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Ruban India Foundation

Concept Note

“Cities are symbols of economic power, the arts, military prowess, politics, civic culture, intellectual ferment, creativity and so on. Moreover, urbanity itself is seen as the up-market styling of manners. And so over the past 500 years, first through the Renaissance and the enlightenment, then through the Industrial Revolution, the ascendance of the West became the very definition of progress and power. ..The drive to catch up with the West propels Asian development. This is also reflected in the global dynamics of style, which are reflected locally as the partially digested styles of the globalized upper-classes. These are emulated by the  middle-classes and then downwards until the bottom end of the affordability ladder is reached. And so, similarly, “catch-up nations” emulate the styles of their previous colonizing masters as an international pecking order comes about. Not only is style spread this way, but ideas also." (1)

How well has India been at playing catch-up on the URbanisation game?  With a ‘stark warning’, a recent Mckinsey report (2) suggests that "if India continues with its current unplanned urbanisation, it will result in a significant deterioration in the quality of life in cities and will put even today’s economic growth rate at risk. Statistics show the current performance of Indian cities in water supply quantity, sewage treatment, healthcare and public transport is quite poor."  Without getting into the problems of URbanisation in Asia and in India, as can fill up gigabytes of digital space, the thrust of this note is to emphasise how URbanisation is  the wrong horse that Asia and India have hopped on to. RUbanisation is presented, in turn, as the right horse that will propel true and meaningful progress in Asia and in India.   

Rubanisation: An Introduction 
Rubanisation is an integrated land-use planning model developed by distinguished architect and thinker Tay Kheng Soon (3) - a practicing architect and adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore's School of Architecture. He was formerly president of the Singapore Institute of Architects and founding member and Chairman of SPUR, the Singapore Planning and Urban Research Group. A creative, out-of-the-box ideas person, he meticulously sees through to reality via his architectural practice, Akitek Tenggara, which he founded in 1976. It's a way forward for both urban andrural development that doesn’t see the two as distinct divides but only as degrees of differences in how they reflect the needs and aspirations of people in different areas.  In another way, Rubanisation is also a redressal to the excesses of urbanization as well as a response to the depleted rural areas.  It blends and carries forward ideas of PURA (Provision of Urban amenities in Rural Areas) as envisaged by Abul Kalam Azad, former President of India and Mahatma Gandhi’ vision of Gram Swaraj.  

In Rubanisation, a reverse migration back to the village is encouraged and made possible through the availability of viable choice, prior to returning to repair the city devastated by unjust accumulation. Focusing on the problems of existing mega-cities is only a stop-gap solution. The argument is that in the present mode of development, the countryside has been largely neglected as cities become 'the exclusive locus of development,' compelling those in the rural areas to migrate to the city in search of better opportunities. This has resulted in a massive population explosion in most cities in the developing world, which manifests itself in the growing presence of slums. In the case of developed societies, small towns and villages have been losing population to the lure of the big cities for the excitement that they offer. Rubanisation postulates that unless the problem of rural poverty, which 'still remains the main cause for mass rural-urban migration,' is solved, and people given a real choice in deciding between rural and...
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