The way town planners conceive cities in India is largely derived from British town planning experience in the belief that they are universal and modern. Even town planning laws are basically British constructions and have not evolved significantly since independence. There is no history of indigenous town planning thought to break the colonial influence on the way town planners conceive urban problems.


This paper examines the way town planners conceive the city in India. More specifically, it is a discussion concerning some recurrent patterns, which Indian town planners follow to achieve an image of the city they aspire to build. These patterns are invariably, and unquestioningly, adopted from a culture and society which once colonised India, and their continued use almost fifty years after Independence is symptomatic of the larger malaise afflicting the profession. They reveal the way town planners ‘imagine’ cities, which in turn reflect their cultural biases, social attitudes and economic preferences in response to urban problems. These responses are inadequate and the problem of Indian cities, one is beginning to suspect, is that the cure is worse than the disease.

There is a growing awareness of the inadequacy of western-based urban models when applied to Third World situations.1 There is also a corresponding awareness of the ‘crippled-mind syndrome’ that characterises the post-colonial condition,2 as well as the imperatives which led newly-independent countries to revolt against their own past.3 It is not necessary to go into those debates here, for Indian architects appear to have taken stock of the situation in their practice; this is reflected in their self-conscious search for identity.4 The Indian town planner, on the other hand, has not, and his alienation from ground realities is clearly evident from the seemingly intractable problems which confront Indian cities. The logic of urban development appears to defy his will and imagination and it is commonly acknowledged that successive Master Plans are characterised more by violations than by observance. To a certain extent, it is possible to trace the cause of the problem to the colonial origins of modern town planning but, after almost fifty years of Independence, one begins to suspect that there are other issues involved. Nevertheless, it is still fruitful to begin by examining the origins of modern town planning in India.

Origins of Modern Town Planning in India

Rather than proceeding with a historical narrative, I will, instead, refer to a remarkably unselfconscious Handbook on Town Planning produced by the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Government of Maharashtra (tenth edition published in 1976)5 to make the necessary inferences. By their very nature handbooks are simple and straight- forward documents containing practical information and by their very guileless ness, they end up revealing much of interest to the serious reader. The Maharashtra Handbook unabashedly offers examples of British town planning practice for use by the Indian town planner and thus is transparent both about its pedigree and professional stance.

For a start, we learn much from its publishing history itself. The first edition was published in 1876, when the British began to systematically take measures to ensure civic health and hygiene in their colonies (and at home). Thereafter, the Handbook was revised eight times at fairly regular intervals up to 1931, no doubt to incorporate changes and other developments in the field. The ninth edition was brought out eighteen years later in 1949, immediately after Independence, and finally the tenth edition, the one under reference, was brought out in 1976 twenty-five years later. This chronology brings to light the fact that the colonial government found it necessary to regularly update the Handbook (the longest interval being between the fifth and sixth editions, which was a period of twenty years from 1896 to 1916), while the period between editions since Independence has considerably increased and there have been only two editions in almost fifty years. This is all the more surprising when one realises that the material conditions in society have altered to a far greater extent after Independence than they did in the earlier seventy-one years since the first edition was published.

Since town planning is almost exclusively undertaken by the Government and town planners are most often in Government service, it is possible to speculate that the reluctance to regularly update the Handbook after Independence is part of a larger malaise afflicting the bureaucracy in general. The stark fact of the matter is that town planning under government aegis has been reduced to an uninspired, mechanical exercise, and town planners are low-level functionaries in the decision-making hierarchy of the Government. This may very well have scotched their initiative in updating the Handbook. The fact that they are marginalized is often cited by town planners themselves as reason enough to justify their ineffectiveness;6 but this inability to update the Handbook still begs the question and to understand the problem in a broader context we must investigate the ideology of town planning in India.

