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    8th Feb, 2021


The Economic Survey 2020-21 has made relevant observations about the increasing pace of urbanization in India. In the process, it has highlighted the several associated challenges with such rapid urbanization and also given a glimpse of the various steps that the government is taking to overcome such challenges.

Scenario of Indian Urbanization:

Urbanization in India has become an important and irreversible process, and it is an important determinant of national economic growth and poverty reduction. Its extent can be understood by the following points:

  • According to Census 2011, India’s urban population was 37.7 crores, which is projected to grow to about 60 crores by 2030.
  • As per Census 2001, only 27.81% of the total population lived in urban areas. This figure rose to 31.16% in the Census 2011.
  • The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) predicts that the future increase in world’s urban population will be concentrated in just a few countries and the absolute growth in urban population is projected to be the highest in India. Thus, in terms of sheer numbers, the largest urban transformation of the 21st century is happening in India.

The urban centres are the major engines of economic growth in the country contributing to two-thirds of the country’s economic output and are the main recipients of FDI. 70% of future employment is expected to be generated in Indian cities, with emerging cities driving consumption expenditure.

Is everything fine concerning India’s urbanisation? PERHAPS NOT!

Urbanisation in India has been characterised with many negative aspects. Some of the worrying concerns can be seen as follows:

  • Unplanned Nature of Urbanisation – a major lacuna with urbanization in India has been the lack of planning, leading to very haphazard growth of Indian cities. This has consequently led to urban sprawl (mismanaged expansion of the urban areas) due to the rising population load in the urban areas.
  • Lopsided Nature of Urbanisation – In India, the major urban centres have been restricted to certain big cities which have grown at the cost of nearby areas. These mega-cities have emerged as the engines of growth, but they have failed to propagate the development to lower-tiered cities. This lopsided growth of urban centres has led to a top-heavy pattern (only major cities growing) devoid of a trickle-down effect (passing growth to lower cities).
  • Absence of Equity-led Development – The urban centres in India have emerged as areas marked by the stark contrast in the standards of living of the people. Several high rises, modern building is juxtaposed with poor slums and filthy squatter settlements highlighting the huge gap between the lower and upper classes in the urban areas.
  • Environmental Issues – The concretisation of urban areas has led to the creation of local urban heat islands, with such areas being characterised by a higher temperature as compared to other nearby areas due to increased trapping of heat. High rise buildings also restrict the free movement of air and lead to higher air pollution.
  • Other concerns – The rapid pace of urbanization poses significant challenges to basic infrastructure services such as housing, water supply, transportation, sanitation, solid waste and wastewater management.

What is being done to overcome these challenges?

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has taken extensive steps to address the problems of urbanisation in India and take advantage of the opportunities provided by the cities. The ministry has devised a three-level strategy for the same:

Specific Steps Taken Catering to the Needs of Urban Population in India:

(1)Swachh Bharat Mission - Urban (SBM-U): The Mission was launched on 2 October 2014 for 5 years to achieve 100% open defecation free (ODF) status and 100% solid waste management in all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

  • Steps taken under the SBM-U –
    • construction of individual household toilets
    • construction of community/public toilets
    • door-to-door collection of waste
    • waste segregation and processing
    • locating toilets through Google Map (includes 500+ toilet blocks of NHAI)
    • launch of Swacchta app for filing complaints related to cleanliness
    • Swacchta hi Seva campaign
    • SwacchSurvekshan – the world’s largest cleanliness survey for Urban India
  • Special Initiatives to Manage COVID19-
    • MoHUA repurposed Swachhata App enabling citizens to get their COVID-related complaints redressed by their respective ULBs. Since 1st April 2020, a total of 1.15 lakh complaints have been posted with a resolution rate of 82%
    • Advisories on safe disposal of waste from quarantined households, cleanliness protocols for public places and safety of sanitation workers issued.
    • Extensive social media campaign on IndiaFightsCorona carried out
  • Achievements under the SBM-U:
    • More than 99% of the cities have been verified to be Open Defecation Free (ODF)
    • More than 1500 cities have got ODF+ certification
    • More than 500 cities have got ODF++ certification

Definitions of relevant terms used:

ODF city- A city can be notified/declared as ODF city if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating in the open

ODF+ city - A city can be notified/declared as SBM ODF+ city if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, AND all community and public toilets are functional and well maintained.

ODF++ city - A city can be notified/ declared as SBM ODF++ city if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/ or urinating in the open, all community and public toilets are functional and well maintained, AND faecal sludge/septage and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging and/or dumping of untreated faecal sludge/septage and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.

