Urbanisation as an Opportunity

Hardeep S Puri
Contd from previous issue
A mandatory provision for a toilet has in one stroke addressed the security concerns of the girl child that was real but silently endured.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan announced on August 15, 2014 by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi from the ramparts of the Red Fort, had its share of cynics. Yet, my firm conviction is that when the story of India’s urban transformation is told, the Swachhata mission will be seen as the inflection point in India’s growth story for the simple reason that through that mission the strength of peoples participation was realized. Bureaucratic hassles, political indifference and citizen lethargy were all overcome through a ‘jan andolan’ with an enthusiastic people, young and old, joining together to make it a success.
Similarly, AMRUT Mission has addressed basic civic infrastructure such as water and sanitation in 500 cities. Simple steps to improve living standards but that has a profound impact on the lives of the average citizen. Basic infrastructure was subjected to gross neglect earlier through shoddy implementation and consequent wastage of funds. It is no longer so as accountability is being ensured through technology tools, ranging from Aadhaar to Direct Benefits Transfer to ensure the beneficiary gets the funds, and from drone technology to space technology tools for monitoring implementation on the ground in real time.
The Smart Cities Mission while embedding a culture of innovation and excellence in Indian cities, has had other interesting and positive fall out. There has been evidence based reports that crimes against women have come down wherever the Integrated Command and Control Centres are fully operational. When the benefits percolate down to the citizen in tangible and intangible ways, we know for sure that we are on the right path.
The horrific impact of COVID-19 on our cities and the urban poor has been tragic but its impact was blunted to some extent because of the progress we had made through these flagship missions by constructing more houses, more toilets and making available more civic amenities on the ground. The ICCCs played a pivotal role in aiding city administrators to monitor critical logistics and tracking of Covid spread in real time.
Going forward, the Government will be launching the Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban), with an outlay of Rs 2.8 lakh crore to ensure universal water supply in all urban local bodies in India and enable liquid waste management in 500 cities. After having achieved ODF-status in the country, this Government is now looking to strengthen the capabilities of our cities in faecal sludge management, waste water treatment, and waste management through the Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, which will have an outlay of Rs. 1.41 lakh crores.
This Government sees India’s urbanisation as an opportunity to grow sustainably, and it is a Central theme in its vision for growth. In the years to come urban India will epitomise the best of new India.
The Writer is Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs & Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India.