01 April Wednesday

Four Years of Modi Govt: Disaster for the Urban Populace

Tikender SinghUpdated: Friday Jun 8, 2018

THE BJP party which was considered  to be an urban party-having more  influence in the cities was supposed to  address the urban issues better than its  predecessors in ruling. But, four years of  the BJP rule at the centre has completely  disappointed the people living in cities.  Today more than 1/3rd of the people  live in urban centres. There are over  7,935 small and big towns and 468  class 1 cities. These cities are those  which hold a population of above 1,  00,000. Nearly 70 per cent of the urban  populace lives in these class 1 cities.  The cities contribute over 2/3rd of  country’s GDP and 90 per cent of total  government revenue. Hence the cities  have also been termed as the power  houses of growth in India. People living  in such spaces have great ambitions  for their secure future. It is a fact that  more than 40 per cent of the people in  the large cities live in slums where the  struggle to live is an everyday struggle. In  cites with less than a million population,  the percentage of people in slums is  more than 60 per cent. The people  demand a decent living with proper  jobs, adequate utilities which are  affordable and good infrastructure  both social and material for their  liveability.


The BJP had very explicitly mentioned  about the following promises: inclusive  and sustainable development; quality  life in villages and cities, basic  amenities to all; massive infrastructure  development, major steps in housing  and transport, 100 new cities with  sustainability and massive core  infrastructure; upgrade existing urban  centres, transitioning focus from basic  infrastructure to public utility services  like waste and water management;  empowerment of the poor. The tool to  carry out these ‘noble’ goals was to:  strengthen local governance; improve  their finances; cheaper housing for  all; plug the deficiencies in critical  infrastructure and service deficiencies  like water power and transportation etc.

The delivery however has been  quite non-concomitant to the  promises made. Apparently nowhere  even near to that.  The BJP had promised to build  20 million (two crore) houses for the  urban poor in the country. However,  an appraisal done recently has pointed  out that just 3.61 lakh houses could  be constructed which is 1.8 per cent of  the total promised. Interestingly, 87  per cent of all the houses constructed  are a follow up or convergence of  previous programmes.  The 100 smart cities programme  was considered to be a major leap in  planning the infrastructure in the  cities. These cities then were supposed  to be the light houses of development  for the others. The smart city  programme is probably a complete  damp-squib. The reality today is that  even the BJP doe not want to talk much  about this programme. There is a twocomponent  investment strategy in  these smart cities. Area based  development (ABD), which is for a small  area based on the size of the city and  pan city development which mainly is  about the information, communication  and technology (ICT) solutions for  traffic, transport etc. The core  infrastructure is envisaged under the  ABD which caters to a small population  and region. But quite surprisingly 90  per cent of the total budget is consumed  by the ABD which has an impact on 9  per cent of the population in the cities.

The smart city framework also  happens to be challenging the direct  authority of the elected institutions in  the cities. The Special Purpose Vehicle  (SPV) which is to carry forward the  agenda of the smart city needs to be  registered under the companies act  and the elected municipality is not a  member of the SPV. It is headed either  by a bureaucrat or some World Bank  official and it is not answerable to the  council. Many of the cities had refused  to work under such paradigm shift  framework of governance.  The implementation of the smart  cities is also very tardy. Just 7 per cent  from the central government has been  offloaded to over 60 cities under the  SCP. Seventy per cent of the projects  are in development stage with just 5  per cent completion so far.

The smart  city mission has failed in empowering  the municipal governments to bring  together the institutional framework  for urban development and rather  proposes selective development.  The evictions of the poor continue  unabated in the cities. The street  vendors act which was an instrument  to regularise vending mechanism has  hardly been implemented. The  homelessness in the cities has increased  in the last few years and forceful  eviction and demolitions of over 54  thousand houses has been documented  in the recent past.  Another flagship programme of  the BJP has been the Atal Mission  for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation  (AMRUT). This programme  was supposed to plug the gap in the  water and sanitation delivery. The  water networks both in slums and  other areas was supposed to get a  facelift under AMRUT. It looks like there  is more of rhetoric and less of real intent  to deliver. Simply because, the central  assistance to address urban poor’s  access to water has been just 19 per cent  so far. There is a high cost that the  poor living in the cities are forced to  pay for water. They do not have regular  connections of water and have to look  at the informal sector for the delivery.

There is huge nexus of private water  suppliers and even city governmentincluding  the officers and the corporators  in the supply of water to such  colonies either directly or through  tankers.  Swach Bharat Mission (SBM) has  consumed bulk of advertisements of  the central government. It was launched  in October 2014 in a mission mode.  The main objective was to eliminate  open defecation by constructing over  one crore toilets in the country and  promoting scientific management of  municipal solid waste (MSW). Keeping  all the high-pitched campaign aside,  till date only 34 per cent of the toilets  have been constructed. The target is to  construct over 1.04 crore toilets. The  plan is completely one sided. Without  being able to dispose the waste from  these toilets the situation will  further worsen. In absence of proper  sewage treatment plants (STPs),  the dumping of sewage in nearby  canals has further worsened the  situation. It is estimated that over 78  per cent of total waste generated is  untreated in the urban India. Even the  parliamentary standing committee on  urban development(2017-18) criticised  the present government for lack of  realistic projections and planning. The  report of the committee also revealed  gross non-utilisation of budgets  allocated to major flagship initiatives  thus puncturing the balloon of speedy  governance in the country.

It is a hard fact that nearly 90 per cent  of the work force works in the informal  sector. They are the ones who require  the basic services so imminently. The  National Urban Livelihood Mission  (NULM) was launched with much  fanfare by the BJP government. The  NULM is the transformation of Swaran  Jayanti Shehri Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY)  launched by the UPA. Since its launch  the progress has been slow and well low  than the other government schemes.  The Bloomberg report has stated  that 30 per cent of the youth are neither  employed nor in education or training  in India. It has commented that the  demographic dividend can turn into  socio economic nightmare. Only 4.69  per cent of the Indian workforce is  presently skilled in comparison to 52  per cent in US, 68 per cent in UK, 75 per  cent in Germany, 86 per cent in Japan,  96 per cent in Korea and about 50 per  cent in China. Greater the skill larger  the capacity of the worker to bargain  for a fair share in the jobs. But in India  the situation continues to worsen.

Interestingly the BJP government had  kept a target of 400 million (40 crores)  young people to be skilled in various  fields. The figures became a laughing  stock. It is revealed that not even 12 per  cent of the target has been achieved.  Another important feature is that 69  per cent of the jobs in the country are  under threat from automation. The  artificial intelligence (AI) poses another  challenge for the existing jobs in India.  There is greater informalisation  in the cities since the BJP government  came to power. The urban informal  economy takes place at homes, streets,  roadside and pavements, on-site and  at unplanned and unauthorised  industrial areas and markets.  Most of the workers are not even  under the ambit of workers welfare  boards. In the last four years  with large scale evictions under the  informal sector, workers have become  more miserable thus increasing their  economic vulnerability. Demonetisation  and GST has shattered their economy  with the poor being further pushed to  the fringes.  Hence the last four years of Modi  government have been a near disaster  for the urban populace with their jobs  being hit, services being worsened and  their liveability being compromised.