What is Urbanisation and Urban Problems in India


In the last decade saw more than half the world population becoming urbanised and India is the rate of urbanisation is growing at a rapid rate. Over the last 17 years, the urban population in India has been growing by 5.4% and in the year, 2030 more than 41% of the Indian population is expected to reside in urban areas. But various issues arise as a consequence of this unplanned and uncontrolled growth of masses into urban spaces and this article talks about sociological inquiry into the phenomenon of urbanisation.

Urbanisation is defined as the movement of population from rural to urban areas and the resulting increasing proportion of a population that resides in urban than rural areas. Urbanisation has been instrumental in initiating economic, social as well as political progress but has also led to serious issues. The rapid growth of population has induced pressure on public services like housing, health, sanitation, transport, education and so on. The concept of Urbanisation is widely borrowed from the West in this contemporary age. The census of India 2011 defines urban spaces as “all the places which have municipality, cooperation cantonment board or notified town area committee”. the definition also includes other aspects in the following criteria: 1) A density of population of at least 400 persons per square kilometre 2) At least 75% of the male main working population engaged in non-agricultural activities and 3) A minimum population of 5000 people.

Though societies in urban areas are developed and advanced there are several issues that these urbanised cities face even today which is detrimental to its growth and its people. 

  1. Slums 

A slum for census has been defined as residential areas where dwellings are unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangements and design of such buildings, the narrowness of streets, lack of ventilation, light, sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors that are detrimental to the safety of human health and safety.

In India, slums are compact poor built tenements, unfit for human habitation with a lack of basic facilities and services. The growth of slums is due to the lack of planning and managing of urban growth. Slums account for up to 17.5% of India’s urban population and up to 50-70% employees of the informal sector of urban employment. The number of slum dwellers is on the rise in India in the past two decades, especially. Among the multitude of slums in India, Dharavi is one of the biggest slums in the world accounting to 1 million population, it is the biggest in India and the whole of Asia.

Urban sprawls describe the expansion of the masses into the low-density area ultimately increasing the urban spaces into residential sub-urban areas. Slums give rise to the concept of urban sprawls as there is a need to accommodate a huge amount of population.

Slums create a distinctive divide between the rich and poor starting from the most basics of human life like food, water, and shelter. This gives rises to the phenomenon of social isolation in the eyes of the folks in poverty. This deprival causes an increase in negative motives to support their basic livelihood and facilities thus causing deviant behaviour.

  1. Housing

Housing is a chronic problem in most urban areas today and it is in need to address due to the issue of overcrowding. There is an acute shortage of homes in urban spaces as there is a large mass of people who are unemployed and move here from their native lands in search of employment. But today, housing has become more affordable than ever before.

In 2020, assuming that the average number of people in a household is 3, 68 million Indians will require independent housing. Mumbai alone accounts for up to 37% of total housing demands in India with houses at affordable rates.

According to the RICS and Knight Frank Report (2019), India will require 25 million housing units by the year 2030. With the current housing shortage in urban areas, the report estimates over and around 10 million housing units across India. As of July 2019, under the ‘Housing for All by 2022’ initiative approximately 8.36 million houses have been sanctioned.

India has a young population. The structural demand for housing in India will always be strong in the long term thus in the next 5 to 10 years, housing demand in India will grow unabated. Construction for 4.9 million units has begun and 2.6 million units of which have been completed and following the same, in December 2019, an additional 1.64 million houses were likely to be sanctioned, making it highly possible to achieve the target of 10 million houses by 2022.

  1. Public Health Services 

i) Health and Sanitation as a challenge: Urban poor are usually migrants who throng to cities in search of better job opportunities. Places of habitation of these people are hugely temporary and city planned to overlook them, and these people are deprived of basic health and sanitation facilities. Good health is an important part of SDGs which calls for its importance and attention. To meet the current requirements of the huge masses of population in cities India’s Urban health infrastructure seems inadequate however affordability is the next big question for these people who come from economically backward societies.

