2023 GS1 Answer

Q. Does urbanization lead to more segregation and/or marginalization of the poor in Indian metropolises?

Question from UPSC Mains 2023 GS1 Paper

Model Answer: 

Urbanization and its Impacts on Socio-Economic Segregation

Urbanization refers to the process of population shift from rural areas to urban areas, resulting in the physical growth of urban areas. It is a complex socio-economic process that has profound and far-reaching impacts on the society, economy, and environment of a region. One of the most significant yet controversial impacts of urbanization is its potential to create segregation and marginalization of the poor, particularly in rapidly urbanizing countries like India. The relationship between urbanization and socio-economic segregation is complex and multifaceted, and it is influenced by a myriad of factors such as public policies, market forces, and social dynamics.

1. Spatial Segregation

One of the most visible impacts of urbanization in Indian metropolises is the spatial segregation of the poor. As cities expand and develop, property values in central and well-connected areas often skyrocket, pushing the poor to the peripheries of the city. This spatial segregation is evident in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, where slums and low-income settlements are often located in marginalized areas with poor access to basic services and amenities.

2. Gentrification

Gentrification is another process associated with urbanization that can lead to the marginalization of the poor. It refers to the transformation of a neighborhood from a low-income area to a high-income area, leading to the displacement of the original, poorer residents. In Indian cities, gentrification is often driven by market forces and facilitated by urban redevelopment policies. For example, in Mumbai’s mill land area, the redevelopment of old industrial sites into high-end residential and commercial properties has led to the displacement and marginalization of the original working-class residents.

3. Inadequate Housing

Urbanization in India has also led to a severe shortage of affordable housing, further marginalizing the poor. According to a 2012 report by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, there was a shortage of nearly 19 million housing units in urban India, the majority of which was for the economically weaker sections and low-income groups. This lack of affordable housing forces many poor people to live in slums and informal settlements with poor living conditions.

4. Inequality in Access to Services

Urbanization in Indian metropolises often leads to unequal access to basic services such as water, sanitation, healthcare, and education. The poor, living in marginalized areas of the city, often have limited access to these services, exacerbating their socio-economic marginalization. For instance, a study in Delhi found that access to piped water was significantly lower in slum areas compared to non-slum areas.

5. Employment Insecurity

While urbanization can create new economic opportunities, it can also lead to employment insecurity for the poor. Many poor people in Indian cities work in the informal sector, which is characterized by low wages, poor working conditions, and lack of social security. The growth of the informal sector is often linked to the process of urbanization, as cities attract a large number of rural migrants in search of work.

6. Social Exclusion

The segregation and marginalization of the poor in Indian metropolises often lead to their social exclusion. They are often stigmatized and discriminated against due to their socio-economic status and living conditions. This social exclusion further marginalizes them and limits their opportunities for socio-economic mobility.


In conclusion, while urbanization can bring about economic growth and development, it can also lead to the segregation and marginalization of the poor in Indian metropolises. This is a complex issue that requires a multi-pronged approach, including inclusive urban planning, pro-poor policies, and interventions to address socio-economic inequalities. It is crucial for policymakers to ensure that the benefits of urbanization are equitably distributed and that no one is left behind in the process of urban development.

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