Poverty, Inequality, and Violence in Urban India: Toward More Inclusive Urban Planning

This research will investigate how inclusive urban planning and governance can help reduce urban tensions, conflicts, inequalities, and violence in five Indian cities (Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Patna, Guwahati, and Bidar). It will study how the poor are continuing to cope and to adopt survival strategies. It will also push for more inclusive urban planning solutions.

According to the 2011 India census, close to one-third (32%) of India's population of 1.2 billion-377 million people-live in urban areas. This number is greater than the total population of the United States. The 2010 McKinsey Global Institute Report estimates that India will be home to 40% of the world's urban population by 2030.

India's strong economic growth, largely concentrated in cities, has driven high rates of urbanization. India's small to mid-sized cities, in particular, are attracting more people as they become the epicentre of the country's economic growth. Yet, as populations increasingly urbanize, Indian cities are experiencing high levels of tension over limited resources such as land, water, and finance.

Traditional urban planning is failing the urban poor who have survived in Indian cities by obtaining shelter, services, and work in the unregulated and untaxed informal sector. According to 2012 statistics from India's Planning Commission, some 76.5 million people (21% of the total urban population) are considered poor. The National Building Organization reports that approximately 93 million people live in slums. This population is most vulnerable to the risks inherent in unplanned rapid urbanization. India's poor regularly face losing their homes and livelihoods. Often, the cause is speculative land markets and the withdrawal of urban services, including security. The result is a marginalized population that is facing even more violence, inequality, and poverty than before the economic boom began.

The research will adopt a mixed methodology. A multidisciplinary team will develop a gender-sensitive understanding of the potential ways in which urban planning mechanisms can drive more inclusive, safer cities in India.

This project is part of the Safe and Inclusive Cities (SAIC) research initiative designed to build an evidence base on the connections between urban violence, poverty, and inequalities. Jointly funded by IDRC and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, the SAIC program also seeks to identify the most effective strategies for addressing these challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, December 21, 2012

End Date

Monday, September 12, 2016


36 months

IDRC Officer

Navsharan Singh

Total funding

CA$ 498,900


India, United Kingdom, United States


Governance and Justice, Safe and Inclusive Cities

Project Leader

Prof. Darshini Mahadevia


The Trustees of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology

Institution Country


Institution Website


Project Leader

Prof. Preet Rustagi


Director for and on behalf of Institute for Human Development

Institution Country