
  • This is a dismal image for a metropolis that generates so much wealth, but cannot guarantee the safety of its public infrastructure.

Punitive Action Taken by municipal Authorities

  • In the first response to the CST incident, the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have launched action on the contractor who carried out repairs on the bridge five years ago.
  • the structural safety auditor who had certified the bridge to be in ‘good’ condition among a total of 39 bridges, and some civic body officials.
  • Such steps may serve to mollify public anger, and no one would argue against efforts to fix accountability for lapses.
  • However, far-reaching administrative reform is necessary to raise public confidence in the way government works.
  • It is extraordinary that the BMC is wiser after the fact, and has determined that the quality of repairs performed on the CST bridge was not ‘up to the mark,’ since it collapsed within six years.
  • It has also closed several busy footbridges, virtually confirming prolonged neglect of maintenance.

Way forward

  • In a city where eight million passenger trips are made daily on an overburdened railway system, besides other modes of transport, the highest policy priority should be to raise levels of safety.
  • In the wake of the bridge disaster, the municipal corporation must explain how much of its annual budget of ₹30,692 crore for the coming year will go towards improving facilities and safety for the majority of its citizens who ride trains and buses or walk.
  • Mumbaikars badly need a new deal in the form of a modernised bus system, with expansion of services that can be funded through a levy on private vehicles or on fuel.
  • The move to privatise BEST bus services may result in greater pressure on other systems, reducing access and adding to the stress faced by citizens.
  • Mumbai’s experience should serve as a warning to all fast-expanding Indian cities governed by municipal systems that have low capacity and capability to create people-friendly infrastructure.
  • Distortions in urban policymaking in recent years are all too evident, marked by support for loosely defined smart cities and personal vehicles, at the cost of basic interventions that will make the commons more accessible — roads, pavements, pedestrian facilities and public transport.
  • The safe mobility of people must be prioritised.


Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

Migration in Bengal delta driven by livelihood issues, social factors


Mains Paper 2: Indian Society | Population and associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the compact

Mains level: Problem of illegal migration


Population surge in Bengal

  • According to the 2011 national census, West Bengal is the fourth-most-populous state in India with a population of 91,347,736 (7.55% of India’s population).
  • As of 2011, West Bengal had a population density of 1,029 inhabitants per square km making it the second-most densely populated state in India, after Bihar

What pulls migrants towards Bengal?

  • Economic reasons are the precipitating factor for migration in the Indian Bengal Delta that comprises the Sunderbans reveals an international study.
  • The study is titled Deltas Vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECMA).
  • It points out that there is huge gender disparity when it comes to those migrating from the region.
  • The study reveals that 64% people migrate because of economic reasons, unsustainable agriculture, lack of economic opportunities and debt;
  • 28 % of the migration from the region is for social reasons and about 7% for environmental reasons like cyclones and flooding.

Highlights of the study

  • The DECMA report also finds that most migrants both in case of men and women are young, in the age group of 20-30 years.
  • When it comes to migration in the Indian Bengal Delta, the study finds a huge gender disparity, with men outnumbering women by almost five times.
  • It shows that of the people migrating 83% are men and only 17 % are women.
  • While most of the men migrate due to economic reasons, women do so, driven by mostly social factors.
  • It shows that 57% of migration is seasonal, where people move once or twice a year;
  • 19% is circular where those migrating move thrice a year irrespective of reasons and 24% permanent where people intend to stay for at least six months in the place they are migrating to.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] India Energy Modelling Forum


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Energy Modelling

Mains level: Move for energy modelling in India


India Energy Modelling Forum (IEMF)

  • The NITI Aayog and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized the first workshop on development of the India Energy Modelling Forum (IEMF).
  • The IEMF seeks to provide a platform for policy makers to study important energy and environmental issues and ensure induction of modelling and analysis in informed decision making process.
  • The Forum aims to improve cooperation and coordination between modeling teams, the Government of India, knowledge partners and think-tanks, build capacity of Indian institutions, and identify issues for joint modeling activities and future areas of research.

What is Energy Modelling?

  • Energy modeling or energy system modeling is the process of building computer models of energy systems in order to analyze them.
  • Such models often employ scenario analysis to investigate different assumptions about the technical and economic conditions at play.
  • Outputs may include the system feasibility, greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative financial costs, natural resource use, and energy efficiency of the system under investigation.
  • Governments maintain national energy models for energy policy development.

Outcomes of the forum

  • Discussions on energy modelling in India and the world explored how energy modelling can play an important role in decision-making.
  • The panelists laid focus on bridging the rural-urban divide and factoring in energy pressures from the informal economy within models.
  • Deliberations included a spotlight on how the impact of the evolving character of India’s cities, industries and especially the transport sector should be included in the any India-centric models.
  • The shift towards electric mobility, an increasing emphasis on mainstreaming of renewable energy options and overarching environmental concerns were also stated as key factors for determining India’s energy future.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] India Urban Observatory & Video Wall


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Urbanization – problems and remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  India Urban Observatory, Smart cities mission

Mains level: Making the cities data-smart


  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the state-of-the-art India Urban Observatory and Video Wall.

