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Monday, March 01, 2021

No increase of outlay for urban housing projects; transport, watery supply see renewed push

The mission allocation this year (2021-2022) is again Rs 8,000 crore, leading experts to deduce that the mission will again have to resort to extra-budgetary resources to finance the bulk of the mission.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi |
February 1, 2021 3:23:54 pm
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In the backdrop of the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on India’s urban centers, several Budget announcements have focused on the country’s cities, including a mission to extend water supply to all urban households and a new scheme to augment city bus services.

While stating that “housing for all and affordable housing” are “priority areas” for the Government, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an extension of the interest deduction to loans taken for affordable housing as well as the tax holiday provided to affordable housing projects.

In the Ministry Housing and Urban Affairs budget, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), which aims to provide housing for all, was allocated Rs 8,000 crore in 2020-2021, but spent Rs 21,000 crore drawn from extra-budgetary resources. Continuing the same trend, the mission allocation this year (2021-2022) is again Rs 8,000 crore, leading experts to deduce that the mission will again have to resort to extra-budgetary resources to finance the bulk of the mission.

At an outlay of Rs 18,000 crore, the new bus scheme “will facilitate deployment of innovative PPE models to enable private sector players to finance, to acquire, to operate, and to maintain over 20 thousand buses,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her budget speech on Monday.

The Finance Minister has also launched a new mission, the Jal Jeevan Mission – Urban (JJM-U), to provide water supply in 4,378 urban local bodies with 2.86 crore households tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT (over 1 lakh population) cities. “The WHO has repeatedly stressed the importance of water, sanitation, and clean environment as a prerequisite to achieving universal health,” Sitharaman said in her speech.

“There was a demand from states that cities not covered under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) should also be provided support for water and sewage,” a ministry source had told The Indian Express last year.

The proposal will subsume AMRUT under the new JJM-Urban. The ongoing AMRUT programme focuses on 500 cities, mostly those with over 1 lakh population, and aims to provide tap connections to 1.39 crore households. The scheme has currently provided 95 lakh connections, roughly 75 per cent, they said.

While JJM (U) aims to saturate urban areas with tap connections, the remaining sewage connections outside of the AMRUT cities will be overseen by the Swachh Bharat Mission.

In addition, Sitharaman outlined intiatives “for further swastha of urban India” with the urban Swaach Bharat Mission 2.0 getting a total allocation of Rs 1, 41,6078 over a period of 5 years from 2021. SBM-urban had spent Rs 1,000 crore of its Rs 2,300 crore allocation in 2020-2021. The Government has again allocated Rs 2,300 crore to the mission.

“We intend to focus on complete Feacal Sludge Management and waste water treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastics, reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction and demolishing activities and bio-remediation of all legacy dump sites,” the Minister said in her speech. To tackle “the burgeoning problem of air pollution”, the Minister also proposed Rs 2,270 crore for 42 urban centers with a million plus population.

For migrant workers and laborers, the Minister proposed a portal to collect relevant information on gig workers, building/construction workers, and other unorganised laborers. “This will help formulate health, housing, skill, insurance credit & food schemes for migrant workers,” she said.

The budget for metro projects in the Housing and Urban Ministry grew from Rs 14,470 crore in 2018 to Rs 18,908 crore in 2019. While the projects only spent Rs 9,000 crore in 2020, it has now an increased allocation of Rs 23,500 crore. Similarly, the Smart Cities Mission utilized only Rs 3,400 crore of its Rs 6,450 crore budget allocation in 2020 to 2021, but has again received Rs 6,450 crore allocation for 2021-2022.

Overall the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has been allocated a little over Rs 54,600 crore in 2021-2022. This is up from a Rs 50,000 crore allocation last year, of which the Ministry used Rs 46,790 crore.

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