30 August 2015

GST, by other means

GST, by other means

A full-fledged GST will take time in the present political environment. But the Union government can begin by transforming its own indirect taxes into a GST at the manufacturing stage.

The initiative to reform the multiple production and consumption taxes at the Union and state levels into a dual goods and services tax (GST) has run into rough weather once again. The reform has been on the agenda for a considerable period of time. Several deadlines were announced and missed. With the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill not getting passed in Parliament, this seems to be yet another case of the missed deadline.
The experience on the GST reform throws up three important concerns. First, in a major reform involving the Union government, 29 states and two Union territories with legislatures, it would be unrealistic to expect a “flawless” GST. The modified bill has shortcomings, both in its coverage and in the retention of the tax on inter-state transactions. This is only the beginning of a series of compromises that may have to be made when the issue of structure and operational details are discussed in the GST Council. Second, the extent of productivity gains will depend on the structure that will ultimately be adopted. Optimistic projections about its gains, particularly in relation to growth, without knowing the structure of the tax, could lead to disappointments later. Finally, it is highly unlikely that the reform can be operationalised by April 2016. Besides passing the bill in Parliament and getting half the states to ratify it, there are a number of issues on which the GST Council will have to take decisions. Going by past experience, this is not likely to be smooth.
The interesting question is, can the Union government, by itself, transform its domestic indirect taxes into a GST at the manufacturing stage by April 2016, without having to amend the Constitution? This could also provide a clear roadmap for making a full-fledged transition to the GST as and when the constitutional hurdle is cleared. Further, it can be a major motivator for states to move on the reform path.
The GST is an important reform for improving competitiveness in Indian manufacturing. However, the extent of productivity gains will depend on the structure and operational details of the levy that will eventually emerge. There are some shortcomings in the present bill and the most important of these relates to the 1 per cent tax on inter-state transactions. In fact, this goes against the GST’s fundamental principle of making the tax destination-based and ensuring seamless transactions across the country. The exclusion of motor spirit and high-speed diesel will add to the cascading. With almost 30-35 per cent of sales tax being collected from motor spirit and high-speed diesel, states are hesitant. One solution is to include them in the GST, but have a separate excise tax or carbon tax. Similarly, in the case of alcoholic products, the international experience is to include them in the GST and have a separate “sin” tax on them.
The bill provides only a minimalist framework and leaves the structure and operational details to the GST Council. This implies that the entire gamut of issues relating to the structure and operation of the levy has to be negotiated and decided on by the council. These include the taxes to be subsumed, the list of goods and services to be exempted, thresholds for Central GST and state GST, structure of rates, place of supply rules, arrangements for special category states, harmonised tax laws and the date of including the tax on petroleum products, alcohol and tobacco products, operational details of the tax administration, including the GST network, and dates for discontinuing the tax on inter-state sale of goods and services. In each case, the interests of the negotiating parties are not always similar. Decisions have to be taken by voting in the council. With the Union government having two-thirds of the vote, no decision can be carried without its approval, even if it is desired by all the state governments. The important issue is, the GST that will eventually emerge out of compromises will have a number of infirmities.
There has been considerable debate on the structure of rates for the proposed GST. The bill has left the issue to be settled by the GST Council. The council will have to consider the revenue-neutral rate of tax estimated by an expert body. Gains to the economy will depend on having a broad base and low rate. When two rates are levied for Central and state GST, the standard rate is bound to be higher than when a single rate is applied. Whatever is the rate structure recommended by the committee under the chief economic advisor, the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers will have to take a final call. It would be inappropriate to fix the maximum rate in the Constitution because this is an executive decision. However, while taking a decision in the council, the Union government may agree to have the standard rate at 10 per cent for both Central and state GST, even if the revenue-neutral estimate is higher, which means the Centre will have to compensate for any shortfall in revenue collection. Since most revenue-neutral estimates do not take into account improvement in compliance, this is a calculated risk the government will have to take. Furthermore, linking GST registration numbers with the income tax PAN in the GST network could substantially increase revenue collection from income tax.
There are questions about the feasibility of introducing the tax by April 2016. Given the number of hurdles, the Centre can partially fulfil its promise of introducing the GST by transforming its own domestic indirect taxes into the GST at the manufacturing stage. This can be achieved by working out a common threshold for excise duty and service tax, rationalising the excise duty by making all rates ad valorem, converging and unifying the rates into two — one for items of common consumption and the other, a standard rate to be applied to all remaining goods and services — and providing input tax credit for goods against services and vice versa. Even at present, the tax credit mechanism exists for goods and services. Rationalisation along these lines will substantially simplify the system and transform the Central indirect taxes into a GST at the manufacturing stage. This, in fact, was the recommendation of the expert group on the taxation of services in 2001 and can be accomplished without going through a constitutional amendment. Even as introducing a full-fledged GST is likely to take time, this reform will help in its eventual introduction. This can be accomplished by April 2016 and the finance minister can legitimately claim that, under the constraints placed on him, he has brought about reform in Central indirect taxes.
Transforming the prevailing domestic indirect taxes into a destination-based GST is surely an important reform. In the given political environment, however, it may be better to approach the reform as a process and not an event.
Rangarajan is former chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and former governor, RBI. Rao was member, Fourteenth Finance Commission and is emeritus professor, NIPFP.