At the very outset we must acknowledge that modern town planning in India did not evolve out of a pre-existing ideology as it did in the west; what passes for such an ideology in India can only be inferred from the town planning laws which were enacted by the colonial government, and retained after Independence. Here I am not referring to indigenous town planning traditions, which were rendered ‘invisible’ typically through the imposition of the Handbook work culture in the management of cities. The Handbook categorically states that town planning law in India has been largely based on the British pattern (p.10) as though the situation at that time in the country was tabula rasa. The earliest laws (Bombay Town Planning Act, 1915) empowered the local authority to control the use and development of land through zoning and building regulations, acquire land for public purposes and recover betterment contributions in respect of plots benefiting from improvements. Under these early Acts, schemes could only be made for open suburban lands and not for built-up areas within the town. Ignoring the built-up areas within towns, and later dealing with them as exceptions to ‘norms’ identified in the Handbook demonstrates a warped perception of Indian urban reality and was perhaps the most invidious legacy of these colonial laws. The Handbook provides models for new development layouts. Commending the concept of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City for application in India, it reproduces its plan (p.35). I am emphasising the fact that only the plan, that is, its physical elements, was used to describe Howard’s ideas because significantly, the social and economic content of Howard’s proposals were totally ignored. Consequently, the concept, as understood by Indian town planners, translated into low-density suburban dormitories. Instead of the self-contained town envisaged by Howard as an alternative to the soul-destroying urban environments of his times, only the elements of zoning, ‘neighbourhood units’ and ‘green belts’ were incorporated and absorbed into the local planning vocabulary. The physical elements of Howard’s complex ideas remain a powerful image for a desirable urban environment in the minds of our town planners and the genesis of this image may well have been Handbooks such as the one I am referring to.7

Soon after Independence town planners realised that suburban developments were not solving urban problems. To enable the local authorities to tackle town growth and development in a comprehensive and well-integrated manner, the 1915 Act was replaced by the Bombay Town Planning Act of 1954. Under this Act it was obligatory for every local authority to prepare a development plan for the entire town after carrying out surveys and studies of its physical, social and economic conditions. But even here it must be pointed out that besides being mere lip service on the part of the Indian town planner, these changes were derived from the British models, because the 1954 Act was based on Britain’s Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. The 1954 Act did not emerge from a ground level understanding of the problems at hand, and this is a characteristic of such legislation in other States as well. The State of Maharashtra has been a pioneer in these matters, other States in the country have by and large followed suit. The official ‘ideology’ represented by these Town Planning Acts has not changed significantly because the laws have not changed -except to introduce a regional perspective (for example, The Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966). In effect, town planning legislation and ideology, which in Britain evolved in response to changing conditions, have remained frozen in time, in India. That time is still 1947.

A Preliminary Speculation on Attitudes Towards Cities in India

To understand this obscurantism, we need to examine the cultural attitudes towards cities amongst Indians in general and town planners in particular. Universally, the city in history emerged with two primary characteristics: first, a high density of population concentrated within a limited space and, second, a predominantly non-agricultural, particularly non-cultivating, population.8 However, each local culture has imputed distinct meaning to this universal characteristic. For example, there is a tendency in several cultures - and periods in history within cultures - to conceive the city as a den of evil, corrupting the pristine spirit of man, weaning him away from a simple, godly life close to nature, into snares of temptation.9 The city is also seen as a parasitic growth on the rural countryside, siphoning away its surplus, draining its manpower, without recompense for the village. This perspective is evident in the Gandhian ideology, which strikes a sympathetic chord in the Indian mind and continues to colour our world-view, current economic reforms notwithstanding. This perspective is reinforced in present times by the significant impact of what may be broadly termed ‘green’ politics. Again, ‘green’ attitudes sit comfortably in the Indian mind because they find resonance in ancient myths and legends. The Gandhians and the ‘greens’ share a political platform dominated by concerns for equity and long-term sustainability. What is to be noted about this consonance is not the implicit pro-rural, agrarian perspective, but its anti-urban implications.10

Other cultures, on the other hand, hold equally misleading views, glamorising the city and placing it in sharp contrast to the ‘primitivism’ characteristic of villages.11 The medieval city in Europe is an example of this point of view, and it evolved inevitably, in those cultures, into the industrial and post-industrial cities which have come to symbolise their civilization: urban, capitalistic and technology-dependent.12

