Wednesday, March 9, 2011



Rapid urbanization is emerging as a general phenomenon throughout the developing world, particularly in the towns and cities of Asia and Pacific. 21st Century has been regarded as a century for urbanization. It is projected that by 2030, the people living in towns and cities will rise to two thirds of the total global population as the world’s population is expected to climb to 820 crores and a major share of which will be living in slums and in peri-urban areas.


Despite a long urban history spanning over nearly five millennia, India remains one of the less urbanized countries of the world. During the first half of the 20th century, process of urbanization was slow, registering an increase in the level of urbanization from 10.84 % to 17.29 %. But in the second half of the last century has shown an increase of two and half times. Total urban population of India grew from 109.11 million in 1971 to 285 million in 2001, indicating a growth of 161 per cent. There were 5 metro cities in 1951 which rose to 23 in 1991 and 35 in 2001. Similarly, the Class-I towns which were just 7 in 1951 has leaped to 400 in 2001. These 35 metro cities have 108 million populations which is around 38 % of the total urban population. Like all other developing countries, India is also experiencing fast urbanization. The feature of growing urbanization has been reflected in the growth of urban population in India also. It has been predicted that 50 per cent of India’s population will live in urban areas by 2041.

In this evolving context, the 73rd and 74th Amendment of Constitution was enacted in 1992. This was the first step to recognize the local governance both in rural and urban levels. Both the ULBs and PRI has got received constitutional sanction and has constitutionally recognized as 3rd Tier of Governance. The induction of increased financial responsibilities to ULBs was intended to reinforce the role of municipalities in the urban affairs. Besides that, in most of the States’ election to these PRIs and ULBs were not even held till 1994.


Urban areas are the centres of economic activities and employment generation. They not only serve the large rural hinterland but also contribute to the State Domestic Product and the Gross Domestic Product of the country to a significant extent. Rapid urbanisation has resulted a substantial growth of urban economy in India. In India itself, the contribution of the urban sector to the national economy has been grown substantially in recent past. In 1951, contribution of the cities and towns was to the tune of 29 per cent of the GDP, which during the last 50 years has doubled to 60 per cent in 2001. It has been estimated that by the end of 2025, the consumer market in our country will be an urban affair, contributing 62 per cent consumption in urban areas alone with remaining 38 per cent in rural areas.

Studies have revealed that the rate of increase of GDP will be 7.3 per cent during the period between 2005 and 2025, against 6 per cent during the last decade. This will also lead to the growth of Indian workforce. At the outset of 21st century, 32 per cent of the total workforce resided in the urban areas of the country.

Further, it is of critical significance that 79 per cent of the new jobs totaling 19.3 million between1991-2003 were generated in urban areas of the country.


West Bengal is one of the highly urbanized States of India with 28 percent of population residing in urban areas. In West Bengal the urban population grew from 10.97 million to 22.43 million during last 30 years but this huge population lives within 2.93 per cent of the total geographic area of the State which has resulted highest population density in the country of 6798 persons per sq. km. with the density for KMA working out to around 8000 persons per sq. km. The process of urbanization in West Bengal also distinguishes itself from the general trend for the country as a whole. Small urban centers like census towns have emerged all over the State from 137 in 1991 to 253 in 2001. The urban scenario in the State of West Bengal has witnessed vast changes in the recent years in the wake of economic development and growth of industrial as well as service sector. Further, emergence of agricultural surplus resulting from various rural sector reforms, especially the land reforms, undertaken by the Left front Government has created several opportunities for development of non-agricultural and service sector activities which has created an ambience for more equal distribution of income. The structural change being experienced in the economy of the State in terms of increasing share of secondary and tertiary sector in the SDP would further facilitate the process of urbanization.


