India is fast transitioning towards urbanization & it is estimated that nearly 35% of India’s 1.2 billion population already lives in one of its 9000 cities/towns, today in 2017. But the definition of a “census town” ( any urban hub with a 5000+ population) is often a political label & the small town & its infrastructure is no different from the largest of India’s 600,000 villages. The economic growth & much of the investment of urbanization over the past 50 years has mainly been focused on India’s largest 42 metropolis cities. However, the rapid spread of the mobile phones & related internet access to 320 million+ Indians in the past 5 years, has created an opportunity for e-commerce lead economic upliftment in at least 500 cities already.
Global research on the complex subject of Urban-Planning has in recent years settled on a consensus that the urban versus rural development is a pointless debate & that true development can only happen with a “ bio-regional” development focus i.e. a balance between Nature & Culture through building & managing Cities in conjunction with the villages & ecology in its vicinity.
The 9000 cities & 600,000 villages of modern India have politically been divided between 29 states & 7 union territories today. However the geographical unit of measurement ( Census) in India has historically focused on a region i.e. District. For most Indian cities & villages, there is no data available on key development metrics like employment & GDP, but at a District level, historical trends too are available. The district aligns well with the bio-regional urban planning focus & Prarang has therefore chosen to focus on the following cities in the context of their district & the villages & ecology, in its proximity:
Today, India speaks at least 780 different languages. More than 74% of India’s 1.2 billion+ population are literate. Contrary to popular perception, just about 11% of Indian population speaks some level of English language & barely 4% has fluency enough to read a full page of English text.<
As the smartphone spreads rapidly across India, there are at least 275 million Indians (today in 2017) who don’t speak English but are literate and now have access to the internet. This creates a unique opportunity to create meaningful localized content for the 74%+ who are literate amongst them. Even though we have 780 languages, more than 98% have fluency in one of the top 11 scripts written in India. According to the census, the mother-tongue breakup is as follows – Devanagari 47% (Hindi, Maithali, Urdu etc), Eastern Nagari (Siddham-Bengali) 8%, Nagari (Modi/Marathi) 7%, Telugu 7%, Tamil 6%, Nagari (Gujarati) 5%, Kannada 4%, Malayalam 3%, Odiya 3%, Gurmukhi 3%, Assamese 2% and Kashmiri Persio-Arabic 1%. One thing which unites all of these Indian scripts is that they are uniquely arranged on the same phonetic 56 character Varna-Mala, regardless of their language family ( Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman).This makes them distinct from the English language's Roman script. The usage of a 26 character Roman script to express a 56 character Varna-Mala script is an avoidable loss of knowledge.
Prarang aims to fill this gap for the localized content by selecting the largest 300 towns of India, on the basis of the above, national level script (written language) ratio estimated by the census. The list is as follows –