Indians, by and large have been nature-oriented rather than city-oriented. My cursory survey of the imagery used by artists, writers, and even areas of concern in the social sciences, leads me to conclude that urban culture has not permeated our imagination, even though the urban environment is often a tangible reality in our lives. Urbane-ness and urbanity have generally been courtly virtues in the past and are not middle-class characteristics of contemporary urbanites. Only when positive urban attitudes evolve can we expect cultural metaphors, and imaginations, to change. I believe that for urban economics and urban sociology to develop as useful disciplines in the area of urban studies and practice the imagination of researchers will have to undergo a transformation. Otherwise their work will be what it is today: inconsequential and desultory. I state this as one who has sought their advice on several urban conservation projects without satisfaction.

The basic concern of town planners is the spatial management of change. Other disciplines influence their perception of such change; social scientists for instance see change as ‘progress’ and look upon the conditions in India as regressive of the European experience.13 In England, at the turn of the century, views of ‘progress’ as evident in increased urbanization and urban blight were contested by the Garden City Movement,14 a period in history when modern town planning was introduced into India. Despite the fact that it was the physical plan of the Garden City rather than its social and economic agenda, which took root in India and remained firmly embedded in the imagination of the town planner, the adoption of even the plan constituted ‘progress’ and a move towards the ‘modern’ as far as the town planner was concerned.

To this ‘progress’ in town planning imagination must be appended a few other ‘events’ in the development of town planning in India. There was the iconic power of geometric patterns in Edwin Lutyens’ plan for the Imperial city of New Delhi (1930) based on baroque town patterns -wide, tree-lined avenues, monumental vistas, parks, bungalows within large urban lots, and European archetypes like circuses, courts and baronial mansions which may as well have been transplanted from the English countryside. Lutyens was, after all, the pre-eminent

Country - house architect of England. I suspect that in both cases - Howard and Lutyens - the Indian town planner identified with their patterns not their ideas, because they made subliminal references to cosmic diagrams embedded in their collective consciousness.

In another shift in geographic and cultural locale, it was the idea of Daniel Burnham’s City Beautiful movement that was picked up by the Indian town planner in the Sixties and Seventies. Again we are confronted with evidence of the inadequacy of cross-cultural translation of ideas, because even a cursory study will indicate that there is no understanding of Burnham’s proposals for beautifying American cities at the turn of the century, only a superficial perception of the idea of beautification. Thus, in the face of massive urbanization, which began with the partition of the country, the town planner resorted to ‘beautifying’ the city by evicting its slum-dwellers. This was wish-fulfilment, pure and simple, and through it one begins to glimpse another dimension of the shallowness of the town planner’s conception of the city: not only anti-urban, but possessing an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to solving urban problems.

Other elements of the town planner’s imagination, which can be discerned derived from Le Corbusier’s plan for Chandigarh and the Master Plan for Delhi, prepared with the assistance of Ford Foundation experts (1962). The first introduced the concept of the super-block and the continuous leisure-valley, which became recurrent motifs in several Master Plans, made for other cities; and the second, the principles of poly-nodal development modules with segregated functional-use zones, which also became stock-in-trade in the repertory of town planners all over the country. Of course, both events were charged with an irresistible aura, one on account of professional primacy, and the other due to political primacy. Lest the point be lost, let me reiterate, that all these elements are rooted in a colonial mind-set up, and nothing of significance is derived from indigenous experiences.

Two other events in the development of town planning practice in India should also be noted, if only because they failed to capture the imagination of the town planner. One was the introduction of the ‘structure plan’ concept in Calcutta in the 1970’s, once again courtesy Ford Foundation experts. The ‘structure plan’ practice was adopted in Britain in the 1970’s, and even though it was introduced into the Calcutta Master Plan soon thereafter, it did not take hold in India. In fact, when I attempted to revive the idea on wholly pragmatic grounds for the proposed new Master Plan for Bhopal in 1993, it ran into critical opposition from both local town planning officials and academic experts invited from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.15 The second event was the publication of the Report of The National Commission on Urbanisation.16 The Commission made commendable proposals to change the paradigm of urban planning to become more responsive to the existing urban condition, but without success: the report appears to have been consigned to the archives.17 In both cases, my suspicion is that town planners did not respond to these opportunities to change their practice because they were expected to absorb new ideas not new patterns, and therefore, status quo continued to prevail.