Sanitation usually refers to conditions relating to public health and the provision of clean water for washing and drinking. Poor sanitation is an especially important reason for the spread of communicable diseases in India. Sanitation standards have led to increased open defecation in India which is very unhealthy. Safe disposal of human excreta and manmade waste is the biggest challenge in India. Providing access to adequate health and sanitation facilities will be critical in the process of achieving basic requirements of human surviving and responsibility should be taken by the public especially the youth to create more awareness among the poor sections of the society on areas such as why is health important and why being hygienic is vital in saving lives. Thus, people from these fringe settlements are still living under the worst conditions possible.

ii) Waste Disposal as a challenge: Most parts of Urban India are all consistently in a fix with its inadequate and incompetent sewage amenities and not a single city in India has sufficient sewage facilities. As there is a lack of good local governance, cities do not have suitable provisions for treating the waste generated in the city and is merely drained into nearby water bodies like rivers, seas (as in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai), thereby polluting the water bodies.

These massive amounts of waste that our cities produce on a day-to-day basis creates a serious health problem ascites do not have workable garbage disposal plants and the waste generated is dumped into landfills. These landfills are hotspots of disease proliferation and also countless poisons substances are leaked into the environment.

  1. Transport

The advent of transport has helped people move to place freely and communicate with each other in a better way. Without transport, one cannot imagine business units which make the transportation sector particularly important. It also provides employment to millions of workers and generates revenue to the country. For sustained economic growth and development of a nation, a good transport network is essential. Transport systems links countries together and has made the world a village by showing that distance is no more a barrier for growth and to be in contact.

But the traffic scenario in Indian cities represents a wretched image of our local transport system. Transport systems and air pollution in a city are directly proportional to one another. Vehicle emissions depend on the number of vehicles, vehicle speed, age of the vehicle, total distance covered by the vehicle and its emission rate. To be accurate, the average peak hour speed in Indian cities is far less when compared to the ideal one.

Road accident is a serious problem that India is facing in the last decade and the problem prominently needs to be addressed in metropolitan cities. In the year 2018, road accidents alone claimed over 1.5 lakh lives in India and the major reason behind the same is over speeding. With 14 fatalities and 53 injuries every hour due to road accidents, India tops the list of countries with maximum road crashes.

  1. Environmental Issues:

Growing air pollution in India which caused by excessive usage of fuels is posing a serious threat to India’s environment. Some commonly known Atmospheric pollutants linked with motor vehicles are nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, sulphur oxides, and Suspended Particulate Matters (SPM)

One of the most obvious reasons environmental effects of overpopulation is the destruction of wildlife habitats. There are remains of small areas of wildlife habitat through these areas might be too small to be held for a variety of species. This type of human arrangement forces wildlife to cross human-dominated areas in their search for food and shelter.

But in villages the situation is quite different, nature is predominant in man’s life and villagers have a direct relationship to nature more than urban dwellers. In cities, humans are isolated from nature and are more attracted to the artificially created man-made environment over nature. There is comparatively more artificiality in urban people than in rural people. Bogardus had once written that Rural people are comparatively more frank, open, and genuine urban people who tend to prefer more artificiality their lives.

  1. Social and Psychological Issues: 

Lack of communal feeling is seen in cities, here individuals pursue what they want and are not bothered by others. There is a lack of unity, homogeneity, and harmony in the family. Cohesiveness among family members is no better than among people staying in hotels. Customs and traditions followed in our villages and native lands hold for sociological importance are forgotten and lost in the hustle-bustle of city lights. In cities, across the globe people are inspired by different religions, holding different ideals, different cultural backgrounds.

In villages and town, greater importance is given to social groups and community gatherings where religion and ritual are practised strictly which is not the same in the case of cities. The mindset of people in cities is more based on rational reasoning and scientific thinking. Due to the influence of lack of family, community, and western influence in an atmosphere of luxury and comfort, city people compromise on their morals and there is a sense of moral laxity. There is no control over an individual’s behaviour. People are too competition-minded to cooperate and work mutually with their fellow human beings. Life in cities is becoming extremely boring and routine.





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Mahima Shankar, currently pursuing 3rd year in Sociology from M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai.