Populist Political Rhetoric & Actual Policy

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission is a flagship city redevelopment program that was launched by the Government of India in 2006. The Mission is the largest initiative of Government of India for planned development of Indian cities.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had highlighted on the need to increase quality of life in India cities while launching the program “As we build infrastructure we must also improve the quality of living for all those who live in our cities. Our vision of urban development has so far been uni-dimensional. This must change. We have thus far focused more on space and less on people. We need to have an integrated framework, in which spatial development of cities goes hand-in-hand with improvement in the quality of living of ordinary people living there. ”. Kamal Nath , the new Union Cabinet Minister of Urban Development also recently highlighted that the JNNURM Program is focused on  improving the quality of life in our cities.

To corroborate the government’s assertions that the program is intended to increase the quality of life for most of the people in Indian cities, I analysed the program’s investments in the transport sector that intimately affects the quality of life of ­­­the community.

The total number of projects in the transport sector approved by the Government of India and related spending illustrates a focus on flyover & road related projects that aids car users.

Source: JNNURM

Source: JNNURM

 

Mapping the above  investments alongside current “modes of transport” in Indian Cities shows that even though car users are a minority in Indian Cities, they are arguably the biggest beneficiaries under the JNNURM Program.

Source: Traffic & Transportation Policies and Strategies in Urban Areas in India, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, New Delhi

Principles of urban planning based on dense, walkable, mass transit driven development are critical in ensuring a livable & inclusive city. Experts like Urbanist Enrique Penalosa have often argued that    ” In developing-world cities, most of people don’t have cars, so when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing equality. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality” .

The Indian Government’s declarations that JNNURM is aimed at increasing the quality of life for most of its people seems like a populist rhetoric given that their actual  investments show a penchant to serving elite needs. 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by prathima. Bookmark the permalink.

About prathima

Prathima Manohar is the Founder & President of the Urbanism think tank “The Urban Vision” .Prathima is an architect, critic, writer and a TV Journalist. Prathima holds a bachelors degree in Architecture. She was awarded Stanford University’s prestigious Draper Hills Fellowship bestowed to rising international stars who work on issues related to Democracy and Development in 2011. She is a Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center Fellow where she researches & studies the use of ICT for Good Governance. She has been a contributing columnist on architecture, urban development and design with India’s Leading News daily – The Times of India. She has been a contributing TV Journalist with France24 and TF1 where she did news reports and several documentaries on Indian economy, Developmental and Cultural issues. She has also written for the opinion pages of the International Herald Tribune , The Wall Street Journal and has reviewed for the Architecture Record. She has authored a monograph on the works of one of India's leading architects. She has previously consulted on urban design & urban policy related subjects with architecture and large development firms. As an urbanist, she has worked on pilot projects and researched on issues such as affordable housing, participatory planning and green cities.

3 thoughts on “Populist Political Rhetoric & Actual Policy

  1. Very helpful analysis, Prathima. I think this is a great example of bringing one data set into focus using another one. I.e., the spending pattern engaged in by JNNURM may seem reasonable, until we consider the distribution of transportation options within urban India.

    Where I’d push back on your analysis slightly… it’s possible that solving problems due to overcrowding due to cars would make life more comfortable and reasonable for walkers as well. If flyovers keep cars off streets with heavy pedestrian traffic, perhaps it’s possible that this is evidence of responsible city planning? One thing that might strengthen your argument here is evidence in another jurisdiction – inside or outside of India – of a strategy that invests in a different pattern. There are some great examples from Brazil that might make your case.

Comments are closed.