| “I welcome
you all to the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal
Mission. There is no doubt that India by and large still lives in
our villages. But the development process of the past five decades
has made a significant difference. An increasing share of our population
now lives in urban India. Urbanisation is a relentless process, which
has come to stay and has to be factored into all our developmental
thinking and development processes. We have already added 65 million
persons to our urban population in the decade of the `90s alone. We
are poised to have nearly fifty per cent of India living in our cities
by the earlier part of the present century and that should give you
an idea of the magnitude of the development and renewal task that
awaits all of us.
With urbanization comes the need to
invest in infrastructure and improve the quality of life in our
cities. Rapid urbanization has not only outpaced infrastructure
development, but has also brought in its train a terrible downside
- the downside of proliferating slums, the downside of increasing
homelessness, the downside of growing urban poverty and crime, of
relentless march of pollution and ecological damage. This gives
you an idea of the massive challenge that lies ahead.
Recognising this challenge of an acute
urban crisis, the National Common Minimum Programme had stressed
that the government initiate a process of urban renewal. I am happy
that today we are commencing this new effort through the launch
of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
I compliment the Ministries of Urban
Development, Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation, Planning
Commission, state governments, urban local bodies and other experts
who have participated in the preparation of this Mission. This Mission
is the single largest initiative of the Government of India for
a planned development of our cities. It responds to the long-standing
demand for tapping the vast potential and vitality of our cities.
Our urban economy has become an important
driver of economic growth. It is also the bridge between the domestic
economy and the global economy. It is a bridge we must strengthen.
The latent creativity and vitality of our cities and the people
who live in them must be tapped to facilitate higher economic growth.
It is therefore, a matter of great
satisfaction for all of us that this new Mission is being named
after Jawaharlal Nehru. Panditji used to refer to factories as the
temples of modern India. He saw in industrialization a renewed hope
for urban India. The infrastructure created by Panditji has helped
the process of industrialization enormously. However, our cities
have not been able to cope with the pressures of industrial development
and the growth of the services economy. In many cities like Bangalore,
the phenomenal growth of the services sector in the last decade
has exerted unexpected pressure on urban infrastructure and services.
If we do not take remedial steps, the future could be in jeopardy.
As we build infrastructure we must
also improve the quality of living for all those who live in our
cities. Our vision of urban development has so far been uni-dimensional.
This must change. We have thus far focused more on space and less
on people. We need to have an integrated framework, in which spatial
development of cities goes hand-in-hand with improvement in the
quality of living of ordinary people living there. An important
element of our strategy has to be slum improvement and providing
housing for the poor.
To improve urban infrastructure and
provide urban services for the poor, we need urgently urban governance
reform. I am happy that this Mission has been structured with a
clear focus on these two important components – urban infrastructure
and basic services to the urban poor, with governance reform as
an overarching third component.
Governance reform should be seen as
a massive catalyst for change. Shri Rajiv Gandhi had conceived,
with great foresight, the 74th Constitution Amendment for decentralization
of power to the urban local bodies. While considerable ground has
been covered under the 73rd Amendment relating to Panchayats, an
honest assessment would show that the 74th Amendment has not yet
been effectively translated into improved urban governance.
Cities unfortunately with some exceptions,
have not been enabled to look inward and build on their inherent
capacities, both financial and technical, and instead are still
being seen in many states as ‘wards’ of the State governments. This
should and this must change.
The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban
Renewal Mission is a city-based programme. It will seek to build
the capacity of our cities for management. Cities have the financial
muscle and the technical resources to rebuild themselves. We see
the governance reform-related proposal in the Mission for a participation
law and a disclosure law, as enabling the cities to locate the needed
human and financial resources for improving its services. This is
a major reform for the governance of our cities.
To tap technical resources, the Mission
envisages the creation of a Voluntary Technical Corps in each city.
I place great hope on this effort, as I am personally aware that
a large number of urban professionals today want to contribute their
skills for the improvement of their cities. Many cities like Bangalore,
Mumbai, Thiruvananthapuram have come up with citizen initiatives
for urban renewal. This process would be strengthened through the
creation of Voluntary Technical Corps for each of our city.