India, US stronger with cooperation

We face a formidable set of international challenges, from the freedom of access to shared maritime and air routes, humanitarian crises in an increasingly interconnected world, and the continuing threat from non-state actors and extremist groups. Moreover, as India rises and becomes more influential, a stable and just international system becomes more important for its prosperity than ever before. Maintaining and expanding this global order will require our collective efforts and our resolve. As I have said before, when India and the cooperate, we are stronger together.

This idea of "stronger together" is not new to India - one could argue that it was in fact developed in India. I am sure that many of you are familiar with the stories of thePanchatantra, which some scholars argue influencedAesop's Fables. These amazing stories provide life lessons to children, but also offer sound advice to sophisticated strategic thinkers. One story, which I have recounted to my kids, is "The Winning of Friends" from Book II of the Panchatantra.

This story, as you know, is about a unique group of friends - a deer, turtle, mouse, and crow. When they are alone, they are vulnerable to all sorts of threats. However, when they work together, they are able to combine their skills and overcome adversity. I firmly believe that by working together and harnessing our unique strengths, the United States and India will be able to address many of the challenges that both of our countries and the world face.

In our 2015 for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, signed during President Obama's recent January visit, we stressed working "together to promote the shared values that have made our countries great". And the Declaration of Friendship, also from January, builds upon these long-standing values and specifically references our mutual respect for "an open, just, sustainable, and inclusive rule-based global order".

Our key strategic planning documents of the past year, in particular, envisage an essential role for US/India cooperation at all levels. Take, for example, this passage in the 2015 US National Security Strategy: "In south Asia, we continue to strengthen our strategic and economic partnership with India. As the world's largest democracies, we share inherent values and mutual interests that form the cornerstone of our cooperation, particularly in the areas of security, energy, and the environment. We support India's role as a regional provider of security and its expanded participation in critical regional institutions. We see a strategic convergence with India's and our continued implementation of the re-balance to Asia and the Pacific."

Fundamental to our readiness to respond to future crises are our regular engagements, including bilateral and joint exercises, International Military Education & Training (IMET), subject matter expert exchanges, and national agreements. Our success in these endeavours will have profound, positive effects for the entire world and will help ensure our mutual prosperity. I'm pleased that joint US and Indian defence exercises and training continue to set a very high bar. We are jointly preparing the military leaders of tomorrow and ensuring their respective units are the best equipped and best trained. We have moved to a phase in our defence relationship where we discuss and explore jointness of operations and interoperability. We are building a premier defence partnership for the future.