While the global spread of urbanization has positive impact and created a lot of opportunities, it has also created many other problems which are acting as barriers to have the potential gains. The cities are faced with problems of inequality, increased competition for basic needs and access to essential services, socio-political and economic institutions and health threats. Under this context, various challenges are being faced by the planners and policy makers to meet up the growing demand of this huge urban populace. The challenges faced by India are unprecedented and enormous given the spatial, economic and social need of this huge urban population in different size and class of settlements. Pressure on habitable land is increasing, which results conversion of agricultural and vacant land to uses particularly for housing and other commercial activities thereby leading to unplanned development. Urbanization has manifested congestion, inadequate water supply, sanitation, health problems and environmental degradation. With the advent of urbanization, there is increasing social tension as the stress of infrastructure affect the poor more than non poor. This has also led to inequality in every strata of the society, even if there exists a concept of “Tale of Two Cities Within One City”. A large number of urban sprawls have grown during the last few decades, which has added considerable increase of slum population. Besides, impact of the climatic change and environmental stress on the physical shape of cities and daily lives of vulnerable urban residents, particularly to the urban poor, residing in slums and in the peri-urban areas require huge attention.

Climatic change affects the poor most, costing much of the daily living while the rich are not that much affected. This increasing urbanization, coupled with increasing income in urban areas, as a result of greater service sector income, has raised the demand for larger and better infrastructural network. This is creating pressure on the cities to improve their urban management practices and create better enabling environment to become more competitive and sustainable. As per demographers, urban population in West Bengal is projected to increase at a faster rate and expected to reach 27 million in 2011.


Under this context, the importance of planning in urban areas has become the principal focus of the policy makers throughout the world. Urban areas are the centres of economic activities and employment generation. They not only serve the large rural hinterland but also contribute to the State Domestic Product and the Gross Domestic Product of the country to a significant extent. In the secondary sector and tertiary sector SDP for the State, the Urban West Bengal contributes nearly 60%. The urban areas are also the centres of institutional and cultural activities and provide health and educational facilities to the region. The spatial planning and development of the urban areas are therefore very important to ensure the growth of the activities in the urban areas and thereby providing the required boost to the economy of the hinterland as well as to the State. City Planners and Policy makers should give proper priority in Municipal infrastructure planning and space planning to establish an integrated system of Urban Traffic Policy, Control and protection of water environment, Prevention and control of Air pollution and protecting places of historical interest. The Spatial Plan for an urban area ideally should consist of Perspective Plan and Sectoral Master Plans, with planning horizon of 20-25 years and Draft Development Plan with planning horizon of 5 years and Annual Plan for implementation during the next year.


The Left Front Government in West Bengal, being a State within Indian federal structure with it’s limited scope and various compulsions and concomitant limitations has been tackling the challenges of urbanisation and promoting the interests of the down-and-out with it’s deep commitment towards the upliftment of the standard of living of the people of such a huge magnitude of urban population coupled with a relatively high density. for more than decades.

· Approach of the State Government has been focussed on

o Decentralized and balanced development in a planned manner,
o Improvement of small and medium towns,
o Integrated development of peri-urban areas,
o Development of new townships,
o Preparing Land Use and Development Control Plan (LUDCP) to facilitate planned, development,
o Holistic and inclusive development addressing the concerns of the urban poor including minorities and
o More and more people participation for improved Municipal governance to ensure sustainable growth and development, thus enabling municipal areas to become economically vibrant.
· Under this context, Departments of Municipal Affairs and Urban Development of the State Government have articulated the Eleventh Five Year Plan Approach Document for Urban Sector.

The document has evolved a Vision and also spelled out objectives to be met.

· Vision of the Approach Document is

o to create livable, environmentally balanced and investor-friendly cities with dynamic municipal system having efficient service delivery mechanism.
· The objectives have been focused on
o the improvement of standard of living of the urban poor,
o development of physical and social infrastructure,
o adequate coverage of health, education and employment aspects,
o improvement in delivery of civic services,
o ensuring people’s participation in planning, decision making and implementation
o empowerment of women, weaker section and minority groups and
o reducing disparity between slum and non-slum areas.

