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Basic infra — the foundation of urban projects

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on January 11, 2021

Housing, transport received maximum allocation in the last four years

Housing and transport for the poor in urban areas have been on the top of the Modi government’s agenda with these two sectors getting 72 per cent of the total fund allocation for urban development schemes in the last four years (2017-18 to 2020-21). Interestingly, the government’s focus on the urban constituency is clear as 80 per cent of the funds allocated for various schemes have been utilised. The utilisation would go up by the end of 2020-21, considering the trend in the last three years.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) facilitates and assists States through its schemes in the development of urban infrastructure. Many schemes are being run in partnership between the States and the Centre.

Interestingly, even as consecutive governments have launched various schemes for urban development and the Modi government had promised world-class Smart Cities, majority of the funds have been utilised to create basic infrastructure.

Why focus on basic infra?

The erstwhile Ministry of Urban Development had appointed a High Powered Expert Committee which had estimated that over a 20-year period — from the 12th to the 15th Five Year Plan ( 2012-31), ₹39.2-lakh crore at 2009-10 prices will need to be spent on urban infrastructure. Of this, ₹17.3-lakh crore (or 44 per cent) would be for urban roads.

“The backlog for this sector ranges from 50-80 per cent across the cities of India,” the committee report stated. As per estimates of the committee, 44 per cent of the total investment would be needed to fill the backlog in urban roads.

Water, sewerage, solid waste management, stormwater drains and streetlights would require another 20 per cent of investment, while 14 per cent would be needed for transport and traffic-related infrastructure.

Among others, urban renewal, including redevelopment of slums, would require 10.5 per cent and capacity building for better urban governance, 2.5 per cent of investment.

Not surprisingly, the fund allocation by the Centre is in the lines with the Committee’s report.

 

 

Housing and transport

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), launched by the government to provide housing for urban poor, has received the highest allocation of ₹83,000 crore in the last five years, of which 87 per cent or ₹71,922 crore has been utilised. This is one of the ambitious schemes and the government aims to provide pucca houses to the poor by 2022. Out of the 1.08-crore houses sanctioned under the scheme, 66.86-lakh houses have been grounded (begun construction) and 38.15 lakh have been completed.

By 2050, 416 million more Indians would have moved to cities and towns, according to the latest UN data. As per the 2001 census 286.1 million people were living in urban India. The number went up to 377.1 million in the 2011 census - a growth of 2.76 per cent annually. The government wants to address housing problems and eradicate slums in cities, implementing the Awas Yojana scheme.

The urban transport sector has been allotted ₹68,490 crore during the five year period and 75 per cent of the funds have been spent so far. The government has launched Metro Rail projects in various cities and is also augmenting the existing metro lines. However, municipal corporations that run local public bus transport complain that the government is not providing much help to bring more eco-friendly buses on the roads.

Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) a total of 3,145 projects have been completed so far. AMRUT focusses on providing basic services including water supply, sewerage, urban transport to households and build amenities in cities to improve the quality of life. The mission has an allocation of ₹25,000 crore of which 80 per cent has been utilised in the last four years.

Under the Smart City Mission, cities are parking a major share of investment (about 16.60 per cent) in urban transport. As per the Smart Cities Mission guidelines, the Centre is supposed to provide funds up to ₹48,000 crore (23.4 per cent of Smart City Proposal value) over five years — an average of ₹500 crore per city. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will be provided by the State/Urban Local Body (ULB) to complete the project. Between 2017-18 and 2020-21, the Smart City Mission has an allocation of ₹20,609 crore, of which 73 per cent has been utilised by the cities.

Swachh Bharat- Urban

The Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) has got ₹9,150 crore and 70 per cent of that has been utilised during the four-year period. In 2014, the mission was launched with the objective of making urban India 100 per cent open defecation-free (ODF) along with 100 per cent scientific solid waste management. In 2019, the government’sSBM-U achieved its target of creating Urban India ODF. Urban areas of 35 States/UTs have become ODF. In all, 4,320 cities (out of 4,372) have declared themselves ODF, of which 4,167 have been certified through third-party verification. This has been achieved by the construction of nearly 65.81 lakh individual household toilets against the mission’s target of 59 lakh and 5.89-lakh seats of community/public toilets against the mission’s target of 5.08 lakh seats.

Other schemes

The Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) intends to enable urban poor and give them access to elf employment and skilled wage employment opportunities. Out of ₹2,654 crore allocated for the mission, ₹2,169 crore has been utilised.

The government has allocated ₹890 crore and ₹292 crore for development programmes in the north-east States and HRIDAY scheme, respectively.

Expectations of citizens

Even as the figures show that the government has succeeded in utilising funds for urban schemes, there is still a long way to go in improving the civic facilities in urban areas.

The construction of houses under the housing scheme is progressing at a slow pace and public transport in cities leaves much to be desired. Even as the government has announced that cities are open defecation-free, the maintenance of public toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharat scheme has become a major challenge. The government promises Smart Cities, but cities selected for the mission have spent the money on basic infrastructure. As civic activist Vijay Kumbhar points out, the spending under the projects needs tighter scrutiny. A more holistic plan to improve civic amenities along with higher allocations are also called for.

Published on December 21, 2020

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