Pathways to Amrit Kaal: “Envisioning and Realising a New Future for Indian Cities” 

Mansi Garg

(First Report of the High-Level Committee on Urban Planning)

Background of Amrit Kaal

The vision of Amrit Kaal, which would represent an empowered and inclusive economy, was detailed in the Union Budget 2023–24 that was delivered to the Parliament on February 1, 2023 by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs.  She stated, “We envision a prosperous and inclusive India, in which the fruits of development reach all regions and citizens, especially our youth, women, farmers, OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.

The committee was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Budget 2023.

The group addressed problems afflicting cities attempting to manage growing urbanization in its 84-page study, Pathways to Amrit Kaal: Envisioning and realizing a new future for Indian cities.

Functioning

The organization’s primary function would be to serve as the country’s highest technical advisory body, offering advice to all ministries, departments, and agencies at all levels on issues related to urban and regional planning and economic growth. Well-run cities can help our country’s economy advance, and this ability should serve as a stimulus.

According to PM Modi, “Development of new cities and Upgradation of facilities in old cities” will be the main sectors for urban development. He mentioned that this year’s budget included a Rs 15,000 crore incentive for urban development standards and expressed optimism that it would encourage planned urbanization. 

According to him, the government would allocate over Rs 80,000 crores to the PM-Awas Yojana in this year’s budget, and the building of new homes will help industries like cement, steel, paint, and furniture.

The government is implementing improvements to urban planning to make communities more future-readier. Nirmala Sitharaman, the union finance minister, said that the states and cities will be pushed to take steps in order to become “sustainable cities of tomorrow” when presenting the union budget for 2023–24 on February 1.

Performance

Enhancing opportunities for private investment in Infrastructure

The recently created Infrastructure Finance Secretariat will work with all stakeholders to encourage more private investment in infrastructure, particularly in sectors like power, roads, and trains that rely heavily on public funds.

Sustainable Cities of Tomorrow

States and localities will be pushed to make urban planning changes and take other initiatives to make their cities “sustainable cities of tomorrow.” This entails the effective use of land resources, sufficient funding for urban infrastructure, transit-oriented development, improved access to and affordability of urban land, and equal opportunity.

Making Cities ready for Municipal Bonds

Cities will be enticed to increase their credit worthiness for municipal bonds by ring-fencing user charges on urban infrastructure and implementing property tax governance changes.

Urban Infrastructure Development Fund

An Urban Infrastructure Development Fund (UIDF), similar to the RIDF, will be created using the deficit in loans to the prioritised sectors. Public agencies will utilise this to build urban infrastructure in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and the National Housing Bank will oversee it. 

States will be urged to use funding from the 15th Finance Commission’s grants and other programmes to implement reasonable user fees while using the UIDF. We anticipate providing ‘10,000 crore annually for this purpose.

Urban Sanitation

All cities and municipalities will be able to switch from manhole to machine-hole mode for septic tanks and sewers by 100% mechanical desludging. A stronger emphasis will be placed on scientific waste management of both dry and moist waste.

Recommendations

  1. Modernisation of State Recruitment Rules and Filling of the Sanctioned Post for Urban Planners (Immediate Rollout: 2023- 2025)
  2. Initiation of a Central Support scheme (Nagar Niyojak) to support access of qualified urban planners for 5 years (Immediate Rollout: 2024-2029)
  3. Creation of National Framework for Certification in Urban Capacity Development Program and Professional Certification for Certified Urban Planners of India (CUPI) (Immediate Rollout: 2023)
  4. Creation of India wide Institutional Grid for Urban Capacity Development (Immediate Rollout: -2023-2024)
  5. Creation of a National Urban and Regional Planning Authority at the National Level to replace TCPO, GoI (Mid Term: 2024-2026)
  6. Streamlining and Creation of Economic Development Councils in Million Plus cities (Mid Term: 2024-2026)
  7. Modernisation of State Town Planning Legislation (Immediate: 2023-2025)
  8. Creation of an All India Urban Planning Service and enactment of the Council of Town and Country Planners Act (Immediate: 2023- 2025)
  9. Initiation of an Accelerated Urban Capacity Building Program for Central and Administrative Leaders (Immediate: 2023)
  10. Creation of a National Urban Research and Innovation Fund (Immediate: 2023-2028)
  11. Launch of a National Annual Platform on Urban Planning and development (2024-onwards)
  12. Launch of National Communication and Outreach on Cities (Immediate: 2023-2024)

Impact

  • States and communities will be urged to change urban planning and start initiatives to make their cities “sustainable cities of tomorrow.” As a result, there would be better availability and affordability of urban land, effective use of land resources, enough funding for urban infrastructure, and development that is transit-oriented.
  • Cities will be enticed to increase their credit-worthiness for municipal bonds through property tax governance changes and ring-fencing user charges on urban infrastructure. For Indian cities, this may act as a substitute financial source. The money obtained is anticipated to be used to carry out different infrastructural projects.
  • The National Housing Bank will establish and operate the Urban Infrastructure Development Fund (UIDF) to build urban infrastructure in tier II and tier III cities. a yearly allocation of INR 10,000 crore. The real estate markets in Tier II and III cities, which have recently shown their promise as real estate growth engines, would receive the necessary boost as a result.

