#297      36 min 27 sec
Crush hour: Explosive urbanization and its challenges for India

Housing and real estate researcher Assoc Prof Piyush Tiwari discusses urbanization in India and its implications for policy makers. He also explains why Indian slums don’t always deserve the bad rap they get in popular culture. Presented by Lynne Haultain.

"There is an existing city which is probably crumbling with the older infrastructure, lack of amenities, growing population, older production facilities, but at the fringes there was absolutely fantastic world class infrastructure that was getting created. These two were not talking to each other." -- Assoc Prof Piyush Tiwari 




Assoc Prof Piyush Tiwari
Assoc Prof Piyush Tiwari

Dr Piyush Tiwari is Associate Professor of Property at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning in University of Melbourne, Australia. Prior to his current position he was Director – Policy at Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), India, where he was responsible for formulating policies for private financing of urban infrastructure in close cooperation with national and state governments. He was also editor of India Infrastructure Report 2011 on Water. Earlier, he was Senior Lecturer (Property) and Program Leader, MSc (International Real Estate Markets) at the Business School, University of Aberdeen, UK. He has held positions at the largest mortgage company, HDFC, India and the University of Tsukuba, Japan. His research interests include infrastructure policy, housing economics and mortgages, commercial real estate investment, and financing infrastructure in developing countries. He has published numerous research papers on issues related to real estate and infrastructure. He is author of the 2010 book International Real Estate Economics, and is coauthor of Real Estate Finance in the New Economy (2014). He is Member, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). His other professional activities include Director, Asian Real Estate Society and Associate Editor, International Real Estate Review.

Credits

Host: Lynne Haultain
Producers: Eric van Bemmel, Peter Clarke, and Kelvin Param
Audio Engineer: Gavin Nebauer
Voiceover: Nerissa Hannink
Series Creators: Kelvin Param and Eric van Bemmel

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VOICEOVER 
This is Up Close, the research talk show from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Welcome to Up Close, brought to you by the University of Melbourne, Australia.  I am Lynne Haultain.  When we think about modern India many of hold two strong images in our minds: 21st century India, a booming economy captured in the BRIC acronym with Brazil, Russia and China, which is carving a new place for itself in the contemporary global economy.  From textiles to IT, India is now looking to cement its place as a world player. And the other image is of sprawling cities with little apparent planning to manage the constant influx of people from rural areas looking for opportunity, the India of the popular movie Slum Dog Millionaire.  And like most clichés there is some truth in these impressions but also a degree of oversimplification.  
The growth and governance of India's cities has been a key factor in the economic success of the nation but it's not been a smooth trajectory.  Dr Piyush Tiwari is an associate professor in property in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne and is also associate dean at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' School of the Built Environment in Delhi.  Dr Tiwari has looked at the growth and trends in Indian cities over a number of years and from a number of different perspectives.  Piyush, welcome to Up Close.  

PIYUSH TIWARI
Thank you for having me here.

LYN HALTAIN
India's economy and therefore to a very large extent the shape of its urban centres, Dr Tiwari, has been subject to the flux, not only of global trends but also to some very particular local factors, and I think it's pretty important that we set down the context here because there have been a number of tumultuous changes in India's political and social history over the last 60 years since independence.  What were India's cities like immediately like immediately after independence?  Can you describe them?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I think when India got independence the legacy of British rule was apparent in cities.  Prior to independence, cities like Kolkata and Mumbai were the engines of manufacturing and trade, largely producing processed raw material for textile mills in the UK.  A number of these textile mills emerged on the landscape of Mumbai, which were also feeding in elite requirements of Mumbai residents.  Delhi had just finished building a new capital just before India got independence.  Once India got independence these economic linkages, they broke.  The trade board of Karachi was lost to another nation post-independence.  The jute manufacturing hub of East Pakistan was lost.  So all these caused some kind of changes in the economic structure of these major cities.
One other thing which happened was during the British time and immediately after independence was the growth in population.  The earlier growth in population was largely led by industrialisation which was drawing people from hinterland into the cities and post-independence there was huge migration due to the separation of nations, which again got concentrated in these big cities, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.  So the image that we have of Indian cities at the time of independence, or just after independence, was very fragmented.  The economy was getting lost; there was a huge influx of people coming in and they were looking for new opportunities there, the cities were reconfiguring themselves just after the independence.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
There were enormous political upheavals but obviously the social context, the very fabric of Indian society at that time, was under significant stress immediate post-independence.  There was also a very strong and ongoing commitment to the agricultural sector as I understand it in that period immediate post-independence.  What were the political factors that were pushing and pulling in and out of cities at that time?

