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The urban local bodies need to be empowered: Hardeep Singh Puri
Apr 09, 2018

Speaking at the session on “Building a better India through Urban Development”, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development (I/C), said that India has undertaken the most comprehensive and planned urbanization planned anywhere in the world. He was addressing the CII Annual Session 2018. He stated that between now and 2030, 700-900 million sq. mt. of urban space is to be developed every year in order to accommodate ~40% of the total Indian population that is expected to be based out of the urban areas by 2030.

Highlighting the growing significance of cities he noted that by 2030, cities will contribute to around 66% of the country’s GDP and close to 90% of tax collection. In this light, he insisted that we have a huge task ahead of us since for the past 67 years we have subjected our urban infrastructure to “criminal” neglect.  He was of the view that the kind of planned urbanization which is sought will not solely be decided by the Centre but the urban local bodies also need to be included in the planning and development.

Mr Vinayak Chatterjee, Chairman, CII Economic Affairs Council and Chairman, Feedback Infra Pvt. Ltd. was the moderator to this discussion and he raised some pertinent issues and questions to the panellists regarding the qualifiers of a SMART city and why the 74th constitutional amendment, which empowered the cities to make their own decisions, has not been able to bear fruit?

Mr Hari Sankaran, Chairman, CII National Committee on Infrastructure & PPP and Vice Chairman  and Managing Director, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited, noted that in India there is significant amount of momentum in urban areas but things don’t work out either due to design or implementation issues. According to him there are three main qualifiers of a SMART city : liveability, employability and productive use of public spaces.

He noted that the CII committee on SMART cities has made some progress at the level of government and local bodies in order to pursue cities to become smart. Mr Sankaran, while tackling the question on why India had made no progress on promoting municipal bonds as a capital market instrument, was of the view that the Indian municipality does not have a defined revenue stream while it also does not understand the financial discipline required for floating municipal bonds.

Mr Banmali Agrawala, President, Infrastructure and Defence & Aerospace, Tata Sons Limited, praised the government’s efforts in urbanization. He commented that despite the well-known challenges of rapid urbanization, the government’s efforts have yielded results, no matter how discrete or sporadic. He stressed that the crux of the issue was to find lasting solutions that were self-sustainable to which he suggested involving private sector players while also having  citizens to pay for the services they use. He was in complete agreement with the principle of allowing local administration to decide the future of urban development.

9 April 2018

New Delhi

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