In the 20th century, Mumbai was often described as Urbs Prima in Indis, Latin for India’s First City. It was an emblem of Indian urbanity, portrayed as such in novels and Bollywood movies. Over the past few decades, however, a rapidly rising Delhi has severely dented Mumbai’s primacy. Now the Capital has run away with the coastal city’s title.
The swap has been confirmed by a report from Brookings Institution, a think tank headquartered in the United States. The Global Metro Monitor report, released in June, ranks Delhi sixth on its Economic Performance Index out of the world’s 300 largest metro areas. Mumbai ranks 23rd overall – and fourth among Indian cities.
Delhi is India’s largest engine for job creation
From 2014 to 2016, Delhi generated the most jobs of any Indian city. It created 6.2 lakh jobs, nearly a third more than Mumbai’s 4.7 lakh. Hyderabad created 3.4 lakh jobs in this period while Kolkata came fourth with 3.2 lakh.
In terms of growth rate, Mumbai falls further behind as a generator of employment. The city’s jobs grew by 2.9% between 2014 and 2016. Delhi clocked up a growth rate of 4.7%.
Thus, in both the absolute numbers of jobs created and the rate of growth, Delhi beats Mumbai handsomely.
Mumbai, though, edges out Delhi when it comes to the per capita growth in the gross domestic product – but only just. The three megacities of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are neck and neck when it comes to per capita GDP growth, with Hyderabad leading the pack.
The Capital’s sudden rise
Delhi’s rise as Urbs Prima in Indis has been stunning. Though it was the capital of the Mughal Empire, the city witnessed a long twilight during the British Raj. As a trading empire, the British concentrated their power largely in the port cities of what are now Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. Delhi, situated in the North Indian plains far from the sea, was reduced to a midsize town. In 1828, when the poet Ghalib visited Kolkata from Delhi, he was struck by its grandeur. “The very mention of Kolkata is like an arrow piercing my breast,” he wrote in envy. In 1901, Delhi was only India’s seventh largest city, smaller than even Varanasi.
The situation changed after independence. Independent India lavished its resources on building infrastructure in the Capital. At the same time, businesses were attracted to the city since being near the government helped get faster clearances. Both these factors contributed to Delhi’s rapid growth. In 1951, Delhi was half of Mumbai and a third of Kolkata by population. By 2011, it was India’s second largest city, only 20 lakh shy of Mumbai’s population. In fact, if the suburbs of Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad are taken into account, the National Capital Region will count as India’s largest urban agglomeration, ahead of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.