The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, addressed the National Conferene on the Jawaharal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission in New Delhi today. He also gave away the JNNURM awards to best cities in various categories and best Mass Transit Projects.
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:
“I am very happy indeed to be present here on the fourth anniversary of the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission. I compliment my Cabinet colleagues, Shri Jaipal Reddy and Kumari Selja j for organising this event and for providing leadership which spearheaded the success of this very important National Mission of our Government. I would like to congratulate the awardees of the Best Performing Cities, in different categories, that have contributed so much to the success of this programme. I hope their example will emulate many other cities to take on to this path of reforms and development.
For most developing countries, the 21st century will mark the transition from a primarily rural to a mainly urban economy. In many of these countries, more than half the population already lives in cities and towns. The transition has been somewhat slower in India but in the next 20 years, our urban population might well double. This is both a challenge and a unique opportunity, and will require concerted action across all tiers of our federal system of governance if we are to meet this challenge head on and effectively.
In the four years since its launch, the JNNURM has fulfilled many of the expectations that we had of this historic initiative. The programme has succeeded in focussing the attention of our policy makers on issues of urban renewal as never before. The problems of urban areas and their sustained development are no longer accepted stoically; they are being tackled and beginning to be tackled effectively.
The Central Government has committed substantial funds for urban renewal, and I am happy to note, so have the States and urban local bodies. The two Ministries of Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation have approved projects and buses for urban transport worth Rs.1,03,462 crore for which the Central Government has committed assistance of Rs 55,625 crore. It is good that the focus of projects approved under the Mission has been on basic services like water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management, improvement of slums and construction of houses for the urban poor.
City governments have prepared City Development Plans which have helped them – for the first time in many cases – to lay out a fresh vision and capital investment plans for their cities. Many of these cities are beginning to think big about the prospect of sustained development and modernization of their cities.
Key reform victories have been wrought, including repeal of bottlenecks like urban land ceiling and reform of rent control acts in many states. The passage of community participation laws and public disclosure laws are helping to create new air of transparency and accountability in the governance of our cities.
There is recognition today that the JNNURM has created a paradigm shift in how the urban sector is to be viewed, both at the state and city levels. In this sense, our government can take great pride in having launched a Mission that is a game changer for urban India.
Today, as we celebrate the fourth anniversary of JNNURM, I wish to reiterate our government’s firm commitment to the development of urban sector. This commitment stems from the recognition that the balanced development of the urban sector is an integral part of our strategy of inclusive growth. It is for this reason that we cannot rest on the laurels of JNNURM and what has been achieved in the last four years even as we acknowledge its successes. We must plan big, think big and have a new vision for the future of urban India. There are a certain number of issues which require priority attention.
First, the process of municipal reform under the Mission needs to be deepened and to be more even across cities. Our urban local bodies have to develop the capacity to provide efficient, equitable and transparent governance. They have to have the ability to conceive, design and implement large projects. They have to be sensitive to the needs and well being of the urban poor.
Improving the financial health of our municipalities is another important priority. The States should fulfill their obligation to devolve both functions and finances to the municipal bodies. State Finance Commissions have to be set up periodically and their recommendations implemented in both letter and spirit. Urban bodies, on their part, should review and rationalize their taxation structure and augment their resources through other sources of income.
Only urban local bodies in good financial shape will be able to attract private investment or assistance from multilateral financial institutions. Both of these sources are indispensable for effective financing of the development of our cities. Although some leveraging of JNNURM funds has taken place, the potential, particularly for our mega cities, to do so is much more. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) also need to be explored and encouraged wherever possible.
A second area of focus will be affordable urban housing. Even though JNNURM has a significant component of support for affordable housing for the urban poor, we know that much more needs to be done in this vital area. We will therefore need to address this challenge through a combination of public financing and policies that will encourage public-private-partnerships.
We hope to launch the ambitious Rajiv Awas Yojana that will strive to create a formal space for slum dwellers within our cities and transform and redevelop these cities to make them slum-free.
The challenges of urbanization need to be met through provision of better urban infrastructure. Detailed analytical work on estimating the cost of urban infrastructure in India is currently being done but already it is clear that the numbers will not be small. Urban infrastructure financing and development will therefore be an area that will require significant additional attention in the years to come. Further, we will need to address issues such as asset management and weak market linkages in urban infrastructure projects.
No vision of urban development can ever be complete without an effective, clean and sustainable urban transportation system. Bus Rapid Transport System projects have been approved under JNNURM. For the first time, the Government of India funded 15,260 modern and intelligent transport systems enabled buses for city transport for 61 mission cities as a part of the economic stimulus package. These initiatives will need to be subsumed under a holistic and comprehensive policy towards urban transport system.
Institutional reform, infrastructure, housing and transport are thus some of the key action areas that have emerged as we have implemented the JNNURM across urban India. The Government of India will need to provide sustained and imaginative leadership in the urban sector to cement the early successes of JNNURM. The Government of India will explore the possibility of more resources for the Mission in years to come.
We will also work to widen and deepen urban renewal policies and reforms based on the experience of JNNURM. Some of the issues we need to concentrate on are the need for rural-urban integration; the centrality of master plans for urban development, with special focus on the needs of the urban poor; the challenges of financing urban infrastructure; the detailed implementation of critical reforms like Property Title Certification, and importantly, resolving the governance and institutional challenges facing the development of our urban system.
The Ministry of Urban Development I suggest should set up a mechanism involving relevant ministries, city officials, planners and other stakeholders to study these issues and come up with imaginative solutions. I hope that as we consolidate the successes of JNNURM, we would be ready in the future with other innovative schemes and policies that create opportunities from the challenges of modernization and urbanization.
The success of JNNURM is critical to tackling the problems that go with rapid urbanization. As infrastructure struggles to keep pace with the demand, urban chaos is becoming a way of life. Our cities and towns are not an acceptable face of a rapidly modernizing and developing economy. This must clearly change and change for the better. Therefore, your deliberations today are of critical importance to the future of our economy, our potential for growth and for harmonious and inclusive development of urban India.
With these words, I wish your conference all success.