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What’s the future of our growing, dying cities

Published: Mar. 29, 2024
Updated: Mar. 29, 2024

MUCH is made of how cities matter to the future of India. Not enough thought is given to whether cities have a future the way they are. Urbanization brings growth one way or the other and with the momentum that is set, the tendency is to keep rolling on. The result has been a bunch of complex problems which are by the day getting more difficult to resolve.

For cities to serve their purpose, they need financial resources and political power to devolve to local administrations. Currently both money and power are skewed against them. Cities are broke and their local leaders have no clout, coming way down in the pecking order of parties and governments.

To accommodate growing numbers of people, cities should be sustainable. Needed are water, clean air, public transport, waste management, robust and fair housing markets. You won’t find these widely in India’s urban story.

Above all, to succeed, cities must bear the hallmark of fraternity. They should offer inclusion and equality and the spaces where realizing one’s dreams doesn’t depend on who you are and where you come from. Right now, they are dominated by elites and it shows in the way systems run and who gets what. The poor may make more money in a city, but the underclass stays where it is. It is only the outliers who manage to find their way up the ladder.

Bengaluru’s water crisis is an example of the intricate mess that looms over Indian cities. Why is it that in a city known for its billionaires and prosperous businesses a solution can’t be found for something so basic as water? The wealthy meet their needs and easily secede from Indian realities. The political class shies away from confronting voters with the facts about consumption. The rising middle class has no civic values. The result is that though Bengaluru has water bodies and enough rain, it stares water scarcity in the face. For sustainability to work, many pieces of the jigsaw of governance have to be in place.

Stories of stray dogs attacking and killing children continue to shock us. They come in from all over the country with the latest being from Tughlak Lane in the heart of central Delhi. It is interesting that there is hardly a murmur when children from poor families are killed in dog attacks. This is another example of our elitist cities. Finally, a new column by Sumita Ghose called Craft Equity. We hope it creates more awareness about the great crafts that India has and the potential of rural folks to run their own enterprises.


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