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BW Businessworld

Migration Widens the Gap

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Over the past 20 years, India's urban infrastructure has improved a lot. Yet, the pressure on power supply, road connectivity, water, and housing has increased. Some of that is because urban development issues have been tossed around between the states and the Centre. Speaking to BW's M. Rajendran, the Union minister of urban development and poverty alleviation, Kamal Nath, points out that the challenge is to clear the backlog. Excerpts:

The infrastructure in India's big cities has not kept pace with their growth and rising affluence. How does the government propose to address these issues?
The big challenge in India is the massive urbanisation that is taking place. Yes, there is a huge urban infrastructure deficit. It has risen because of the speed at which urbanisation has happened. This has been accelerated by the youth who are moving from villages to towns. Economic growth has also hastened urbanisation, because 60 per cent of the gross domestic product is generated in urban centres. Also, 60 per cent of employment generation is happening in big and small urban centres. This has also led to the infrastructure deficit.

What shortcomings does the govern-ment need to rectify?
Capacity building has to be an integral part of any programme. Unless you have skilled people who have the abilities to do it, it will not happen. Our programmes are focused on bridging the infrastructure deficit, which means catching up with the past and not building for the future. There are various schemes that our government (at the centre) has formulated. We are only supplementing state governments. They will have to formulate schemes and use their own resources for it.

Will the government follow the NCR model of satellite cities in urban renewal in the future too?
It is important that we have a strategy not only for urbanisation, but also for suburbanisation. It has to happen by planning and design. We have asked every state government to come out with projects. We will then find various ways to support them, financially or otherwise.

The gap between the big cities like Delhi and Mumbai and others is growing. What do we need to do in the cities as urban migration continues to rise?
There is no other way than to meet demand today. In a democratic country like India, there is no way we can stop migration to the cities. The pressure of migration is also in the Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. There is migration from panchayats to municipalities and from the municipalities to the mega municipal corporations.

What is the future of planned cities in India considering that there are major land acquisition issues?
You have to realise that land acquisition per se in not opposed. What they are opposing is unfair land acquisition. There is a difference between the two. The farmer feels cheated when land is acquired from him for Rs 100 and sold for Rs 5,000. So, while land acquisition for urbanisation will be required, it must pay, has to be fair and valued at the market price. The market price should take into account the rehabilitation and displace-ment costs of the farmers.

How has JNNURM helped mitigate the problems in the urban areas?
We launched the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) programme for provisioning of basic service through the development of an enabling infrastructure. We have made good progress, but it was only the first effort. There are various lessons that we are learning from the JNNURM-I, that will be incorporated in  JNNURM-II. There is a dedicated sub-committee in the National Development Council, specifically to deal with urban issues. Within this committee, several sub-groups have been formed which are looking at the governance, finance, sustainable development, poverty, capacity building and transport. We are in the process of preparing a roadmap for the next plan.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 22-08-2011)