Let me recapitulate the gist of my argument regarding the construction of the Indian town planner’s imagination. First, town planners have accepted the ‘universality’ of British experience because the methods, devices and legal instruments of urban planning are based on British models. These instruments have moreover, not changed significantly from the time they were enacted indicating a professional distancing from urban issues. Second, the town planner has shown a marked proclivity for patterns instead of policies and programmes. These urban patterns are based on a few ‘plans’ derived from a) the Garden City concept, and, b) the baroque city plan as reflected in Lutyens’ plan for New Delhi. Third, the town planner has a preponderant bias towards beauty and order in town planning, modelled on their superficial understanding of the City Beautiful Movement. Fourth, the town planner will easily absorb bold proposals made by foreign experts —these proposals include a) poly-nodal urban districts containing segregated functional-use zones and b) neighbourhoods in super-blocks with continuous green parks after Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh plan. Fifth, more complex ideas such as the one represented by the Structure Plan concept, and of course, the recommendations of the National Commission on Urbanisation appear to be beyond the grasp of the profession. Sixth, I am suggesting that all this indicates that the Indian town planner may be, culturally speaking, ‘anti-urban’. This is as much a reflection of the larger culture of society as it is the specific characteristic of the profession. This speculation is also borne out by the preference the town planner has shown for ‘green’ and ‘beautiful’ imagery in their proposals for the development of towns. And finally, the Indian town planner being a low level functionary in the decision-making hierarchy of the Government does not feel ‘responsible’ for (non) action in the discharge of his duties. Naturally, therefore, cities are in the mess they are.

Let us see the other dimensions of this argument. Sociologically speaking, the Indian town planner can be categorized as part of the ‘Westernised intelligentsia’.18 This group was invested with power to plan a peaceful revolution of Indian life after Independence. In this role it encountered some of the dilemmas and conflicts of the new elite. The first, and rather basic, characteristic they displayed was ambivalence towards their own society as well as their newly acquired ‘western’ knowledge. Their self-criticism was expressed in their desire to alter or do away with several features of traditional Indian urbanism.19 There were the egregious ‘evils’ such as the historic cores of towns, rampant violations of the Master Plan and building bye-laws, and the proliferating spontaneous settlements of the poor and rich alike.20 All this came in the way of transforming cities in the image of their perceived ideals, and may explain the petty fascism evident in the town planner’s relationship with his ‘clients’.

On the other hand, as Indians with roots in the local culture, they were at least familiar with the positive aspects of indigenous patterns of development. This familiarity is not reflected in their work. ‘Paleocentrism’ was however, more evident in the arena of architectural practice,21 where it led to a self-conscious search for identity but, in spite of the close links between the two professions, (most town planners first graduated as architects) it had little influence on the on-going practice of town planning.

One possibility is that this was on account of the fact that modern town planning had no roots in the country, whereas in the case of architecture the links with tradition were more organic and direct. In any case, we find that the ambivalence that town planners experienced in their public and private preferences, was generally settled in favour of ‘western’ models in their work, perhaps in the belief that they represented a ‘modern’ option. In the face of choice between a ‘stable’ west and a transforming east, the town planner opted for equilibrium and certainty. As Leach pointed out in another context:

“(they) tended to borrow their primary concepts from Durkheim rather than from either Pareto or Max Weber. Consequently, they are greatly prejudiced in favour of societies, which show symptoms of ‘functional integration’, ‘social solidarity’, ‘cultural uniformity’, and ‘structural equilibrium’. Such societies, which might well be regarded as moribund by historians or political scientists, are commonly looked upon by social anthropologist as healthy and ideally fortunate. Societies which display symptoms of faction and internal conflict leading to rapid change are on the other hand suspected of ‘anomie’ and ‘pathological decay’.”22