What is Urban Observatory?

  • It is a platform that uses data from different sources to enable analysis and visualization over a geospatial platform can make this possible.
  • The concept of Urban Observatories was formally initiated at the UN Habitat-II Conference in 1997 in Istanbul.
  • Some examples of well-established Urban Observatories are the Global Urban Observatory network, the Dublin Dashboard and the City Dashboard of London.
  • Such platforms churn out interesting analyses and visualizations by collating massive datasets.

India Urban Observatory

  • It is an important component of the recently launched DataSmart Cities strategy that envisions creating a ‘Culture of Data’ in cities, for intelligent use of data in addressing complex urban challenges.
  • Making cities ‘DataSmart’ is key to realizing the full potential of technology interventions and innovation ecosystems in cities.
  • The Data Smart Cities Policy allows cities to open their data to public view, such as number of hospitals, gardens, people, public toilets and other city management, the official added.
  • It will be a separate portal for Smart Cities under the data.gov website.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] Shehri Samridhi Utsav


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Urbanization – problems and remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana

Mains level: Read the attached story


Shehri Samridhi Utsav

  1. Shehri Samridhi Utsav (SSU) is a pan- India initiative of Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
  2. It aims to extend the outreach of Deendayal Antyodaya Mission – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), to the most vulnerable.
  3. It further aims to showcase its initiatives and facilitate access of Self-Help Group (SHG) members to the other government schemes.

Events under SSU

  1. Shehri Samridhi Utsav began with a series of rallies led by women’s’ SHGs, across the length and breadth of the country.
  2. These rallies spread awareness about DAY-NULM in urban poor communities.
  3. Through the Utsav, SHG members across cities are being linked to national government schemes.

Navigate to the page to read minutes of DAY-NULM:

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] India’s a land of cities, not villages


Mains Paper 1: Indian Society|  Developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of challenges of urbanisation

Mains level: The news-card analyses the flawed definition of urbanisation in India, in a brief manner.


  • It’s an election year in India, with the world’s largest polls expected in the spring and the focus is, as usual, on farmers and rural areas and competitive pandering to both — hardly surprising in a country that considers itself a nation of villages.


  • This narrative, however, has one major flaw. India is, in fact, more urban than it is known or acknowledged.
  • This seriously affects India’s growth prospects, leading to inefficiencies and loss of productivity in both rural and urban areas.
  • What’s worse, the resulting misallocation of resources is making India’s blossoming urban areas well-nigh unlivable.


Problem of definition: What constitute an Urban area?

  • The problem in India as elsewhere is largely one of definition.What constitutes a city or urban area varies widely around the world.
  • Some nations employ simple population cut-offs: Mexico and Venezuela count any town with more than 2,500 residents as urban, while New Zealand uses 1,000 people.
  • Since 2000, the U.S. Census has focused instead on population density (above a minimum threshold of 2,500 residents).
  • China uses a density criterion of 1,500 people per square kilo-meter, but recently expanded the definition to include residents of villages that are directly connected to municipal infrastructure or that receive public services from urban municipalities.
  • In India, only “statutory towns” are considered urban and have a municipal administration — a definition that officially leaves the country 26 % urban.
  • State governments make the decision using widely differing criteria; demographic considerations are peripheral at times.
  • The Census of India provides the only other official, and uniform, estimate. Its formula uses a mix of population, density and occupation criteria, and pegs India at 31 % urban.
  • Such estimates can be misleadingly low. For instance, Kerala is statutorily only 16 % urban. Yet the census sees the well-developed southern state as approximately 48 % urban.
  • If we use a population cut-off of 5,000 residents as Ghana and Lebanon do, or even Mexico’s threshold of 2,500 people, Kerala’s urban share leaps to 99 %, which is more consistent with ground reality. In effect, then, a state that’s close to 100 % urban is being governed as if it was only 16 % urban.
  • This pattern plays out across many large Indian states. Using a reasonably conservative definition as Ghana does, in fact, India is already close to 50 % urban, far removed from the dominant narrative that India lives in her villages.

Implications and Challenges

  • The consequences of underestimating the urban share of the population are dire.
  • Resources are badly misallocated: By one estimate, over 80 % of federal government financing still goes to rural development.This reduces incentives for politicians, especially rural ones, to change the status quo.
  • Tens of millions of Indians who live in dense, urban-like settlements are governed by rural governments that lack the mandate and the money to deliver basic services.
  • In India, urban governments are constitutionally required to provide things such as fire departments, sewer lines, arterial roads and building codes. Local bodies in rural areas aren’t.
  • Not acknowledging towns as urban also encourages haphazard and chaotic development.
  • As satellite data clearly show, most cities extend well beyond their administrative limits, and dense, linear settlements spread out of those cities along transit corridors.
  • This growth is unregulated and unplanned, marred by narrow roads, growing distance from major thoroughfares, limited open space and haphazardly divided plots.