(2)Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban)- Launched in 2015, the Mission aims to ensure ‘Housing for All’ in urban areas. The Mission provides central assistance to implementing agencies through States/Union Territories (UTs) and Central Nodal Agencies (CNAs) for providing houses to all eligible families/ beneficiaries

  • Achievements under the Scheme:
  • More than 1 Crore houses have been sanctioned out of which more than 40 lakh houses have been completed
  • Recent Special Initiatives under the PMAY(U):
    • Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHCs)-
  • In line with the Government’s vision of AtmaNirbhar Bharat, MoHUA has initiated this scheme for providing ease of living to people from EWS/LIG categories including labours, urban poor (street vendor, a rickshaw puller, other service providers etc.), industrial workers, educational/ health institutions, hospitality sector, Long term tourists, students or any other category. Investment under ARHCs is expected to create new jobs.
  • The urban migrant/ poor will get better and decent living environment through the creation of ARHCs near their workplaces. Industries too will be benefitted through the sustained supply of human resource resulting in improved productivity and workmanship for eventual economic gain.
    • Light House Projects (LHPs) under the Global Housing Technology Challenge(GHTC) India
  • LHPs are model housing projects with houses built with shortlisted alternate technology suitable to the geo-climatic and hazard conditions of the region. This will demonstrate and deliver ready to live houses with speed, economy and with a better quality of construction in a sustainable manner.
  • These LHPs shall serve as LIVE Laboratories for different aspects of Transfer of technologies to field application, such as planning, design, production of components, construction practices, testing etc. for both faculty and students, Builders, Professionals of Private and Public sectors and other stakeholders involved in such construction.
  • These model housing projects are being implemented in 6 States viz: Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh

(3)  Deendayal Antyodaya YojanaNational Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)-The Mission aims to (i) reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor households by providing self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities (it enables the creation of self-help groups); (ii) provide shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless; and (iii) address the livelihood concerns of the urban street vendors.

  • Special Initiatives under the Scheme:
    • Community-led innovative initiatives in the fight against COVID 19: The Self-Help Groups (SHGs) of DAY-NULM transformed into corona warriors by complimenting production of masks and sanitisers to fill-in for the supply gaps. Nearly 15,000 SHGs have produced more than 5 crore masks, more than 2.5 lakh Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits and nearly 1.20 thousand litres of sanitisers.
    • Prime Minister Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme: It aims to facilitate collateral-free working capital loans up to ?10,000 of 1-year tenure, to about 50 lakh street vendors to restart their business. It provides for incentives in the form of interest subsidy @ 7% per annum on regular repayment of the loan and cash-back up to ?1,200 per annum on undertaking prescribed digital transactions. (Note: The Small Industries Development Bank (SIDBI) is the implementation partner for the PM SVANidhi, a Central Sector Scheme)
    • Smart ID Cards: To support the urban street vendors and to safeguard their rights, the Mission has started to provide Smart ID cards and Certificate of Vending (CoV) to urban street vendors, containing important details about the street vendors in digitally codified form.
    • PAiSA (Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access) Portal: A centralized electronic platform for processing interest subvention on bank loans to beneficiaries under DAY-NULM

(4) Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)- AMRUT was launched in 2015 with the following objectives:

  • universal water supply;
  • improvement in sewerage network;
  • developing children and Divyang friendly green spaces and parks;
  • improvement in stormwater drainage and non-motorized urban transport and
  • implementing a reform agenda under which States/UTs are incentivized for implementation of reforms.

Efforts under AMRUT has led increased reuse of treated wastewater, the establishment of low-cost faecal sludge treatment plants, the establishment of ‘Water ATMs’ to dispense drinking water as cheap as Re.1 per litre and facilitate people to get 24x7 clean and safe drinking water

(5)Smart Cities Mission (SCM)-Launched in 2015, is one of the most transformational urban missions. The objective of the Mission is to strengthen urban infrastructure through the application of smart solutions and provide a better quality of life to citizens.
A total of 100 cities are being developed under the SCM characterised by modern features like:

  • Smart Roads- Ensure safe and convenient access and routes to all users, Reduced accidents on the road, Promote transit-oriented development
  • Smart Solar Energy-Smart Cities Mission requires cities to have at least 10% energy coming from solar and at least 80% of buildings to be energy efficient and green
  • Smart Water-Improved quality of water supply, Active leakage control and regular water supply, Reduction in loss of water through leakages and pilferage by leveraging Information & Communication Technology (ICT).
  • Vibrant Public Spaces- for the improved physical and mental health of the citizens

(6) Urban Transport- There is an urgent need to conserve energy and land, control pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Urban transport is a solution to these issues. Hence, planning and management of Urban Transport services and infrastructure require immediate attention.

  • Under efforts to promote urban transport, construction of Metro Rail Lines in the cities is being undertaken at a significant space with already 700km of Metro Rail operational and another 900km of Metro Rail/ Rapid Regional Transit System(RRTS) under construction.
  • Moreover, the Metro Rails are being integrated with Multi-Modal modes of transport to provide last-mile connectivity to the urban residents.


These multi-dimensional steps are undertaken in the right direction to alleviate issues related to urbanization in India. Urbanization is here to stay and increase rapidly, it is important to keep up the pace with the phenomenon and provide all the basic amenities to cater to the needs of the increasingly urban population. If both these things go hand-in-hand, the country can experience substantial economic growth and significant enhancement of the standards of living of the people.

Verifying, please be patient.