This neatly sums up the attitude of the Indian town planner as well. A Prognosis and Conclusion

There is a strong case for changing the way town planners conceive the city. Their imagination needs to be stimulated and developed. One reason for this state of affairs is that unfortunately, there is little or no history of town planning thought in India. Academic institutions are mostly concerned with passing on received knowledge and practical experience for minimally informed and vocational ends. There are no serious studies of Indian cities based on conscious hypotheses. Under the circumstance, town planners have no image of the city other than that derived from cultural, social and economic experiences different from theirs.23 There is a need to conceive the city in indigenous terms, which would incorporate the culturally plural, socially evolving and economically constrained characteristics of Indian society. Such an enterprise has been long overdue — there is urgent need to bury the PWD Handbook on Town Planning in order to ‘de-colonise’ the concept of the city.

Colonisation produced radical and lasting changes in Indian society and culture. It was unlike any previous period in Indian history as the British brought with them new technology, institutions, knowledge, beliefs and values. The changes included what Daniel Lerner called a ‘disquieting positivist spirit’ touching ‘public institutions as well as private aspirations ... People come to see the social future as manipulable rather than ordained and their personal prospects in terms of achievement rather than heritage’24

Thus, when we speak of ‘de-colonisation’ and getting rid of instruments like the PWD Handbook on Town Planning, it does not imply that everything that changed in Indian society on account of colonisation should be exorcised; rather, that through careful consideration in each instance, there is a need to distinguish between instruments which were relevant in a pre-colonial and colonial context and what is relevant today. In the case of town planning there is a need to distinguish between the way town planners conceived the city then, and the way cities ought to be conceived today. Since the profession of town planning was established during the colonial period and town planners conceived the Indian city as outsiders looking into an alien situation the question of what ought to be the Indian city was answered by looking at what existed in negative terms, and looking at the coloniser’s experiences in their home countries as normative models. Oldenburg has shown in her study on colonial Lucknow that the supposedly neutral political, social, economic and physical changes made in the city after the Mutiny of 1857, constituted aggressive and purposive control of the population, and that these changes continue to be accepted by contemporary Indian administrators in lieu of more appropriate ones based on societal welfare.25 Changing the existing town planning paradigm is now an inescapable conclusion, and changing the way town planners conceive the city is an important beginning.

To accomplish this change will require the sort of research that is currently not taking place in academic institutions. For this to happen, they will need to restructure their curricula. But, where to begin? What exist from ancient times are theological treatises and commentaries few town planners understand, let alone practice. In fact, one might even begin by questioning their relevance today in the manner I am questioning the relevance of the PWD Handbook. We find that pre-colonial literature on cities and towns is characterised by ‘biographical’ writings, that is, the biography of a town.26 It is necessary to distinguish between biographies and serious studies based on conscious hypotheses. Only when the latter are undertaken will we get to understand the nature of the Indian city, its institutions and socio-psychological make-up and the ethos of urban classes. There have been few attempts to understand the complexity of the urban condition in India (with the major exception of the Report of the National Commission on Urbanisation), consequently restricting the imagination of the town planner.

The singularity of our urban condition derives from the fact that our society has widely plural characteristics, temporally, culturally and economically. Such a condition does not exist in other societies, old or new, and while we may gain insights through cross-cultural references, it would be futile to adopt models from other contexts. The complexity of the situation can be gauged by the fact that in town planning terms, not one, but several disparate circumstances need to be reconciled simultaneously: neat suburban developments with homogenous population and the persistence of the heterogeneous ‘chaotic’ traditional settlements; the city of the ‘haves’ and the city of the ‘have-nots’; Lutyens’ baroque city and the qasba; the automobile and the bicycle; and so on. There are no models to conceptualise such a heterogeneous city anywhere, so Indian town planning will have to become self-referential. In spite of the complexity inherent in this perspective, there are promising clues, which need to be explored further.

