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Towards A Better City

Aftab Jalia

By K.C. Sivaramakrishnan
Sage, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 304, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

With the surging idea of civic participation in affairs of governance in India, there cannot be a more opportune time for K.C. Sivaramakrishnan’s book which presents an informative and detailed background of the early efforts made in the area of urban development in the country. An Indian bureaucrat since 1958, the author is a veteran in the field, serving on numerous offices directly related to urban development for over forty years. Sivaramakrishnan is also presently Chairman of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi and certainly has the vantage point to present numerous urban issues that have, over time, either plagued or augmented implementation of urban policy in India. He presents these measures through clear sub-heads that encompass major studies, programmes and strategies adopted in the various Five Year Plans. Focussing on ‘urban’ issues, the book’s most vital subject is its examination of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) where the author also served on the Technical Advisory Group (TAG). His place on the TAG has undoubtedly proven beneficial in the writing of this book as it has given the author easy access to various research material which, in our pedantic system, would otherwise have proven to be a greater ordeal. Providing a comprehensive view of the JNNURM since its inception, the book discusses in detail its coverage and components. It further deals extensively with various aspects of urban growth like Housing and Services for the Urban Poor, Urban Mobility, District Level Planning, Reforms Agenda, Metro Dimensions, etc. Anyone living in Indian cities will be able to relate to the themes the book discusses—be it transportation, housing, zoning or the pace at which urban improvements take place. For example, the book critically points out that Indian states should have been directed to undertake the city development exercise first as a pre-qualification for inclusion of cities in the NURM list and goes on to illustrate the implications of misguided measures at city planning level. The book also notes, giving examples, that the criteria for selection of towns, adopting basis for allocation of funds, appraisal of city development plans and DPRs, could have been more rational. It makes candid observations, shared by several other experts in this field, that many a times the need to expedite processes and channel money is often given undue priority. A significant and pertinent remark has also been made on sector wise ...

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