Example of Kozhikode

  • As the map below of growth in Kozhikode (formerly known as Calicut) between 1975 to 2014 shows, what appears to be a single economic unit is now governed by a multitude of rural and urban jurisdictions, with no mechanism to coordinate on mobility, public goods or municipal services.
  • It’s difficult and expensive to retrofit such cities with proper infrastructure and services: In the areas below, road widths fall from an average of 10 meters pre-1990 to four meters in new growth areas.

Way Forward: Need for standard definition

  • India is hardly the only country to face these problems, even though its size and level of development makes the challenge here particularly acute.
  • The planet is over 50 % urban and continues to urbanize rapidly, almost entirely in the developing regions of Asia and Africa.
  • As long as there are no standard definitions, urban-rural classifications are likely to be political, path-dependent and arbitrary.
  • This will deny many countries the vital scale and agglomeration economies provided by urban areas, a necessary condition for escaping poverty.
  • A universal definition would need to be flexible. Instead of imposing a simple population cut-off, governments could track population densities and offer more urban services where they are highest.
  • Additionally, satellite data can be used to track the spread of development, so that city boundaries are expanded when necessary and where logical.


  • Any attempt to create a common and well-understood urban definition will be politically fraught and contested. But such an effort is critical.
  • Whether millions get to live in the equivalents of Melbourne, Tokyo or Stockholm rather than Mumbai, Lagos or Kinshasa crucially depends on these choices.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Lopsided spatial development in India needs to be fixed


Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MoHUA Schemes

Mains level: The newscard discusses issues, related to Lopsided spatial development in India, in a brief manner.


  • India’s unprecedented economic growth during the last two decades has been spearheaded by lopsided spatial development, with clusters of economic activity concentrated in a few highly dense megacities.
  • Engines of growth have failed to spread to less dense secondary cities.


  1. A majority of the population in India still lives outside megacities, this has created huge spatial disparities. Uneven spatial development is common in many countries, but it is much more pronounced in India.
  2. Unlike in China, Europe and the US, where the engines of growth and job creation have spread to the secondary cities, in India medium-sized cities remain mired in joblessness and poverty.
  3. Policymakers frown upon unequal spatial disparities and this has increased the importance of inclusive spatial development in our development discourse.

Why is India’s spatial development so lopsided?

  1. India’s manufacturing sector is spatially spreading at a much faster pace than the services sector. However, the manufacturing sector has not spread to all districts. Only those districts that have improved their physical and human infrastructure have attracted manufacturing enterprises.
  2. India’s services sector, a bigger engine of growth and job creation, has experienced different spatial evolution trends. High-density service clusters have continued to grow at a much faster pace than less dense areas and more dense locations have become more concentrated over time.
  3. This stands in contrast with the US, where in the last decades services have tended to grow fastest in medium density locations, such as Silicon Valley. India’s experience is not common to all fast-growing developing economies.

Why is India’s spatial evolution so different?

  1. One explanation is that while India’s megacities suffer from severe congestion costs, they also benefit from huge agglomeration economies and knowledge spillovers.
  2. The Fourth Industrial Revolution and new technology have favoured the trade-offs toward a concentration in services and a spread of maturing manufacturing.
  3. Modern services are benefitting more from knowledge spillovers compared to the manufacturing sector. This explains why agglomeration economies in services is likely to dominate congestion costs even in megacities, thus allowing high-density locations in India to grow at a much faster pace.
  4. It is more likely that the megacities in India are more successful not because they are less congested, but because spatial development policies and frictions are preventing the secondary cities from growing.

Future spatial trends

  1. Like spatial evolution experience of China and the US, India’s engines of growth and job creation will be in its secondary cities and not megacities.
  2. The relatively slow-growing Indian districts will grow much faster in the future.
  3. Of the well-known IT clusters in India, the medium-density places, such as Ahmedabad, Pune and especially Bengaluru, will have high growth rates in the future, while the high-density places, such as Chennai and Mumbai, will slow down.

Way Forward

  1. Engines of growth and job creation are not tied to big cities. Services can spread spatially at a much faster pace than the manufacturing sector and contribute to more inclusive growth.
  2. For this to happen, policymakers will need to improve access to telecommunication and post-secondary education in secondary cities.
  3. It is unfortunate that the services sector, which has contributed more to growth and job creation than manufacturing during the last two decades, has not got a seat at the table in our development discourse.
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