Union Minister of State (I/C) for Housing and Urban Affairs, Shri Hardeep Singh Puri has said that urban areas in India faced multi-pronged challenges and a complex ecosystem in ensuring housing for all, technology-based solutions to enhance service delivery, better mobility and greener transport, smart governance and in doing more with less. Addressing the inaugural session of Project Managers Global Summit 2018 on “Powering India’s Breakthrough Growth: New Dimensions in Project Management” here today, he said that meeting these challenges requires efficient project management which means translating vision into reality. Shri Puri said professionalism is essential in project management and not populism saying the processes must be carried out in a transparent manner and through competitive bidding.
The Minister said that India has undertaken the “most comprehensive” planned urbanization programme in the world and stressed that India still had to build 70 per cent of the new urban infrastructure required by 2030 and this has to be green and resilient. At present, over 30 per cent of India’s population, on a base of 1.2 billion, lives in urban centres, as compared to 17 per cent of the population living in urban areas at the time of India’s independence in 1947. The flagship programmes being implemented by the Indian government were moving in a direction to ensure that India succeeds in the 2030 Agenda, he added and pointed out that the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or the Prime Minister’s scheme on Affordable Housing for All is the world’s largest housing programme for the poor under which the government aims to build 11 million affordable homes for urban Indians by the year 2022. India is in the process of creating 100 Smart Cities to strengthen urban infrastructure by applying smart solutions, he further added.
The Minister said that the Smart Cities Mission envisaged area-based interventions for developing urban areas or cities. Following citizen consultations with more than 2.4 million people, 100 cities are now implementing concepts such as smart roads, smart solid waste management, solar rooftops and smart schools, to name a few. He said, “smartness, whether of building or a city, is not something on which you have a choice. It’s an imperative with thrust on your current existence. When we talk smart cities it includes host of things—greens, sustainable infrastructure, safety for everyone, surveillance ensuring safety for women. So it is an ongoing process”.
Shri Puri said, by December 2018, you can start getting physical contours of what a smart city looks like. Different cities are in different stages of processing, tendering, he said. The Minister said, in democracy you cannot tell people where to live and nor can we stop migration, adding that we have to tackle it by creating infrastructure, adding that we have to look at urbanization as a great opportunity for economic growth.
Shri Puri pointed out that, cities were selected through a competitive process for funding under a Government of India programme, and added that the programme design was based on comprehensive citizen engagement, leveraging the power of technology at our disposal.
The Minister underlined that “new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities”. This phenomenon is embedded in the concept, design, and implementation of India’s Smart Cities Mission, he said.
He pointed out that every Smart City will have a Smart City Centre (SCC) (i.e. Integrated Command and Control Centre). The SCC functions as a city’s nervous system where digital technologies are integrated with social, physical, and environmental aspects of the city, to enable centralized monitoring and decision making. SCCs have already been set up in 11 cities. Twenty eight other cities have started work on setting up such centres.
Shri Puri said, proactively improving the urban space will require a reform of the “enabling environment”, which includes governance frameworks, policy protocols, capacities of urban local bodies, and the nature of citizen-government engagement.