History of Indian Cities & Challenges towards Attaining SDGs

Session Report
Mansi Garg

Urban Policy & City Planning is an online one-month online immersive certificate training course organized by Center for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at Impact and Policy Research Institute, IMPRI, New Delhi in the month of July 2023. An informative and panel discussion on the topic “History of Indian Cities & Challenges towards Attaining SDGs” was held on July 04, 2023, by Shri Tikender Singh Panwar Senior Fellow, IMPRI, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla.

History of Cities

Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Senior Fellow, IMPRI; Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla, was welcomed by Dr. Aijaz and was introduced to his robust work. He started his presentation with 2000 AD, which is almost 3,500 years old kind of urbanization experienced in India. He opened up about the urbanization that used to take place in earlier times which was way different from that of nowadays because now there’s a supreme commander decides whether it has to be smart cities, special purpose vehicles, etc.

But we have evolved from a space and time where people as a collective community decide for themselves and not planned by someone for somebody else. Speaker provided example of Great Bath at Mohenjodaro in which the drainage system was depicted. Second example was of Gangetic basin cities which comes at 1000 BC Kashi, Ujjain, etc.

Next up, the speaker explained the evolutionary process in our civilization. During Mughal period, where, the urban settlement is more advanced and the economy was urban driven. With an example of Agra, Old Delhi, etc., he mentioned some features of that period of development. Some differences amongst the two-time period mentioned earlier in the terms of architecture were demonstrated.

Followed with the timeline, Pre-colonial and colonial cities and its features were covered by the speaker. Also, difference between those two eras were highlighted to better understand the city management. Examples of major architecture elements of that time from different cities and the major impact of colonial period were displayed. Development in mountains were found along the rivers and are very small and the reason for the development is that they couldn’t bear the heat, and, in a way, it has been definitely ruined.

Being the former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, the speaker shared his own experience about the introduction of the railways in the city which also acted as the driving force with industrial capitalism. It is not just for the people to enjoy the railways, but the massive timber which was to be extracted from the mountains and also exchanging goods from one corner of the world to another.

In continuation, the time period of Indian cities from 1947-1991 were illustrated and its essential features of development. How migration from east and west Pakistan affected the urbanisation patter and all the nagars in Delhi are actually refugees’ colonies with the help of statistical data and examples of different cities were represented. After the Post-colonial Cities, a great transformation took place from manufacturing to services sector. Economy was opened in different parts of the country in different time periods starting from 1991 and beyond.

Followed to this, the speaker in compliance to Prof. Vaidya on 74th CAA was mentioned. JNNURM, with 2 sub-missions- “Urban Infrastructure & Governance”, “Basic Services to the Urban Poor” failed in January, 2012. Post 2014 period is a very interesting period because it is not just a continuation of the JNNURM but also several flagship programs came, smart city mission, AMRUT, SBM, PMAY, HRIDAY for the urban development.

Concluding the lecture, speaker mentioned the challenges and problems faced by the missions and the measures that need to take up for overcome those.

Mansi Garg is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: IMPRI (@impriindia) • Instagram photos and videos

Read more session reports for Urban Policy & City Planning:

An overview of Urban planning in India
Mobility and Urban Transport in India



    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

  • Samriddhi