Criticising the previous UPA government’s approach on urban planning, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu has said that the “top-down” approach resulted in “design flaws” and led to “sub-optimal performance” by states under the JNNURM scheme.
After taking charge of the ministries of Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in July last year, he had initiated extensive consultations with states, Union Territories, municipal bodies and other stakeholders with the objective of taking all on board on the NDA government’s initiatives.
The consultation process on various NDA initiatives like Smart City and Housing for All by 2022 concluded in Kolkata on Saturday.
“The protracted consultations were organised to involve states, Union Territories and urban local bodies at the stage of conceptualisation of new schemes. So far, urban schemes used to be designed in New Delhi and states were asked to implement them in a top-down approach, which was not desirable,” Naidu told PTI.
“That approach resulted in design flaws and implementation issues leading to sub-optimal performance by all states and UTs under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) over the last nine years,” he said, adding that he was “keen to reverse this philosophy and instead go for a bottom-up approach with inputs and ideas flowing from urban local bodies and states”.
Naidu said that the consultations just concluded were meant to share the NDA government’s initiatives for the urban
sector with the states and UTs so as to bring them on board about the initiatives on Smart Cities, National Urban
Development Mission for 500 cities, Housing for All by 2022, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) for skill development in urban areas and Swachh Bharat Mission.
In view of the need for huge private sector investment in the new schemes, detailed consultations were also held with realtor bodies like NAREDCO, IREDA, etc. With the focus on adopting information and communications technology (ICT) platforms to improve urban governance, several rounds of consultations were held with Indian and foreign IT companies as well.
The two ministries reached out to municipal commissioners of all the 500 cities and towns with a population of over one lakh that are to be taken up under the New Urban Development Mission for 500 cities for ensuring provision of basic urban infrastructure.
“Municipal governance is a matter of serious concern, particularly in the context of converting urbanisation challenges into opportunities for driving economic growth. I wanted to personally speak to them to sensitise them to the challenges ahead given the critical role of municipal commissioners and urban local bodies in implementing new schemes,” Naidu said.
Four consultative workshops were held at Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata involving all the states and UTs from their respective regions and the municipal commissioners of all the 500 cities and towns with population of over one lakh.
“I am happy that there was free and frank expression of views… (we) now know how to move forward,” Naidu said.
“I am confident that this long process of consultations would help in better implementation of new urban initiatives.
“As a result of these consultations, all of us have agreed to ensure better and implementable designs of schemes,
take forward urban governance reforms, streamline the process of releasing funds to states with more flexibility to states, allow states to appraise and approve schemes at their level instead of sending all project proposals to the Centre,” he said.
Taking potshots at the previous UPA regime, Naidu said, “In the earlier approach, operation and maintenance costs
proved to be a burden for the states. Now, we have agreed to make them a part of capital costs so that states get more assistance from the Centre.
“These are some of the substantial takeaways from these consultations.”
Emphasising the need for reforms in urban local bodies, he said, “After all this endeavour, it is now time for the
Centre, states and urban local bodies to get on with effective implementation of new schemes. If we don’t reform, we will only perish.
“We are at a critical time as India is getting more and more urban. Our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has stressed on Team India approach and this is more relevant in the urban sector as we grapple with the challenges of growing
urbanisation. Urban development is a state subject and, hence, my efforts to take them on board.”