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Published on 7/12/2018 11:25:07 AM
Using the carrot to push urban best practices
The Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs has found space for its various arms that were marginally active earlier. The National Institute of Urban Affairs has been designated the nodal body for the India Smart Cities Fellowship Programme and the India Smart Cities Internship Programme. This is close on the heels of the Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) being made the agency to deliver the technology challenge and the Hindustan Prefab Ltd (HPL) made the agency to identify the issues that need to be addressed to make housing and urban development a well-oiled machine.

With this move the technology and research capabilities of the Ministry has been commissioned to make sure that the flagship programmes of Housing for All, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the Smart Cities Mission are all on track.

Even more importantly, the government has tried to ensure that these flagship programmes are locked into international loans and grants with deliveries well beyond the critical national elections in 2019. As Minister Hardeep Singh Puri explained to the media, contests among cities and governments to win the Smart Cities tag and also to get grants to execute the programmes all take time from planning to implementation and execution.

Nipping in the bud the criticism that the smart cities programmes were yet to take off, the minister invited the media to visit the cities where the command centres are operational to monitor the ongoing work on mission mode.

Today’s announcement also included the Smart Cities Digital Payments Awards 2018 (SCDPA) where the consumer ease of living through digital transactions at the urban local body levels is in focus. If smart cities also means cities connected and run using technology, focus has now shifted to ease of living in the city.

Two more announcements also need to be commended. The development of peripheral areas under the redevelopment scheme and the focus on urban mobility are current requirements. Using the carrot rather than the stick, the minister announced how redevelopment or brownfield development would be able to ease urban stress by going vertical with development and using the ground space thus freed to create open spaces. In increasingly dense Indian cities, this is a welcome move where innovation in design and local area planning are poised to be awarded.

The moves are on the right track. The agencies who have been entrusted with these changes too come loaded with relevant skills to execute these projects. The French loan of 100 million Euros and the Grant of 600 million euros will help kick-start the process.