While lauding the Centre's Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) as the first serious initiative in the country to address the problem of crumbling infrastructure in cities, leaders of industry have, however, emphasised that the step must go hand in hand with a set of political reforms in civic governance to achieve the desired results.
With as much as 70 per cent of the country's population expected to be living in towns and cities in the next 40 years, it was felt that the innovative JNNURM has set into motion the process of financial reforms that were urgently needed to lay the groundwork for the future of urban India.
But the optimal results of this would be achieved only if people were adequately empowered for local self-governance and the bureaucrats and city managers were made accountable to them, business leaders and experts opined at a discussion on urban renewal at the ongoing India Economic Summit in New Delhi.
Fast-paced urbanisation was a crucial issue before the country on Monday as the central and state governments were faced with the Herculean task of providing civic facilities and infrastructure to the growing cities, observed Infosys CEO Nandan Nilakeni.
The urban population has gone up from 15 to 30 per cent and was estimated to touch the 50 per cent mark in the next 30 years. How are these cities to be provided with adequate facilities like roads, sewerage, drinking water and a clean environment is a question that needs to be addressed right now so that a roadmap for the future can be charted out, he stated.
Pointing out that the migration of rural population to urban centres had assumed problematic proportions, infrastructure specialist Ajit Gulabchand said the governments had followed a "very tardy" approach to providing the necessary infrastructure in cities so far.
Failure to create local self-governments that could have taken care of this task was the main reason behind the problem being faced by the country today, he felt. The solution lay in effective implementation of the 74th (Amendment) Act which laid down that cities should be given power of self-administration, Gulabchand asserted.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was of the view that the delimitation process being carried out by the Election Commission, that would increase the number of Assembly seats in cities like Mumbai, could give them a greater say in the political decision-making on allotment of greater funds to them for infrastructure development.
Claiming that his state was moving ahead fast towards urban renewal, the CM spoke of plans to develop Mumbai at par with China's world-class metro and financial hub Shanghai. Maharashtra was following the public private partnership model to achieve faster and more effective growth of infrastructure and housing, he said.