- by Kishore Trivedi
Urbanisation is one of the most glaring realities of the 21st century. All over the world, people are moving towards the cities. The bright lights of the cities, the perception that cities give greater opportunities and the desire to be at the heart of a ‘fast life’ is drawing people to cities. However, urbanization brings with it its fair share of problems. Can the infrastructure of our cities bear the strain? What happens to our villages?
It has also become a fashion to berate everything associated with urbanisation. In the midst of such misplaced pessimism, a solution has been offered by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Shri Modi’s insightful thoughts on urbanization are crystal clear- urbanisation is not and should not be viewed as a challenge. We should take it in our stride and turn it into an opportunity. Shri Modi has practiced what he speaks and no wonder Gujarat has made great strides in urban development while at the same time enhancing the quality of life in its villages. This article gives you an insight into these very advances under Shri Modi that once again set apart Gujarat from the rest of India.
Watch : Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT)
India and Urbanisation: The Current Scenario
It is a known fact that urbanisation levels in India are increasing as times passes by. From 28.1% of the population (approximately 286 million people) in 2001, we now have 31.16% (over 377.1 million people) of our population inhabiting cities. Urbanisation levels in some states are rising faster than the others. Infact, by 2030 75% of India’s GDP will be generated from urban areas. We are home to some of the world’s largest cities and there is a dream of a prosperous urban life in the by-lanes of most Indian villages. The above facts indicate that urbanisation is something that is here to stay.
With such fast pace urbanisation have we risen to the occasion and embraced urbanisation the way we should have? Unfortunately, we have not. Urbanisation is still seen as a challenge in our nation. This is partly due to ‘fears’ created on what will come with it. But, it is equally true that we will not be able to stop urbanisation hence, it is better we see this as an opportunity and if we adopt this approach, we can really make a big difference in our cities.
Urbanisation and Gujarat: Giant Strides Ahead
This is exactly what Gujarat under Shri Narendra Modi has done. Gujarat ranks among the most urbanized states in India with about 42.5% of the state’s population living in urban areas. The state has 8 Municipal Corporations and 159 municipalities and some of its cities are among the fastest growing in the world. Recently, Ahmedabad was declared the best of India’s Mega Cities and it was declared the 3rd fastest growing city in the world by Forbes, ranking behind only Chengdu and Chongqing.
It is refreshing to note that unlike several other state Governments, the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat Government is fully responsive to the emergent needs of urbanisation and equally geared up to convert the challenges that come with it into opportunities. The state’s plan provision for urban infrastructure stands at Rs. 5670 crore, which is a 45 times increase from the expenditure that merely stood at Rs. 127 crore in 2000-2001.
Right at the beginning of his tenure, Shri Modi envisioned the launch of 2 programmes dedicated to the improvement of urban areas across the length and breadth of Gujarat. There was the ‘Urban Year’ initiative, which was a large-scale drive to improve urban infrastructure and amenities. The Nirmal Gujarat annual drive was started with the quest for all round cleanliness, sanitation, integrated waste management, rejuvenation of water bodies, expansion of green cover and energy efficiency.
Invigorating Gujarat’s Development Journey With New Ideas And Effective Implementation
Gujarat has invigorated the development journey it’s cities with innovative ideas and speedy implementation for long term, robust urban growth. In the last decade, the Government has started a series of programmes dedicated to urban areas that have generated wonderful results.
Gujaratis have entrepreneurship in their veins and are blessed with the urge to derive maximum utility out of any given thing. Keeping this ethos in mind the state Government came up with a similar Mantra of developing the state’s urban space with the ‘2 for 1’ Mantra as encapsulated by the Twin City Model. Through this model, the Government aims to bring together cities that are in geographic proximity but where there is a gap in their pace of development. Gujarat has embraced the Twin City Model very innovatively and are developing vibrant twin cities like Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad, Surendranagar-Wadhwan, Surat-Navsari, Vadodara-Halol, Bharuch-Ankleshwar and Morbi-Wankaner. These Twin Cities will add renewed strength to Gujarat’s quest for development and good governance.
The efforts of the Gujarat Government have not stopped at focusing on the development of present cities. Apart from the Twin City Model for existing cities, Gujarat is creating 6 world-class cities in Gujarat.
