By Dr. Udit Raj
Last week the Office of Registrar General of India released some startling data concerning about 20 crores of the Indian workforce. This data, although about the travel pattern of the workforce, also has a reflection on the urbanization model pursued by our cities. Before I cite my argument, it may be clarified that the workforce referred to in the report are not the ones engaged in either Agriculture, OR, the household industry.
When I critically look at the development of Delhi, over the past 3 decades, one does observe that the city has had mushroom like growth of unauthorised settlements, village abadi land and sub division of plotted colonies into unplanned high density residential islands. These were concentrated within the vicinity of economic hubs (sadly, many of them developed haphazardly without critical infrastructure too). Progressively, a range of manufacturing & service industries started functioning from these areas, which led to further densification. Against an ideal density of 125 PPH @ the City level, some areas exceed the number by 20 times.
That though was never the correct model, and two wrongs don’t make a right. Hence the critical need to dissect the past, and plan a better model of urbanization, esp. the capital of India.
Through my research on the Delhi Master Plan 2021 and more specifically in my own constituency of North West Delhi, I have understood that the ideal mix would be to develop a couple of large organised economic hubs, and, evolve a township around it. If the need to retro-fit any constituency is felt, better to micro map the constituency, inter link the economic hubs with smart transportation and develop social infra which can support the quality of life of people working there. Walk to work or bicycle to work should be the norm, rather than an economic compulsion.
The current Delhi Metro Network although slated to be the largest in the world over the next few years, would not be able to cater to more than 20% of the population. More specifically so, since the development model of residential units of DDA/ Private developers being developed in the suburbs or outlying areas, would not be of help.
For example; if youngsters from areas like Piragarhi, Paschim Vihar, Rohini and beyond need to travel to Gurgaon or Connaught Place for work, three critical resources are being expended to achieve low productivity, namely; time, money and environment. If per plans of DSIIDC, the knowledge based industrial hubs can be created within a 5-10 km radius of their residential DU, not only does it help the economy, it could assist our vision to ‘take business to the people’.
The report also shows that women commute much shorter distances than men, by preference so. But they can constitute significant portion of our productivity and work force in the manufacturing and service sector. If we take business to the people, and evolve smart townships around economic activities, we would add a significant number of women and young girls into the work force and more specifically, from the rural areas. Besides the organised industry, a large number of women can also be encouraged into entrepreneurial ventures as service providers to the industry. That would change not just the social dynamics but also add at least 30% to the house hold GDP, which is part of my vision under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna (SAGY). It is high time we really look at the operational mechanism of our urbanisation policies; make it more contemporary and pragmatic; align it to our social and cultural needs and immediately adopt international best practices to evolve our next wave of townships.
Let us not forget people are the fulcrum around whom cities have to be built; and, the only stated objective of our urbanisation process should be improvement in the quality of life and it would augur well for our policy makers to source as much knowledge and expertise from every quarter.
Pragmatic, not theoretical is the keyword.
The author, Dr. Udit Raj, is the member of Parliament from the North-West Delhi constituency. He served the Indian revenue service with distinction before entering Politics to serve the people. He also has adopted village Jaunti, in his constituency, with a vision to holistically develop the village as a ‘Adarsh Gram’.