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Urban India's blight PDF Print
Written by Indicus Analytics   
Thursday, 09 December 2010 04:26
The country's urban development evades the issue of a burgeoning slum population

As focal points of civilisation, cities are a crucial part of the growth story since they bring diverse opportunities for employment, with the concentration of population creating the necessary base for trade and industry. Urbanisation in India took off in the seventies; the share of urban population rose 10 percentage points between 1901 and 1971 and another 8 percentage points in the three decades after 1971. India continues to be a land of villages — an estimated 30 per cent of the population now lives in cities, way below all other Asian economies. India’s rate of urbanisation is also lower than many Asian countries; according to the United Nations Population Division’s projections, by 2030, 40 per cent of the country’s population will live in urban areas, compared to 62 per cent in China.

An urban area, according to the Census definition, is one that has (i) a minimum population of 5,000; (ii) at least 75 per cent of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and (iii) a density of population of at least 400 per square kilometre (1,000 per square mile). Tamil Nadu is the most urbanised among large states with almost half of its population living in more than 600 towns. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka and Haryana are the other states where the urban population exceeds 30 per cent of the total. In terms of absolute number of people living in urban areas, Maharashtra led with 41 million in 2001, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Orissa, Assam and Bihar are states where less than 20 per cent of the population lives in urban areas; these are also the states with low per capita incomes since their residents have little recourse to the opportunities in cities. They also have little chance to improve their education and skill profiles because rural areas lack the requisite infrastructure. For states like Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, the number of cities or the extent of urbanisation has a lot to do with the geography or topography of the state. In these smaller states, despite low urbanisation, good connectivity has ensured overall development to all corners and people.
However, not all aspects of urbanisation are positive and, in India, where urban development leaves much to be desired, an offshoot of migration to the cities has been the rise in slum population. Maharashtra has the highest percentage of urban population living in slums, with Mumbai taking up the largest share. Interestingly, Tamil Nadu does much better — as the most urbanised state, it has just 10 per cent of its urban population living in slums. Haryana comes next to Maharashtra, amongst the urbanised states, with 23 per cent of its urban population in slums, while Punjab with 14 per cent is much worse off than Gujarat and Karnataka where less than 10 per cent of the urban population lives in slums.
Though cities across India are failing to provide essential resources to the residents, some states have managed their cities better than others. Karnataka is now reportedly the first state to plan for night shelters for the urban homeless. Despite the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and multiple government schemes, urban infrastructure is inadequate to cope even with the present rate of urbanisation, with many cities turning into haphazard concrete jungles, grappling with growing problems of traffic, garbage, water and power supply.

Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters