Bangalore: The 12th Five-Year Plan (FY2012-17) aims for an annual growth rate of 8.5%, with industrial development expected to deliver these higher growth rates over the next five years. However, industrial planning has so far failed to integrate urban planning, considering that cities are expected to be the engines for growth. Smita Srinivas, professor in the urban planning programme at Columbia University, New York, and a senior adviser to the Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore, said in an interview that India could lose up to a decade if this isn’t done. Edited excerpts:
What’s wrong with industrial planning in India?
A lot of industrial aspirations that India has are really at odds with how cities and towns are going to work. At the moment, we lack a governing structure through which those two things can be pulled. The institutions that were set up to really augment industrial growth were not the kinds that were tied to urban development. Yet, cities are the places of the most rapid growth in India.
Where do you see these tensions playing out?
Take the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) for instance. These infrastructure corridors are going to play an extremely important and, I think, quite disturbing role where cities and towns and villages are going to be pulled in by sheer brute force into the dynamics of this.
There’s another scale at which disjuncture is happening, which is the SEZs (special economic zones). There are several others where we could debate the productive nature of these policies. Take the recent Global Investors Meet in Bangalore—those investments are not very strategic.
How bad is the situation with DMIC?
DMIC is a case where there has been no discussion on the relationship to labour markets. Almost none. We have some vague sense that the investors who are pushing the DMIC deal and the companies that are going to benefit from the DMIC will, of course, need their labour markets. So we assume that there is a knock-on effect and labour markets will thrive. But there’s nothing to say that’s the case.
Is the planning process for the 12th Plan any better at integrating industrial and urban development?
There is more acknowledgement that cities are important. Remember that the people who are drafting the plans are not directly dealing with these issues. They are looking at a certain amount of FDI (foreign direct investment) coming into the country, a certain growth target, and that the states are going to have do something.
We can see now that there is a huge diversity in how states are dealing with this. This is a more encouraging picture—that India will end up with more different state plans to do this. We can’t expect Gujarat to do the same thing as Karnataka. From that standpoint, diversity is a good thing.
How do you view the recent trend of industrial townships coming up around cities?
If you believe that if we build the infrastructure, then people will come—I don’t think that’s how economies work. The point is—firms generate jobs, and then people come and then you need housing. You don’t have people coming for housing first, and then looking for jobs. So, if these solutions are solutions to existing problems of labour markets, that’s one thing. Otherwise, we are deluding ourselves.
What do planners do in that case?
You have to plan for the economy. You look at where the clusters are and try and anticipate where growth will take place. You also don’t want to build on such a large scale with so much investment sometimes that you can never uproot, you can never pull back.