PIYUSH TIWARI
It was quite interesting because much of the political elite at that point in time was western educated.  The development paradigm that was working elsewhere, like for example Nehru, he was well aware of what was happening in the global world.  The 1817 Ricardian Theory of Comparative Advantage was at that time being debated where people were looking at if a nation has to be comparatively in an advantageous position, they should produce those goods where they have comparative advantage.  
Now, as a start, when we look at India, which was just coming on the global space as we say, if we apply the Ricardian Theory we would say that India should produce primary goods, but having said that, when we look at the prices as they moved off primary goods and manufactured or processed goods, the price growth in primary goods was slower than the manufactured goods.  So if India were to follow that path it would be completely disadvantageous for it because it would never become one of those developed nations.  Nehru was aware of this so when he started off he said that India has to be self-reliant, number one.  India has to produce and invest in capital goods so that it doesn't have to import all those things from elsewhere.
Also, another thing that was in the mind of political masters at that time was to control the foreign direct investment, because the whole British Empire and the way they colonised the country was looming large in their heads, so they didn't want another foreign direct investment to come in and again it could cause a similar kind of problem as the British Empire had done.  So these were the factors which were governing the policies.  I agree that there was a focus towards agriculture because India had a pretty big mass to feed itself, but the policies were driving in the direction of capital good investment, so heavy manufacturing, large industries which would produce capital goods were the agenda for the political leaders at that point in time.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
And we have leadership at a number of levels because there is, as in a number of parts of the world, that critical interplay between the three tiers of government, the central government, the states and the local government.  And we'll tease this out over the next few minutes, Dr Tiwari, but there was at that initial stage a very strongly centralised approach with five-year plans, wasn't there?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yeah. What was happening at that time, a large chunk of the capital investment, the capital manufacturing investment, was to be funded by personal and government saving.  So the rural surplus that was getting created was to be used as a kind of driver for some of these other investments into heavy industry.  Now, within this structure and given that the vision was coming from the centre, they thought that it would be better that it's more of a command economy, driven largely by five-year plans and a planning commission was set up, which was playing a role by formulating these different five-year plans but strong capital growth, and that was right at the centre.  So at that point in time the role of state and role of cities were pretty marginal because it was largely driven by Delhi.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Then we have what we also frequently see, that shift from what you describe as the command economy to the demand economy, where we've got a number of key vested interests who look after themselves very carefully, the established agricultural sector, the industrial bourgeoisie who have control of those key industries that are well-established and some very high-ranking bureaucrats who are very comfortable with the way things currently are.  So that emerged really in the '60s and '70s as I understand it.  What was the change then that we saw in terms of the way that implicated India's cities?

PIYUSH TIWARI
What was happening in the '60s and '70s was that democracy was gaining ground; it was percolating into rural areas as well.  Then there was very clear discontent that was felt, that three-quarters of India lived in rural and 50 per cent of the economy was agriculture, but all these policies which were coming out the planning commission were very urban-focused, which were very capital goods oriented.  So then it led to the emergence of local leaders who were very much against that urban bias.  They wanted India to focus more on the rural rather than basing on inefficient capital-intensive and those kind of activities which don't generate that much of  employment.  So that was the kind of bias which was going on.
The other thing was that there were a few monsoon failures and droughts, which again led to this kind of sentiment.  In '62 India and China, they went on a war that again had its own implication.  So all these things were causing a public sentiment which was against the urban bias which the political leaders had up until now pursued in terms of their agenda.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
They were beginning to get more traction for that view?

PIYUSH TIWARI
That's right.  The more traction was there and what was happening because of that is that these local leaders, they were getting a stronghold in the public mind and there was a fear that they will start getting also a stronghold at the political state in Delhi.  Slowly then what happened was that after all this the policy started to turn away from industries towards agriculture.  The agenda became very much like get rid of poverty rather than growth.  It hindered economic growth in many ways.  Most of the policies then became like investment into agriculture, investment subsidies were given there, big capital investment was into the canal and irrigation-related infrastructure.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
And this is the era of Indira Gandhi?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yes.  Indira Gandhi pursued that policy because she wanted to keep away emergence of local leaders so she was very much focusing on the rural areas through these popular measures.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Then we flip into the '80s and most of us recall the various economic demands and impacts of that time, through the Reagan and Thatcher eras particularly.  The global economic factors that were moving in India at the time, what were the key things that had an effect there?

