India, with a population in one billion plus, is the seventh largest economy in the world. The rapid pace of growth witnessed by the country is an indicator of rising aspirations of its citizens. Economic growth directly linked to labor market efficiency, has the potential to leapfrog at a much faster rate, if citizens in urban areas are provided with better quality lifestyle. This is also the need of the hour, considering the country has witnessed unprecedented levels of migration from rural to urban India for education and professional reasons. One the ways to achieve this is through focus on ease of living, build smart cities that are well-equipped with public facilities, have adequate infrastructure to support needs of contemporary Indian families, and last but not the least, are affordable.
Since the time the Narendra Modi led Government assumed office, it has highlighted the urgency of providing Indians with better lifestyle, starting from basic sanitation to affordable housing to building a digital India. We need to acknowledge that our metro cities are bursting at seams, and capacity building is the only way forward. Semi-urban areas need to be groomed and graduated to cities, so that education, jobs, public utilities (such as electricity, public transport, and sanitation), healthcare is no more a ‘privilege’ of the few, but a matter of fact for every Indian citizen. This is contrary to the Left leaning ecosystem that has glorified poverty and sees no problem when a significant chunk of the Nation does not have access to basic facilities like electricity or potable water.
Steps taken by the incumbent Government in this direction include:
- Municipal Bonds: More than Rs.2,700 crore has been raised through municipal bonds during 2018 for upgrading urban infrastructure
- Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 4124 cities and urban areas of 21 States and Union Territories are declared Open Defecation Free.
- Solid Waste Management processing increased from 19% (2014) to 46% (2018)
- Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban)
- Completed: More than 12 lakh houses
- Grounded: Around 36 lakh houses
- Sanctioned: More than 68.7 lakh houses
Ability of this initiative to create jobs and have a kindred impact on the economy must not be ignored.
- To expedite the process of capacity building in urban area extra-budgetary resources have been allocated and 24 new technologies have been identified to fast track construction.
- Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) have been incorporated for 100 cities selected in smart cities.
- 5,151 projects worth more than Rs.2 lakh crore are in various stages of implementation
- Metro Rail Lines
- Operational: 536 km in 10 Cities Including Delhi & NCR, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Jaipur, Kochi, Lucknow, Mumbai & Gurugram
- Approved: 13 new metro projects for 248 km at a cost of Rs.68,021 crore approved since May, 2014.
- Under Implementation: Around 650 km of metro rail
In 2018 itself, 3 new projects with a length of about 66 km at a total cost of Rs.16,408 crore have been approved for Bhopal, Indore and Delhi Metro Extension from Noida City Centre to Noida Sector 62. About 750 km of metro rail systems and 373 km of Rapid Rail Transit Systems (RRTS) are under planning in various cities.
Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) is aimed at reducing poverty levels of urban poor households including homeless and street vendors. The overarching objective is to lay emphasis on mobilisation of the urban poor into Self Help Groups (SHGs). Under this scheme:
- Trained: From May 2014 onward 13 lakh urban poor have been trained of which 1.9 lakh beneficiaries were trained in 2018
- Placed:5 lakh beneficiaries have been provided placement since 2014
- All 70 projects worth Rs.422.61 crore approved for 12 HRIDAY cities are under various stages of implementation of which Rs.310.43 crore released has been released
- All these projects are on course for completion by March 2019
Online Building Permission System (OBPS) has been implemented in 1,453 cities. The system has been implemented in all urban local bodies in 10 States.
Transition from India to smart India will not only be an agent of job creation, but also alleviate economically downtrodden in urban areas. Consistent reforms in construction sector are evident from the Doing Business Report (DBR) 2019, where India’s ranking in Construction Permits improved from 181 (2017) to 52 (2018). On one hand, life comes to a grinding halt at Mumbai during monsoons, Delhi struggles with air pollution. On the other hand, relatively smaller cities like Chandigarh and Pune enjoy high quotient of ease of living. This tells that there is immense potential for economic and social growth beyond the metro cities, and thus the smart cities.