In the US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, both of our countries affirmed that our belief in regional prosperity depends on ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. This affirmation is relevant because the world is connected by shared spaces - the skies, space, rivers and oceans, and cyberspace - that enable and promote the free flow of people, goods, services, and ideas.

For example, in today's dynamic and globally connected world, a deeper understanding of the maritime domain and the readiness to protect critical trade routes has never been more important. The United States and India have been increasing cooperation in these areas over the past several years. For example, our Exercise MALABAR 2015 is to be the most complex naval exercise we've executed together, with a US Carrier Strike Group, a submarine, and a P-8 exercising together with an Indian destroyer, frigate, oiler, and its own P-8.

Through the Joint Working Group for Aircraft Carrier Technology, we have also forged a path that seeks to cooperatively improve India's burgeoning aircraft carrier development programme and develop its carrier aviation expertise. This programme is one of the success stories borne of our Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, and is also symbolic of how far US-India defence cooperation has advanced as it wasn't too long ago that the American aircraft carrier was a symbol that divided the US from India. Today it is a topic of cooperation that has brought us closer together.

We recently did an exchange on air defence where our two air forces brought together their experts to share best practices and ideas on defending critical areas like the skies over our national capitals. It is through training and exercising together that we can practice these and other shared tactics, to hone our skills. The Indian Air Force participating in RED FLAG this coming April is the perfect environment for this and we welcome their return after a six-year hiatus.

The United States and India have committed to making counter-terrorism cooperation a key component of our bilateral relationship. In recent years, the United States has led a global coalition to degrade, disrupt and dismantle terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL. and Prime Minister Modi have also called for eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing, and stopping their cross-border movement. Our leaders have also affirmed the need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt and degrade entities such as LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company and the Haqqani Network, and agreed to continue ongoing efforts through the Homeland Security Dialogue and the US-India Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism.

We are also working on efforts to improve cooperation on UN terrorist designations and expand the sharing of information on known or suspected terrorists no matter where they may be located. Our counterterrorism cooperation can become a model for the region and potentially for the world, and it is another factor that makes me genuinely optimistic about our future defense and security partnership together.

Green Highways: An Initiative Towards Sustainable Development

Green Highways: An Initiative Towards Sustainable Development
Special Feature

For Highway projects to be environmentally sustainable, it is necessary that the natural resources lost in the process of Highway construction are restored in one way or the other. This requires that ecological needs are taken into consideration from the stage of project planning and designing to its execution. The Highways developed as green corridors not only sustain biodiversity and regenerate natural habitat but also benefit all stakeholders, from road users to local communities and spur eco-friendly economic growth and development.

The NDA Government has given a deep thought to this aspect and the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has framed Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification & Maintenance) Policy-2015. The vision is to developeco-friendly National Highways with participation of the communityfarmersNGOs, private   sector,   institutions,  government agencieand  the  Forest  Department.  

India has a total 46.99 lakh kms of road length and out of which over 96214 kms are National Highways, accounting 2% of total road length. The Highways carry about 40% of the traffic load. The Ministry has decided to develop all of existing National Highways and 40,000 kms of additional roads in the next few years as Green Highways.  

The objective is to reduce the impacts of air pollution and dust as trees and shrubs along the Highways act as naturalsink for air pollutants and arrest soil erosion at the embankment slopes. Plants along highway median strips and along the edges reduce the glare of oncoming vehicles which sometimes become cause of accidents. The community involvement in tree plantation directly benefits local people by generating employment. The Panchayats, NGOs and other Self Help Groups (SHGs) will be involved in the process of planting and maintenance. The plant species selected will be region specific depending on local conditions such as rainfall, climate type of soil etc. For example at some places soil conditions may suit for plantation of Jamun or mango trees while at other places plants and grasses can be grown to derive biomass. Wherever possible, transplantation of existing trees will be given preference while widening the roads.

