Alternative Futures: India Unshackled

Publisher: AuthorsUpFront

Editors: Ashish Kothari and K J Joy

This book attempts to envision an alternative India of the future that is “politically and socially egalitarian, radically democratic, ecologically sustainable, and socio-culturally diverse”. To this end, this endeavour in prognostics has roped in some of the country’s noted scholars and practitioners from diverse fields who have made meaningful impact at the grassroots as well as at the policy-making level. The book has been divided into four main thematic sections: Ecological Futures, Political Futures, Economic Futures, and Socio-Cultural Futures. The book is available online here.

Rakesh Kapoor has contributed a paper on India’s urban futures in the book. A summary of the paper is given below.

Reimagining India’s Urban Future

This paper looks at the major challenges that urban India faces in the next three decades and beyond, and suggests a vision for an alternative urban future for India 2047. Urban India today faces huge problems such as poor infrastructure, highly inadequate water and electricity supply, slums, waste disposal, poor public transport, etc. Among the underlying causes of this rundown state of Indian cities are poor governance, financial weakness, lack of innovation, and populist schemes.

Arguing that a better quality of life for Indians – urban and rural – requires radical departures from current approaches, mindsets and institutions, the paper suggests a radically different vision for urban plus rural India 2047, built around the following components:

  • Dispersed urbanization: small towns as development and skilling hubs
  • Innovative mechanisms for financing and building small and medium towns
  • Public regulatory authorities at multiple levels to regulate the uses of land and water
  • Empowering urban local bodies (ULBs) or urban local governments (ULGs)
  • Innovation in sustainable resource use and solutions for urban areas to create ‘regenerative’ and ‘smart’ cities
  • Low carbon cities and resilience to climate change and associated disasters

The suggested future of Indian cities will be based, among other things, on sustainable development through the extensive use of renewable energy sources, minimal waste generation, minimum ecological footprint, provision of decent housing to all citizens and resilience to disasters. Empowered urban local bodies and a decentralised form of governance will be crucial. Ultimately, the challenge for Indians, including our political leaders, is to first of all envision another future for urban plus rural India, and then to take all constituents of our population along to achieve that vision.