Creating better places for people to live:
For nearly a hundred years, the picture one had of India was that of a predominantly rural country with a dominant agrarian economy. For the first time in as many years, that picture seems to be rapidly undergoing a change, for India’s urban population has added 91 million people more than the 2001 census- than the rural population. And Indian cities are feeling the heat- literally and figuratively. They are increasingly facing water shortages, open defacation is the highest in the world, putting the entire sanitation mechanism under severe threat, slums are on the rise, and cities that have high instances of water and air pollution, and increasingly facing more instances of road rage, conflicts and tensions than ever before.
India’s rapid urbanisation has not just resulted in significant challenges, it throws up a set of valuable opportunities as well– there are few certain answers before any of us. This unprecedented urban growth could help us alleviate poverty and move towards a more sustainable and equitable future, that is not just dependent on agriculture. However, it could also overwhelm our cities and exacerbate inequality. Can we address this before its too late?
There is one such organization that has decided to be the change agent- The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), a proposed University dealing specifically with issues related to urbanization and trying to find solutions that are holistic and interdisciplinary. The aim is to generate professionals who will be able to reshape and redesign India’s urban imprint with their creative, sustainable, interdisciplinary approach to local issues. One of its initiatives is San-kranti - a youth platform that invites India’s young to join a unique community of change-makers.
The aim of this challenge is to identify an issue that impacts urban India, explain the significance of that issue in the larger context of the city or town and identify the most sustainable and holistic solution for it. The amazing thing is that in over 2 months of launch of this initiative, over a 100 teams have registered for participating in this initiative. Some eminent people, experts in their own right in different disciplines have engaged as mentors for these teams. The 20 best teams will go on to participate in the India Urban Conference in Mysore, a joint initiative by IIHS, Janaagraha and the School of South Asian studies at Yale University.
The India Urban Conference (IUC) is a series of events designed to raise the salience of urban challenges and opportunities in the ongoing debate on India's development. It creates a wide multi-stakeholder and cross-regional platform that situates India's urban transformation in the context of current governance, economic, socio-political, ecological and cultural trajectories and consequent choices of development pathways. The IUC seeks to create an open-frame 'space' for a multi-level dialogue on applied research to inform policy, practice and civil society action.
It is no wonder that I am filled with new hope that this collective thinking and action will transform urban India in the coming years!