· Special attention has been given for holistic development of urban poor by providing not only physical infrastructure but also social infrastructure and services like health and employment in an integrated manner so that they become integral part of the urban system.
· Left front Government in West Bengal is well seized of this potential urban growth and has been continually devising measures for providing a healthy urban system in the State. There are at present 127 urban local bodies including 6 municipal corporations along with One Industrial Township comprising Sector-V of Salt Lake City. Besides, there are 9 Development Authorities for the fast growing urban centres, as efforts of individual ULBs may not be enough for tackling the magnitudes of urban problems in these areas.
· State Government has taken up the policy of decentralization, to cope up with the excessive pressure on infrastructural and civic facilities on Kolkata. Some of the urban centers like Asansol-Durgapur, Siliguri and Haldia are growing so fast as to assume the character of metropolis. They have great potential for development and considering their strategic position and other related opportunities. Projects are underway in these urban centres for developing infrastructural facilities like water supply, sanitation and drainage, solid waste management, roads etc.
· Effort has been made to reach the benefit of the created infrastructure and service delivery mechanism to the economically and socially backward people living in urban areas. The State Government, through well-designed measures, has obviated the rural-urban dichotomy that usually characterizes the process of urban growth in the developing countries.
· The cardinal principle that has been instrumental in the success of West Bengal’s experience with democratic decentralisation is to ensure people’s active participation especially of the socially and economically weaker section of the people, in every step of the process right from planning stage upto implementation of the development plans.


· Development of Urban infrastructure and setting up of new townships.
· Planned growth.
· Improvement of urban environment.
· Essential service for Urban Poor

o Housing- Construction / redevelopment of housing schemes for Urban Poor
o Water supply, drainage & electric connection for Urban Poor as part of housing strategy
o Secure Land Tenure
o More and more employment opportunities
o Income generation for urban poor through Swarna Jayanti Sahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY)
· Stakeholder participation in Urban Governance.
· Improved service delivery mechanism.
· Fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability of Urban Local Bodies.
· Capacity Building of ULBs.


· State Government has effectively introduced decentralized democratic governance in all units of rural and urban local self-government well before the enactment of 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts. All the provisions of the 74th Amendment of Constitution have been made effective in the State and most of the powers and functions as depicted in the 12th Schedule of the Constitution have been delegated to the Urban Local Bodies.
· State Government is holding regular elections with one third of the electoral seats reserved for women and proportional reservation of electoral seats for SC and ST.
· West Bengal Municipal Act of 1993 and all other Acts of various municipal corporations provides for a Cabinet form of Local Self-Government through the Chairman-in-Council/Mayor-in-Council model for all municipalities of the State and there are separate acts for Municipal Corporation.
· District Planning Committee Act and Metropolitan Planning Committee Act has been framed. District Level Planning Committee and Kolkata Metropolitan Planning Committee, first of It’s kind in the country, have also been formed.
· State Government pays particular importance to people’s participation in the planning and development process. . Formation of Ward Committee, CDS and publication of Citizen Charter has been made mandatory in each and every ULB. Recently Area Sabha Committee formation and Public Disclosure of accounts of Urban Local Bodies has added new dimensions in the domain of people’s participation in urban governance.
· During the last 32 years, 36 new municipalities have been constituted in the state along with 6 Development Authorities.
· State Government has emphasised the need for financial support in urban development. Budgetary provision during the last decade has been increased manifold. During 2001-02 the total Budget provision for both Municipal Affairs as well as Urban Development Department was Rs. 1048 crores which has been increased to Rs. 5000 crores in 2010-11.


