From the Viewsroom

Rethink urbanisation

Poornima Joshi | Updated on May 05, 2020

The migrants crisis is a failure of inclusive city planning

Covid-19 has underlined the extreme fragility of the urban poor who do not have the capital or the resources to survive even a week in the aftermath of the national lockdown. The exclusion of the urban poor from public transport as also housing, drinking water, sanitation, access to healthcare caused them to flee the big cities when their jobs evaporated.

It is clear now that official claims of a reduction in the absolute numbers of poor have erroneously been made on the basis of expenditure patterns that do not take into account the current perceptions of consumption, living conditions, housing conditions, social environment and health access. A decade ago, possession of a mobile phone may have been considered a luxury but today, construction workers and vegetable vendors possess mobiles. That does reduce their extreme vulnerability.

Urban growth in India is highly exclusionary as reflected even in the independent State of Delhi; with its two-tier governance structure, the number of people living in slum clusters ranges from 20 per cent of the population (Census, 2011) upwards. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana keeps a modest target of building 20 million affordable houses by March, 2022 while the success, or the lack of it, of Rajiv Awas Yojana and Indira Awas Yojana can only be gauged from the estimates by the Census and other agencies of the poor inhabiting slum clusters with limited access to sanitation, drinking water or healthcare facilities. Urban transport systems are mostly designed keeping in mind car congestion. There are 53 cities of more than one million population and the question about responding to their mobility needs has not been addressed. Rather than score points over who pays for the migrants’ fare back home, the policy-makers, present as well as those who preceded them, should focus on promoting an organic, inclusive model of urban development.

Published on May 06, 2020

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