As a part of its agenda to provide better civic amenities and career options while ensuring rapid growth of Indian economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA Government embarked on building 100 smart urban hubs across the country for which Rs 7,600 crore has been allocated in the General Budget 2014-2015.
In his maiden Budget on Thursday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The Prime Minister’s vision of developing 100 smart cities as satellite towns of larger cities by modernising the existing mid-sized cities…unless new cities are developed to accommodate the burgeoning number of people, the existing cities would soon become unlivable.”
Increasing population burden on existing cities has been a major challenge but even previous Governments lacked a proper vision on how to provide a better quality of life to the urban population. Migration of large number of job seekers from rural India, especially from northern and eastern States, highlights the gravity of situation. The influx of heavy population is absorbed mainly by a few mega cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Bangalore.
Obviously, there is a massive pressure on the resources and civic amenities available in these cities. According to a latest report, India’s National Capital Delhi has now become the world’s second most populous city with 2.5 crore population. It further says that that population growth in Delhi will keep going up and it is expected that by 2030, it will rise to 3.6 crore.
The population of India’s industrial capital Mumbai, which sees a huge influx of migrants from the States like UP and Bihar every year, has been pegged at 2.1 crore, the sixth most populous in the world, the report says.
Citing rise in population in India at a rapid rate, the report states that India faces many challenges in meeting the needs of urban population like housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and health care.
Experts believe that the people of the National Capital are faced with the problems like poor water and electricity supply, lack of educational and health care facilities and poor sanitation, infrastructure and law and order have been caused due to rapid rise in population growth rate.
According to the 2001 Census, Delhi had a population of approx 13,782,976, which in 2011 rose to 16,753,235. That’s a 30 lakh increase in the span of a decade. A major part in the population is contributed by the migrants from the other parts of the country.
In the light of these challenges, the Government’s initiative to develop 100 smart cities across the country is a welcome step. The concept of smart city is influenced by the idea of developing the urban hubs which would be running on technology to provide better electricity and water supply, improve sanitation and recycling, proper traffic and transport management systems.
Though rising population not only poses challenges but also provide new opportunities for modernisation and economic expansion. According to a McKinsey report, urbanisation will propel India’s GDP growth by five time by 2030. It also says that 590 million people will be living in the cities, nearly twice the population of the US at present. There will be a 70 per cent growth in employment generation in the cities and 9.1 crore urban families will be categorised as middleclass vis-a-vis 2.2 crore at present.
The report further says that India’s 68 cities will have over 10 lakh population which is at present 42. Europe has 35 cities which have over 10 lakh population for which there will be a need to build a huge network of road, rail and metro rail connectivity.
If the initiative on smart cities is analysed with the thrust on taking forward the concept of ‘Digital India’ by increasing high-speed Internet connectivity across the country, introducing digital classrooms, providing online delivery of services through integration of Government departments and introducing online or e-visas, it is quite clear that the new Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is serious on transforming the face of India from a ‘developing to a developed nation’, from a key regional player of South Asia to a major global player.