PIYUSH TIWARI
A few things were happening at that time.  One was that China was pursuing its liberalisation policy post-1978, so they were moving in that direction.  Despite being a command economy itself it was moving into that market economy.  The Thatcher era reflected very clearly that the public sector dominance which was part of India's legacy prior to the '80s wherein all the industrial development was public sector dominated.  The UK was moving away from that public sector dominance and they were privatising.  Some of the other issues, like for example the labour unrest which was happening in the UK which led to some of those reforms, were also happening in India, like Mumbai textile mills for example.  
During late '70s and early '80s there was a big labour union strike there which completely collapsed the textile industry in Mumbai.  All these were the factors that were governing some of the changes that were required, and also India had realised by that time that foreign investment is not that bad, so cautiously they were opening up, they were inviting foreign direct investment, but still they were careful and also they were allowing the private sector to set up their own factories, because one thing which was realised by that time that we don't have such a great banking system and it may be worthwhile looking at private capital in other forms to invest into the production processes.  All these factors were leading to some kind of liberalisation, though at a slow pace.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Which really came to a head in the '90s and the emergence of India as the major economy that we see today.  Did that also go hand-in-hand with the rise of the states as a particularly powerful entity in the governance of India and its growth?  

PIYUSH TIWARI
Absolutely.  I think what happened in the '90s was very interesting.  The whole reform process if one looks at it, it was not to eliminate poverty as an agenda.  That was not an agenda at all.  It was coming from the perspective that all these subsidies which had been given earlier, they were causing a drain on fiscal and balance of payment of the government.  So there was a situation where India didn't have more than a couple of weeks' worth of foreign exchange to cover its balance of payment so the only possible way then was to liberalise, to reduce the role of state from the product and invite private capital into some of these production factors.  Also invite foreign capital into India.  All these factors led to the liberalisation of the '90s; most of the other sectors were opened up for private investment.  
Now, the question that you asked is how it affected cities.  Now, cities were also changing their character.  I gave you an example of Mumbai wherein all the textile mills, they had completely collapsed and the interesting thing is if one looks at those textile mills they're right in the heart of city, so city had bypassed in its growth that particular area which was quite substantial and high value, but completely degenerated.  Policies after policies after policies, government tried to revive those mills but it was realised that they can't, but the land was not allowed to come into the market through various kind of regulations.  So what happened in the '90s was to unlock some of these industrial plots or degenerated land to become much more productive in terms of the economic activities.  Industries moved out from cities onto the urban fringes or rural hinterland and their space was taken up by service sector economy.  So India essentially moved from agriculture to service sector economy with very small manufacturing.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
I'm Lynne Haultain and you're listening to Up Close.  In this episode I'm discussing the growth and governance of Indian cities with urban planning researcher Dr Piyush Tiwari.  Let's take the example of Bangalore which is a city, to be honest, many of us wouldn't have heard of 20 years ago but now we all think that every call centre we speak to is based in Bangalore.  You've described Bangalore as previously known as the pensioners' paradise, which is not an impression that I had previously heard.  Can you tell us a wee bit how Bangalore has manifested that change through the service side of the economy as a city in India?  

PIYUSH TIWARI
Bangalore was interesting.  Like in the 1980s, if one looks at it, it was largely a pensioner paradise as you said, because it had a nice climate, people would retire and live there.  But once India had got independence and they were looking at say some of the hubs for heavy engineering type of investment, and Bangalore was one of them, so lots of those industries located there.  When they located there they set up their own townships which means that it had full infrastructure where people can live and work and also other amenities were also there.  Over a period of time, somewhere around 1990s, with the liberalisation the IT sector was looking for its location and Bangalore was very conducive.  
At that time people felt it's the Silicon Valley type of environment there; there were academic institutions, there was a workforce which was educated and willing to work, a good climate, so that was ideal for IT sector to locate.  So IT started locating there.  It was not exactly that the policies that brought the IT in, it was that initial IT got in there and then the policies followed.  So what happened then was that once IT started locating itself a number of different parks, IT parks were established around Bangalore, that drew all these IT workforce in there.  
There was a dichotomy there in the sense that there was that old population which was living there for a different reason, there was that manufacturing hub, heavy engineering, government-led township and then there was this new IT sector.  There was a wage differential there, income differential there; the kind of infrastructure that they required was very different.  The population for the IT was young who had a very different lifestyle, a very different home requirements and so on.  So all these played on Bangalore, but what has happened over a period of time if one looks at it, is that from a dusty town of '80s it has become a major metropolitan city.  All the problems which are associated with metropolitan congested infrastructure, polluted climate, income inequalities that one sees in any other major cities, so they characterise Bangalore now.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
You talk about that tension that we see played out in Bangalore, and you also in your work cite Lewis Mumford, the American thinker on urban planning and his description of cities as the theatre of social action.  I think that's what we see in Bangalore very clearly is that great interplay of the various pressures, and that other image that pervades western thinking about India, the slum from things like Slum Dog Millionaire and maybe even colonial imagery that we hold too.  But you say that urbanisation in India is quite different from the way other slums if you like and other slum cities around the world is seen and experienced.  Why is that?  Why do you think they're different?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Well, slums as they're typically defined in literature are very much settlements that cannot [afford] one of the following, like good living conditions, durable housing of a permanent nature, sufficient living space, access to amenities like water and sanitation at an affordable price.  If any of these fails then we say that the conditions are slums, but when one looks at Indian slums they are very different economic, social and political institution in itself.  The slum has an overwhelming significance of place for its dwellers where different realms of life like residential, education, work, religious, public, all of these play together.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
So you would say that Indian slums are quite successful?

