Kundu D. (2020) Urbanisation in India: Towards a National Urban Policy Framework and Smart Cities. In: Kundu D., Sietchiping R., Kinyanjui M. (eds) Developing National Urban Policies. Springer, Singapore.


India is characterised by low level and rate of urbanisation. In the past decade, rural–urban reclassification was a major factor contributing to urbanisation. Indian urban structure is top heavy, with almost three-fourths of the urban population concentrated in the metropolitan and Class I cities and UAs. The metropolitan and Class I cities are better endowed in terms of amenities and services as compared to the small towns.

Through the 74th Amendment (1992), urban local bodies were sought to be provided with greater responsibilities and funds for urban development. However, this decentralisation is yet to happen at the desired level. In the absence of a National Urban Policy, various programmes and missions for urban development functioned in silos. In the 1990s, the national five-year plans launched several programmes with private sector participation as ‘missions’—with clearly defined objectives, scopes, timelines, milestones, as well as measurable outcomes and service levels. These programmes, however, demonstrated a ‘big-city bias’. The much-acclaimed Smart Cities Mission, for instance, mainly focuses on retrofitting parts of cities by engaging special purpose vehicles (SPVs). A National Urban Development Framework (NUDF) has also been drafted to guide the process of urbanisation.

In the light of these transformations, this chapter overviews India’s post-liberalisation urbanisation scenario; current urban development programmes and system of governance. It also overviews the basic tenets of the NUDF in light of meeting the sustainable agenda.