Cities are a fascinating mix of economic, physical and cultural activity.They perform functions of human settlement and provide services for smooth discharge of day to day functions of life.Traditionally, cities have been viewed primarily as settlement areas with higher density and volume of population along with better per-capita income than the rural areas.While the agenda of providing settlement services like housing, transportation , roads , water and electricity have got embodied in the state functions ,the focus on economic activity remains conspicuously absent.
The lopsided focus can be seen in creation of so many urban development bodies like state urban development authority, improvement trusts etc. which solely focus on creating new real estate projects,creation of roads and other settlement services while there is not even a single body that focuses on city’s economic agenda.The annual survey of economy of city is the least discussed agenda whereas physical developments like new buildings take the center stage in any local debate.It is important to realize that economic activity is the nutrition of the city without which the cities cannot sustain themselves.Therefore, the city may have excellent settlement functions but if the economic activity is not growing, the city will not have comfortable time in future.
Most of the Indian tier-2 and tier-3 cities have failed to encourage new economic activity and are still dependent on government expenditure to survive.Take for example, Patiala’s whole economy today is highly dependent on government organisations.In fact , many of India cities are dependent on government bodies for generating their income and let us be very sure that if this is the case , the cities can’t grow beyond 3 to 4 percent growth rate because that is the defined rate of government departments to grow until unless city has high inflow of remittances or government departments ramp up the capital expenditures steeply.However, both of the later factors are rare in reality.
The need ,therefore, is to focus on economic activity in a mission mode manner.Economic capital and human capital will decide the future of Indian cities.The state should therefore shift its focus on generating economic activity rather than focusing on real estate development.Once, the economic activity will pick up , real estate development will take care of itself just like it has happened in many metropolis areas like Gurgaon, Noida etc.Also, Our cities need to desperately focus on health and education to create a skilled and healthy human workforce.Investment in human capital is the most valuable asset any city can boast of and is a sure shot way to script a bright future for the city.
Thus, It is high time that we align our focus to areas where it matters the most rather than spending our time on misplaced priorities and creating unnecessary state intervention in areas where it is actually not required.Urban areas are aiming to sustain more than fifty percent of India’s population in near future and this cannot happen without pushing the economic activity in tier-2 and tier-3 cities .