One promising area of enquiry lies within the field of urban conservation. With the establishment of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in 1984, there was a focussed interest in the conservation of our the built heritage, but it was soon realised that the museum-like conservation practiced in the west could not be the model for India, and that we would have to view our heritage in developmental terms. This was the underlying premise of the ‘Heritage Zone’ concept proposed by INTACH. There is reason to believe that this concept has a wider application.27 The INTACH projects have demonstrated that a study of traditional settlements with a view to develop them offers a rich mine of information that could be excavated profitably by town planners in other situations as well. The exercise forces the modern town planner to abandon Handbooks and focus on built-up areas within towns. These pre-colonial parts of the city have so far been both academically and physically neglected and are therefore, not in the consciousness of the town planner. These traditionally evolved settlements are the repository of culturally embedded methods and devices, which are useful for planning contemporary cities.28

Having worked on conservation-oriented development proposals for such historic cities like Varanasi, Ujjain, Old Bhubaneswar and Chanderi,29 I can state with a certain degree of confidence that seemingly intractable urban problems are resolvable. Of course, to begin with we need to alter the entrenched mind-set cultivated by the PWD Handbook on Town Planning. Half a century ago Patrick Geddes convincingly demonstrated that this was possible in a manner that the modern town planner needs to re-examine. Geddes looked at the city as one organic system that was amenable to a carefully structured process of healing and encouraging natural growth. His approach was context-specific: it was both effective and satisfactory.30

The urban conservation projects in which I was involved were necessarily also context-specific. They forced us to look more closely at the origins of the problems in order to find an appropriate response rather than rearranging them to fit a pre-determined order, an order, moreover, derived from other cultures. This did not mean that there were no over-arching objectives in our projects: there were. What we had instead of the Garden City, City Beautiful, and baroque city forms, were broad objectives like improved quality of life at the local level, sustainable development at the level of society, and ‘people-first’ approaches to problem-solving in general. Of course, there were other issues as well such as accepting the evidence of tradition as the norm, but suffice it to say that this was a different way of conceiving the city than what had hitherto been attempted by town planners. What emerged in this process was what Robert Venturi calls a ‘both-and’ environment.31 Not surprisingly, one begins to realize that in terms of settlement density, social heterogeneity and economic mix these traditional cities are examples of an urban character not seen in other parts of the city developed by the modern town planner. While they have real problems such as infrastructural and other forms of deprivation, as urban typology they are both satisfying and appropriate models for imagining the Indian city.

It is interesting to note that even in America, there is some debate beginning to surface on the need for ‘Non-Euclidian Mode of Planning’32 to meet the future needs of society. This ‘locally oriented, socially informed, politically astute, results-oriented planning’ describes the kind of planning undertaken in INTACH’s Heritage Zone projects.

When these views were presented to town planners at the helm of affairs, their typical response was that traditional models would necessitate entirely new ways of planning and that such radical changes in town planning practice was not possible: legally, practically and politically. But sadly, it is not the force of our arguments but these very forces - legal, practical and political -, which are now bringing about a radical shift in the practice of town planning in India. The recent enactment of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution has ushered in far reaching changes, which the profession is still trying to assess.33 From the thrust of the issues being debated in seminars and workshops organised by town planners, it is clear that the field of enquiry is still wide open. One implication of these amendments which have been enacted is that if town planners do not recognise the changing mood of the people and the needs of society, then changes will be thrust upon them: town planning will now also have to be viewed from the bottom up, and not only from the top down as it had been so far. This will of course, necessitate a radical shift in the way the town planners conceive the city. I suggest that here is an opportunity that the town planner must seize: these legislative enactments should finally motivate the town planner to bury the PWD Handbook on Town Planning and re-conceptualize the city in more appropriate terms.

