THE SMART AND THE SWACHH
A focus on inclusiveness and an unprecedented sense of urgency mark the NDA government’s development efforts
INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT HAS BEEN a keystone in policy making for the Modi government. From according infrastructure status to affordable housing to offering concessional loans to the passage of Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA) to vastly improving rural connectivity, the focus has been the end-user. Such a determined push has the potential to create unforeseen economic impact. Like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) for low-cost housing, which could unleash a Rs 83 lakh crore wave of investment in housing over the next seven years, says CLSA India Pvt Ltd.
“Our government has invested Rs 4 lakh crore on urban infrastructure, four times the amount approved under 10 years of UPA; 8.75 lakh affordable houses for the urban poor have been approved so far,” says M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union minister for urban development and housing.
The tall claims notwithstanding, the progress in certain areas has been slow. Data from the housing ministry says that between 2014 and 2016, only about 1.2 million houses were covered under the scheme at various stages of implementation. This is just 6 per cent of the overall target of 20 million houses by 2022. While the PMAY was officially launched in 2015, it subsumed an earlier scheme called the Rajiv Awas Yojana and data for the two was compiled in the response. Naidu’s next big ticket project is the Smart City mission with 60 selected cities having proposed an investment of Rs 1.3 lakh crore. There is a big gap between this proposed investment and the actual fund structure as the government has allocated only Rs 48,000 crore for 100 cities for five years. The rest of the amount has to be generated by urban local bodies through the public-private partnership route. Naidu is confident it will happen.
In rural areas, the focus has been on connectivity. Government sources say the highest ever average daily construction rate of 130 km per day has been achieved for rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. This has led to an addition of 47,400 km of PMGSY roads in 2016-17 with 11,641 additional habitations getting connected. But behind such significant progress is a constant monitoring apparatus by the rural development ministry. The ministry has also set up a nodal centre, the Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra at Rajghat, to keep tabs on the progress of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Since its launch in 2014, over 40 million toilets have been built and 194,000 villages are today said to be open defecation-free.
Scrutiny by the ministry has also resulted in identification of 5.2 million fake job cards under MNREGA. The ministry is now working on a rural transport scheme, which will focus on providing rural entrepreneurs with passenger vehicles at a 40 per cent discount. Another plan is to launch ‘drought-proof’ water conservation programmes in at least 50,000 gram panchayats by 2019.
When it comes to Development of the Northeast Region (DONER) ministry, the focus of the Modi government is evident, as it has allocated nearly Rs 50,000 crore for the eight NE states. The use of satellite images to physically verify projects to stop pilferage of grants shows that the Centre intends to make best use of the fund.