The government of India estimates that by the year 2025, India will have at least 75 metros — a word it uses to define cities with a population of more than a million (10 lakh) people.
Speaking at the HT Estates Conclave on the theme, ‘Metros and Beyond, Pushing New Frontiers’, Union Minister for Urban Development S Jaipal Reddy said even this estimate could be conservative, looking at the current pace of urbanisation in the country. If in the second part of the 20th century, the West saw rapid urbanisation as a post-industrialisation phenomenon, this century will “witness a similar phenomenon in the developing world”, Reddy said.
The minister stressed that satellite towns should act as “counter-magnets” to the metros and take the load off these places. Citing the National Capital Region as a success story, Reddy said the momentum of growth was gradually shifting from the Capital to the NCR, leading to a decline in the influx of migrants to Delhi. The government will soon announce a scheme to build urban infrastructure in satellite towns, the minister revealed.
“Urbanisation is the future and we need to be happy about it,” Reddy said adding that the trend is indeed “desirable”. He added that in 1981, the country had just 12 metros. Reddy said despite this trend, “the government of India had subjected the urban subject to benign neglect”. Things, however, have changed under the Manmohan Singh government and the government launched the Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission that focuses on metros, state capitals and Union territories, Reddy said.
“Let this conclave dream of slum-free metros,” Reddy said. “Poor people do not have to live in miserable conditions,” he remarked.
Reddy also highlighted in his speech that tremendous potential that exists for Public Private Partnership in developing new and existing cities in the changing scenario. “We are thinking of increasing the grant (given by the Centre) from the current 20 per cent to 30 per cent,” he said, referring to metro rail projects in mega cities. “The state government could provide 10 per cent while 60 per cent would come from the private partner,” he said.
Reddy said it was for the first time in the world that a government was experimenting with the public-private partnership model for metro rail transport. The proposed model is for mega cities — Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. “So far, Mumbai and Hyderabad have come forward to adopt the model. “For smaller cities,” Reddy said, “a bus-based rapid transport system model appears more suitable. “It is also four times cheaper,” he added.