Government of India has introduced JNNURM which has, no doubt, represents a shift in the national policy towards urban centres. Although welcomed from many quarters, it has come under criticism from few quarters on various grounds. The JNNURM has shown a tendency of Central control over states on various issues of urban affairs, which as per constitution is a State subject. The State Government time and again raised issues of reforms agendas like repeal of urban land ceiling, cutting down of stamp duty etc. Only 63 towns out of nearly 5000 has been included as mission cities and many large and potential towns which are registering fast growth have been left out of mission cities in spite of several requests made to Union Ministry. Though the JNNURM is Central Sector scheme, the burden on the State Govt. and Urban Local Bodies is becoming very high, more so in the case of Metro Cities, since Govt. of India contributes only 35% of project cost under UIGS. Besides, GOI is also not providing any fund for cost escalation, which for west Bengal only has been to the tune of more than 600 crores. It is difficult for the State Govt. and Urban Local Bodies to provide such a large amount as their share. The allocation for UIDSSMT and IHSDP is, however, grossly inadequate. For example in West Bengal out of the total allocation Rs. 5790 crores under JNNURM only Rs. 600 crores are meant for non mission towns which is constitute only 11% of the total allocation. With repeated request, Ministry of Urban Development has not yet allowed enhancement of allocation in UIDSSMT, as a result only 26 towns could be covered out of 80 towns.

In West Bengal, Kolkata with 42 ULBs within KMA and Asansol with 6 ULBs have been declared as Mission City. For other 80 towns, infrastructure initiatives have been taken care by Urban Infrastructure & Development Scheme for Small & Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) and slum infrastructure including construction of housing for the poor is being implemented through Integrated Housing & Slum Development Scheme (IHSDP). So far 262 projects with a total project cost of 9322 crores have been sanctioned which includes 142 projects for mission cities and 120 projects for non mission towns.

In the infrastructure arena, 48 water supply schemes for around 3000 crores, 10 schemes for flyovers and bridges for around 1000 crores, 16 Sewerage & Drainage schemes for around 1000 crores and 3 Solid Waste Management schemes for around 200 crores have been implemented. In Kolkata, century old man entry and non man entry brick sewer are being renovated which will lead to solve long standing water logging problem in the core of the city area. Schemes like bus rapid transit system are also being implemented. So far out of around 4300 crores Government of India have provided around 1968 crores only and around 1800 crores have been provided by the State Government and the municipalities. So far around 3000 crores has been spent. Out of sanctioned 1.92 lakhs of dwelling houses so far around 65000 have been completed and rest are in progress.

Under the newly proposed Rajib Awas Yojana, the whole slum approach has been adopted. This needs total survey on vacant land and Ministry of Housing has also directed to conduct such survey.