The policy aims at changing the whole process for the avenue plantation and landscape improvement. Earlier, the land needed for these activities was not considered during the Detailed Project report (DPR) stage. Now the new policy has recommended that the requirement of land for tree plantation should be included in the Land Acquisition Plans prepared by the DPR consultants. This move will help in pre-planning of the plantation activities and the space required for the same, so that there is a systematic plan before the construction of National Highways. One percent of the civil cost of the road projects will be for developing green corridors.

In the new policy, the provisions about the responsibilities attached have also been clearly defined. Now it will be the responsibility of the planting agency to ensure that the condition of the site is good enough for the successful establishment of grasses. The planting agency is required to supervise all field operations like preparation of surface, sowing of seeds or saplings and quality of planting material used.

The monitoring of the plantation status has been included as an integral part of the policy. The Monitoring Agency willmonitor progress of planting and status of plantations on continuous basis. This agency shall carry out the site visit forfield verificatioin respect of survival, growth and size oplantation and maintenance of the same. The monitoring Agency will conduct performance audit of executing agencies  for  various  projects  on  an  Annual  basis  and  award of  new contracts to the agencies will be decided based on their past performance.

The plantations and its maintenance may be taken up through outsourcing   following   bidding   process   as per   standard   protocol   of procurement of Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) and its agencies for the stretch/ROW not declared as protected forest under Forest Conservation (Act) 1980.  The MoRTH/NHAI will appoint the authorised agency for empanelment of Plantation Agencies. Only empaneled agencies will be allowed to bid for planting work on the National Highways.

The new policy has given a new insight to the process of development. It gives answer to the question whether the development process is putting our environment and natural resources into danger.  Such initiatives taken by the Government indicate that the process of development is not exclusive of environment protection. The development can be sustainable when systematic and conscious decisions are taken.

The policy when implemented in letter and spirit will result into India being a “Nation with Natural Highways”. It will address the issues that lie in the “road of development” and pave “a journey towards sustainable development”.

It is the onus of the communities involved in the path of development that they also participate in the process of protection of nature. The Government can frame policies, provide standards, but success of projects depends on strong monitoring which is not possible without active community participation and community ownership.

28 August 2015

Power sector lights up; LED bulbs in vogue

Power sector lights up; LED bulbs in vogue

LED bulbs are slowly but steadily making inroads  in middle class families. Special stalls were pitched recently in the government offices complex  in New Delhi and people, flaunted ID proof and latest power bill, to purchase LED bulbs at a highly subsidised price. “For us LED bulbs is simple mathematics. They save money on power bill ,and it should be made freely available in markets if the government is serious in energy conservation”, saidRamadheen, a staff member in one of the offices in nearby buildings while watching brisk sale of bulbs.  Informatively, 77 crore incandescent bulbs were sold in 2013-14 which if replaced by LEDs will result in reduction of 20,000 MW load and energy savings of 100 billion kWh (Kilowatt hour) every year. Total saving in electricity bills of consumers will be Rs 40,000 crore every year, considering average tariff of  Rs 4 per kWh. Average reduction of electricity bill of consumers is pegged at Rs160-400 per year per LED ( light emitting diode).

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched LED based home and street lighting programme on January 5 this year. The plan envisages to cover 100 cities by March next year and balance by March 2019, targeting 77crore ordinary bulbs and 3.5 crore conventional street lights. There are 3.5 crore street lights in the country with a load of 3,400 MW which can be reduced to 1,400 MW by replacing conventional lights with LED based street lights which could lead to saving of about 9,000 million units annually worth Rs 5,500 crore to municipalities annually.

Now 100 cities have been taken up for coverage under street lighting programme(SLP) and domestic LightingProgramme (DELP). According to official sources, the action plan has been drawn after deliberations with all stakeholders and a set of concrete activities to enhance the energy savings from the current level of 6 per cent to 10 per cent by 2018, implying doubling of the energy savings from about 60 billion kWh in 2014 to 122 billion kWh in 2018. Mr Narendra Modi, launching the programme, described the LED bulb as a “Prakash Path–way to light.” 