PIYUSH TIWARI
In a way yes, I would say that.  Contrary to the popular belief that they are to be deplored, I wouldn't agree with that because they are functioning entities there where people live, they work, they are socially intermingled with each other, there are religious activities there, so all these together.  Because one of the interesting things when one looks at slums is that most of the people who went to cities, and cities when the prices were going up, the only place to live was slums.  Also these were the people who had come from socially disadvantaged background who would probably not merge with the city so they found a place within those slums.  So there are those kind of social as well as economic reasons which have created and which have over a period of time led to the growth of slums in India.  Unlike slums that we understand in the western world wherein we see them as a kind of degenerated land dominated by poverty, but here it's very much like an economic hub which is informal and it works.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
What does that mean though in terms of the social inequality?  Do slums mean that as you've described people work informally therefore they are not likely to establish themselves financially and see generations of their children improve their quality of life?  Is that what they're locked into as opposed to the haves on the other side who are established and doing well?  Do slums manifest that sort of duality between the haves and the have-nots or not?  

PIYUSH TIWARI
You are right, there is a duality between haves and have-nots.  There is also another dimension to that which you characterised as Slum Dog Millionaire, which does reflect when we look at slums.  In Mumbai for example when we look at Dharavi, that's the hub of the leather industry in Mumbai.  It produces Luis Vuitton and Gucci replicas which are sold in the market.  Also, there is another type of industry which emerges from there which is like a kind of recycled-based good production.  For example they make a lot of those paper bags and so on and so forth.  From that perspective these are economic hubs of Indian economic activity.  You said that does it lead to income duality there?  Per capita income in Dharavi is no different than the per capita income in urban India.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
So they are quite successful?

PIYUSH TIWARI
They are quite successful.  Now, the question which is important for us here is that why then people would like to live in slums?  Probably because the land prices have become so high that they are not affordable, and the second thing is if the social or the caste system in India is so ingrained in the society that probably in slums those questions become irrelevant.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
What about services, because that's critical to any appropriate level of living standard, sanitation, access to safe water and the like.  What is the state of play in Indian cities, in Indian slums, in that way?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I think that's the story of slums as well as cities, because when we look at say water, sanitation even in Indian cities they are pretty deplorable.  There are maybe one or two cities which have water which is 24/7; that's it.  Most other cities will get water once in three days or once in two days and maybe three to four hours in a day.  So a large part of reliance is on private water suppliers which dig down in rural areas, bring water into the towns using tankers.  So I think that's the scene that you see anywhere in the city.  Now, how does that compare with say slums?  Now, slums have obviously the problem, the challenges with regard to water as well as sanitation remain there and they have to also depend on those private suppliers for their water requirements.  
Now, an interesting feature, because of this crumbling service by local authorities that has happened in India is that there has been disenchantment with the political system, particularly in the cities.  People don't participate that much into the local political system.  However, in slum the political participation is far greater.  The reason for that is because people who are living there, they need politician to access some of these services which otherwise would have been difficult and also politicians need them because they are the vote banks.  So that kind of equation works well in slums and you would see that if not 100 per cent a significant population there votes compared with the rest of the city which prefers to live in a gated community with private services, private security, private water supply, send their children into private education; completely disconnected with the local political system.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
What about then how that compares with an economy like China where we have massive infrastructure and great interconnection between cities and their citizens?  Whether or not they're all entirely successful is another question but the infrastructure is there.  How does that compare in your view?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I think what is happening in Indian cities is that while these urban fringe developments are happening in the guise of special economic zones which are very similar to what China is doing in some of its cities, they have become disconnected from rest of cities.  They have their own infrastructure, they have their own townships but when they interact with the older city they don't interact in the same way as one would expect.  What this is causing is that the pressure on the older infrastructure becomes far greater; the road networks become far more congested, the water supply system becomes far more stressed and also the sanitation system becomes overexploited.  So that is causing trouble for older cities because they further degenerate over a period of time, and that one sees in different cities in India.  So I think yes, that's the challenge and that hasn't been sorted out.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
And in China for example we see the investment in infrastructure in order to maintain that normal pattern of a city with its centre and its expansion outwards.  Not the case in India?

