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C071010_A_Glass_Meera_Mehta

C071010_A_Glass_Meera_Mehta - COMMENTARY A Glass Half Full...

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COMMENTARY July 10, 2010 vol xlv no 28 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 20 A Glass Half Full? Urban Development (1990s to 2010) Meera Mehta, dINESH mEHTA The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission adopted a reform-linked funding approach, the culmination of two decades of active debate and experimentation in the urban development sector. Yet, progress of both fund utilisation and reforms under the programme has been tardy. As a second phase of the mission is planned, the three major themes of importance are decentralisation, especially in the fiscal arena, commercial financing of infrastructure projects, and service delivery to the urban poor. T he year 2005 marked a major change in urban policy and financ- ing in India through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission ( JNNURM ). The entire allocation of Rs 50,000 crore is fully committed. With talk of a second phase of JNNURM with additional funding requests to the World Bank and to the Government of India totalling up to Rs 1,00,000 crore, it is imperative that we look at the need for deepening of reforms under JNNURM . Urban development had not received serious attention and funding until the launch of JNNURM . With JNNURM , urban development has become a significant part of the government agenda. The prime minister’s Independence day speech for 2006 highlighted this emphasis (Singh 2006): Our cities need to have a new look for which they need massive investment and renewal. They need basic amenities like sanitation, drinking water and proper housing for the poor… In order to ensure that our cities have better infrastructure and that they have better living conditions, we launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission... I see a glorious decade of city development ahead of us. JNNURM has adopted a reform-linked funding approach. This approach repre- sented a culmination of two decades of active debate and experimentation in the urban development sector in India. JNNURM has provided a platform to bring together bits and pieces of reforms and innovation under one umbrella of a mandatory reform agenda. Though it has been argued in some quarters that the items under the reform agenda of JNNURM were low-hanging fruits, if implemented fully as envisaged and committed by the state governments and urban local bodies ( ULB s), these will indeed change the way in which urban local governments ( ULG s) function – by adding transparency and accounta- bility, increasing financial viability and introducing a focus on improving the lives of urban poor. However, as the newspaper reports about a mid-term appraisal of JNNURM by the Planning Commission suggest, progress of both fund utilisation and re- forms has been tardy. One has to remem- ber the challenges in meeting JNNURM goals that the prime minister had high- lighted in his 2006 speech (Singh 2006): first, “to improve the way (local) govern- ments function and deliver public services”; and second, to ensure that “the higher financial outlays translate into better outcomes”.
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