   The scheme for LED bulb distribution is part of the domestic efficient lighting programme in Delhi; and a National Programme for LED-based Home and Street Lighting. Coming in the way were high price of LED, insufficient availability and lack of awareness. The service model devised stipulates there is no need for upfront capital investments by ULBs( urban local bodies ).The cost  recovery will be done in installments over seven years for ULBs  and 8-12 months for domestic consumers.

  As many as 186 cities have been enrolled in the DELP programme. Work has been completed in some places in Andhra Pradesh (Guntur,  AnantpurSrikakulam, West Godavari) and Puducherry. About one crore LEDs have been distributed. Distribution is in progress in Delhi, Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodhpur, Thane, MulundBhandupRatnagiri, Kanpur and Varanasi. Agreements with 63 cities were signed in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi NCR and agreements with 68 more (Maharashtra, UP, AP and Himachal Pradesh) are in final stages. The  government  plans to distribute 15 crore LEDs by March 2016. Officials say 302 ULBS have enrolled in theprogramme.

    Work in six ULBs –VizagJhalawar, Mt Abu, PushkarNeelimarna and Agartala has been completed with 2,07,00 street lights replacement. Installation is in progress in 88 ULBs in Delhi, Rajasthan and AP to replace 9.3lakh lights. Agreements with 90 municipalities is under finalisation and 15 lakh LEDs will be installed by March next year. Amid LED bulbs replacing ordinary bulbs and CFLs, officials giving overall power scenario, say  powergeneration growth was highest this year in 20 years – 8.4%, coal production growth most in 23 years – 8.3%, and solar capacity increased by 42%.

    Officials say the accelerated pace of energy savings would be achieved by a mixture of aggressive policy and regulatory actions, market based interventions and enhanced outreach. The main areas of focus would be Buildings, Led lighting, appliances, energy intensive industries and agriculture.

   EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited),a joint venture company of PSUs of power ministry has been designated as the implementing agency for both the programmes- DELP and Street lights. It has an authorized share capital of Rs 500 crore. On financial position, officials said EESL discussions were underway for Rs.3,000crores credit  with Asian Development Bank, German funding agency KfW and Japan Industrial Cooperation Agency besides Rs. 700 crore line of credit available from KfW and AfD. The equity base of EESL, which has been increased from Rs 90 crore to Rs 500 crore, will be enhanced to Rs 1,000 crore, they added.

     EESL has implemented about 92,000 street light retrofit project in Vizag and it will reduce energy consumption by 50 per cent in the Greater Vizag Municipal Corporation (GVMC) this year in comparison to last year. Officials say the entire upfront capital of Rs 64 crore has been invested by EESL and will be recovered over a period of seven years. The municipality will pay EESL a sum of Rs 18.5 crore while its overall costs  saving would be Rs 31 crore annually.

    Elaborating the service model of DELP, officials said the plan enables households to procure LED lights at an affordable price of Rs.10 each and the balance on easy instalments from their electricity bill. DELP is under implementation in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi NCR, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In markets, the LED lights cost Rs 300- Rs 400 but EESL is charging Rs 95-Rs 105 and it is less than the savings of one year.  

   Officials say the prices were reduced from Rs 310 per bulb in January 2014 to Rs 73 in June this year. Large scale and transparent procurement, say officials,has led to sharp decline in LED bulbs prices. For street lights, prices have come down from Rs.137 per watt  to Rs.85 per watt. The programme is delivering energy savings of 400 m kWh in Puducherry and AP as per the online monitoring installed by EESL.

    On the emerging scenario, Power Minister Piyush Goyal says a slew of measures were taken to ensure 24x7 power supply round the year. Steps are under way to amend the electricity bill. The proposed amendments seek to end the monopoly of power distribution companies by segregating the carriage (distribution sector/network) from the content (electricity supply business) in the power sector by introducing multiple supply licensees so as to bring in further competition and efficiency in the distribution sector by giving choice to the consumers.

