Capital goods manufacturers rejoiced on June 25th. Their shares gained suddenly on the BSE after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a batch of major infrastructure schemes for urban dwellers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious set of new projects are the Smart Cities Mission; AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) and Housing for All in Urban Areas. Each of these three new initiatives could potentially mean a robust step towards India’s urban development.
For the Smart Cities Mission, 20 cities are to be shortlisted in the first phase. Another 40 will be added in each of the subsequent 2 phases to cover a total of 100 cities. These proposed Smart Cities are aim to enhance the quality of life in urban areas by providing a clean and sustainable environment. 24 hour water and power supply, efficient urban mobility and public transportation, affordable housing for poor, sanitation and solid waste management, and robust IT connectivity are some of the key features of this scheme.
A “City Challenge Competition” will help selecting prospective Smart Cities. The competition’s criteria cover areas such as sanitation, clean water, power, greenery quotient and ratio between revenue and expenditure on municipal salaries. A selected city would get Rs.100 crore per year for five years as assistance from the centre. Obviously, the funds are allowed to be spent only on infrastructure projects with larger public benefit in the city.
For the AMRUT project, 500 cities will be chosen. These cities must have a population of 1 lakh and more. The AMRUT project’s focus is to secure basic infrastructure services such as water supply, sewerage and development of green spaces and parks. Urban reforms like e-governance, improved municipal tax assessment and collection and citizen-centric urban planning are to be promoted. On the whole, AMRUT is set to bring about 11 reforms to be implemented in a time of four years.
The third scheme, Housing For All in urban areas, aims to enable every urban poor to own a house by 2022. These houses will be available to slum-dwellers at no cost through a Public Private Partnership model. The government looks to make 2 crore houses for the urban poor within the next 7 years.Provisions for tax incentives on interest rates on bank loans form an important part of this scheme.
While these three projects are set to create a remarkable change in the urban landscape of India, the opposition is not happy. Dismissing the PM’s new move as an “event management exercise”, Ajay Maken, previously the Union Minister for Housing and Poverty Alleviation (2012 – 13), suggested that creating new smart cities “won’t solve the problem”. Making existing cities smart, he suggested, would be the most appropriate approach. He further cited that several schemes of the earlier Congress rule were combined and named Atal Yojana. However, Mr. Maken’s thoughts are not necessarily dampening the effort-full initiatives of the current Government.
Prime Minister Modi hopes that “For the first time in India, a challenge was being floated, in which the citizens of urban India could contribute in the formulation of development visions of their cities.”