India’s cities are burgeoning. Our cities are expected to host over 800 million citizens by 2050, over half of India’s population. There are four distinct yet inter-related reasons (the 4 E’s) why India needs to consider its cities as among its top human development priorities. Cities drive economic growth and job creation of provinces and countries. If India needs to alleviate poverty, our cities need to work well for us in terms of economic productivity.

Secondly, there is already a huge deficit in infrastructure and service delivery in our cities. We risk exacerbating this deficit further due to the exponential growth in population, with significant adverse impact on the urban poor and other marginalised groups. We therefore need to urgently address equitable access to housing, services and job opportunities in our cities.

The 3 rd E of environment is becoming self-evident with pervasive heat waves during summer and flooding during monsoons, besides the air pollution. Our development needs to nurture the environment- both natural and built, and not come at the cost of it.


Lastly, as a democracy, Economic growth and job creation, Equitable access to housing, services and job opportunities, and Environment sustainability would need to necessarily be circumscribed by voice and agency of citizens which is best given expression through democratic Engagement.


India’s cities with 50% of India’s population and a disproportionate share of voice and agency would also be the throbbing heart of India’s democracy. Human development in our cities that balances the 4 Es is critical not just to cities and citizens, but to India and Indians in general.