In Mumbai and Kolkata around 2000 migrant families move every week while Delhi gets its share with over one-and-a-half lakhs intake every year. In cities like Kanpur, Jabalpur and Visakhapatnam over 40 per cent of the population live in large slums or as migrants waiting to make their own ‘slummish’ settlements.
This is exactly what has happened and though the minimum standards of living are evident in recognized slums, these are not there in unrecognized ones. Also, most metros have expanded but slums and squatter settlements are very much manifest in the older city.Those who once advocated a no slum city in the eighties and nineties realized that this was not possible. Moreover, the urban poor have a right to live in the city.
It needs to be pointed out that the continued influx to metro centres has primarily been due to employment and income opportunities that exist in cities. Over the years surveys have pointed out this fact given that agricultural income being stagnant and incapable of providing employment to all family members they are forced to seek alternative sources of livelihood in nearby cities. Figures reveal that compared to the late twentieth century, employment in agriculture and allied sectors has been dwindling.
While creation of ‘smart cities’ might improve infrastructure facilities in urban areas, it would have been desirable if the plan of PURA (providing urban facilities in rural areas) propounded by our late President, Dr Abdul Kalam was taken up on a war footing.
Of course, there are Central Government planned schemes for sanitation, water supply and building rural houses but these are mainly concentrated in certain districts and those residing in remote areas are not benefitting to the desired extent. Undeniably, there has to be an integrated plan of transforming the blocks and sub-divisional towns where all amenities that are available in big cities are accessible.
Clearly, the most important challenge at this juncture is to ensure that employment opportunities are created in the rural and semi-urban areas of the country. The emphasis on ‘Make in India’ and skill development programme, initiated by the Government are positive indicators to resist the flow of people from the rural and semi-urban areas to big cities.