  • 1. George Chu-Sheng Lin, Changing Theoretical Perspectives on Urbanisation in Asian Developing Countries, TWPR Liverpool University, 16(1) 1994 pp 1-23
  • 2. Susantha Goonatilake, Aborted Discovery, Science and Creativity in the Third World, Zed Books, London, 1984, and Crippled Minds, Vikas, New Delhi, 1982. For a general understanding of this phenomena see also the magisterial work of Gunnar Myrdal, Asian Drama, An Enquiry into the Poverty of Nations, Pantheon, New York, 1968, where he says, “it is an inescapable fact that modernization ideals, almost without exception, lack national tradition in societies that have long been stagnating, economically, socially, and culturally (emphasis added), and also that their acceptance must regularly imply a violent break with national tradition; at the same time, they so apparently originated abroad, in the very power that colonised the country. Valiant attempts are made to rationalise history in terms of the golden age myth to reinterpret ancient scriptures so as to reveal a divination of and insight into modern science and society...”
  • 3. Brian Harrison, South-East Asia - A Short History, Macmillan & Co. Ltd, London, 1957, in which he states, “... Southeast Asia's revolt against Western rule was not only, or even the most important, symptom of revolution; at least equally significant was the revolt by Southeast Asia against its own past”.
  • 4. Bhatt & Scriver, After the Masters and William J. Curtis, Modernism and the Search for Indian Identity, The Architectural Review, London, 1086, Vol. CLXXXII, August 1987
  • 5. B.T. Talim, P.W.D. Handbook, Chapter II, Town Planning Published by Director, Government Printing and Stationery, Bombay, 10th Edition, 1976.
  • 6. Syed S. Shafi, Presidential Address during the 29th Annual Town and Country Planning Seminar of the Institute of Town Planners India, Journal of the ITPI, Vol. 106, 1981
  • 7. There is an opportunity here for an interesting digression on the use of language, vocabulary, idiom and its translation into another culture. This has offered a fertile area of research in literary criticism, for example, and I suspect that this genre of study could throw light on the way town planners conceive the city in India. Suffice it to say that the ‘Garden City’, in the imagination of the Indian town planner, is hardly what Howard had in mind when he wrote his treatise on ‘Garden Cities for Tomorrow’.
  • 8. For a discussion on parallels between western and non-Western urbanization process see, Amos H. Hawley, Urban Society, An Ecological Approach, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1971, Chapter 13 and 14.
  • 9. Morton and Lucian White, The Intellectual Versus the City, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1962. Thomas Jefferson looked upon the city as antithetical to democracy, while Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Henry Adams and Henry James regarded the urban centres as a violation of nature, a breeder of crime and disorder, and an affront to the dignity of man. These critics were heralds of an anti-urban attitude that has permeated political and social thought down to the present. See also, S.C. Dube, Indian Village, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1967. “The village people have always idealized their traditional life-ways, and have shown unmistakable suspicion for those of the city...” p 231.
  • 10. Jonathan Porritt, Seeing Green, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984. For a more rounded perspective on India, Cf. Ramachandra Guha, Prehistory of Indian Environmentalism, Intellectual Traditions, Economic and Political Weekly, Bombay, Vol. XXVII. No.s 1 and 2, January 4-11, 1992.
  • 11. Cf. the general tenor of Lewis Mumford, The City in History, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1961
  • 12. Arnold Toynbee, Cities on the Move, Oxford University Press, New York, 1970.
  • 13. Cf. Gideon Sjoberg, Cities in Developing and in Industrial Society, in PM Hauser and Leo F. Schnore, (Editors), The Study of Urbanization, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1965, and WW Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth, Cambridge University Press, UK, 1963.
  • 14. Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of Tomorrow, London, 1902. The original title of the book which was first published in 1898 was Tomorrow, A Peaceful Path to Social Reform’. It was re-titled in the second edition of 1902 ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow. Howard combatively stressed that Garden Cities were not suburbs but self-reliant communities. See Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped, Urban Patterns through History, Thames and Hudson, London, 1991, pp.77-82.
  • 15. National Seminar on Bhopal Development Plan, Bhopal, September 1-3, 1993. Conducted by Environmental Planning and Coordination Organization, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal.
