ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Changing Face of New Towns in India

The concept of greenfield new towns is as old as civilisation in the Indian subcontinent. Socio-spatial equity has been at the core of the new town experiment during its origin in the Garden City movement. India has witnessed the new town wave post 1947, with the unstated mandate to serve the constitutional “common good,” in order to address the ills of the colonial inheritance of the divided city. The Indian new town has undergone major changes towards a more exclusive private enclave. The statutory planning discourse in India through the national five-year plans, which have helmed socio-economic–political planning, as well as the evolutionary curve of this discourse holds reasons for the changing face of new towns in India.

[Figures 1 to 4 accompanying this paper are available on the EPW website.]

“New town,” as a term, represents urban development of a sizeable scale, pre-planned at the macro and micro levels, on a predominantly rural land. The “greenfield” new town typology of planned urban development originated from the Garden City movement of the late 19th-century Britain, which was a response to the post-industrialist fragmented, inequitable, and unlivable cities. The post-World War II British new town movement adopted from the garden city a “double intention” (Osborn and Whittick 1963). It aimed to decongest large cities by relocating masses of working population, providing them with better living conditions, and to rejuvenate impoverished backward agricultural regions with modern industry. These were public initiatives in Britain and Europe, but majorly private initiatives, or “planned communities” in the United States (US) (Alonso 1970).

The “greenfield” was no stranger to the Indian sub­continent and had its historical counterparts in the ancient civilisations of Mohenjo-daro, Pataliputra, and Fatehpur Sikri. Colonial examples of Chandannagar and Pondicherry (French), Serampore and Tranquebar (Danish), and Kochi and Chinsurah (Dutch) preceded the most common British types—the military cantonment, railway node, and summer capital. Post 1947, in the postcolonial era, public-initiative greenfields formed the mainstay of Indian new towns until the structural reforms era that saw joint ventures, private new towns, and even special economic zones (SEZs) being added to the typology.

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Updated On : 11th Apr, 2022
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