In­dia’s ur­ban awak­en­ing

Even as the coun­try’s ur­ban­i­sa­tion drive is gain­ing mo­men­tum, the big­ger is­sue of meet­ing the in­creas­ing hous­ing de­mands in th­ese ar­eas needs to be ad­dressed, says a re­port

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Ur­ban­i­sa­tion plays a cru­cial role i n the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of any na­tion. His­tory bears tes­ti­mony to the fact that ur­ban­i­sa­tion, in most cases, has ac­com­pa­nied eco­nomic growth be­cause it is char­ac­terised by mod­erni­sa­tion, in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion and so­ci­o­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. A new re­search by Cush­man & Wake­field and PHD Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try ( a multi- state apex or­gan­i­sa­tion that works at the grassroots level), ti­tled ‘Chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the hous­ing sec­tor in ur­ban In­dia’, high­lights the need to ad­dress the grow­ing hous­ing de­mand in the back­drop of ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus, In­dia has a pop­u­la­tion of 1.2 bil­lion cit­i­zens; 31.1% of the pop­u­la­tion or around 377 mil­lion peo­ple re­side in ur­ban ag­glom­er­a­tions. This is not as high as some other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and leaves sig­nif­i­cant head­room for rapid mi­gra­tion in the fu­ture. Ac­cord­ing to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, ur­ban In­dia is go­ing to be home to 600 mil­lion peo­ple by 2031, an in­crease of 59% from 2011. Clearly, In­dia is a coun­try on the move, but the ques­tion is whether In­dian cities will be pre­pared to ac­com­mo­date such an in­flux of pop­u­la­tion whilst pro­vid­ing ba­sic and qual­ity ameni­ties to its dwellers.

Im­pact on hous­ing

One of the big­gest pitfalls of In­dia’s un­planned ur­ban­i­sa­tion is the un­der-sup­ply of hous­ing units. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion (MHUPA), in 2012, there were 18.78 mil­lion units hous­ing units short in ur­ban In­dia.

Nearly 95% of this short­fall was in the eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions (EWS) and low in­come group (LIG) hous­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port by C&W and PHD Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try, de­mand for ur­ban hous­ing will scale up by nearly 12 mil­lion units by 2017 based on just the cur­rent growth of pop­u­la­tion. Around 23% of this to­tal de­mand will be gen­er­ated in the top eight cities of In­dia.

By 2021, the ur­ban pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to in­crease to nearly 500 mil­lion, to­talling to about 35% of the pop­u­la­tion of In­dia, says the re­port. Hence, the to­tal hous­ing de­mand in the coun­try by 2017 could be as high as 88.78 mil­lion units, says the re­port. The ur­ban hous­ing short­age is 87% closely linked to the cre­ation of slums in each ma­jor metropoli­tan city in In­dia, which are con­sid­ered detri­men­tal to the ur­ban­i­sa­tion agenda.

The 2011 cen­sus enu­mer­ated that 13.9 mil­lion house­holds with a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of nearly 65.5 mil­lion peo­ple re­side in slums in In­dian cities. Ru­ral mi­gra­tion is con­sid­ered to be one of the most im­por­tant con­trib­u­tors to the growth in the slum pop­u­la­tion. The slum pop­u­la­tion in In­dia was pro­jected to be 94.98 mil­lion in 2012 and is ex­pected to touch 104.67 mil­lion by 2017.

This in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, if not matched with the re­quired in­crease in hous­ing units, could con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of more slums in ur­ban ar­eas, cre­at­ing a so­cial prob­lem. Qual­ity of hous­ing is a chal­lenge too, states the re­port. Ac­cord­ing to 2011 Cen­sus data, 3% houses in ur­ban In­dia re­quire re­pair. Ide­ally in ur­ban cen­tres, there should not be any house clas­si­fied as “di­lap­i­dated”.

Crux of the prob­lem

The core prob­lem with In­dia’s ur­ban­i­sa­tion lies in the fact that it has barely paid at­ten­tion to ur­ban transformation so far.

Stud­ies con­ducted on ur­ban­i­sa­tion in In­dia re­veal alarm­ing facts, point­ing out that In­dia must t ake mea­sured steps to­wards sus­tain­able ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, as per the re­port. Cities should be able to pro­vide ba­sic ser­vices and ameni­ties to mi­grant work­ers and eco­nom­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions of so­ci­ety, says the re­port. In­dia is vis­i­bly de­fi­cient in pro­vid­ing even ba­sic ser­vices to its ex­ist­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tion, it adds.

The road ahead

While In­dia has un­der­in­vested in its cities, its tough­est com­peti­tor, China, paid heed to the de­mands of ur­ban­i­sa­tion and tack­led it via ap­pro­pri­ate fund­ing, governance and plan­ning, says the re­search. Al­most a decade ago, the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia launched the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Na­tional Ur­ban Re­newal Mis­sion (JNNURM). Ac­cord­ing to March 2012 data from the Min­istry of Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment (MoUD), JNNURM has ap­proved projects worth $11.2 bil­lion.

But has it re­ally helped trans­form In­dia’s ur­ban land­scape? Poli­cies and plans must be sup­ported by sound ex­e­cu­tion with­out any bu­reau­cratic and reg­u­la­tory bot­tle­necks. The man­date now is to trans­form and in­crease the use of land, ex­pand in­fra­struc­ture, and most im­por­tantly, speed up ex­e­cu­tion, sums up the re­port.

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