Urban territories, rural governance

By Gopa Samanta in infochange (full text here)

West Bengal has the highest number of census towns among all the Indian states — with 528 villages reclassified as such in the last decade — but only 127 urban local bodies. The slow process of municipalisation means that most census towns, especially those with fast-growing industry, mining and commercial enterprises, are urban areas governed by gram panchayats. Such urban territories can become unregulated free-for-alls, with low taxes but haphazard development and poor infrastructure and services.

Size matters

By R B Bhagat in infochange (full article here)

Size clearly matters in the hierarchy of urban agglomerations. Most programmes including JNNURM are directed at the big cities. Basic civic services including electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water for the poor in small cities and towns are abysmal, and hardly better than rural areas. The widening gap in income levels between rural and urban areas cannot be bridged without developing small cities and towns.

Exclusionary cities: The exodus that wasn’t

By Amitabh Kundu in infochange (full article here)

Yes, the urban population increased more in absolute terms during 2001-11 than rural population. But, no, this is not because distressed agricultural workers are pouring into cities. It’s because census activism has tripled the number of urban centres in Census 2011. In fact, exclusionary policies are discouraging the inflow of rural poor into the mega cities.

Transition towns

By Kalpana Sharma in infochange (full article here)

The 74th constitutional amendment has on paper devolved power to urban local bodies. But even a cursory look at small towns reveals that elected representatives have little knowledge of their powers or responsibilities, cannot read or frame budgets and fail to generate local resources for planned development. Many of these towns are still transitioning between large village and town, with even basic public services absent, particularly for the poor.

The ‘other’ urban India

By Partha Mukhopadhyay in infochange (full article here)

The most vibrant, people-driven process of urbanisation is occurring outside the large metropolises which dominate popular imagination. It is not directed by the state, as in Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, nor developed by the private sector, as in Mundhra or Mithapur. It is the result of decisions about livelihood and residence made by thousands of individuals that coalesce to transform a ‘village’ into a census town.

The challenges of urbanisation may be even greater in small towns


by Jayati Ghosh, The Guardian, Tuesday 2 October 2012

Global urbanisation has prompted a focus on megacities that overlooks the needs and vulnerabilities of smaller settlements.

Most of the policy discussion concerning global urbanisation has focused on megacities. And certainly, these huge and historically unprecedented agglomerations create a whole host of new requirements and vulnerabilities that have to be addressed creatively and equitably. But if we are too focused on this single issue, we may lose sight of another emerging problem likely to explode in the coming years.

Increases in urban population reflect three separate forces: the natural rise in population within urban areas; the migration of rural dwellers to urban areas; and, as settlements expand and become more densely populated, the reclassification of rural settlements as urban. All three forces have been at work to varying degrees. But where the third factor is significant, it creates a particular problem, because the administrative machinery for urban areas seldom exists for such settlements.