Often ignored by politicians, the urban poor and middle class got a little more attention and funding from finance minister P Chidambaram in the 2013-14 budget.
Ten thousand swanky buses for Indian cities, a fund to tide over housing shortage in urban areas, financial help for municipalities implementing waste to energy projects - the "urban focus" was very much evident in Chidambaram's budget.
A timely move, according to urban experts as India's urban population would grow from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million by 2030 (according to a 2010 Mc Kinsey & Company report.)
With an eye to address the challenges faced by Indian cities in light of the growing urbanization, the allocation for Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) -- the UPA government's flagship urban modernization program was doubled to Rs. 14,873 crore in 2013-14 from Rs. 7,383 crore in 2012-13.
Out of this, a significant portion will be used to support the purchase of up to 10,000 buses, especially by the hill states. Public transport, presently accounts for only 22% of urban transport in India.
The increased allocation will allow the urban development ministry to take up new projects during 2013-14 as the first phase of JNNURM officially ended last year.
With many incomplete projects in JNNURM I, the government gave a one year extension to the program.
The overall allocation for the urban development ministry was also increased by 7.3% -- to Rs. 8,296 crore in 2013-14 from Rs. 7,729 crore in 2012-13.
To help tide over the huge housing shortage in urban areas, Chidambaram also announced setting up of a Rs. 2,000 crore urban housing fund by the National Housing Bank.
The fund will infuse liquidity for urban housing, thereby boosting demand. Besides, tax benefit to the first time home buyer -- on loans up to Rs. 25 lakh -- was also announced.
Chidambaram also proposed to financially support urban local bodies which take up waste-to-energy projects in PPP mode. The support would be through different instruments such as viability gap funding, repayable grant and low cost capital.
India generates the world's sixth largest quantity of municipal solid waste, a result of rapid urbanisation, but most cities remain ill-equipped to handle such vast amounts of waste.
According to a World Bank global review report of solid waste management, India is generating 109589 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. This accounts for 57% of the total solid waste generated in the South Asian region.