Every day, tens of millions of Indians sit idly on gridlocked roads and hang from the sides of packed trains in what is becoming the world’s most populous nation – Copyright AFP/File Arun SANKAR
Every morning and evening, and for several hours in between, tens of millions of Indians sit idly on blocked roads and dangle from the sides of packed passenger trains in what is becoming the world’s most populous nation.
For those who live side by side in the country’s sprawling megacities, the thought of cohabiting with even more people is not a cause for joy.
The United Nations said Monday that India, already home to 1.43 billion people, will overtake China this week to win the distinction of being home to more humans than any other country on the planet.
India is projected to experience an explosion in its urban population in the coming decades, with more than 270 million people predicted to be living in its cities by 2040.
But congestion and overcrowding are already perennial sources of frustration for its inhabitants.
“The roads are jammed with vehicles, so you spend hours in traffic jams,” Satish Manchanda, owner of a mobile phone shop in the capital New Delhi, told AFP before setting off on his overnight journey.
Manchanda and millions more spend hours every day commuting to and from their homes on the outskirts of cities already struggling with water shortages, pollution and crowded slums.
About 70 percent of the billions of liters of wastewater produced in urban centers every day goes untreated, according to a 2021 government report.
New Delhi, home to 20 million people, is engulfed in toxic air pollution each winter that caused nearly 17,500 premature deaths in 2019, according to a study in the Lancet medical journal.
India’s cities also face enormous challenges in providing electricity, housing, services and jobs for their growing population.
Banker Sonam Vardan lamented the “fierce competition” in her career and the seemingly endless fights that accompany her daily life in New Delhi.
“The population is growing, so is the competition, which means a lot of fighting,” he told AFP, cataloging his constant battles against rival job applicants, other parents and motorists vying for his share of the same limited resources.
“There is also a fight for the admission of children in schools,” he added. “There are limited seats, but a lot of children.”