Centre inaugurates three ambitious urban development projects

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday, unveiled three much-awaited flagship government schemes to spruce up urban development. Together, the three urban development projects involve an expenditure of about Rs 4 lakh crores, in next six years.

The initiatives include the Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) that will replace Jawahar Lal Nehru Urban renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Housing for All (Urban) scheme.

The objective of the Smart Cities Mission is to promote the cities which provide core urban infrastructure and drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology.

The aim of AMRUT mission is to provide basic amenities and give a chance to cities to plan their future growth. Apart from inclusion of core infrastructure elements such as adequate water supply, solid waste management, affordable housing, urban mobility, good governance, safety and security, health and education, public participation was also given a prime importance in the guidelines for AMRUT provided by the MoUD.

Not an easy entry

The smart city mission will be operated as a centrally-sponsored scheme, with an assistance of Rs 48,000 in over five years. The 100 smart cities have been distributed among states and Union Territories (UTs), with equal weightage (50:50) to urban population and the number of statuary towns. Also, each aspiring city will have to compete for selection as a smart city in a “City Challenge” that will be a two-stage selection process.

After the city is selected, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be created to plan, appraise, approve, manage, monitor and implement the mission at the city level and have nominees from Central, state and urban local body. According to the Smart Cities guidelines circulated by MoUD, the funds will be released on conditions such as quarterly submission of score cards to the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), satisfactory physical and financial progress against milestones given in the smart city proposal.

In AMRUT, 500 cities will be taken up. Cities/towns with a population of over 100,000 with and without notified Cantonment Board will be taken up. It will also include all cities or towns that have been classified as heritage cities by MoUD under the HRIDAY Scheme, 13 cities and towns on the stem of the main rivers, with a population above 75,000 and less than 100,000, and ten cities from hill states, islands and tourist destinations (not more than one from each state) will also be considered.

The total outlay for AMRUT is Rs 50,000 crore for five years, from financial year 2015-16 to 2019-20. The mission will also be a centrally sponsored scheme.

Accountability a must

To improve governance, 11 set of reforms will be implemented. The funds will be released in three installments of 20:40:40 and will be allocated to the states.Incase the reforms are not fulfilled, AMRUT shifts from penalisation and rather provides incentive for achievement of reforms.

As a recognition of achievements , 10 per cent of the annual budget allocation will be kept apart and given to the states/UTs every year as incentive for achievement of reforms. The unused funds will be transferred to Project Fund (an annual budgetary allocation that will be given from 2016-17) every year.

To avoid delays and non-completion of projects on account of lack of resources, states/UTs will now be required to firmly indicate resource tie ups under state-level action plans. Different committees will be created at national, state and city level to achieve efficiency. To fulfill the objectives of both smart cities and AMRUT, a city-wide concept plan will look at all the urban developments within its scope.

Though both the missions are highly ambitious and touch all the aspects of urban development, public participation and good governance. However, smart leadership, a vision and the ability to act decisively will be important. To successfully implement the mission, the policy makers, implementers and other stakeholders would require capacity assistance. Citizen involvement will have to be actively looked at in sync with research institutions and non-profits so that the objectives and developments can effectively reach the common man.

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