  • 16. The National Commission on Urbanisation - Report, 2 Volumes, Government of India, 1988.
  • 17. A.G.K. Menon, Review article in Seminar, A Monthly Symposium, New Delhi, No. 372, August, 1990. Pp 46-50
  • 18. M.N. Srinivas, Social Change in Modern India. Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1972. Pp 46-88. I have transliterated his general comments on Indian society to the context of town planning in India as it provides useful insights on the prevailing conditions.
  • 19. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, Making of Colonial Lucknow 1856-1877, Princeton University Press, 1984. Oldenburg argues that it was the explicit agenda of the colonial government after the 1857 mutiny to cut swathes of broad avenues and sanitize the native habitat in order to ‘control’ the populace. The point I am making is that this continues to be the imperative of the contemporary Indian urban planner as well.
  • 20. Authoritative statistics are hard to come by, but studies available at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi commonly mention that almost 60% of Delhi has been ‘regularised’, an euphemism for granting unplanned development a legal status.
  • 21. Schools of Architecture all over the country have for years undertake studies of traditional towns and buildings. This has influenced many students who carried such understanding into practice.
    The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), which was established in 1984, also commissioned several studies on historic towns all over the country. Their proposals for the conservation of the built heritage involved considerable dialogue with town planners, many of whom were viewing indigenous settlements in this manner for the first time. Several Master Plans have consequently adopted the ‘Heritage Zone’ concept to protect the traditional areas of towns.
  • 22. E.R. Leach, Political Systems of Highland Burma, quoted in M.N. Srinivas, op.cit. p 160.
  • 23. It is often assumed that it is difficult to understand a Third World metropolis. The fact is that this has seldom been attempted. A recent attempt by a World Bank team can be a model: Rakesh Mohan, Understanding the Developing Metropolis - lessons from the City Study of Bogota and Cali, Colombia, The World Bank/Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • 24. Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society, Glencoe, Illinois, 1958 pp 45-49
  • 25. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, ibid. The titles of the chapters of her book make a telling commentary on the contemporary imperatives of town planners: The City Must Be Safe (where she discusses demolitions and the building of segregated enclaves); The City Must Be Orderly (where she discusses the role of the Police and the Municipal Committee); The City Must Be Clean (where she discusses sanitation and building bye-laws which changed the morphology of the city, and hence its social liveability); The City Must Pay (where she discusses the concept of penal tax); and The City Must Be Loyal (where she discusses the making of a loyal elite). Do contemporary town planners think any differently?
  • 26. S.C. Misra, Urban History in India: Possibilities and Perspectives in The City in Indian History, Urban Demography, Society and Politics, Indu Banga, Ed., Manohar Publications, Delhi, 1981.
  • 27. AG Krishna Menon, Conservation in India, A Search for Directions, Architecture + Design, New Delhi, November - December 1989.
  • 28. AG Krishna Menon, Cultural Identity and Urban Development, INTACH, New Delhi, 1989.
  • 29. Unpublished Reports. Available with INTACH, 71, Lodi Estate, New Delhi
  • 30. Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, Ed., Patrick Geddes in India, Lund Humphries, London 1947. For an interesting commentary on the issue of context-specificity, see A.K. Ramanujan; Is there an Indian Way of Thinking? An Informal Essay, Contributions to Indian Sociology (New Series) Vol. 23 No, 1989, Sage Publications, New Delhi.
  • 31. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1966. In fact, one is tempted to paraphrase Venturi’s often-quoted comment on the Main Street: ‘Traditional cities are almost always alright!’
  • 32. See John Friedman, Toward a Non-Euclidian Mode of Planning in Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 59, No 4, Autumn 1993 pp 482-485. Also commentaries on pp 485-6 and APA Journal Vol. 60, No 3, Summer 1994, pp 372-379.
  • 33. Several seminars and workshops have been organised by the Institute of Town Planners, India, recently. See D.S. Meshram, Changes Needed in State, Municipal and Town Planning Acts Consistent with the Constitution 74th Amendment Act, 1992 - An Overview in Journal of ITPI, New Delhi, Vol. 12 No 3 (157) March 1994