Take for instance Dholera- this mega city will be double the size of Delhi, 6 times the size of Shanghai and far ahead in terms of facilities offered. Today, Dholera is on the map of the world but years ago, few imagined that there would be so much capital in this place.
Similarly, the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City is a one of its kind initiative, which is being designed as a hub for global finance services. Here, we have to laud the futuristic vision of the Gujarat Government, particularly Shri Narendra Modi, who has conceived these projects and ensured timely work on the same. Just recently, Gujarat’s tallest tower in the GIFT premises was inaugurated by Shri Modi himself.
Gujarat’s ports have become the gateway to the nation for people from across the world. The state always had the longest coastline but it wasn’t till a decade ago that there was a concrete plan to script a new chapter of development on the state’s coasts. Be it Mundra or Dahej, Gujarat’s ports are thriving and this would not have been possible without a pro-active Government.
Strengthening Urban Infrastructure Through Strategic Efforts
For India’s urban future, we require focused, strategic efforts to strengthen the infrastructure, amenities and working & living conditions of our cities. At a meeting where the Prime Minister was present, Shri Narendra Modi had raised the issue of a solid waste management project across 500 cities of India. This is indeed a pertinent issue that needs to be addressed immediately but the Prime Minister seems to think otherwise. Till date, the Chief Minister of Gujarat has received no answer from the PM on the issue but that did not deter him from bringing about change in Gujarat. The state identified 50 towns and is working on solid waste management initiatives there. I am sure that this initiative will have a demonstrative effect on other cities and a positive momentum will be generated. This can also be a model of emulation for the rest of the states.
At the same time, the state Government has identified towns, which they seek to strengthen with state of the art facilities. By doing this, more towns with proper facilities can be developed and it will also reduce the number of people moving to our bigger cities for opportunities.
Not City or Village but City AND Village: The Gujarat Way!
The most notable quality of Gujarat’s efforts towards strengthening urban infrastructure is that these strides are not at the cost of the development of our villages. At the core of Shri Narendra Modi’s philosophy is ensuring the simultaneous development of Gujarat’s cities and villages- let both, our cities and villages bloom in equal measure, is the motto. Shri Modi has time and again shared his vision of ‘Rurban’, which is to preserve the unique character of our villages and at the same time invigorate them with facilities associated with cities. This is indeed a path breaking vision and if others follow suit, a day is not far when we can achieve a balanced growth between the villages and the cities.
Taking Facilities To The Village
The Modi Model of balanced development is simple. In the past 11 years he has taken facilities that are associated with the cities to the villages and the differences are for all to see,
Take for instance electricity. When Shri Modi assumed office, a common demand people made was to provide electricity so that they can have their evening meal. That is when the state Government conceived the Jyotigram Yojana, of providing 3 phase uninterrupted power supply to our villages. You would not believe how much difference this initiative has made in the villages! Due to Jyotigram Yojana the Government could introduce latest technology in the classrooms. After computers they added broadband connectivity and after that they looked towards long distance learning. A student from a small village in Gujarat can learn from a professor of a reputed institution based in a city. Imagine the difference it will make in his or her life, the confidence it will give and the skills the student would learn.
Conclusion- Actions Not Editorials Will Show The Way!
To those who see urbanisation as a challenge, I would say that the problem cannot merely be solved by lengthy editorials or mere criticism. There must be determined efforts to go out among the people and work towards creating not only better cities but also better towns and villages. I can say that in Gujarat, the Government has transformed the urban spaces into state-of-the-art areas of culture, tourism and recreation. Be it the Kankaria Lake Redevelopment, Sabarmati Riverfront or the BRTS, our efforts towards urban regeneration have been lauded across the world.
We cannot stop urbanisation hence it is better we accept it as an opportunity and at the same time concentrate on the non-urban areas. By doing so we will strike a perfect balance that will take our nation to further heights of progress in the 21st century. That is what Gujarat has done and that is what one would expect the rest of India to do!
(Originally published in One India - http://news.oneindia.in/2013/01/22/gujarat-a-glorious-decade-of-development-1135198.html )