The ministries of Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation were only recently merged to form the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. Since 2014, the twin charges were under M Venkaiah Naidu until he became Vice President, and then briefly under Narendra Singh Tomar as additional charge. Now Hardeep Singh Puri, a retired Indian Forest Service diplomat, takes over as Minister of State (independent charge), Housing and Urban Affairs.
With two important ministries on urban matters merged and now without a cabinet minister, Puri will be watched for how he handles the task independently. One of his first public events will be inaugurating a Metro project in Lucknow.
The ministry is currently in charge of several key urban and housing policies such as the Smart City Mission, AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), the Metro policy, and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for providing housing for all. Under Naidu, a key achievement was enactment of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, but many other missions are behind target — construction of affordable houses, declaration of ODF which only Gujarat and Andhra have attained so far, or ensuring 100 per cent collection, disposal, and processing of waste. Also, several policies, from Smart Cities to the new Metro policy, have faced criticism from urban planners for relying too heavily on private investment.