September 12, 2015

The India of Towns

In this Business Standard article, Mihir Sharma asks: "Why is it that so many of India’s cities, which could be locations for the dissolution of the many barriers that divide us, instead replicate and strengthen them?... We have been lulled by official statistics into thinking we are still only about a third urban. In fact, as recent work by the IDFC Institute shows, picking up other global best-practice definitions, rather than the outdated ones we use, mean that India might be half urban — or even two-thirds."

 

More excerpts below:

 

"The ban by Mumbai’s city administration on meat during four days sacred to Jains has rightly been seen as a further imposition of parochial attitudes on to what was once India’s most cosmopolitan city... is there some link between this and the equally sad and true fact that urban amenities in India are unquestionably second-rate?...

This urbanisation is not just unplanned and uncomfortable for the inevitable migrants. It also disenfranchises them, and minimises the chances  that they can find issues and policies around which they can organise, and transform our politics in the doing...

Look to Delhi for an answer. Its self-government, although hamstrung and diffuse, is greater than India’s other cities can boast. Thus there is far greater accountability than in other places — and the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) only real political innovation, the idea of radical decentralisation, can find fertile root. The prospect of accountability, as opposed to the remoteness offered by the Congress or the BJP to the electorate last January, is the ideological impetus behind the AAP’s sweep of the city-state’s assembly. Behind the tiresome dramebaazi, the AAP’s real politics in power has been a scatter-shot implementation of that agenda: of local health dispensaries, of greater local voice in schooling and, yes, a demand for the same in policing...

Were cities or urban clusters given real self-government, with the ability to raise their own resources and hold their own government machinery properly accountable, we would find the same policy ferment and experimentation — and local pride — that we have noticed in states over the past decades. What India needs is bottom-up solutions to the problems of urbanisation...
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Topic : Transitions / In : OP-EDS
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