National Urbanisation Policy in India

The Independent India has been urbanizing very fast. At the end of 20th century the pattern of urbanization in India has been a spatially and structurally unbalanced one. It has been felt from the beginning of the planning era to achieve a coordinated and regulated urbanization pattern in India commensurate with the balanced regional development. The process of urbanization has been closely linked with the process and pattern of economic development in the country. Although the process of urbanization in India could not be explained fully by the process of economic development, it is positively linked with the latter.

The problems of urban development in the so-called backward areas are very menacing and the elaboration of their analysis is very engrossing. The problem which engages our attention is one repairing both action and study. The cities of India and other nations in the Far East are growing explosively at a time when most of these nations are profoundly committed to rapid economic development. In many such cities, the physical problems of housing, transportation and sanitation will increase to the point of breakdown unless action is taken. But the cost of new construction and engineering works on the scale suggested by the magnitude of the problem is prohibitive for nations whose investment funds are small in relation to their need. Stop-gap and emergency programs are, therefore, constantly sought. In the very long run, it is to be hoped that these nations will be able to solve their problems of urbanization out of greatly increased per capita income, but this prospect is very distant. For some considerable time to come, therefore, the analysis of urban problems in the context of economic development, and with a view to action, will have to be directed toward finding more economic solutions to urban problems, toward preventing collapse, and toward greatly improving conditions with strictly limited resources. In order to achieve this objective, planners and policy makers need a much sharper set of tools for analysing the national and regional redistribution of population and the internal anatomy of cities. Thus , there is a requirement for a policy with respect to urbanization.


The Government of India has formulated the National Urban Sanitation Policy, National Urban Transport Policy and National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy in view of rapidly increasing urban population. The Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission launched in December 2005 and the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat approved recently also provide an over arching policy framework to address issues relating to sustainable urban development.

The National Urban Sanitation Policy seeks to create fully sanitized Cities through awareness generation, State Sanitation Strategies and Integrated City Sanitation Plans. The National Urban Transport Policy seeks to promote safe, affordable and sustainable transportation through integrated land use and transport planning, multi-modal public transport, equitable allocation of road space and promotion of clean technologies. The National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy seeks to promote sustainable development of habitat in the country with a view to ensure equitable supply of land, shelter and services at affordable prices to all sections of society. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat seeks to promote sustainability of habitats through improvements in energy efficiency in buildings, urban planning, improved management of solid and liquid waste including recycling and power generation, modal shift towards public transport and conservation. The policy initiatives under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission include reforms related to governance, financial sustainability, land and property management, responsiveness to citizens, transparency and inclusive development.

Urbanisation Policy

The Indian political economy is yet to have its unique national urban policy even after 60 years of its existence. This is one fine example of decentralised working but such a mechanism has not proved to be effective. Many recommendations from the planning commission demand the need to have a top down approach. But the fact that many state economies are functioning without a national policy gives certain prominence to decentralised working. Therefore, in a federal system, it is important to have complimentary national and regional policies.

The national urban policy proposes to address problems relating to urban infrastructure deficiencies by giving special emphasis to the housing sector, water supply and sanitation, municipal solid waste management and urban transport. It also proposes to reduce urban poverty by increasing investment in poverty alleviation programmes, development of employment generation strategy and by trying to integrate poor communities into city planning by improving access to services and land rights.


A comprehensive urban policy in India needs to aim at the revitalization of civic bodies, reform of Municipal Administration, strengthening of the IDSMT program by making it an investment oriented on the local economy, effective implementation of employment generation program such as NRY (1989), slum improvement program including EIUS and UBSP, etc. These programs have to be operationalize in all states.

The provisions of the 74th Constitution Amendments Act should be implemented by the civic bodies in true spirit. The urban policies could directly contribute to achieve the goals of poverty alleviation and removal of unemployment and under-employment. The urban informal sector caters to the largest share of the labor force. This sector needs to be upgraded and integrated with the urban economy.

Change process

One significant fact is that the Mega cities have been growing very slowly but cater to the sizeable portion of urban population. Their age-old urban infrastructure needs to be upgraded for a healthy living. The population census of 2001, has recorded 35 metropolitan cities out of which five metropolises have brought under Mega City Project and Delhi has been treated in the framework of National Capital Region. These Mega cities are to be declared as National Cities and deserve top priority in urban planning. The remaining 29 metro cities have to absorb the increased urban population growth. The urbanization plan has to be an integral part of regional development plans as in Maharashtra State. They are the regional capitals. Urban development could be sustained only with Regional Development.

A sound urbanization policy should aim at a spatially and structurally balanced urban system having symbiotic relation with the rural settlements. There should be a cohesive rural-urban relation within the frame of rural-urban continuum and reduced rural-urban dichotomy in the human settlement system.


  1. The poverty and social isolation of minority groups in central cities is the single most serious problem of the many cities today. It must be attacked with urgency, with a greater commitment of resources than has heretofore been the case, and with programs designed especially for this purpose.
  2. Economic and social forces in urban areas are not self-balancing. Imbalances in industry, transportation, housing, social services, and similar elements of urban life frequently tend to become more rather than less pronounced, and this tendency is often abetted by public policies. A concept of urban balance may be tentatively set forth: a social condition in which forces tending to produce imbalance induce counter forces that simultaneously admit change while maintaining equilibrium. It must be the constant object of federal officials whose programs affect urban areas–and there are few whose do not–to seek such equilibrium.
  3. At least part of the relative ineffectiveness of the efforts of urban government to respond to urban problems derives from the fragmented and obsolescent structure of urban government itself. The federal government should constantly encourage and provide incentives for the reorganization of local government in response to the reality of metropolitan conditio The objective of the federal government should be that local government be stronger and more effective, more visible, accessible, and meaningful to local inhabitants. To this end the federal government should discourage the creation of paragovernments designed to deal with special problems by evading or avoiding the jurisdiction of established local authorities, and should encourage effective decentralization.Process
  4. A primary object of federal urban policy must be to restore the fiscal vitality of urban government, with the particular object of ensuring that local governments normally have enough resources on hand or available to make local initiative in public affairs a reality.
  5. Federal urban policy should seek to equalize the provision of public services as among different jurisdictions in metropolitan areas.
  6. The federal government must assert a specific interest in the movement of people, displaced by technology or driven by poverty, from rural to urban areas, and also in the movement from densely populated central cities to suburban are
  7. State government has an indispensible role in the management of urban affairs, and must be supported and encouraged by the federal government in the performance of this role
  8. The federal government must develop and put into practice far more effective incentive systems than now exist whereby state and local governments, and private interests too, can be led to achieve the goals of federal program
  9. The federal government must provide more and better information concerning urban affairs, and should sponsor extensive and sustained research into urban problems.
  10. The federal government, by its own example, and by incentives, should seek the development of a far heightened sense of the resources of the natural environment, and the fundamental importance of aesthetics in successful urban growth.