Why small towns are lagging behind?

There are 4,378 urban centres that have the 285 million urban citizens of the country. Of
these there are 35 cities that have more than 1 million people and together account for 107.88
million people. That means the remaining 177.12 million or more than half of the total urban
population of the country lives in small-sized towns or urban agglomerations. Even half of
the population lives in small-sized town, the bigger cities become the magnet for populations
that emerge from impoverished and infrastructure deficient rural and urban areas.

The reason for the skewed population distribution and its consequent burden on existing
urban infrastructures is caused by lack of investment in the smaller towns. As we know
that there is considerably large population living in rural areas, the development of smaller
towns that are closer to these habitats would allow for a more balanced economic growth.
Generally, there has been a bias within urban studies against small towns, where the idea of
the ‘urban’ has always been seen to be ideally manifested in the big city. Large investments
in big cities have often been justified as they are perceived to be ‘engines’ of development
and growth. Even in cultural terms, the big city has always been glorified, as a space where
conditions of modernity come together to develop art and a more sophisticated form of
living. Yet, many scholars of cities still glamorize big cities and tend to influence the shape
of imaging urban futures. While in reality, not only are smaller towns more manageable,
they also have a more intimate relationship with their surrounding regions and more often
than not, these contiguities are what sustains their economies. A country such as India with
a significantly high rural population would do well to shift the focus of urban investments
to these smaller townships. With new communication and transport technologies, there is no
reason to believe that those spaces cannot also become important centres of art, culture and
commerce and help us transform our notions of emerging India.

Logging firewood
Creative Commons License photo credit: Unlisted Sightings

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About the Author

Neha Verma Neha Verma is an Urban Planner with work experience of 5 years. She completed her under graduation in Physical Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. After her under-graduation she worked with an architecture firm and prepared master plan for Bhuj University. Thereafter she worked with various NGOs and prepared development plans under JNNURM scheme. After a brief professional experience of 3 years she went to Cornell University, USA for her graduation in Regional Planning. She is currently based in Mumbai and doing projects in Real Estate and Affordable housing.