Voice for Change – A close look at urban development in Budget 2014-15

Voice for Change – Urban Development in the Union Budget 2014-15[i]

The vision of Urban Renewal in the Union Budget 2014-15 prescribes four fundamental activities which must underpin urban development. These are:

  • Provision of safe drinking water and sewerage management,
  • Use of recycled water for growing organic fruits and vegetable,
  • Solid waste management
  • Digital connectivity.

The Government aims at providing support to at least 500 such habitations by harnessing private capital and expertise through Public Private Partnerships and renewing their infrastructure and services in the next ten years.

Development of Smart Cities: Recognising that the pace of migration from the rural areas to the cities is increasing and that a neo-middle class is emerging which has the aspiration of better living standards, the Government aims at developing 100 ‘Smart Cities’ – satellite towns of larger cities and by modernizing the existing mid-sized cities. A provision of a sum of Rs. 7,060 crore has been made in the current fiscal year. These include provisions for Sub-Mission on Urban Infrastructure and Governance (SM-UIG), Urban Infrastructure Development for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) and single common head for Mission for Development of 100 Smart Cities and JNNURM. http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2014-15/eb/sbe103.pdf (page number 6 and 2, Major Head 43601 and 43602).

Pooled Municipal Debt Obligation Facility: This facility was set up in 2006 with participation of several Banks to promote and finance infrastructure projects in urban areas on shared risk basis. Present corpus of this facility is Rs. 5,000 crore. The corpus is being enlarged to Rs. 50,000 crore with extension of the facility by five years to March 31, 2019.

Metro Projects:  A sum of Rs. 100 crore has been allocated for Metro projects in Lucknow and Ahemdabad.

Housing for All:  Additional tax incentive has been extended on home loans to encourage people, especially the young, to own houses. A Mission on Low Cost Affordable Housing has been set up, which will be anchored in the National Housing Bank (NHB). Schemes will be evolved to incentivise the development of low-cost affordable housing. A sum of Rs 4,000 crore has been allocated for NHB with a view to increase the flow of cheaper credit for affordable housing to the urban poor/Economically weaker sections and/Lower Income Group segment.

There is also a Scheme of Assistance for Mechanical Cleaning of Sewers and Septic Tanks (SAMCSS), which has been allocated merely Rs 1 lakh.

Additionally, women’s safety in urban areas is accorded special attention. An outlay of Rs. 50 crore will be spent by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways on pilot testing a scheme on “Safety for Women on Public Road Transport”. Similarly, Ministry of Home Affairs will spend a sum of Rs. 150 crore on a scheme to increase the safety of women in large cities. It is also proposed to set up “Crisis Management Centres” in all the districts of NCT of Delhi this year in all government and private hospitals. The funding will be provided from the Nirbhaya Fund.

Further, slum development has been included in the list of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to encourage the private sector to contribute more towards this activity.

Some Concerns

It is very clear that there is a renewed focus on urban development. The Central Plan outlay has increased by more than 110%, that is, from Rs 9478.46 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 20114.27 crore in 2014-15.

The concern is about the focus. The fear is that these development activities should not further marginalise the poor in urban areas. The urban poor, who are also the citymakers, should not bear the cost of the development in the form of evictions and such other activities, which often get overlooked as “collateral damage”[ii].

Will the focus continue to be on urban middle class or will there be efforts to provide services and infrastructure for poor and marginalised? Except the programme on safety of women, there are not many that look at issues specific to urban poor. The transgender population largely resides in urban areas and they have their own unique needs[iii]. Will their issues be covered in the Mission on 100 Smart Cities?

There is no mention of Rajiv Awaas Yojana. Similarly, the Major Head of JNNURM has been merged with the new Mission. What would happen to these schemes? Are they going to be done away with or continued? If the latter happens, what are the changes in clauses and implementation, if any?

When will the Ministry of Urban Development spell out the details of its Mission for Development of 100 Smart Cities? Will there be a component on Slum Development?

The needs of urban poor children are unique. Often their needs, especially related to their safety, development opportunities, playgrounds and basic living conditions, do not get specific attention[iv]. Will these be considered?

The situation of sewerage workers is worsening. They continue to be marginalised in terms of their working conditions as well as occupational safety system[v]. A number of workers have died because of negligence and lack of accountability in the recent past. Will there be any component to help them mitigate occupational hazards?

Similarly, while relatively more privileged migrants from rural areas acquire the status of “neo-migrants” and whose aspirations seem to govern the urban development schemes, what would happen to poor and marginalised migrants from rural areas, whose living conditions often worsens at the destination areas. While a number of them end up as homeless, some get housed in the worst of slums[vi]. The nation hopes that the Ministry hears voices of these citizens, especially children, while drafting the Mission programme on 100 smart cities.

 

Notes

[i] The brief was prepared by Kirti Vashisht and Pradeep Narayanan as part of Voice for Change series, a self-funded initiative of Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices

[ii] Voice for Change: Citymakers Seeking to Reclaim Cities they Build; Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices; 2013 (Link to report: http://ow.ly/z7eq7)

[iii] Beyond 2015: Voices for Empowerment – a participatory video made by sexual minorities in Tamil Nadu and facilitated by Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices (Link to film: http://ow.ly/z7fJH)

[iv] Satya Ye Kadve Hai (Bitter Truths) – A participatory video made by children living in urban slums in Delhi and facilitated by Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices (Link to film: http://ow.ly/zaah8)

[v] Down the Drain – a participatory video made by sewerage workers in Delhi and facilitated by Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices (Link to film: http://youtu.be/VNsaC2BGGDI)

[vi] Chennai – of the Magnified and the Mangled; and Saare Jahan Se Achha – participatory videos made by citymakers in Chennai and Delhi (Link to films: http://ow.ly/z7h6w)

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