'Smart City' is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious project aimed at recasting the urban landscape of the country by making cities more livable and inclusive, besides driving the economic growth. Smart City is Union Urban Development Ministry's flagship programme - Smart City project, Atal Mission for Urban Renewal and Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing For All. According to the guidelines of the scheme, the objective is to promote cities, which provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of “smart” solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model, which will act like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only sought to give more powers to the States but also called for giving residents the mandate to decide how urban areas should emerge. At the launch of the Housing for All, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities schemes, he said it was the first time that residents were being challenged to formulate a development vision for their cities. The competitive mechanism would end the top-down approach and lead to people-centric urban development. Under AMRUT, 500 cities are targeted for development.
AMRUT, which replaces the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, will give the States and the Union Territories the liberty and flexibility in formulation, approval and execution of projects. In order to provide an enabling environment facilitating construction of houses, especially affordable housing for weaker sections in the country by easing supply-side regulations and administrative constraints, government has proposed certain mandatory provisions to be followed by the state governments.
It has suggested states/UTs to do away with permissions for land use conversion if agricultural land is already included in the residential zone in Master Plans. States/UTs have been asked to prepare/amend Master Plans earmarking land for Affordable Housing using innovative methods such as land pooling.
Since the beginning of the twenty first century, a slew of regulatory reforms such as allowing foreign direct investments, improving access to credit by households, providing tax incentives on housing loans, developing special economic zones and thrust on infrastructure development, coupled with high economic growth, have propelled private sector participation in urban housing development. There should be more of such participation and other regulations to make this project Smart City, turn into a big success.
The provisions envisage adoption of the approach of deemed building permissions and layout approvals on the basis of pre-approved layouts and building plans for EWS and LIG. States/UTs are being asked to amend existing rental laws and also for putting in place a mechanism for time-bound clearances for layout approvals and building plans by the urban local bodies.
All hopes and dreams attached of the public for these concepts to turn into reality.