As in most developing countries, it is the rural parts of the country that drive India’s politics but its economy is increasingly being driven by cities. As densely packed networks of economic activity, cities create opportunities for the growth of both labour and consumer markets, data suggests.

In urban India, nearly one in two workers has a regular job, according to data from the latest annual periodic labour force survey conducted in 2017-18. This proportion is much lower (13%) in rural India. Regular jobs offer the highest wages, and the average urban regular wage earner earns roughly 33% more than his counterpart in rural India, the same database shows.

The greater prosperity in turn translates into higher demand for goods and services, reinforcing the growth of urban centres. India’s top six urban agglomerations—Delhi-NCR, Mumbai-Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bengaluru—accounted for a third of washing machines, over a fourth of refrigerators and a little less than a fourth of air-conditioners/coolers in the country, according to the National Family Health Survey conducted in 2015-16.

The data shows that cities are critical to the health of the economy. How the health of cities is managed will influence how fast the economy grows in the long run.

In a 10-part data journalism series beginning today, Mint examines different aspects of city life in the largest urban agglomerations of the country to shed light on how cities, and different parts of them, fare in comparison to others. From mobility to migration, open spaces to housing, each part of the series will examine hard data on each key component of city life.

The first part examines data on 300 arterial roads across six of India’s largest metropolitan regions—New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru—to find that Mahatma Gandhi Road in Kolkata (average speed of 7.7kmph) is the slowest, followed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Road in Mumbai (8.1kmph) and the Kanakapura Road stretch from JP Nagar to Outer Ring Road (8.4kmph) in Bengaluru.

Kolkata has 11 of the slowest 20 roads across these cities, followed by six in Mumbai and three in Bengaluru. The fastest arterial metro road is Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad, where the average speed is 60kmph. The Noida-Greater Noida expressway is a distant second at 52.7kmph, followed by Chennai Outer Ring Road at 48.5kmph.

Also read: The slowest roads in urban India

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