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Cities are engines of economic growth. Cities accelerate economic development and revive economic growth. Currently, India is under immense pressure of increasing population and consequent urbanization that is taking place. In view of rapid pace of Indian Urbanization provisioning of basic household services and amenities (e.g. water supply, sewerage, urban transport etc.) in cities may be perceived both as a challenge and an opportunity. An opportunity to transform the engines of Indian economic growth.
Providing basic services to households and build amenities in cities which will improve the quality of life for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged is a national priority. Learnings from the earlier Mission have shown that infrastructure creation should have a direct impact on the real needs of people, such as providing taps and toilet connections to all households. This means that the focus should be on infrastructure creation that has a direct link to provision of better services to people and this was explicitly stated by the President of India in his speeches to the Joint Sessions of the Parliament on 9 June, 2014 and 23 February, 2015.
In this backdrop, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) is a step forward in the direction. The purpose of AMRUT is to:
(i) ensure that every household has access to a tap with assured supply of water and a sewerage connection;
(ii) increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well maintained open spaces (e.g. parks);
(iii) reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport (e.g. walking and cycling).
So far, under AMRUT, a total of 539 projects with an investment of Rs.7,305.88 cr have taken off. These include 125 projects to ensure water supply connections to all households besides enabling water supply at the normative 135 litres per head per day in 91 cities at a total cost of Rs.3,727.79 cr and 50 sewerage and septage management projects and augmenting water supply in another 39 mission cities at a cost of Rs.3,207.85 cr. Another 329 projects with a cost of Rs.9,506.15 cr are close to being awarded for implementation. Development of open and green spaces is in progress in almost all the 500 mission cities. Investment of Rs.30,657 cr has been approved under Atal Mission during 2016 for improving infrastructure relating water supply, sewerage networks, storm water drains, urban transport with focus on non-motorized transport and open and green spaces.
Comprehensive and holistic development through Cooperative Federalism
Beyond these numbers what is different in AMRUT is the fact that earlier practice of project-by-project sanctions was initially replaced by approval of the State Annual Action Plan once a year and then recently a very important decision of, approval of action plans for the next three years in one go, was taken. The idea behind the new practice is to enable states plan in a “comprehensive and holistic manner” and in advance to enable timely execution of urban infrastructure projects. In this way, the AMRUT makes States equal partners in planning and implementation of projects, thus actualizing the spirit of cooperative federalism.
To further incentivise the States to bring reforms in service delivery, mobilization of resources and making municipal functioning more
transparent and accountable, a clause of 10% of incentive fund has been added to this Mission.
Ministry of Urban Development is focusing, supporting and hand-holding ULBs to implement a Reform Agenda comprising E-Governance, Constitution & Professionalization of Municipal Cadre, Double Entry Accounting System, Urban Planning, Devolution of funds & Functions, Review of Building Bye Laws, Setting up of Financial Intermediaries at State Level, Credit Rating of the Urban Local Bodies, Energy & Water Audit.
Reforms so far
A number of initiatives have already been taken by various states in the direction of implementing Reform Agenda – like with respect to Credit Rating 12 cities in Andhra Pradesh, 2 cities in Madhya Pradesh, 7 cities in Odisha, and 29 cities in Rajasthan have been credit rated. A number of projects for achieving energy efficiency in street lighting and water pumping have been taken up in PPP mode in number of cities of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab. Maximum number of features of Model Building Bye-Laws 2016 have been adopted, so far, in Chandigarh, Gujarat, Meghalaya and Odisha.
The work done so far is very encouraging and henceforth a major area of focus would be Reform Agenda. Once these reforms are implemented it is expected to bring in improvement in service delivery, mobilization of resources and making municipal functioning more transparent and accountable. The Reform Agenda is envisioned to be pivot of Transforming Urban India which will help in meeting the aspiration of people at large.