Of all the future forecasts about India, the present Government’s favourite one is about attaining a $5 trillion economy by 2024
. It is being trumpeted as signifying a great economic success — when India will be the third biggest economy in the world. India’s GDP will be the ultimate measure of wealth in the $5 trillion economy and not the living standards of 1.3 billion people.
The transition to a $5 trillion economy will require many drastic changes, especially in the pace of urbanisation. Already, India’s fast urbanisation
has led to 34 per cent of the population living in urban areas. India still has the largest rural population in the world. China has 58.5 per cent urbanisation
and if India is aiming at a similar level, it has to prepare for a huge influx of migrants from rural areas. Already internal migration is at its peak and according to the Economic Survey 2016-17, around 100 million people have moved from their villages to work in towns and cities in the past. Migration in India is largely circular, semi-permanent and male dominated. Looking for jobs and having no money in their pockets, most migrants end up living in slums and shanty towns of big cities. Here the living conditions are dismal and sanitation is abysmal. Living in slums is the most inhuman consequence of urbanisation today and the State Governments seem helpless in tackling the heavy flow of migrants.
Living in slums is the most inhuman consequence of urbanisation today.
Mumbai is a city with almost 60 per cent of the population living in slums.
It may have impressive steel and glass skyscrapers but the entire city seems to be surrounded by slums and shanty towns. Billionaires live cheek by jowl with the slum dwellers but life goes on as usual for them. There is a huge inequality of income which is not being addressed by the government.
Mumbai has recently been declared the 12th richest city in the world
, according to New World Health, the South Africa based global market research group. New York is the richest city in the world. Mumbai has a total wealth of $960 billion and has 45,000 millionaires and 28 billionaires while it also has Dharavi — the largest slum in Asia.
There are many books written on Dharavi and films made on the life there, including the latest film “Gully Boy”. Yet it remains an enigma because it is so vibrant, yet so poorly maintained and that too right in the middle of Mumbai.
Its production is worth $665 million per year and houses a diverse community of people from all religions, castes and creed. Leather products are a specialty as well as machine parts and components which are fed into the manufactures of SMEs. The entire production process seems to be well integrated with globalisation and e-commerce is common. It is the opportunity to earn a living that attracts migrants to Dharavi and even if their accommodation is grossly inadequate, people opt to live there. Toilets are scarce and each toilet is used by around 190 people. The streets are full of piles of garbage and filth fills the water bodies and drains.
It is the opportunity to earn a living that attracts migrants to Dharavi and even if their accommodation is grossly inadequate, people opt to live there.
Mumbai may have the poshest homes and hotels, yet its underbelly festers. It is the creaking infrastructure that is not helping the 12th
richest city in the world. The roads are full of potholes and broken pieces of turf. The mass transport system has not been refurbished with latest buses, and too late, a Metro is now being constructed. It makes it difficult for slum dwellers to commute and it takes much longer to reach the place of work. Commuter trains are frequent but dangerous and every day, there are fatal accidents.
Having a $5 trillion economy with huge number of people living in dismal conditions in big cities is hardly something that we should be proud of or aspire for. Cities need better infrastructure, affordable housing, piped water supply in every household, sanitation and garbage disposal.
The Modi government has aimed at providing affordable housing to the middle class. Income tax deductions on the purchase of such houses are being offered by the Government. Hopefully, this will help resolve the problem of unauthorised colonies in Delhi and there will be better transportation to connect housing complexes to the city centre.
All big cities, including Delhi, have a huge problem of solid waste disposal
. In the outskirts of Delhi, there are mountains of garbage which are dangerous because of the toxic gases they generate from such landfill fires.
Air pollution has reached a crisis level in all big cities and there is an urgent need for cleaning the air which can only come with strict enforcement of bans on certain types of pollutants.
The Modi government’s sanitation drive may have halted open defecation but it hasn’t done much to clear the cities of open garbage piles which put off foreign tourists. Mumbai generates most garbage, amounting to 11,000 tons a day, and Kolkata seems to have most open garbage in the streets. India generates 150,000 tons of garbage every day. It is a colossal task to take care of garbage disposal and recycle waste. It is a daunting task before the city and municipal administration. Unless it is resolved, the big cities will have huge problems of sanitation.
Urbanisation is also ushering in traffic congestion and dust, leading to air pollution in Delhi. It is leading to the deterioration of the general health of citizens and making it an unattractive destination for foreign investment and tourism. Each Indian city is heavily polluted and no wonder, 22 out of the world’s 30 most polluted cities happen to be in India. Air pollution has reached a crisis level in all big cities and there is an urgent need for cleaning the air which can only come with strict enforcement of bans on certain types of pollutants. The enforcement of law will be another problem in congested cities in the future.
Unless the serious problems surrounding the higher rates of urbanisation are addressed, there will be more human deprivation, disease and suffering. It will also bring about greater amount of crime and law and order problems. Unless each and every citizen is guaranteed a safe and comfortable life, there is little point in aiming for a $5 trillion economy.
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