The recent pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of cities, especially the smaller towns.

Congestion and health issues in cities

  • The congestion in large cities has turned out to be their worst enemy during this pandemic.
  • Congestion is most evident in slums in large cities and poses grave health and environmental challenges.
  • Yet, the Centre’s allocation for the rural component of the Swachh Bharat Mission is about seven times more than for urban areas.
  • Class I cities have 1.4 beds per 1,000 people. (with the population more than 1 lakh)
  • However, the urban support under the National Health Mission is just three per cent of the total allocation, while 97 per cent of the funds are set aside for rural areas.

Issues faced by smaller towns:

  • The smaller towns (Population between 20000 and 1 lakh) are facing the maximum stress –
    • Less development happened in them owing to lesser contribution received under flagship scheme like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which allocated 7 times more budget for rural areas
    • Similarly schemes like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the Smart Cities Mission focus on Class I cities (having population greater than 1 lakh).
    • The migrant from big cities are going back to these towns which now need to provide them with basic facilities as well as livelihood with a dearth of funds
    • They also don’t have any entitlement based scheme like MGNREGA which gives assured employment for 100 days in rural areas.

Way ahead: 

In contrast to the imagination of the city as a hub of social and economic activity, it is now perceived as the centre of disease and distress.

  • Oversimplified notions of the rural-urban binary have influenced policy formulation and created huge disparities in the allocation of public resources. 
  • The challenges of urban poverty and congestion cry for more attention, more government support. Further neglect will lead to grave health and environmental challenges.

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