Bharat canít grow unless India does
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We have been recounting aankhon dekhi stories of change in the cities and towns of India based on visits we made in our respective capacity as chairperson of the High Powered Expert Committee on Urban Infrastructure and a consultant to the Committee. The Report of the Committee has just been submitted to the Ministers for Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation. In our last column together, we present some of the highlights of the Committee's findings. Ranesh Nair moves on to a new assignment, but Isher Ahluwalia will continue to bring the stories of challenge and response from urban India.
Indian cities are visibly deficient in the quality of services they provide although in the last few years we have seen examples of significant achievements (some reported in this column) in generating a turnaround in the delivery of specific services in some cities. Considering that the Indian economy is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world and that India's urban population will be close to 600 million by 2031, more than double that in 2001, the few success stories will have to be replicated on a much broader scale.
The Committee has endorsed the norms set up by the Ministry of Urban Development for public services such as water supply, sewerage, solid waste management, storm water drainage, street lights, roads and transport etc and has emphasised that these standards (e.g., 24 x 7 water supply) are to be achieved for all, because sanitation and public health cannot be catered to in enclosed areas or localities. The Report has addressed the enormous challenge of providing public services to meet the norms for the currently unserved and underserved population and to meet the needs of the additional population.
At India's current stage of development, industry and services sectors are the principal drivers of growth. A few cities of India such as Bangalore and Hyderabad have acted as centres of knowledge and innovation. Many more cities will have to follow in their footsteps, providing a receptive environment for agglomeration and innovation. Planners have to realise that improving the state of service delivery in Indian cities is actually crucial for realising India's economic potential, besides being an end in itself for improving the quality of life of their residents.
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