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Urbanization in India and issues

It is more than half of a century that India became independent. The country has evolved and emerged a lot from pre independence to post independence era. At the time of independence, the country was poverty stricken, impoverished and a rural agrarian society. In 1947, only 15 per cent of the population in cities and towns were classified under urban areas. The rapid development and economic growth helped the country achieve the status of emerged nations.

The country is now one of the leading nations among the developing countries and the progress has made the country leave behind many developed nations as well. As per recent United Nations development reports on urbanization, India has achieved 30 per cent urbanization in 2010. The urbanization in India increased from meager 10 per cent in 1901 to more than 30 per cent. However it was much lesser in terms of rank when compared to other nations that have achieved a higher rate of urbanization and much less below the world urbanization population of 50 per cent (UNPD World Urbanization Prospects: The2009 Revision).

Urbanization implicates increase in population living in urban areas. 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). With increase in population, the country’s urban population also increased. The Census 2001 reports that almost 29 percent of Indians in urban India.

Apart from increase in population the other factors that have contributed to rapid urbanization are migration from rural sector to urban. This happened mainly on account of the increasing infrastructural development to facilitate growth for corporate sector. While the major factor in initiating migration from rural areas to urban sector was increased landlessness in agricultural sector, reduced livelihood potentials in rural sector and increasing employment opportunities in the urban sector with the growth of industries. The high level of income in urban areas, education, availabilities of basic amenities, improved infrastructural facilities and increase in medical facilities were some other factors that helped increase rapid urbanization.

Among the states, Tamil Nadu is the most urbanized in 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 very low in terms of urbanization and remained largely agricultural 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.

The basic features of urban development is increasing infrastructural facilities, access to improved communication and information technologies, qualitative living standard, high income spending, consumerism and improvement in other socio economic parameters. These areas are also distinguished from the rural counterpart in terms of demographic indicators like low birth rate, low mortality, increased longevity, etc. the issues of migration, unemployment are linked to increasing the urbanization in the country. The seasonal unemployment, disguised unemployment and other factors that reduce the rural livelihood potential leads to increased migration towards urban sector. Improvements in connectivity through better communication and transport facilities have also made the migration, which was transitory in nature to permanent migration.

Besides, the increase in population the other factors that increased the urbanization in India are the development of the sub urban areas that got upgraded to the urban sector. Thus the peripheral areas got the status of urban sector. Some other semi urban areas also got upgraded to urban sector with increased amenities and setting up of institutions. Increase in village population with improved civic amenities also made these villages get the status.

Along with increased urbanization some issues emerged with the urbanization in India. The increase in slums in urban sector became a major problem. Unplanned growth of residential and commercial structures, inadequate supply of drinking water facility and increase in traffic were some other adverse effects that emerged with increase in urbanization. Also increasing urban population in absence of proportionate increase in employment opportunities also increased urban rate of unemployment.

The civic amenities were also curtailed with more persons to benefit from the existing ones. Some of the 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. To address some of the issues, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and multiple government schemes were initiated by the central and state governments. Still the urban infrastructure is inadequate to cope even with the present rate of urbanization, with many cities turning into haphazard concrete jungles, grappling with growing problems of traffic, garbage, water and power supply.

The increase in property and assets prices is some other repercussions of the urban development. Increase in essential commodity price and non essential commodities price resulted as the demands from urban sector grew. However issues on inflation and increasing prices pertained to whole of India which has failed to increase the supply in tandem with growing population.

Urbanization in India increased rapidly in post independence era. Despite the rapid growth rate the country was ranked much lower as compared to other developing nations of South East Asia. The major factors that affected urbanization were increase in population, migration from rural areas and peripheral suburban and semi-urban areas getting the urban status. However with the urban growth issues related to development also emerged. There has been increase in slums, reduction in civic amenities, increase in property prices, increase in prices of other essentials and non essential commodities.


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