Worried over "urban chaos becoming a way of life", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday called for radical reforms for the future of urban India.
"As infrastructure struggles to keep pace with demand, urban chaos is becoming a way of life. Our cities and towns are not an acceptable face of a rapidly modernising and developing economy. This must clearly change and change for the better," said Manmohan Singh.
He was speaking at a function here to mark the fourth anniversary of the government's flagship Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
The prime minister reiterated the "government's firm commitment to the development of the urban sector".
He said balanced development of the urban sector is an integral part of the government's strategy of inclusive growth.
"It is for this reason that we cannot rest on the laurels of (the mission) and what has been achieved in the last four years even as we acknowledge its successes. We must plan big, think big and have a new vision for the future of urban India."
The prime minister said despite the success, there were a number of issues which require priority attention. He emphasised that the challenges of urbanisation had to be met through better infrastructure.
"The process of municipal reform under the mission needs to be deepened and to be more even across cities," he said, noting that urban local bodies "have to develop the capacity to provide efficient, equitable and transparent governance.
"They have to be sensitive to the needs and well being of the urban poor."
He said affordable urban housing was another focus area of the government. "We know that much more needs to be done in this vital area. We will therefore need to address this challenge through a combination of public financing and policies that will encourage public-private partnerships."
Manmohan Singh said his government will soon launch the Rajiv Awas Yojana "to create a formal space for slumdwellers within our cities and transform and redevelop these cities to make them slum-free".
He said the success of the mission was critical to tackling the problems that go with rapid urbanisation.
The prime minister said the 21st century will mark the transition from a primarily rural to a mainly urban economy and in India the transition has been somewhat slower.
"But in the next 20 years, our urban population might well double (in India). This is both a challenge and a unique opportunity, and will require concerted action across all tiers of our federal system of governance if we are to meet this challenge head on and effectively."