    Mr Goyal said the several “foundational initiatives” had been taken up to realise Mr Modi’s vision of 24x7 affordable power for all. Officials say during last one year, many milestones accomplished include, lowest ever power deficit in India’s history – 3.6%, highest ever power capacity addition – 22,566 MW,  maximum increase in transmission line capacity – 22,100 circuit kms, most ever addition in sub-station capacity – 66,554 MVA and highest ever coal production increase by Coal India – 32 million tonnes.

    Corruption, the officials said, was bridled with Rs 3.35 lakh crores of potential revenue going to coal-bearing states especially in eastern India through transparent coal e-auctions and allotments, over the lifespan of mines. They say E-auctions have set the basis for transparent and “honest” allocation of natural resources. LED bulb price also reduced by 74% due to transparent procurement (Rs. 310 in Feb 2014 to Rs. 73 in June 2015).

    Future plans launched include more than five-fold increase in renewable energy capacity to 175,000 MW by 2022 (Organised Renewables Financing Conference, RE-Invest 2015 which attracted commitments of 273,000 MW) and five new UMPPs (ultra mega power projects) in plug-n-play mode(total 20,000 MW).   

    Other aims are reduction in peak load shortages through revival of stranded gas based power plants through transparent e-bidding, Rs 1.09 lakh crore investment in sub-transmission and distribution through Deen DayalUpadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) and Rs. 1 lakhcrore of new transmission projects to be bid out in the current year.Clean energy will be prioritised with 25 solar parks of about 100 MW each planned and a Rs 38,000 crore green energy corridor being set up to transmit renewable energy.

   Highlighting the government’s focus on development of backward regions, the officials said investment of Rs 9,865 crore was approved for upgrading power systems in eight North Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura). They said transmission line was approved with investment of Rs 26,000 crore to evacuate power to southern region from western region.

    Officials say to promote energy conservation through LED, action plan envisages higher involvement of states, with thrust on places of tourism, religious and heritage sites and involvement of private sector. On the lighting industry capacity to meet demands, officials say domestic industry can manufacture 3.2 crore LED bulbs every month, and street light production is about two lakh per month for major players. Numbers of lighting manufacturers have increased from 27 in March this year to 68 in May. Increase in domestic demand will encourage LED chip manufacturers to set up facilities in India.

    In the agriculture sector too, the demand side management (DSM) is scaling up. Finalisation of projects in Karnataka and AP have been completed successfully. Project area in AP has been identified with 3,600 pumps with segregated feeders and commercial deployment of solar agriculture pumps is also being examined. MoU is being signed between EESL and CPWD for implementation in 1,000 government buildings across the country. Other MoUs in the pipeline are between Railways and EESL to implement efficiency measures in buildings and stations, among others.

Impacting lives of people to a significant way

Impacting lives of people to a significant way
            The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is entrusted primarily with formulation of urban housing policy and programmes, implementation of specific programmes of urban employment and urban poverty alleviation and policy as well as planning and monitoring of matters related to human settlements including slums in urban area. The significant initiatives of the Ministry, which would positively impact the lives of people, are as follows:
            The Housing for All (HfA) (Urban) Mission launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 25th June, 2015 envisages to effectively address the housing requirements of urban poor including slum dwellers in the country. Inter-alia, the Mission has set the goal of construction of 2 crore houses by 2022 and it provides for an average grant of Rs. 1 lakh per house for rehabilitation of eligible slum dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource, credit linked interest subsidy at 6.5% for weaker sections of society and central assistance of Rs. 1.5 lakh per house in EWS segment for beneficiary led individual house construction or enhancement.
According to a NCAER study ‘Impact of Investments in the Housing Sector on GDP and Employment in the Indian Economy’ (April 2014), the share of informal employment to total employment in residential construction is second highest among all sectors next only to agriculture. Also, for every Rs. 1 lakh investment in residential construction sector, 4.06 new jobs are created and for every additional rupee invested in residential construction, Rs. 2.84 is added to GDP and Rs. 0.12 gets collected as indirect tax respectively.
The economic activity generated by the HfA (Urban) Mission would hence have multiplier income and employment effects. Guidelines of HfA (Urban) Mission also contain suitable provisions to cater to vulnerable sections of the society including persons with disability, minorities, single women, senior citizens, manual scavengers and transgenders. Accordingly, HfA (Urban) Mission would touch the lives of millions of people and contribute to a more egalitarian, economically productive and inclusive society.
The need for greater involvement of private sector and public-private-partnership in promoting economic development and alleviating poverty is now widely appreciated. The Government is committed to providing a regulatory framework which would facilitate efficient investment, sustainable growth and protect consumer interest in the real estate sector. Accordingly, it has piloted the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) legislation to provide for a uniform regulatory environment, which would protect consumer interests, help speedy adjudication of disputes and ensure an orderly growth of the real estate sector.

