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Indian Cities

Romi Khosla

Edited by R.P. Misra
Vikas, New Delhi, 1978, Rs. 80.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 5 March/April 1979

The word city has become synony­mous with crisis. The unplanned chaos and the complete inability of the various city planning authorities to cope with the urbanization process in India has resulted in this crisis. It requires great commitment and vision to see beyond the sprawling urban cities of India to a future where a balance is achieved between rural and urban life. This commitment and vision is very hard to come by in either the city planners or the various sociologists who are involved in the study of urban affairs and who are busy publishing their find­ings. This book is a collection of essays written by a panel of urban experts with diverse disciplines varying from geogra­phy to architecture (including one bureau­crat) on the ten cities of India whose population exceeds one million. Each of these ten cities is taken in turn and its problems quantified. Thus there are tables showing the migrant population of Calcutta, plans showing density of popu­lation of Greater Bombay and land use in Madras and much other factual infor­mation that seems extremely meaningful but, in fact, brings one no closer to under­standing the real nature of the urban crisis and its inevitable correlation with the political system. The volume of articles has been wrapped around by an introduction and conclusion by the editor R.P. Misra who is Director of the Insti­tute of Development Studies of Mysore University. Unfortunately, in these gene­ral articles too, particularly in the one entitled ‘Towards a Perspective Urbanis­ation Policy’ there is an utter lack of understanding of the real radical nature of change that is required in urban policy. Thus Misra enumerates the objectives of his policy to include the ‘evolution of a spatial structure of human settlements which can integrate the urban and rural settlement’, the ‘redistribution of India's population’ to match resources, to ‘con­trol unplanned growth’, ‘to provide civic facilities for the poor’ and so on. Alas the whole chapter reads like a gov­ernment white paper, which has the best of intentions but the least likelihood of success. Unfortunately the establishment has encouraged much of the study of urban problems to be diverted into irrelevant numerical measurement of data. Annual quantifying of the housing shortage or population density in slum areas is simply not necessary to attempt to solve the slum problems of our cities. This ...

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