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India Urbanising: A different Perspective

I recently went on a religious tour to Tulzapur via Solapur and then to our ancestral temple in Narsinghpur, near Pune. On way I also visited our ancestral village Indapur 150 kms from Pune. While old Indapur still remains a village with roads just about wide to allow cycle rickshaws run through them, I was astounded to see the newly developed areas of Indapur which were no less than private colonies in Teir 2/3 cities in India. Having read Mckinsey’s India urbanization report just a day before my travel, Indapur’s development opened a new chain of thoughts in my mind.

Most urbanization studies about the developing world relate to urbanization as development of new cities or improvement of urban infrastructure (like mass transit, arterial roads, flyovers etc) in existing cities. For example McKinsey’s recent research titled “India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth” [1] highlights the need for India to develop 19 clusters of cities (Page 150); it predicts a 2030 scenario of top 6 cities which will have more than 10 mn population - the study itself was based on current research done in top 66 cities of India.

These predictions may not be wrong, but they skew the perspective of urban development towards cities and ignore the development of the rural hinterland. And by development, I do not mean ‘rural development’ –infrastructural or cultural development in villages of India is not fundamentally different than what’s happening in our cities.

Also, the current perspective of urbanization strategy stems from the past experience of urban planning and development in the low population density economies of the west and ignores the fact that east is unique in its challenges, demographics and cultural aspirations of populace.
While the McKinsey report does mention the example of Germany where, “for instance, a large number of small and medium sized cities have grown up in parallel” and does liken the Indian scene to the same; yet the general tone of the study remains city centric rather than being wholesome.

The McKinsey report is quite instrumental in providing a comprehensive view on the subject – covering topics like funding required, governance reform, macro and micro planning effort; however the report bases its conclusions on data gathered from 66 top cities in India – which is a very small number compared to India’s urbanization requirement.

India’s urbanization will not result only from development of existing cities – it will result from providence of urban amenities across the country down to the smallest of villages. This would come in part from spread (and growth) of medium sized cities (Top 66 considered by McKinsey for example) to rural hinterland surrounding it; in part from further rise in population density of large metropolises; in part from emergence of new metro cities (from say among those > 1.5 mn population today); in part from conversion of earlier rural or semi-rural locations (like Indapur) into urban towns; and in part not from creation of growth of cities but ‘development’ of modern facilities in the rural hinterland.

Read Part II here. Read the whole series.


  1. Nice article. What you are seeing development is although restricted upto certain parts only, mostly upto western Maharashtra but in rest of Maharashtra you will not see such development. Indian Government should create cities near villages rather than spending on rural infrastructure. It will help in reducing urban slums. Only Private sector has capacity n can do it efficiently.


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