Various approvals, which are required prior to taking up project construction including housing projects, tend to delay project completion and also add to cost. A single-window clearance or facilitative window for the purpose is suggested as the solution to this problem commonly encountered by people. A model building bye-law has been prepared by the Ministry of Urban Development for the benefit of States and Urban Local Bodies. 
To ease administrative and regulatory bottlenecks, guidelines for HfA (urban) Mission lay down mandatory conditions, which include (a) a system to ensure single-window, time-bound clearance for layout approval and building permissions at ULB level and (b) adoption of approach of deemed building permission and layout approval on the basis of pre-approved lay outs and building plans for EWS/LIG housing or exempt approval for houses below certain built up area or plot area.
            National Urban Housing & Habitat Policy (NUHHP), 2007 is in the process of being revised to reflect the emerging changes. Formulation of Model State Affordable Housing Policy, Rental Housing Policy and draft Model Tenancy Act would have far reaching consequences.
            National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) represents a paradigm shift from the concept of providing ‘employment’ to empowering people to earn their ‘livelihood’. The primary target of NULM is the urban poor, including the urban homeless and particular emphasis is laid on mobilisation of vulnerable sections of the urban population such as SCs, STs, minorities, female-headed households, persons with disabilities, destitute, migrant labourers, and especially vulnerable occupational groups such as street vendors, rag pickers, domestic workers, beggars, construction workers, etc. Activities under NULM are directed at providing shelters equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner. The mission also addresses livelihood concerns of the urban street vendors by facilitating access to suitable spaces, institutional credit, social security and skills for accessing emerging market opportunities.
            Street vending generates livelihood for millions of people. To protect the rights of urban street vendors and to regulate street vending activities, provisions of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, are aimed at creating a conducive atmosphere where street vendors are able to carry out their business in a fair and transparent manner, without fear of harassment and eviction.
            India in association with UN-HABITAT had organized the first Asia Pacific Ministers Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) in 2006. The primary purpose of this inter-governmental body is to promote sustainable housing and urban development in the Asia pacific region. The 5th APMCHUD was held in 2014 at Seoul, Republic of Korea. As per the “Seoul Declaration”, India would host the 6th APMCHUD Conference in 2016 at New Delhi.
            HfA (Urban) Mission envisages that for effective monitoring, progress of construction of houses would be tracked through geo-tagged photographs for which the road map is being worked out with National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad. The Integrated Urban Poverty Management System portal facilitates tracking of progress regarding approval of projects at different stages.  An online web based Management Information System for NULM would enable real time monitoring of progress of various components and provide details of beneficiaries, biometric attendance, training and placement and certificates would be awarded to successful candidates online.

