The urban poor and middle-class got a little more attention and funding from finance minister P Chidambaram in the 2013-14 Union Budget.
Ten thousand swanky buses for Indian cities, a fund to tide over housing shortage in urban areas, financial help for municipalities converting waste to energy — the “urban focus” was very much evident in Chidambaram’s budget.
A timely move, say experts, because India’s urban population would grow from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million by 2030 (according to a 2010 McKinsey & Company report.)
With an eye to address the challenges faced by Indian cities in light of growing urbanisation, the allocation for JNNURM —the UPA government’s flagship urban modernisation programme — was doubled to R14,873 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. Currently, public transport accounts for only 22% of urban transport in India.
With many incomplete projects under JNNURM I, the government gave a one-year extension to the programme. The overall allocation for the urban development ministry was also increased by 7.3 % — to R8,296 crore in 2013-14 from R7,729 crore in 2012-13.
To help tide over the huge housing shortage in cities, Chidambaram also announced setting up of a Rs. 2,000 crore urban housing fund by the National Housing Board. The fund will infuse liquidity and boost demand. Tax benefit was also announced for the first-time home-buyer on loans up to Rs. 25 lakh.