Urban problems galore; spotting them priority

Posted on July 12, 2010 in Society

By Abhirup Bhunia:

In a developing nation like India where the ever-growing population is the biggest problem blatantly staring at us, the only discrimination that continues to exist from the times gone by, is perhaps the one between the poor and the rich. The disparity based on caste, sex, creed or religion is fast fading away but the economic inequality that results in a huge divide between the affluent and deprived, stays and vows to stay even longer. In city Calcutta, which is regarded as the ‘City of Joy’, the degree of joyous existence is in fact petering out.

Population can be a bane as well as a boon. The way one looks at it is what matters. If the growing population is reckoned as an enormous strength in terms of human resource to be tapped there is no reason why a city cannot grow. On the other hand, this very population can be burden if there aren’t means in place to utilize it. Here comes the biggest problem that the youth faces — unemployment. Joblessness had been reality decades ago when globalization had not extended its wings to this part of the world, but in this era of industrialization and privatization, unemployment is unacceptable. There is a root cause to this menace, the deracination of which is a far-fetched eventuality. The rural sector, which ideally should be the back-office of any urban territory, is in a state of desolateness. Hence, plagued by the miserable living conditions of villages, the rural youth of West Bengal migrates to Calcutta. For other cities one can replace the names (read, Maharashtra, Mumbai, etc). Extreme poverty, hunger, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions force the rustic youth to take shelter in the city. Consequently, the combined resultant population makes the city full of jobless folks. An estimate says while India’s population expands 2.5 times, the urban population grows five times. When lakhs of pitiful men and women thronged the streets of Calcutta forming a gigantic queue, everyone wondered what was going on. This transpired: The nearby building was collecting applications for a Group D job! And what alarmed more was the fact that many of them were postgraduates from University of Calcutta.

The middle class youth suffers the most under the given conditions, since jobs are crucial to sustain their families. Joblessness can be curbed with effective steps but thanks to political disagreements, industry growth remained stagnant, and the possibility of thousands of jobs being created disappeared. Also, the tourism industry, which on expansion can provide many jobs, lacks the catalyst. The youth hence cannot add to the city’s workforce.

This apart, the archetypal problem that a normal Calcuttan faces, is the intolerable traffic congestion. The result can be linked with various causes, but the fact that the problem never seems to die out, evinces the lackadaisical attitude of the concerning authority. Insufficient road space and lack of suitable public transport owing to disorganized urban planning is to be blamed. Environmental hazards due to the extreme pollution by vehicles and the filth created due to unbridled dumping of wastes adds to it. And how proud Calcutta feels when foreigners take a jibe (“Damn sickening”, “How disgusting” and “Terribly nauseating” are examples) at the city atmosphere!

The city’s overpopulation has resulted in the inability to provide sufficient housing facilities as the demand outgrows supply of infrastructure. As a result, squatters and slums have proliferated making the already poor environment shoddier.

The JNNURM (the acronym is too well-known to expand) specifically aims at solving urban problems but certain reports suggested that only a part of the funds allocated for the undertaking was employed. This makes people aware of the slipshod and corrupt minds of the people running the system. One of the reasons behind the present scenario is the improper implementation of schemes established by the government. As part of solution, the transport problem can be reduced by refurbishing the buses since a major chunk of people declines the idea of traveling by buses due to its substandard quality. Groups of people and not individuals should travel by cars, since that would firstly reduce traffic jams, and secondly conserve some oil which is so very necessary in today’s times. The population hitch cannot be tackled by enforcing birth control measures, but by improving rural conditions. This, keeping in mind that a major portion of the population is formed by village dwellers who drift to cities due to sub-human conditions that they are subjected to in villages. By developing industries and identifying the various growth openings of the city, the youth can be provided with valuable employment. There is a need to reform the education system too, which could be started by removing political outfits in institutions. Better education can definitely generate employment. As professor Horst Rittel of Berkeley says, the lack of understanding of the problems itself is the biggest problem and to eliminate this quandary one should get the facts right.

The author is Special correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. Contact him at abhirup.b1@gmail.com or follow him at twitter.com/abhirup1

Image: http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2007/presskit/