Sincere attempts have been made by the Government to improve the basic standards of living of the urban poor. Various initiatives have been taken to eradicate urban poverty through various anti-poverty programmes like SJSRY, Health Improvement Schemes, Employment Generation, IHSDP and other development programmes.
· West Bengal Urban Poverty Eradication Mission for converging various poverty alleviation programmes undertaken by the concerned line departments has been constituted under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Chief Minister. There is an Executive Committee comprised of Departmental Secretaries and Departmental Minister as Chairman.
· A target has been fixed to construct 2 lakh dwelling units for the urban poor during the Eleventh Plan Period. Out of this, 1.92 lakh housing has been sanctioned under JNNURM. Besides, another 50,000 new houses have been targeted out of State Government’s own budgetary support under the scheme “Housing for Urban Poor”.
· Urban Poverty Eradication Cell has been constituted in almost all the municipalities to look after every programme that has been taken up by various departments and to co-ordinate with other line departments so that the benefit actually reaches the urban poor.
· All ULBs had been instructed to spend minimum of 25% of their own fund for development and welfare of urban poor and accordingly circular has been issued.
· Secure Land Tenure -Providing land tenure right to the urban poor has become a major concern to the State Government. Recently, State Government has issued necessary circular for issuance of long term settlement for 99 years on token salami of Re. 1/- for those urban poor who are residing over vested land in urban areas for at least 20 years, provided that the land has not been earmarked for any project purpose.
· Housing for the Urban Poor – State Government out of its own budgetary support has provided fund for Construction and Re-development of housing for the urban poor. In the current financial year Rs. 400.00 crore has been provided. For each new construction, Rs. 1.00 lakh and for each Upgradation, a minimum of Rs. 60,000 has been provided and beneficiaries will have to provide no contribution. It will help to achieve the State Government effort to provide affordable housing for all.
· West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme - In order to reduce the problem of unemployment in urban areas, the State Government from 2010-11 financial year has decided to take up and implement the scheme namely “West Bengal Urban Employment Scheme” for employment generation as well as improvement and maintenance of civic infrastructure in urban areas by direct engagement of urban unemployed persons without involvement of contractors.
· Steps have been taken for Capacity Building of Thrift& Credit Group and as well as for the UWSP groups (formerly known as DWCUA groups).
· The West Bengal Urban Street Vendor Policy - A policy named as “The West Bengal Urban Street Vendor Policy” has been prepared and has been approved in the State Cabinet. This policy includes - setting up of a four-tier institutional structure at State, District, Sub-Division and Urban Local Body level to monitor implementation of the policy and involvement of all relevant departments of the State Government, Urban Local Body, Street Vendors’ Organisations and the members of civic society. This policy also indicates the zoning of vending areas, process of identification of street vendors and issuance of identity cards, regulating vending structure and fees, fixing quantitative space norm, and restriction of the rights of street vendors and welfare measures for street vendors, provision of civic facilities at vending zones. Each Urban Local Body to formulate city plan with regulations following the guidelines of this policy.
· Swarna Jayanti Sahari Rojgar Yojana (SJSRY) It is the major urban poverty alleviation scheme of Govt. of India catering to the livelihood needs of Below Poverty Line (BPL) urban population. It seeks to provide gainful employment to the urban unemployed / underemployed youth through setting up of self employment ventures or provision of wage employment. Till date 38596 Neighbourhood Groups (NHGs), 3,688 Neighbourhood Committees (NHCs) and 306 Community Development Societies (CDS) have been formed in different municipal areas of the State. Under the sub-scheme 'Thrift and Credit Groups (TCGs), 32,980 Groups have been formed and the total no. of BPL families involved with this groups is approximately 4.60 lakhs. To provide market support to the DWCUA and TCG group members fund is being provided to ULBs for construction of Community Seva Kendra. Self-Help Groups from different ULBs have also been participating in different melas with support from ULBs and State Govt.

Health Improvement Programmes:

· i) Urban Health Strategy- The Municipal Affairs Department along with the Health & Family Welfare Department has also prepared a Urban Health Strategy which will guide the Community Based Primary Health Care Services.
· ii) Urban Health Care Service- From 2009, all the health schemes like IPP-VIII, IPP-VIII (Extn.), RCH Project at Asansol, CUDP and CSIP has been put under a single umbrella known as Urban Health Care Service and is being monitored from the end of State Urban Development Agency (SUDA).. Effective implementation of these schemes has been noteworthy and a notable improvement in various health indicators in respect to the base year has been witnessed.
· iii) Community Based Primary Health Care Services: To cover the remaining 63 ULBs in Non-KMA, “Community Based Primary Health Care Services” has been taken up This will cover total urban population (34.03 lakhs) with special focus to BPL & marginalized (11.23 lakhs). The objective of this programme is to bring an overall improvement in Urban Health scenario as a whole with reference to reduction in Crude Birth Rate (CBR), Crude Death Rate (CDR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and enhancement of Couple Protection Rate (CPR); to provide Primary Health Care Service delivery to the Urban population with focus on Reproductive & Child Health of BPL population; to implement various National Health Programmes, Public Health and to ensure maximum utilization of Government Institutions for referral services.
· iv) School Health Check-up : From 2008-2009, health check-up for the school children, mostly from urban poor and in different Government-aided institutions has been taken up under KUSP.
From 2009-2010, this system has been extended to all the KMA and non-KMA urban local bodies and so far 90 ULBs have taken up the programme in 8300 camps covering more than 1.50 lakhs school children.
v) The various health indicators
· National Social assistance Schemes- Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOPS). National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS),Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme are being implemented. Steps have been taken to ensure individual Bank account to be opened.
· Action Plan for Minorities- In West Bengal, the population of minorities is around 28 per cent of the total population. In urban areas West Bengal the percentage of Muslim population is 13.87 per cent. The Municipal Affairs Department has taken some specific steps for overall socio-economic development of minority population residing in various urban centres of the State as well as on infrastructural development. Emphasis has been laid upon cent per cent institutional delivery and covering minority population in other health programmes. Municipal Affairs and Minority Welfare Departments have arranged for funding for the various infrastructural development projects for urban areas with concentration of minority population on 50:50 basis.

