Silver Lining in the Year of Pandemic

As the year of the severe pandemic and disasters for the whole world fades away, it is important to discuss various policies and programmes which made the year productive. Urban spaces were hit badly due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India, has shown some impressive progress to mitigate the effects as far as possible

The size of urban India, both in terms of population and infrastructure, has been increasing day by day due to continuous influx of migrants for work, education and various other reasons. The responsibility to plan our cities better and provide a habitable environment for its residents falls on the MoHUA. Over time, the Ministry has come up with various programmes to achieve this mission and work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, this year, the focus was mainly on handling the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that Indian cities do not lose grip on the progress they have made so far. Team Urban Update aims to analyse this year’s progress of some of the various policies and programmes of the MoHUA.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)

PMAY completed five years of operation this year and has been the torch bearer of the affordable housing sector in India. According to data from the project’s website, of the 1.12 crore houses that are needed in the country, almost 1.07 crore houses have already been sanctioned to the homeless by the MoHUA. This is an increase of almost 1,400 per cent as compared to 2015, when only 7.26 lakh houses were sanctioned by the government. The website data further shows that Andhra Pradesh is the state with the most number of houses sanctioned (20 lakh) in the country. Uttar Pradesh comes next with 15.54 lakh sanctioned houses.
Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) is a major addition to PMAY in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme was designed to provide affordable rental houses to migrant workers near their workplace. It is being implemented in two ways – byusing existing government funded vacant houses as ARHCs or by constructing and maintaining new ARHCs through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. Of the 1,71,728 crore funds promised by the central government for the project,76,789 crore have already been released.

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)

AMRUT was launched in 2015 to provide basic amenities like clean water, sewerage, urban transport, and parks to India’s urban poor. The mission programme can be defined in three steps-
Providing tap water in every household.
Develop more and better green and open spaces.
Reduce pollution through increased usage of public transport and promotion of non-motorised transport such as cycling and walking.
AMRUT is a centrally-sponsored scheme with an allocation of `50,000 crore for a period of five years in 500 cities with the population of 1 lakh and above. At present, 3,148 projects have been completed under the programme and 2,478 are under progress, according to data from MoHUA. While 97,93,386 street lights were targeted to be replaced by LED lights, 62,78,571 lights have been replaced so far.

Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

This is one of the flagship schemes of the central government which began in 2015 with the aim of making our cities sustainable and inclusive in every way. The concept of a smart city varies from place to place depending upon level of development, reform, resources and willingness to change. According to the MoHUA, smart cities are those which include mixed land use in area-based development. The mission aims to constitute the cities with proper housing, walkable localities, reduced congestion, water supply, improved sanitation, waste management and
air pollution.
The proposed 100 smart-cities are working towards preserving and developing open spaces, providing a variety of transport options, friendly and cost-effective governance and smart solutions to infrastructure and services. At present, the scheme has impacted lives of more than 9 crore people across the country with a total project cost of `2,05,018 crore.

Cities (C-SC)

According to data from the World Health Organisation, cities account for almost 70 per cent of the global emission of carbon-dioxide. Asian cities contribute 75 per cent to the amount of global emission and are poised to contribute more than half the rise in global emissions.
Climate-Smart Cities project of the Indian government encourages the development of smart cities while making sure that they have the least possible carbon footprint. The aim of the mission is to reduce the energy cost by $430 million and carbon emissions by 16.25 per cent by 2025.
As part of C-SC, Kolkata’s Centre for Low Carbon Futures is working with the Global Change Program of Jadavapur University to develop a plan for implementation of the project. The aim is to reframe the threat of climate change as an opportunity for green growth that protects natural resources and supports development for the poorest of cities.

Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)

SBM, launched in 2014, is one of the most important programmes of the central government to make India open defecation free (ODF) and to achieve 100 per cent management of municipal solid waste in over 4,000 statutory towns. Apart from this, SBM also aims to increase access to household, public and community toilets across the country. So far, SBM has presented one of the best results amongst all the schemes of MoHUA for urban India.
The Government of India has exceeded its target of construction of individual household toilets by 5.57 per cent. While 98.28 per cent of the 4,372 cities in India have been verified ODF by the MoHUA, 99.27 per cent cities have declared themselves ODF.

Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)

HRIDAY is a central sector scheme launched in 2015 with the aim of bringing together urban planning, economic growth and heritage development in an inclusive way. The programme was launched to preserve and revitalise heritage cities of India to reflect their unique character.
The progress of HRIDAY through the years has been summarised using the numerograph.

National Urban Policy Framework (NUPF)

NUPF was formulated by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) to determine the future of India’s urbanisation and was a significant step considering the vastness and complexity of India’s urban challenge. The framework has been formulated to guide the cities and towns and is structured to be implemented in
two steps.
First, the ten sutras or philosophical principles, which form the core of NUPF, consider cities as ‘clusters of human capital’, public spaces as a source of encouraging social interaction, etc. Next step is the application of the ten sutras in the ten functional areas of urban space and management. The states were encouraged to develop their own state urban policies, including implementation plans based on the national framework. NUPF recognises that there cannot and should not be any one framework for every city.
For example, NUPF suggests doubling the bus fleet of urban India in the next five years as well as induction of electric vehicles in the Indian transportation system.


National Urban Learning Platform (NULP)

NULP is a digital platform, a collective approach of MoHUA, NIUA, All India Institute of Local Self-Government, assisted by national and international universities and educational centres, think tanks and autonomous bodies. The platform aims to enhance the functioning of urban local bodies (ULBs) and other urban service providers.
This platform seeks to deliver effective strategies of capacity building to acquire a sustainable urban future through a digital learning platform. NULP‘s sole purpose is to develop an effective forum for the multi-level infrastructural urban governance/service provider.
To know more about this empowering platform, Team Urban Update interviewed Kakul Misra, National Program Head, Centre for Digital Governance, NULP.

Kakul Misra
National Program Head, Centre for Digital Governance, NULP

What were the challenges that you faced while starting this platform?
NULP is a capacity building platform, but it’s powerful only when one uses it efficiently. One has to consume and contribute to it as well. It will only be a success when people share their own experiences and knowledge on the platform as well as consume the information.
People using the platform have to be both the producer and the consumer to the platform, only then will everyone benefit from it. Changing the mind-set of the people who are using this platform is the greatest challenge, encouraging them to not only use the platform to their benefit but also contribute to it, so that others are informed too.

How do you think NULP can benefit the ULBs or individuals?
We need to step back and look at NULP’s aspiration. There is no hierarchical or departmental power to say that you’re an expert and you’re not. Any person of any department or position, who is good at the role that he or she plays, is an expert. So this platform aims to change the thinking of people and providing them with a platform for sharing their experiences with everyone else.
Secondly, acquiring the right set of partners who will help to point out the problems and suggest the possible solutions, like other alternatives or successful practices of some international agency or a ULB from another city. So getting these collaborations are exchange of ideas by way of various simple peer-to-peer learning formats like videos, standard operating procedure, or even a simple presentation, in byte sized knowledge. If a person from the water department is searching for information, he gets this information through NULP in a simple manner and in time. That is the power of NULP as a platform and that is how we aspire for NULP to derive the combined intelligence, where urban ecosystems can themselves get together and collaborate and share the solutions to the local level problems they face.

How do you think this platform will transform ULBs and corporations into self-sustained bodies?
Self-sustainability typically boils down to sensible use of resources. One of the key resources is man-power and its competence and skills, which lead to impact on unlocking the value, whether it is by increasing revenue, cost-optimisation, or by enhancing productivity. It aims to build a resource pool by fostering peer-to-peer, expert-driven learning which comes from practitioners, civil society members and academicians.

You mentioned earlier that change is something not accepted by everyone easily. How do you plan to keep officials and benefiters of the platform from not going back to old ways?
Technology by itself means nothing; technology will only prosper if it benefits the people, the users. Similarly, if NULP helps people to get relevant information just in time, and in the simplest manner, people will definitely use that platform.

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