Those championing the cause of largescale urbanisation should ponder over and adopt the concept of urbanisation, that is developing villages with all sorts of urban facilities, opines Soroor Ahmed
As urbanisation has become a sort of synonym to development, in the post-Information and Communication Technology revolution era there is a need to redefine this phenomenon. The problem with the planners and policymakers of the Third World countries is that they adopt the western pattern of development without taking into consideration their own condition. Since the real estate dealers and builders have great interest in such developmental pattern, nobody is giving enough space to the alternative voice which warns against the rampant urbanisation.
For instance, many of us compare the per capita consumption of electricity of India with that of the United States or the United Kingdom and thus pronounce the judgment that we are less developed just because we consume less power. True, electricity is used more in industrialised countries, but that is not the only criterion to measure the progress. In the extremely cold countries the per capita consumption of power would naturally be higher because almost the entire population have to live and work in the centralised heat-system for about eight months a year. In the Tropical and Equatorial countries like ours, we can live without fans, but that is not possible in the cold region as the climatic condition is too cruel. Thus electricity consumption cannot be the sole yardstick for industrialisation.
In the same way one cannot simply say that India is backward in comparison to the countries of the West because 45 per cent of its population depend on agriculture and over 65 per cent live in villages. In most countries of Europe and the United States only one to three per cent people are engaged in farming. So should we too bring down our figure from 45 per cent to their level to be counted among the developed countries. After all in China 35 per cent population is dependent on agriculture though the percentage-wise arable land is much less.
In India it would not be possible to imitate the West. It would be impractical too. Besides, talking about urbanisation in the sparsely-populated countries is very easy in comparison to the densely populated countries of South Asia.
The blind acceptance of urbanisation is wreaking havoc in this part of Asia. Why to speak of Delhi, all the cities of landlocked north India and Pakistan become gas chambers every year yet we are doing nothing to de-populate them. Instead we have expanded the area of the National Capital Region by including 24 more districts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, besides 11 of Delhi itself.
If this trend continues, imagine what will happen to India’s capital a few years from now. A heavy downpour of a couple of hours throws everything haywire in most cities of the country.
As Delhi is neither a port city nor is it situated in the mineral-rich region, making it a big industrial hub is not good from the economic as well as environmental point of view. In fact, it is situated in between the two most fertile regions of Haryana and UP. So any further development would amount to the loss of thousands of acres of lush green land and displacement of farmers from agriculture.
At best there is scope for the service sector in Delhi. Even that should have its limit because as the national capital of India it already attracts people for other reasons.
Now that the situation in Delhi is going out of hand, a new concept of developing nine counter magnet areas has been envisaged. The idea is to develop cities a few hundred kilometres away from Delhi to check the migration towards the national capital. The areas selected for this purpose are Kanpur-Lucknow Corridor and Bareilly in UP, Kota and Jaipur in Rajasthan, Hisar and Ambala in Haryana, Patiala-Rajpura Corridor in Punjab, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and , Dehradun in Uttarakhand .
But the big question is: Will this work? Isn’t it a fact that cities like Kanpur are already too big and congested? Besides, will it not deprive lakhs of farmers of the most fertile land between Kanpur and Lucknow with the Ganga on way and the River Gomti not far away.
Why talk about Delhi and the upcoming Counter Magnets. Take the case of second-rung city like Patna. In September-October 2019 a large part of the upscale colonies of Bihar’s capital remained waterlogged for almost three weeks just because of late monsoon heavy shower. To save its skin, the Nitish Kumar government blamed the rain-god and climate change when the fact is that it did not declare this downpour as flood. How could it have done so as a large part of old Patna was completely free from such waist-deep waterlogging. Only the newly-developed posh localities were affected. This was simply because of poor planning and haphazard construction boom without taking into account the drainage system. Even the then deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and his family members had to be rescued from his home in Rajendra Nagar Colony.
Though the cities are bursting at the seams yet our planners are not trying to reverse the phenomenon. They are bringing labours from various nooks and corners of India to work in the industries in cities. Why not bring the industries – at least cottage and small ones – to their respective villages?
For example, tailors are taken from, say Araria in Bihar or Malda in West Bengal, to work in the garment factories in Mumbai. What is something so special that these shirts or trousers cannot be manufactured by the same set of work-force in their homes in Bihar or Bengal or anywhere else. In the 21st century, when motorable roads, electricity and cell-phones have reached the deep interiors of the far away land, why can’t this be made possible?
The villages in India, as in many other countries, have undergone a sea-change in the last few decades. Yet we are not utilising this situation. This is simply because our policymakers as well as corporate lobbies do not want this to happen.
Living in villages should not mean that everyone should depend on farming as it is being misunderstood. In India one-third population live in urban centres whereas in the United Kingdom the figure is 83.9 per cent and that of the United States 82.66 per cent.
Just imagine what will happen to the cities of India if urbanisation crosses 80 per cent mark. Instead of development the entire urban infrastructure would simply collapse.
So those championing the cause of largescale urbanisation should ponder over and adopt the concept of urbanisation, that is developing villages with all sorts of urban facilities. Otherwise, one should, God fear, wait for the catastrophe.