Taking note of HT’s six-week-long Unclog Delhi campaign, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu has set up a high-powered, inter-ministerial committee that will prepare a detailed action plan within 45 days to decongest the Capital.
Talking to senior editors of Hindustan Times as part of the Unplugged at HT series, the 65-year-old minister said the committee, formed under the UD secretary, will comprise the ministries of road transport and highways, railways, and defence.
He also complimented HT for running a sustained campaign to highlight the city’s traffic woes.
“I have told the committee to formulate a foolproof action plan based on the HT report. Different divisions of the ministry such as the Delhi Development Authority, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Delhi Traffic Police, the Delhi Metro and others will be participating in the preparation of action points. I have set a 45-day timeline for the committee,” Naidu said.
Naidu’s plan for addressing Delhi’s urban challenges also includes making public transport more efficient and taking up cleanliness on a war footing.
Earlier this month, HT presented lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung with a ten-point agenda to decongest the city.
The plan, which summed up expert opinion on issues raised by the Unclog Delhi campaign, said the Capital needed better bus services and para-transit, improvement in last-mile connectivity and a curb on illegal parking.
Other suggested remedies included stringent action against traffic violations, better management of freight vehicle movement, and removal of encroachments. The report also called for an intelligent traffic system and encouraging citizens to cycle and use less private cars.
Sharing his vision for a congestion-free Delhi, Naidu said the expanding Metro network needed to be complemented with “last-mile connectivity”.
“For this, we have to create facilities near the Metro. I have told the DDA to identify land. Because land is a scarce commodity in Delhi, DDA has to go vertical in certain areas. All these things require proper planning and good investment,” he said.
One way to decongest Delhi could be the development of a smart city near the Capital, the minister said. “This will take away some congestion. I have asked the DDA and the NDMC to come up with a smart city plan.”
But he is aware of the challenges. “A smart cities programme will be successful only with smart leadership. You have to take the responsibility to increase taxes. It is possible only when you manage to convince people and your system is transparent and accountable,” he said.
The senior BJP leader admitted there is fear of losing elections if taxes are increased. “I am trying to change the mindset… even after involving the private sector, it won’t be easy if people are not willing to pay and become reform-oriented.”
Many cities, not just Delhi, were witnessing rapid urbanization, Naidu said.”Growth is haphazard without civic leadership taking tough decisions,” he said.
Naidu said his ministry was going full swing to ensure cleanliness in urban areas including Delhi. “The PM will lead the Clean India campaign from the front on October 2 when he goes to Valmiki Basti on a cleanliness drive. It’s a high priority and a multi pronged approach involving different ministries has been initiated.
The UD ministry has proposed to build individual and public toilets across urban centres through its Rs 62,000 crore Swacch Bharat campaign,” Naidu said.