PIYUSH TIWARI
No, no, no.  The problem here is that the responsibility for maintenance of some of the infrastructure of the municipality, but these new developments are outside the boundary of municipalities.  So then, though they stress the municipal system but municipal system doesn't have revenue to take care of that additional load and they haven't participated in that new development through which they can charge betterment levies or impact fee through which they can upgrade and fund that stress that is coming onto them.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
I'm Lynne Haultain and you're listening to Up Close.  The growth and economic impact of Indian cities is our topic today and I'm in conversation with Dr Piyush Tiwari.  Caste is one of those elements we haven't raised and it's certainly a very critical one in the Indian context.  Do cities reflect caste in India?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Some cities don't, like Mumbai being a cosmopolitan city probably not, but others do.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
And you see areas where you would see a very sharp divide?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Oh yes.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
When you say that the slums though are economically successful, are socially successful, where are the people who are disadvantaged?  Is that still mainly in the rural areas?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yes.  The rural area, the per capita income is pretty low.  A large [unclear] of the rural population lives in poverty.  But having said that, the inequality in the city also exists.  There are those who are pretty low on the income stratum compared to the others, so that also causes inequalities in Indian cities.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
You have also described India's cities as losing their appeal; that people don't want to go there anymore.  Is that because the conditions are so challenging in terms of the numbers of people there?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I would probably rephrase that slightly by saying that the migration is still happening.  If you look at the decade of 2001-2011, we finished our census a couple of years back, the urban population is about 31 per cent compared to the previous decade when it was about 24 per cent.  There is a growth and the growth has been quite substantial though below the trend, what we had expected.  Now, people are moving there but where are they going?  That's the question.  Are they moving to these primary cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Hyderabad and Bangalore maybe?  Maybe not.  
What is happening there is because of the conditions related to housing, related to infrastructure, related to access to amenities, related to educational and health care opportunities that are there, probably people are not that keen to move to these big cities.  They are stopping at the urban fringes and some of those settlements which used to be small earlier, they are becoming big.  Urban population growth that one sees here is because some of those small towns which were around those big cities, they have become big.  They have formed a part of the urban population in India now.  So that is what is happening here.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
So that means we've got an expanse of the urban fringe.

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yes.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
The creation of new settlements really and we see that certainly in western countries as well, but what about the states because they have become highly competitive with each other for external investment and for economic growth in their regions.  Are the states playing a part in managing that growth?  Where is the urban planning?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yes.  I think that's a very important question because what happens in India is that after the liberalisation of the '90s when foreign direct investment was encouraged all those different incentives were given to industries to locate their private capital into cities, states started to compete with each other.  And in doing so they completely ignored the local governance.  So when the state was interacting with the capital they were doing that by creating parastatals rather than working with the local government and bringing the capital in.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Parastatal, you mean a separate structure?

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yes.  So parastatals are non-elected bodies who were given immense power to acquire land and create the infrastructure that was necessary to attract that capital.  Most of these happened on the urban fringes.  So again there was another kind of dichotomy that you see here, that there is an existing city which is probably crumbling with the older infrastructure, lack of amenities, growing population, older infrastructure, production facilities, but at the fringes there was absolutely fantastic world class infrastructure that was getting created.  These two were not talking to each other.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Is that where we are now?

PIYUSH TIWARI
That's where we are now.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
What is going to address this, or does it need it?  India has always carved its own path but from a western point of view we would say that's doomed to fail, that you can't have this ongoing duality or train track approach to development.  Is that going to change?

