Is JNNURM about Inclusive Development?

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission is a flagship city redevelopment program that was launched by the Government of India in 2006. The Mission is the largest initiative of Government of India for planned development of Indian cities.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had highlighted on the need to increase quality of life in India cities while launching the program “As we build infrastructure we must also improve the quality of living for all those who live in our cities. Our vision of urban development has so far been uni-dimensional. This must change. We have thus far focused more on space and less on people. We need to have an integrated framework, in which spatial development of cities goes hand-in-hand with improvement in the quality of living of ordinary people living there. ”. Kamal Nath , the new Union Cabinet Minister of Urban Development also recently highlighted that the JNNURM Program is focused on  improving the quality of life in our cities.

To corroborate the government’s assertions that the program is intended to increase thequality of life for most of the people in Indian cities, I analysed the program’s investments in the transport sector that intimately affects the quality of life of ­­­the community.

The total number of projects in the transport sector approved by the Government of India and related spending illustrates a focus on flyover & road related projects that aids car users.

Source: JNNURM

Source: JNNURM

Mapping the above  investments alongside current “modes of transport” in Indian Cities shows that even though car users are a minority in Indian Cities, they are arguably the biggest beneficiaries under the JNNURM Program.

SourceTraffic & Transportation Policies and Strategies in Urban Areas in India, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, New Delhi

Principles of urban planning based on dense, walkable, mass transit driven development are critical in ensuring a livable & inclusive city. Experts like Urbanist Enrique Penalosa have often argued that ” In developing-world cities, most of people don’t have cars, so when you construct a good sidewalk, you are constructing equality. A sidewalk is a symbol of equality” .

While I recognize that the road infrastructure is also used by Public Buses and Intermediary Public Transport ( Like Taxi’s & Rickshaw’s) ,

I am still not comfortable with such a disproportional amount of spending on an infrastructure that will push exclusive Auto Centric Development.

So I conclude that the Indian government’s declarations that JNNURM is aimed at increasing the quality of life for most of its people seems like a populist rhetoric given that their actual  investments show a penchant to serving elite needs.

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About the Author

Prathima Manohar Prathima Manohar is the Founder of the Urbanism think do-tank “The Urban Vision . Prathima holds a bachelors degree in Architecture. She was awarded Stanford University’s prestigious Draper Hills Fellowship bestowed to rising international stars who work on issues related to Democracy and Development in 2011. She has been a Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center Fellow where she studied ICT for Good Governance, Gov 2.0 as well as entrepreneurship, Adaptive Leadership and Strategic Planning. She consults on urban design & urban policy related subjects with architecture and large development firms. As an urbanist, she has worked on projects and researched on issues such as placemaking , affordable housing, participatory planning and green cities. She has been a contributing columnist on architecture, urban development and design with India’s Leading News daily – The Times of India. She has been a contributing TV Journalist with France24 and TF1 where she did news reports and several documentaries on Indian economy, Developmental and Cultural issues. She has also written for the opinion pages of the International Herald Tribune , The Wall Street Journal and has reviewed for the Architecture Record. In 2017 , She was listed as top 50 Most Impactful Global Social Innovators at World CSR Day. She was awarded by the iGen Design Forum 2016 as the top 50 Next Generation Architects driving innovations in Indian Urbanscape . She was among Global Honourees of 2009 CONSIUSA’s “Young Leaders Program” which reconizes emerging leaders under the age of 40, who have distinguished themselves and have demonstrated leadership qualities and potential in various careers