The 2011 census data on how people travel to work within a 20 km distance from home is extremely revealing: and is something that the Centre and state governments should remember as they build “smart cities” and new townships to accommodate the flood of urbanisaton. Of 200 million people surveyed, one in five (45 million) walk to work. This doesn’t include farm workers and domestic help.
Over half those who walk to work live in urban India, and many are women. It is even more interesting that 18 million of those who walk to work are in villages, and for 80 per cent of them work is 5 km away. It is worrying that many of them walk as they can’t afford any form of transport.
With the majority of young people leaving their ancestral occupation of agriculture and flocking to India’s big cities and Tier I and II towns, governments and bodies like municipal corporations and councils should plan so that people don’t have to travel huge distances to get to work.
Industrial towns should be set up with residential quarters as this would not only cut down travelling time but also eliminate the pressure on public transport, which too is unaffordable for a large part of the population. The census survey shows that 5.2 million people travel more than 50 km to reach their workplace, and of these 2.8 million are from rural India, and buses are their preferred form of transport.
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