Growing Urban Unrest in Question

Urbanization has not only remained restricted to bolstering economic growth and inducing modernization but gradually has evolved as significant loci of violence and crime. Today urban cities considered as once centers of growth have turned up as centers of crime. The threat to urban safety and security have exacerbated the half dreaded fears of growing unrest into reality, many have been manifestations of the nexus of urban poverty and inequality with physical, economic, social and institutional conditions of pauperization.

In rapidly growing cities the need for basic necessities is on increase with growing number of people migrating to urban areas in search of employment and a better life which in turn generates many opportunities for productive as well as criminal responses to even more stimulating and demanding social environment. According to the UN report the world’s population will soon be more than half urban, with projected urban growth in developing countries in the order of 1.2 billion people between the years 2000 and 2020. Africa at present is the least urbanized continent but by 2030 its urban population will exceed the total population of Europe. The growing disparities in population distribution make the growth of urban unrest unavoidable. The dream of a promising life remains an illusion and what the reality offers is disequilibria, shortages and necessarily differences between the abilities of individuals and households to satisfy their needs and ambitions. Inequalities in opportunity lead to difference in outcomes, perspectives and unwillingness to live within rules.

Attacks on Indian students in Australia some time back also brought the question on human security into limelight. But what we need to apprehend is that it goes beyond the security of borders to the lives of the people and communities inside and across borders. It is all an outcome of multiple factors and patterns of causation. Firstly the existing blockage of services in urban areas as also reflected by 1 billion people already living in slums further worsen the condition with a huge unemployed workforce turning into marauding rebels robbing and murdering people around. Secondly the contextual vulnerabilities like socio-economic and political processes also fuel the regional disparities leading to riots and violent processions disrupting public life. The threat stems from or often is exacerbated from the interaction of social, economic and institutional behaviors within cities. Thirdly crime tends to occur in specific sites, either directed at persons or property, with a set of motivations that are predictable within individual urban cultures further giving it the form of racist attacks. According to International Crime Victimization Survey report downturns in economy also at times lead to attack by local residents on foreign nationals in vague of insecurity both social and economical in form. In Ghana during the economical recession of 1976 the Beninois and Nigerians were sent out of Ghana back to their countries in convoys of trucks. Incidents like this create hostile feelings for the whole country when in reality only few indigenous ethnic groups are responsible for such cultural fermentation. Fourthly, it has been found that in many cases individuals and groups who have enjoyed some prior upward social mobility or economic improvement and then find themselves blocked from further improvement often express their frustration through violence. It is here that culture v/s social structure is questioned. But it is high time for us to understand that poverty, racism and frustration cannot be accepted as excuses for urban crimes.

Government of all the countries have set up rules within which individual liberty and private interests can be balanced with social objectives of enhancing welfare and equity but these have been frequently violated by the culprits. So the need arises to set up a coherent nexus of cultural, social, economic and political policies to prevent people to take law in their hands. Moreover it is the duty of us as individuals to rise above our selfish interests and cater to social welfare to maintain balance in society.

Manisha Rana

[Image courtesy:]