To cater to the rising needs of major metropolises, it is important to create urban “agglomerations” by linking small towns and cities with the megacities, said noted economist and author Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia at the Express Adda in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Ahluwalia and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan discussed various issues related to urban planning and growth at the Adda, which was moderated by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of the Express Group.
“While I am all for creating new cities, planned cities, the challenge of renewing existing cities also needs to be tackled… We need linkage of cities with each other. We need to create agglomerations around major cities,” said Ahluwalia, whose book, Transforming our Cities: Postcards of Change, was launched last month as part of the Express Book series.
Chavan said his government was trying to do this in Mumbai — creating an agglomeration around the city by including areas such as Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombiwali and Mira-Bhayander.
However, he pointed out that there are several political differences that the government has to deal with. “We are thinking of bifurcating the Thane district for better administration. I was to do that today, but I don’t think it will be possible. There are some political compulsions,” he said.
Citing the example of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Chavan said, “Ruling parties don’t want to spend money on building roads in industrial areas because they don’t have voters there.”
He said the government is also focussing on empty areas, creating social and physical infrastructure as well as economic opportunities to draw people. The state government is creating an industrial township in Aurangabad, along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, and new settlements in Navi Mumbai and Nagpur, he said.
“There is rapid urbanisation in Maharashtra. The state is almost 50 per cent urban today. Just yesterday, we decided to convert 138 gram panchayats into nagar palikas,” he said.
Ahluwalia said in other states, the gram panchayats resist any move to convert them into municipalities. “There are about 2,000 towns that the Census has declared as being ready to become nagar panchayats, but the political establishment is not giving them a local government strong enough to support the growth,” she said.
“Maharashtra, as a state, has a good capacity to manage and Gujarat has developed a good capacity to plan. There are many states where the local governments are completely dependent on the state governments. When you do not have a guaranteed revenue base, it is not possible to plan,” she said.