Old, over-crowded part of Kolkata



FRONT PAGE
SiteSearch
About us
Directories


Smart cities in India
India needs new cities
India's rapid urbanization
India's urban time bomb
Mumbai government
Dharavi: Slum or model village
Japan post-tsunami development
Gandhinagar under threat
India's local government
India's pavement dwellers under threat
Megacities: Mumbai
Urban development in Asia

Largest Indian cities
Green mega cities
Linear cities


City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa | Events |


Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa are competing for the annual World Mayor Award. More


City Mayors ranks the world’s largest as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More


City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More


City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More


City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world and questions them about their achievements, policies and aims. More


City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More


City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More


City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More


City Mayors lists and features urban events, conferences and conventions aimed at urban decision makers and those with an interst in cities worldwide. More


City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More


City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More


City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More


City Mayors deals with urban transport issues in developed and developing countries and features the world’s greatest metro systems. More


City Mayors examines education issues and policies affecting children and adults in urban areas. More


City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More


City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More


City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More


City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More


City Mayors invites readers to write short stories about people in cities around the world. More


City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More


City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More


City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More


City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More

India will need new cities and
they will require new powers

By Subir Roy, Business Standard

23 February 2008: India is on a high growth path and rapidly urbanising. If it mismanages the latter, it will have difficulty in ensuring the former. But there is currently little public awareness of the scale of the challenges ahead. Consequently grossly inadequate systems remain in place to handle the task.

In the 25-year period (2001-26) India will be adding 220 million to its urban population, taking it up by 77 per cent. Urban Indians earn much more than rural folks, the urban-rural income differential being around 2.5. The country’s growth engine is clearly its urban areas. To accommodate the additional millions India will have to add around 14 Delhis or 18 Mumbais or 30 Bangalores! How do we create this much of liveable urban space or locate the resources and people needed to deliver it? In many ways this will be the key challenge facing India for the next few decades.
 
The first need is give the tier of urban government an altogether different degree of importance than what it is getting now. Currently state governments are mostly paying lip service to the devolution envisaged in the 74th amendment to the Constitution, even though that itself is far from enough.
 
To make this happen, it is necessary for the country’s top political aspirants — like a young Deora or Pilot — to come forward and take ownership of the large cities, transform them and build a national career on that foundation. In the pre-independence days, when higher levels of government were not open to Indians, the mayor of Calcutta or Bombay was the big pedestals to aspire to. Hence people like Subhas Chandra Bose and Khursheed Nariman became mayors. Since the eighties New York City has been transformed by two powerful politicians — Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. They both have thought of becoming president of the United States one day by using their stewardship of the city as a springboard.
 
Ambitious politicians do not step into powerless low-profile posts but that is what the top job in the country’s town halls often is. City administrations are run by municipal commissioners, who are answerable only to ministers sitting in the Mantralaya in Mumbai or Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore. But it is the corporators through the various committees who control municipal spending. On top of this absurdity sits in most cases a toothless mayor who heads office for one or two years and whom hardly anyone knows. This disconnect between political and executive authority and spending power is what is killing our cities.
 
The situation is a bit better in Chennai and Kolkata, where there is a mayor in council whose members are elected for five years and who, in the case of Kolkata, elect a mayor (the same way MLAs elect a chief minister). Perhaps the best system of all, among the big cities, prevails in Chennai, where the mayor is also directly elected by the people for five years. Unsurprisingly Chennai has arguably the best civic administration in the country.
 
So the entire country has to shift to the mayor in council and directly elected mayor system. But this will not be enough. A former municipal commissioner who will be a top-class administrator anywhere in the world says that currently there is no incentive for the bureaucracy to perform, without which you cannot have a professional administration. Bureaucrats are currently accountable to politicians at the local as well as state level. His answer is a directly elected mayor who runs the town hall like a CEO with the help of a board of directors. The elected council continues to hold the purse strings but the mayor has enough powers to run the administration well and create visible cash flows which can be used to leverage additional finance.
 
Even this will not be enough. Vivek Kulkarni, who as IT secretary of Karnataka unsuccessfully tried to craft a crescent of development on Bangalore’s periphery called the IT corridor, realised that 40 per cent of the area was already ‘hard’, built-up via plans sanctioned with the rigour of a small town municipality. His solution: the land use plan for a city must cover an additional 15-20 sq km of rural area beyond current city boundaries and this plan has to be clearly declared (put on a public website) so that people don’t build wrongly and the city, in order to grow, does not have to confront structures already in place.
 
He has another idea. Instead of growing a city concentrically around its periphery, develop new towns in largely un-built-up areas with a fast rail or road link that can easily go up to 200 km. Several such new towns can come up along a single link. Builders say such a town can be entirely self-financing in terms of its infrastructure so long as it has a critical mass, stretch over 5,000 acres or more in mixed development and accommodate half a million people upwards. The best new developments in the country, Greater Noida and New Town near Kolkata, meet these criteria.
 
To have land use plans for areas where a city will grow in the future or to plan new cities (India needs 200 new one million population cities in 20 years) you need state government and politicians who are willing and able. And once you have them you don’t need a central urban renewal mission, which can offer only piecemeal solutions.

Comment on this article
Read comments



New construction in New Town near Kolkata


Also by Subir Roy
Time bomb is ticking away for India’s cities
India is facing a massive urban crisis, whose solution is nowhere in sight. This is partly because what kind of a time bomb the crisis represents - how quickly things are likely to reach unbearable proportions - is not fully appreciated by most. The crisis has many facets but it is only the clogged roads that are seen to be for what they are: impossible to live with. Issues like having enough water and power and getting rid of waste are considered serious but not seen as coming to a head soon.

More shortsighted is the attitude to health. Growing respiratory problems and rising healthcare expenditure, enabled by growing incomes, seem to have established a strange dynamic equilibrium, with little thought as to where this will ultimately lead. There is of course the least concern over aesthetics. For the most part we live in filthy, ugly towns and cities which are losing whatever little heritage and ancient trees they have had, and most of the population seems eager only to rush to the shopping malls and own a two-wheeler or maybe a car. More