PIYUSH TIWARI
It has to change, for a number of reasons.  It has an impact.  When some of these urban fringe developments take place it has an impact on the economy as well as social structure that existed at those locations, like the traditional agriculture gives way to the modern infrastructure.  The traditional social structure gives way to the in-migration that happens alongside this new capital that locates there.  What it does then is it creates some kind of social tension there and that's what we see in India at the moment.  A large chunk of land when it gets acquired there are conflicts.  One of the interesting conflicts is right outside Delhi when IMT, which is the industrial township which was proposed 1994 until 2004, so that was the period when it was proposed and the land was acquired in four phases.  So what it did, it created a kind of tension between the rural communities as well as the new industries that were planning to locate there and this is the scene that we see in one town after another after another in India at the moment.  

LYNNE HAULTAIN
So who's going to pay for it, Dr Tiwari, for the infrastructure that's required to knit cities back together again?  Because it doesn't seem like the state is particularly interested in footing that bill.

PIYUSH TIWARI
No.  I think what has happened is that in the '90s they passed a constitutional amendment which is a very important amendment in India, which decentralised the governance process, which means that cities were given the power to manage its own infrastructure and amenities.  So the responsibility was passed onto the city but the financial responsibility was still not passed onto them.  They don't have the means to say fund those infrastructure which they were required to offer to their citizens.  What then happened was that their dependence on the state is still intact, for money, but they are responsible to provide the services.  Again the issue is that state dictates what cities can do.  Your question is if we are to fund that, finance that infrastructure, can we do that?  I think, theoretically. Yes. But it would take a huge amount of reform agenda to work in parallel.  
The typical revenue source of cities are property taxes or user charges.  Both are similarly low, they don't cover anything in India.  Now, India, if we look at say urban spend, it spend about just two per cent of GDP, that's the urban spend, which is very, very low.  It doesn't even cover operation and maintenance cost, leave aside the capital investment.  So for any capital investment these cities have to depend on state or the centre.  Now, we can do that if there's a fiscal autonomy which is given to the cities and if there is certainty of transfer that happens from central or state to the city which is very clearly defined.  Does our political system want that?  The answer to that is probably not so easily, because they want to control cities.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Let's project forward then.  Do you think that failure to manage planning and development of cities is going to have a dramatic impact on its economic viability on a global stage?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I think it's already happening, that the demographic dividend we spoke about over the last decade or so, that's giving up.  So the demographic dividend has become a demographic burden; we have a huge amount of younger population living in cities without jobs.  The urbanisation causing growth, again that story is slowing down because many of these big cities have become literally crippled by high prices, high land prices, high cost of resources, crumbling infrastructure which is hindering the growth.  So I think some of these things are becoming challenging for Indian growth story.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
So you don't think India is going to regress economically?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I am fairly optimistic about Indian growth story.  I think that with the demographics, with the educated workforce, with the kind of consumer market that we have, India is going to grow at seven to eight per cent over the next two decades, conveniently.  That's the story which we have.  However, in order to do that we need the right framework, both policy as well as institution, to support that growth.  If that is not there then probably yes, we will regress. 

LYNNE HAULTAIN
We're still talking about a community or a nation which has about a 70 per cent rural population.

PIYUSH TIWARI
Yes.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
And the need to feed the growing cities.  What's the land acquisition impact on feeding India?

PIYUSH TIWARI
I think it's pretty dire, because when you travel from Delhi to Agra on Yamuna Expressway, which is new, the only thing that you see on that road on either side are the brick kilns.  That's the kind of spatial transformation that you see in that stretch of 300 kilometres.  Agriculture is giving way to the modernisation or the requirements of modernisation that is happening in India.  A huge amount of construction is taking place and this construction requires bricks and all this agricultural land are converting into brick kilns which are far more profitable.  It comes at the cost of food security, which obviously India is going to face in coming decades.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Thank you very much indeed for your time.  It's been a pleasure.

PIYUSH TIWARI
Thank you, Lynne.

LYNNE HAULTAIN
Dr Piyush Tiwari is an associate professor in property in the faculty of architecture, building and planning at the University of Melbourne and associate dean with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Delhi.  You'll find more details of his publications on the Up Close website along with a full transcript of this program and all our other podcasts.  Up Close is a production of the University of Melbourne, Australia, created by Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param.  This episode was recorded on 10 April 2014 and produced by Kelvin Param and Eric van Bemmel.  Audio engineering by Gavin Neighbour.  I'm Lynne Haultain.  Thanks for listening.  I hope you can join us again soon.


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