· To improve the institutional capacity of Support Organizations two studies have been conducted
· New staff norm of Urban Local Bodies has been prepared
· Efforts have been made to absorb existing casual workers in a schematic way in the ULBs
· State Government is providing 85% of the pay of the municipal employee
· A guidebook on Standardized Operating Practices, Asset Management & Maintenance and Citizens’ Charter Monitoring Framework has been developed by CMU, KUSP

Vital Statistics
Crude Birth
Rate (CBR)
Crude Death
Rate (CDR)
Infant Mortality
Rate (IMR)
Maternal Mortality
Rate (MMR)
CUDP-III 23.3 7.8 4.8 3.0 96.1 15.3 11.8 0.7
CSIP 16.3 10.2 6.8 1.2 44.0 30.0 3.1 0.0
IPP-VIII 19.6 8.0 5.9 3.0 55.6 14.4 4.6 0.5
IPP-VIII (Extn.) 20.3 14.1 7.6 3.3 54.0 20.0 6.0 0.6
RCH Sub-Project, Asansol 23.9 16.3 12.4 5.1 60.0 20.0 3.0 0.0
HHW – Scheme 37.3 22.5 6.3 4.2 21.6 17.5 2.1 1.6
Average 23.5 13.2 7.3 3.3 55.2 19.5 5.1 0.6

· State Government has constituted West Bengal Municipal Development Fund (WBMDF). The Trust shall assist the urban local bodies to take up various urban infrastructure projects like water supply, sewerage, roads by providing financial support at a lower rate of interest.
· A large number of ULBs have switched over their Accounting System from Single Entry System to Accrual Based Double Entry System.
· Citizens’ Charter : Almost all the ULBs have prepared their Citizens’ Charter and established the Grievance Redressal Cell.
· Draft Development Plan: Majority of the ULBs have formulated Draft Development Plan (DDP) based on which Annual Development Plan (ADP) are prepared
· E-governance : In order to streamline and standardise , a comprehensive e-Governance system with 15 modules along with integrated financial accounting system has been developed which is being introduced in all the ULBs
· To improve the direct interaction with respective ULBs with the Departmental personnel without the need for physical movement. System of Video conferencing has been introduced.


State government has emphasized on formulation of various strategies:
· West Bengal Urban Strategy is being formulated with support from Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad
· A draft Multi-dimensional Poverty Reduction Strategy & Action Plan has been prepared indicating the approach of the State Government for socio-economic uplift of urban poor
· West Bengal Urban Sanitation Strategy has been finally notified
· West Bengal Urban Health Strategy has been published to set a specific direction towards improvement of healthy living for urban poor
· West Bengal Urban Street Vendor Policy has been finalised with the approval of the State Cabinet To ensure provision of better civic facilities and to improve the standard of living, the need for a dynamic and responsive governance system is the need of the hour. To attain this objective, democratic decentralization at every stage and people’s participation is indispensable. Through capacity building of the beneficiaries and stakeholders, the State Government is determined to develop responsive urban governance in the State.

Date: 16.11.2010

1 comment:

Kumar Sarkar, London said...

Within the framework of the feudal-bourgeois constitution of India, there is a limit in the socio-economic development of a member-state of the so-called federal India that a leftwing government can hope to achieve. The 34 years of Left administration has confirmed it. Yet, it seems, the left parties, after the Operation Barga, have no vision for the future.

The future of West Bengal does not solely lie in the political boundary of the state, it is unavoidably linked with the rest of India. But, the left parties in W Bengal have no all-India strategy. They vegetate within the permitted boundary of the bourgeois parliamentarism and thus tread a hopelessly social democratic path, which is a product of western imperialist countries and has no future in semi-feudal societies.