The access to basic amenities like electricity, drinking water, toilet facility, wastewater outlet and clean fuel are critical determinants of quality of urbanisation. For example, about 13 per cent of the urban households have no access to electricity, 16 per cent have no access to safe drinking water and 27 per cent have no access to toilet facility as per 2001 census in India. This has significantly declined in 2005-06 as per National Family Health Survey-3, but still 7 per cent households have no access to electricity, 8 per cent have no access to safe drinking water and 17 per cent have no access to toilet facility in urban area. About one-fifth of urban households are also not covered by any sewer facility. This study analyses the access to basic amenities at both state and city/town levels covering 28 states, 7 union territories and about 5000 odd cities and towns. The regional disparity in the pattern of basic amenities closely follows the level of urbanisation at the state level. The states with low availability of basic amenities in urban areas are also the states with low level of urbanisation. On the other hand, access to basic amenities varies in accordance with the size categories of cities and towns except for toilet facility and sanitation.
After the enactment of the Constitution (Seventy-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1992, Nagar Panchayats, Municipal Councils and Municipal Corp orations have been set up to implement urban policies and programme in the cities and towns. These Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in league with other urban development authorities are engaged to ameliorate the socioeconomic standards of the citizens living in the urban areas. But the experience has shown that these institutions of self government have not been successful, for varying reasons, to prepare plans for economic development and social justice and to implement the schemes in relation to the matters listed in the twelfth schedule of the Constitution. A close review of the working of the ULBs reveals that their capabilities, skills and capacities in the fields of urban planning, financial resources, local community participation and delivery of urban services can be enhanced if they work in tandem with the private sector and NGOs. The emerging areas for of ULBs with the intervention of NGOs, as discussed in this paper include urban planning, identification and selection of genuine beneficiaries under urban poverty alleviation schemes and social welfare services, imparting training to elected ULBs' representatives, maintenance of community assets, strengthening the delivery of urban services, transparency in the working of urban local governance; reinventing good urban governance and disaster management. The author cautioned that sincere partnership between NGOs and ULBs, to a great extent, depends upon mutual understanding and commitment between them to pride urban development into action.
In the current scenario of liberalised and globalised economy, the cities, to sustain, need to evolve as competitive entities. Locational advantages alone cannot any more decide the competitiveness of the cities. The acceptability of cities as base for business operations today require a multitude of aspects on which they need to present their pre-eminence. In spite of the improvements in the macroeconomic environment, the time required for starting or getting formalities cleared in running a business is perceived as very long in Indian cities. Setting up of new business enterprises is hindered by legal, administrative and bureaucratic bottlenecks, which come in the way of securing a license or getting a property registered, resulting in high cost and delays in starting a business or running it efficiently.
The present study analyses the conclusions of a recent study taken up under the aegis of World Bank on the theme of doing business and the comparativeness of the case study cities in that regard. While undertaking the exercise on a larger number of cities and also based on primary surveys, the study focuses on the best practices in the construction sector and property registration that could be adopted/adapted in other cities to improve their performance. The study shows that Bangalore is one of the few cities where time and cost of obtaining construction license as well as registering property is the least. Kolkata ranked as the most expensive city to obtain construction license and the most time-consuming city to register property whereas Trivandrum ranked as the most time-consuming city to obtain construction license and the most expensive city to register property. Under JNNURM, various cities have initiated reforms in local governance. Having linked to the reforms being undertaken by cities under the JnNURM programme, the study is contemporary in nature and would be useful for cities looking for best practices for replication to improve their performance and competitiveness.
Rapid urbanisation is bringing in its wake the urbanisation of poverty, as well as pressure on urban land and resources. In this context, the conservation and revitalisation of historic areas, often (but not exclusively) found in the central core of cities and towns, assumes great significance. Unchecked, and sometimes unplanned, economic development, combined with incoherent policy, a fragmented institutional framework, lack of political will, and limited capacities of implementing organisations, often results in the neglect and destruction of historic districts within cities. This has been seen both in the developed and the developing world. For urban planners and policy makers, historic districts embody one of the most crucial planning dilemmas – the need for growth and development, versus the imperative of conservation.
In India, conservation has traditionally focused on preservation of historic buildings and sites, and has only recently begun to embrace the idea of revitalising not just buildings but entire districts, zones, or areas within cities. Innovative approaches exist, but are yet to be replicated or scaled up. This paper explores the challenges in this process, given the urbanisation, planning and governance context in India, and suggests some ideas for achieving a more holistic, effective and sustainable revival of the historic areas in Indian towns and cities.