With the opposition united against the land acquisition bill, the NDA government is willing to make some compromises on the amendments it sought to the bill in a bid to see it through, Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Digital India Dialogue of The Express Group organised in association with NewsX, Naidu said that land was an important component for growth.
“We are ready for some compromises for the larger good and for the bill to get passed,” said Naidu in conversation with Anant Goenka, Wholetime Director & Head — New Media, The Express Group.
Playing down the issues raised by the opposition, Naidu said it was false propaganda and the government was looking to create awareness. He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat with farmers was a step in that direction.
“The government will own the land, public projects will be developed and infrastructure would be created,” said the minister.
Recalling a meeting of all states in 2014, Naidu said that 28 of 32 states had opined at the time that the land bill needs changes, which led to the NDA government proposing the changes.
While he was satisfied with the work done by Parliament in the budget session — the most productive session in over eight years — Naidu said, “You just can’t take decisions on your own.
We are a democracy and we have to take the Parliament, states and the country along. While we want reforms, the opposition must understand the mandate we have received in the Lok Sabha and respect that.”
Given the challenges in building smart cities, Naidu said the government plans to create a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for each smart city project on the anvil. He added that urban infrastructure deficit will need to be bridged by retrofitting identified areas of a city and redevelopment of areas that are not amenable to retrofitting.
He said that, in a couple of months, about 500 cities with a population of more than 1 lakh would be upgraded by redeveloping them. Stating that the smart city development model will be on the lines of public private partnership, he added that it cannot be achieved without public participation.
“It is not an easy task and will only be possible if people are willing to reform. We have to change the mindset. People have to pay for the services offered and pay for what they want,” said Naidu.
Stating that cities currently lack several basics such as drainage system, housing and toilets, he outlined the concept of Smart Cities and observed that these would have clean, potable water, assured power supply and efficient public transport.
Adding that the government has completed consultations with municipal corporations on smart city development, Naidu said, “By October 2015, we want to see that the new smart cities are launched in various states.”
He also stated that Sebi’s move to bring regulations that will allow them to issue municipal bonds was a step in this direction.
The minister also released a report — How smart are our cities? — put together by the Express Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conceptualising the models for future smart cities in the country.
Calling for efficient use of modern technology and better management of available resources, he also stressed on the need for cities to be creditworthy. Stating that several cities currently spend 85-90 per cent of revenues on salaries, he said “we need to right-size the staff”.
He also stressed on the need to preserve nature and culture while planning for the future.