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Urban development - the skill gap

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Urban Development

Time for a boring post. A habitual visitor to MoUD website, I was waiting to put up a small summary of a policy paper that showed up recently. Its called "Capacity building scheme for urban ...". If that was all greek and latin to you, jump to section 3 (page 9) on that pdf, and under "specific capacity gaps", find things that you and me complain about everyday - they don't know how to plan, how to run projects, how to handle public relations etc etc etc.

Its a problem, isn't it. Have we ever wondered about the educational background of top 10 people in BBMP, BDA, BMRDA etc? We might dismiss a lot of what we think "they don't do right" as, "oh, thats just common sense, why don't they get it". But its not. Urban planning, managing complicated projects and programs, public relations, accounting, etc - there probably is a collective lack of talent on these matters. The fact that key advisors to our state's Chief Ministers are business tycoons, doctors and bankers probably tells you something.

Lets save this post from turning into a rant and get back to that paper. Section 2 (page 7), "existing arrangements for capacity building" had something I just didn't know.

  • That we have 3 Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies, one each at Mumbai, Lucknow and Hyderabad. Never heard of them? what do these bodies do? Looks like these are training institues for the likes of BBMP, BDA etc -  "RCUESs help in improving skills and capability of elected and official functionaries of ULBs by enhancing knowledge and work skill required for good urban governance and provide exposure to current thinking around"
  • That we have a National Institute of Urban affairs (NIUA), and its been here since 1976!

Another institute I'd never heard of is "All India Institute of Local Self-Government". And then there is Administrative Training institute. Clearly, all of them seem like having training on their mind and training on their agenda. Don't think they offer serious research, or government recognized courses in Urban planning or development (exception" Delhi's SPA, which has had a Center for Urban Studies since 1968).

You can enjoy the rest of the report at leisure :) But here are the parting thoughts.

  • Do we need to recognice urban area management and development as a professional course of study?
  • Shouldn't we explore the current problem of urban rotting from the angle of shortage of talent. Yes, this policy paper says that MoUD does. But then, is it possible to go one step further - infuse professionalism in UBLS by making them hire only those who are educated and trained for the job?
  • So then, with potential 5161 (thats # of cities in India) x 20 = 1 lakh direct jobs on offer, would you be willing to encourage your child to take up urban space management development and as a career?

You can certainly pardon my ignorances here, but  I will be happier if you would point them out.


Naveen's picture

Colleges for Urban Planning

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As we know, most of our bureaucrats are selected by the politicians & they are shifted /changed whenever the ruling party changes.

The existense of these colleges have made no difference in our country. I wonder who goes to these colleges - they are probably being used for some sort of training for the cadres already working in various urban bodies. We would have heard much more about them if they are providing some levels of quality education.

A system that encourages people to take up these options is what is highly desirable, but since they all have corruption stamped in bold across them, the best talents in the country will keep these institutions far away.

I was mentioning to Mr.Bala (Alchemy Urban) the other day that in this forest of uninspiring planners & dishonest  contractors, even those amongst them that have some capacity to recognize problems & come up with solutions would be thwarted & forced to fall in line with the prevailing practices.

The "official" line always seeks opportunities that result in the highest kickbacks. These age-old, vintage Indian practices & the long-held biases of favoring their bosses above the interests of the people by all within an entity continue till today, & can only be broken by efforts such as our Praja.

ananth.bangalore's picture

proffesional approach tp planning

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Urban planning and development and Urban design and important fields of study, essential for urban planners and designers. Urban Planning has been offered with some variations in some very reputed institutes in India like - School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, Center for environmental planning and technology, ahmedabad, School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University Chennai among many others. With regard to the question of who undergo these courses- Architects, Civil engineers and the like. All these courses are PG courses. SPA and CEPT especially have very good staff and i have had the pleasure of interacting with some of them and the students. they are very capable to bring about great change to our cities, but they are grossly underused. Will blog more later.
Naveen's picture

Institutes for Urban Planning

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Ananth Sir - Many thanks - the schools you referred are the best ones.

Do you have information about Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies (RCUES) that have been set up by the Ministry of Urban Development, Govt. of India at Mumbai, Lucknow & Hyderabad ?

How do these rate & who are it's faculty & students ?

Grateful if you could throw some light.

Nitinjhanwar's picture

Anna and Annamali

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There are two universities in TN:



One has a five star UGC ranking and the other not sure. Can somebody give a light on this?

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is of course a Alumni of Anna University?




Nitinjhanwar's picture

Education Policy

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During my stint as a Reader in one private Engineering college I was surprised to find that the Parents of the students went out of there way to give favors to the faculty so that their wards are well off in terms of marks etc..Its another matter that I left in disgust but: The other side of the coin is that the parents have to do it.Students give them the feedback to provide favors.There is whole chain from professors to the lab technician. The supreme court in a landmark judgment had allowed for FIRs to be filed if any junior is ragged by a senior or vis a versa i.e. but NO mention was made of the faculty's whims. It will be interesting to see the statistics of the no of FIRs filed since the judgment. But again everybody has children- even the policeman's child studies somewhere. So its a viciuos circle. The only solution is I think to make the students aware and the faculty to be partly liable.In the name of research downloaded from the internet crore's of rupees are drained. nJ



ananth.bangalore's picture

Planning towns professionally

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Would like to share what i know-

Town planning exercises are to be done with information from two aspects-

a. The data collection: this is basically knowing what you are dealing with. Data requrired includes people population density distribution, zone use pattern, present infrastructure, micro-geological conditions, micro- climatic conditions, natural resources available, historical and heritage (special zones)conditions etc., among many other obvious and not so obvious data.

b. Data projection: There are scientific ways of projecting population density for the period of planning. (banglaore now has CDP 2015- which is to say Bangalore master plan is to cater to growth until 2015 and in the next 5 years, another plan needs to be ready for further development). Based on this projection and future possibilities, one needs to scientifically project trafic volumes and infrastructure needs.

The Planning Process: Also, depending on what the planners want the city to become, the planners can zone various landuses (like residential, commerical, industrial etc.). These then get developed into what is generally called DDP or Detailed Development Plan (ward-wise). The traffic and transportation design is always done bottom up- that is, each designed ward's traffic volume needs to be projected (not guess work) and roads are to be designed such. The roads then drain of their traffic into other roads and the hence the volumes on other main roads and arterial roads are to be projected. There are scientific ways to say if the traffic volume (calcualted in untis of cars) is 'x', the road width needs to be 'y'. THere are prescribed norms and specifications of roads constuction (put down by CPWD) and they are not bad at all.

Do we know if BBMP has sufficient technical support or staff to carry out these activities as how they should be carried out? Here are some examples- HSR Layout was a tank bed area and it was recommended by one government body to not use that land for residential development, as the development was not viable. Today, we have water stagnation problems there, compounded by the fact that the drainage design is complete chaos. I can post photos to show how drain levels are not tallying, the main drain is higher than the smaller drains leading to back-flow into homes. If you want to know, i am talking about a drain line at 5th main, 18 cross, 7 sector, HSR Layout.

Clearly BBMP has been incompetent there. NOW, WHO VETS BBMP'S DESIGNS?

The other thing- these very competent people who come out of SPA and CEPT work with well-known Urban Design and planning organisations (like Jurong in Bangalore) and do good work for certain areas (like someone was involved with redevelopment of Thimpu, Bhutan). Why will they work for BBMP? How many of us want to have government jobs? comment guidelines

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