The story of cities is not told in interesting ways in our history books. The ‘utopia’ of Gram Swaraj did not let people and policymakers embrace cities and solve their problems. However, since economic liberalization, the story of cities has really begun in the country. In the upcoming decades, many cities will rise to prominence and many would fall. If we look at our history as urban creatures, human civilization is all about urbanization and de-urbanization. Whenever human progress moved forward, cities rose to prominence. Be it the Indus Valley civilization or the great Gupta Empire period which is considered the golden age of India, urbanization was of one of central themes in all these great civilizations.
The Congress governments saw urbanization as a problem and tried to slow the process through coercive government policies. One of the objectives of rural employment programmes, MGNREGA was to slowdown the process of urbanization and reduce the ‘stress’ on cities. However, the Modi government embraced urbanization and in January 2016 the government chose 20 cities to make them smart. Now the scheme is showing results with many projects being sanctioned. As per the data from the Union Ministry of Urban Affairs, projects worth 33,970 crore rupees were tendered as of January 2018 and this increased to 1, 26,000 crore rupees by February 2019.
Projects worth 19,000 rupees were completed as January 2018 and this increased to 79,780 rupees by February 2019, a 320 percent increase. “We appointed city support coordinators, from within members of our team. Each member from our Mission Management Unit at Delhi and the Technical Assistance team was mapped to some cities and they continuously engaged with their representatives. They were tasked with the responsibility of identifying projects that were stuck and the overall achievement of the,” said Mission director Kunal Kumar.“A well planned 360 degree engagement and intensive troubleshooting with cities worked and the result is for everyone to see,” he added.
The 100 smart cities chosen are divided in five zones(east, west, north, south and central) with 20 cities in each zone. The cities which the government intends to make smart are from 29 states and 7 union territories of the country. The Modi government has embraced urbanization and trying to solve the problems of urban ecosystems. The government’s effort will give the much needed fillip to urbanization and thus propel economic growth.
The rise of cities could be seen in Indian civilization once again. Some of them being planned and developed through government efforts like Atal Nagar (Naya Raipur) while some grow on their own like Gurugram. The success story of Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi also symbolizes the growing appetite of Indians to live in urban areas equipped with cutting edge technology and state of the art infrastructure. The exponential growth of urbanization indicates that Indian civilization is flourishing once again. This civilization has seen many rises and falls and the future is expected to be the same. Let’s hope that this cycle of growth and urbanization lasts long.