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‘National renting policy will be in the public domain soon’: Hardeep Singh Puri

Union minister of housing and urban affairs, and civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri talks about Centre’s plan to put in place a contractual framework between tenants and landlords.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2019 08:04 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
smart cities,housing and civil affairs,Housing
Union minister of housing and urban affairs, and civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri in his office. (PTI)

Union minister of housing and urban affairs, and civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri, in an interview to HT’s Anisha Dutta, spoke about the first budget of the National Democratic Alliance government’s second term, the challenge posed by rapid urbanisation and the Centre’s plan to put in place a contractual framework between tenants and landlords. Edited excerpts:

Q: What is the sense you get from the budgetary allocations to your ministries, given the massive task of running urbanization schemes?

A: I am very happy. There are two things that you must remember. Every Union minister ultimately would want the maximum possible allocation for his/her ministry but at the end of the day you will have to remember that the budget depends on the size of the revenue, among the other factors...Now let me provide a second overall factor to provide a perspective. First of all, remember this is a July budget and there was an interim budget before that. Second, this government is preparing a budget for the year six to ten. This is a vision statement budget for year six to 10. So far as the housing ministry is concerned, all our programmes started in June 2015 including PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana), AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), Smart Cities etc. What is my prime requirement? That the resource allocation should be such that there is absolutely no cause for worry in terms of the implementation of those programmes. From the Union budget , for metro projects I have a 22.77% increase., AMRUT got an increase of 14%, Mission for 100 Smart Cities increased by 4.55%, Swach Bharat mission by 6% , national urban livelihood mission got a whopping increase of 47%. For PMAY, which is a huge programme, we took a decision sometime in January 2018 that we will now essentially raise the funds from extra budgetary resources (EBR)...

Q: Some have said the Union budget did not have anything new for the middle class?

A:You come across two kinds of people; one is those who have nothing to do with the figures, like if you look at the opposition reaction to the budget whether it is this year’s budget or five years ago they will all say it is “very insipid” and that “there is nothing new in it”. The other kind will say it is very good for the farmers etc,. I am going into a very different area, I am trying to tell you how each of these things actually adds up to that vision for India as a $5 trillion economy by 2024. It is already $2.8 trillion and for a lock-in for a $10 trillion economy by 2030 in order to move on the path towards 2047, when we will be a developed country.

Q: Will you be coming up with a national renting policy?

A: We had a meeting on it and we are going to put out a national renting policy in a day or two in the public domain for inviting a stakeholder consultation. This is one of the low-hanging fruits of the first 100 days of this ministry. It has already been through the Cabinet. By and large. this is an idea to leave to the states to unlock the large inventory of homes which stand constructed and we will allow the states to determine what they want to do with them. The idea is to slowly move in the direction of utilizing contracts between the landlord and the tenant. We are in a very particular dichotomous situation. Here, on the one hand, you have people in the economically weaker sections and lower income and middle income group who don’t have homes and then there are lakhs of homes lying empty because the guy who owns the home is apprehensive about giving the home {on rent} because he thinks there is no security system.

In terms of urban connectivity, what is in the pipeline for the next five years?

A: Metro is on its own steam, we have already got something like 687 kilometres operationalised and we have another 600 km or so under construction. When you started in 2002 in Delhi, at that point of time had somebody said you would complete 600 km, he would have been very impressed . Today the NCR {National Capital Region} alone has about 350 km and I am adding another 100 km more. It’s a mind-boggling thing. But now I am also looking at other means. Metro is capital-intensive and now we have brought the cost down. But there must be other forms of green urban transportation where you can move people around. Electric vehicles (EVs) are one of them, but they also conforming more to the ground reality of the urban space. Today, if you put aside that definition of what is urban and peri-urban, I think the total urban population is way beyond 30% or so. We are moving now to 600 million people in urban spaces by 2030 which will be higher than 40% and then we are moving to a situation where half of India will live in urban {areas}.

You have had a constant tussle with the Delhi government over virtually all infrastructure projects, the Delhi Metro being the biggest bone of contention. How do you plan to overcome this?

A: I don’t worry about it. If you look at the metro numbers today ..we are doing close to 50-55 lakh commuters in a day. Do you realize if the metro comes to a grinding halt for one day, it will be utter chaos. Today.. what they (Delhi government) want is a situation where I must have a meeting. they will agree to what I say and I will agree to free rides. I don’t own the city’s infrastructure, my commitment is to the city’s commuter. We have produced a first class asset. I am already committed to providing concessional fares to the student population and to the senior citizens and if {Delhi chief minister} Arvind Kejriwal wants to add women to that, that is a decision which has to be taken by the fare fixation committee.

When will we finally see the 100 Smart Cities promised by the Modi government in the previous tenure?

A: Today we have got 16 functional Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) which are a key part of the scheme. We are going to have 50 soon and it is coming up very fast. If you have a Rs205,000 crore budget to spend, spending it sensibly is going to take time and the period is five years from the announcement; the first scheme was announced in 2016, hence by January 2021 the first lot of 20 cities should be ready.

First Published: Jul 10, 2019 07:36 IST