India is emerging as the site of perhaps the largest urban transition that will unfold over the next two to three decades, which is projected to add 300 million more urban residents by 2050. This transition will bring not just opportunities through increased economic growth and employment, but also challenges, as cities will continue to deal with extreme deprivation and environmental degradation.
The Government of India has begun to acknowledge the enormity of this challenge through the launch of programmes such as JnNURM and RAY in the early 2000s and more recently with AMRUT, the Smart Cities Mission, PMAY, HRIDAY and Swachh Bharat. In parallel, there has also been a significant increase in private sector activity in the infrastructure, housing and real estate sectors over the last decade and a half. This governmental and private sector activity is taking place within the context of increasing household, informal sector enterprise and civil society participation that is transforming our cities, towns and villages at an increasing pace.
India’s emerging urban transition needs a new generation of urban practitioners with the right skills, perspectives, values, and knowledge. Current planning, design, technology, management, economics, humanities, legal and urban studies education provides an inadequate response to these challenges both in terms of knowledge as well as skills gained. More than technology or capital, the real and urgent obstacle to transforming urban India lies in the inability of our education system to produce urban practitioners who can enable the integration, management and coordination of these disparate processes occurring in today’s urban and urbanising settlements.