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Sticking To 2019 Deadline, Biggest Challenge For MoHUA

The coming two and half years will be crucial for implementing some of the key flagship projects of the government, including ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ and ‘Smart Cities Mission’

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Digital Transformation

Just one week in office, Hardeep Singh Puri, the newly elected minister of state of Housing and Urban Affairs (Independent Charge) (MoHUA) realised that stepping into shoes of Venkaiah Naidu is not easy. Overseeing two flagship schemes by the government, juggling with piled up projects of two recently merged ministries and coordinating with state government on the progress of 2,300 odd projects is a daunting task, especially with the instruction to complete a large chunk of project ahead of the 2019 deadline.

“Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is a hard core development oriented ministry and various new urban missions launched over the last three years have been doing well on ground and I have no doubt we are on way to accomplishing the tasks in given timelines,” Puri, a retired IFS official from 1974 batch said, after taking charge of the new ministry.

The coming two and half years will be crucial for implementing some of the key flagship projects of the government, including ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ and ‘Smart Cities Mission’. How soon and how well these projects are executed will be a litmus test for the minister, keeping in view the 2019 general elections. With him in the helm of affairs, all eyes are on how the new minister is able to overcome these challenges.

Sticking To Deadline 

With less than two years to go for Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stepped in to ensure results are seen on the ground.

According to the official sources, the PMO, which is personally monitoring the progress of both Smart Cities Mission and Swachh Bharat Mission has raised his concern over the progress, in the review meeting ahead of the cabinet reshuffle.

“There are two sets of targets; some to be achieved by 2019 and some by 2022. If challenges are not met in two years, they can’t be met even in six years. Going by the progress on ground, they can be met",” Puri said, when asked about the progress of the projects.

It was for the same reason Durga Shankar Mishra, Secretary, MoHUA, was asked to write to the all the state and UTs to ensure commencement of work by November this year on 261 ‘impactful smart city projects’ in 60 cities that were announced during January- September, 2016. These identified projects accounts for an investment of Rs 31,112 crore. Apart from that states, UTs have also been asked to speed up work on 370 PPP projects that involve investments worth 32,000 crore.

The new minister, known for his no non-sense approach, has announced a contest which will reward cities, projects and innovative ideas promoting Smart City Mission goals, with a rider that all the participating projects to be completed by April 1, 2018.

“This (Smart Cities Contest) will not only reward the best performing cities, but will also encourage them to complete the project on time,” a senior official from the ministry said.

Another challenge is that the government is yet to select 10 cities, to take the number of Smart Cities to 100. Of all the proposal the government has received, there has been no winning proposal and the ministry has again asked the cities to rework on the proposals. The plans of 10 more cities need to be approved to achieve timely results, which is a concern for the ministry.

Revamping Realty Sector

The new minister has joined at a time when Realty sector is at its worst, following demonetisation, RERA resulting in defaulting developers, piled up unsold inventories and semi constructed projects. In this context, reviving the sector will be an immediate challenge, along with proving affordable housing to urban middle class.

The newly appointed minister is working on a detailed proposal to the finance minister for asking the centre to allow government owned NBCC, to overtake and complete the delayed projects by defaulting builders Like Jaypee Infratech and other financially strained developers.

Another area of concern is the slow pace of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). According to the ministry report, so far 1.57 lakh houses have been completed in the country till July this year. Out of the 26.13 lakh houses approved by the government. Even when the states have been told to speed up the process, completing the project on time appears to be challenging.