A major failure of city governance
has been our inability to address the needs of the poor - basic
services like drinking water supply, sanitation, housing and social
services are not available to an increasing share of urban population.
Countries in Latin America that have large cities in which more
than 50% of the population lives, have addressed this problem through
an effective system of property rights. Options like giving the
urban poor land rights at affordable rates may see an increase in
private investment. This in itself will improve the quality of living
in our cities. We have to make the poor increasingly bankable. Property
rights can be used as a collateral for financing new investment
in support of social development. Cities need people to provide
services and our people need a decent place to live.
Cities need to develop a long-term
planning framework. The Planning Commission and the Ministries,
in consultation with States, have developed an agenda of reform
to persuade urban local bodies to look ahead. All previous efforts
in city planning have been limited by “a narrow-focussed project
approach”. The problems of inadequate service and infrastructure
levels, of inadequate investment in them, and the non-availability
of adequate land and housing are much deeper. Our legal systems,
our systems of work and procedures, and the inability of local bodies
to effectively use their powers and responsibilities, make it difficult
to deal with the many problems facing our cities.
The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban
Renewal Mission addresses the problems of law, systems and procedures
reform and aims to align them to the contemporary needs of our cities
and towns. The Mission seeks to do away with those statutes that
inhibit the functioning of land and housing markets; it seeks to
bring in those improvements that will enable the city-level institutions
to become financially strong and viable and our development programmes
relating to the removal of poverty becoming increasingly bankable.
As you are well aware, municipal finance
is in an extremely unsatisfactory state. This is on account of an
inability to properly tap and utilize proceeds from property tax,
due to the inadequacies of the property valuation system and inefficiencies
in tax collection systems. Municipal governments are not able to
recover the cost they incur in providing different services. They
use accounting systems, which do not correctly reflect their financial
position and therefore their projects do not become bankable and
This Urban Renewal Mission is designed
to assist city governments in improving property tax collection
and bring user charge to the levels that cover at least operating
and maintenance costs and change their accounting methods. The Mission
is meant to bring in transparency in local budget making, as also
a higher degree of community participation in decision-making processes.
The success of the Mission will depend
on its ability to enlist the support of a large number of partners
and stakeholders. There is no shortage of finance in the infrastructure
sector, especially if we seek public-private partnerships. I hope
our State and local Government authorities will be able to draw
up programmes that can attract financial support from outside Government
Services like education, health care
and social security, like the public distribution system and old-age
pension are inadequately provided to the urban poor. While designated
agencies exist in rural India to address these issues, urban local
bodies have not oriented themselves to ensuring that these universal
services reach the urban poor.
I urge the Ministry of Urban Employment
and Poverty Alleviation to work to ensure that basic services are
indeed provided to the urban poor. The issues to focus while appraising
project reports are: (i) security of tenure, (ii) improved housing,
(iii) drinking water supply, (iv) sanitation, (v) education, (vi)
health care and (vii) social security. City governments should build
in a strong component of support for urban basic services in their
plans for infrastructure upgradation.
The Mission has to walk on two legs
of improved urban infrastructure and improved urban basic services.
The role of governance reform in the Mission should be to catalyze
a process that enables both these to move forward.
I am happy that among the list of cities
being covered initially, there are some that are important from
the point of view of our national heritage, tourism potential and
religious pilgrimage. I have in mind cities like Varanasi, Amritsar,
Haridwar, Ujjain and many others. It would be a challenge before
this Mission to see that these cities are restored to their historical
glory. Let us not forget that in the history of the world, Indians
stood out as city builders as evident from the traditions we carry
from the ancient civilisations of Harappa and Mohenjadaro. Those
cities were symbols of human engineering excellence in their own
times. We should work to make them come alive again through this
I have great pleasure in launching
this Mission. Like many Indians living in our cities, I look forward
to it with great hope.”