List includes 24 business and industrial centres; 24 capitals; 18 cultural and tourism cities; 5 port cities 64 small and medium category cities make to the list; 9 capitals fail to be selected Smart City Mission practical and realistic

Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu announces 98 selected smart city nominees

List includes 24 business and industrial centres; 24 capitals; 18 cultural and tourism cities; 5 port cities 64 small and medium category cities make to the list; 9 capitals fail to be selected

Smart City Mission practical and realistic, asserts Shri Naidu

Shri Naidu urges States/Urban Local Bodies to rise to the smart challenge; says it is like ‘perform or perish’
            Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu today announced a list of 98 cities and towns selected for development as smart cities. These cities and towns were nominated by respective States and Union Territories at the end of first stage of ‘City Challenge’ competition in which all the urban local bodies in each State and UT were evaluated based on their financial and institutional capacities and past track record. After releasing the list of selected cities at a media conference, Shri Naidu complimented States/UTs for conducting objective evaluation in the first stage of competition.
            Shri Naidu gave details of profiles of all the selected cities and towns in terms of population and characters of each city/town. He informed that:
-24 cities are capital cities;
-24 are business and industrial centres;
-18 are of cultural and tourism importance;
-5 are port cities and three are educational and healthcare hubs.

            In terms of population ;

-8 have population up to one lakh. These being: Panaji, Diu,Silvassa, Kavaratti, Dharmashala, New Town
                                                                                 Kolkata, Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh and Namchi(Sikkim) 
-35 have population between one and five lakhs;
-21 cities are in the population range of five to ten lakhs;
-25 have population of above 10 lakhs and below 25 lakhs;
-5 in the range of 25 to 50 lakhs and
-Four viz., Chennai, Greater Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Greater Mumbai have population above 50 lakh.

            Shri Naidu observed that 65 small and medium towns and cities making to the list of smart city aspirants is a welcome feature since making them smart would lay good foundation for better urban management when they further expand.

            The Minister informed that nine capital cities viz., Itanagar, Patna, Shimla, Bengaluru, Daman, Thiruvananthapuram, Puducherry, Gangtok and Kolkata failed to be selected and this goes to prove that the smart city selection was not influenced by the stature or importance of the cities.
            Shri Venkaiah Naidu informed that two more cities would be announced in due course since the Government of Jammu & Kashmir sought more time to make up its choice while additional information was sought from the Government of Uttar Pradesh regarding the 13th smart city slot allotted to that State.

            The Minister said that the 98 cities selected under Smart City Mission have a population of about 13 crore accounting for over 35% of the country’s urban population. He further said that under Smart City Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), 80% of total urban population would benefit from enhanced quality of living.

            Shri Naidu said that with the selection of almost all the cities under the Smart Cities Mission, all the selected cities will have to prepare city level Smart City Plans and these will be evaluated in the second stage of competition based on a broad set of criteria to pick up the top scoring 20 cities for financing during this financial year. Funds may be released to these 20 cities by the end of this year, he said. Others will be asked to improve upon the identified deficiencies before participating in the next two rounds of competition.

            Those cities to be selected in the second stage of competition would be provided with central assistance of Rs.200 cr in the first year followed by Rs.100 cr each year during the next three years, the Minister informed.

            Elaborating on the concept of Smart City, Shri Naidu said : “ A smart city would ensue core infrastructure needed for decent living in urban areas. We are not aiming at making our urban landscape look fanciful and flashy. The prime objective is to enhance the quality of urban life by addressing deficiencies in core infrastructure. Expectations in various quarters may be high but the Mission is very practical and realistic in its intentions and objectives.”

            Shri Naidu said that making smart cities is a challenging task and States and urban local bodies have to rise to the challenge. He said that the Central Government has undertaken measures to empower them to meet the challenge through substantially enhanced central assistance and decentralizing decision making besides assisting in capacity building of urban local bodies. He informed that as against the central assistance of only Rs.36,000 cr during the 10 years of JNNURM, centre would provide about Rs.3.00 lakh crored under various new urban initiatives.
            Shri Naidu observed that the country can not afford to miss this opportunity of recasting country’s urban landscape and the situation is ‘perform or perish’ for the States and urban local bodies.

            The Minister said that formulation of new urban sector initiatives is based on ‘bottom up’ planning based on citizen consultations as desired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. He thanked the Prime Minister for his sustained interest in the new urban initiatives and support.

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