Emerging issues

India has to launch a significant national drive to develop leadership and capabilities in the field before reforms in urban planning can take effect. India’s administrative elite has to be educated on the need of planned urbanization in the country’s growth during Amrit Kaal. We urge the Hon. Prime Minister of India to start a formal nationwide program for urban orientation that would include 50,000 officials from the federal, state, and district governments.

India must significantly improve its technical capabilities in urban planning if it wants to guarantee that over the coming decades, our states and cities will have access to leaders with top-notch abilities, skills, and leadership. To assure the same, the document suggests the following measures:

  • In order to address the ongoing issue of staff vacancies, the Government of India will provide funding to the states over a five-year period for the recruitment of 2,000 urban planners at the junior level, 850 urban planners at the middle level, and 350 multidisciplinary experts.
  • To encourage states to modernize cadre and recruiting or service standards for urban planners and designers, including but not limited to identifying sanctioned jobs, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
  • Create an India-wide institutional network of specialized organizations involved in urban planning and design in order to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, collaboration with the private sector, and expanded training programs. Develop and implement a National Framework for Certification-based Skilling in Urban Planning and Design.
  • MoHUA to issue model town planning legislative framework and provide funding of Rs. 2 Cr per state to review and modernize their respective legislation; 
  • Restructure state town and country planning departments in accordance with guidelines to be issued by MoHUA supported by a national challenge fund to monitor and incentivize progress; Establish a national urban planning service in India.
  • Establishing state-level urban forums, a national urban planning performance indicator, and an annual India Urban Forum for cooperation, peer learning, and innovation in urban planning.
  • Starting a national campaign on cities.

The Committee thinks that in addition to everything mentioned above, there is a need for a National Urban and Regional Planning Authority (NURPA), a top-tier, autonomous organization that would serve as an advisory body for all ministries, departments, and organizations regarding urban and regional planning and development in the nation.

Way Forward

Approximately 4.4 billion people, or 56% of the world’s population, now reside in cities. By 2050, approximately 7 out of 10 people will live in cities, with the urban population predicted to more than double from its current level. Our entire strategy has been unique, gradual, and transformative. India’s coastline spans more than 8000 kilometres. 

Cities that have historically served as gateway cities, megaregions with economies larger than the GDPs of several nations, 6,000-year-old heritage cities, as well as centres for manufacturing and trade and commerce, are all present. There are also hill cities, desert cities, seaside cities, and towns in the forests. We also have many small towns and communities that are developing development hubs and provide enormous possibilities for controlling urban expansion and transformation of not just urban life but also that of rural residents.

Over time, cities have grown and been overburdened by the demands and strains of unplanned urbanisation, which disproportionately affects the economy, biodiversity, and the poor and disadvantaged.

Urban floods, water shortages, traffic congestion, strain on basic infrastructure, high air pollution, and droughts are only a few problems that are not just a result of poor city infrastructure. These problems reveal a profound and severe absence of effective urban planning and governance systems.

The report emphasises the necessity of reassessing current urban development plans and standards. Additionally, it underlines the significance of growing cities as hubs of economic development and establishing institutional systems for improved monitoring.

References

Chitlangia, R. (2023, June 20). High-level committee on urban planning recommends a PM led national authority, law governing planners. The Print. https://theprint.in/india/high-level-committee-on-urban-planning-recommends-a-pm-led-national-authority-law-governing-planners/1633562/

PM addresses post budget webinar on “Urban Planning, development and Sanitation.” Press Information Bureau. (2023, March 1). https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1903260 

HLC Final First Report [1]. (n.d.). Scribd. https://www.scribd.com/document/653372322/HLC-Final-First-Report-1

Mohan, C. A. Union Budget 2023-24-An Exemplar of Progressive and Inclusive Approach. In WHY LEADING BOARDS ARE EMBRACING DESS DIGITAL MEETINGS (p. 26).

Impri. (2023). Cities and Union Budget 2023-24: Challenges and Opportunities – IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. https://www.impriindia.com/insights/policy-update/cities-union-budget23-24/

IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. (2023, February 2). The Amrit Kaal and Union Budget 2023-24 | Panel Discussion #TowardsAccountability IMPRI HQ video [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_5LyzekC_8

About the author:

Mansi Garg is a Research Intern at IMPRI, she completed her Post Graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning from USAP, GGSIPU.

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