Speaking at the meeting of elected representatives of Nagar Panchayats and Nagar Palikas from all over the country in New Delhi today, Urban Development Minister Mr. Kamal Nath stated that in the next phase of JnNURM, there would be enhanced focus on the Nagar Palikas and Nagar Panchayats i.e on smaller towns and cities. Mr Nath stated that lack of human capacity was the single most important reason for the inability of the Urban Local Bodies to benefit significantly from phase – I of JnNURM. He stated that the State Governments must set up dedicated Municipal cadres to avail of funds under JNNURM phase II.
Mr. Nath stressed upon the need of the elected representatives to play a pro active role to meet the challenges of urbanisation in their respective towns and cities. He requested the elected representatives to address the issue of financial sustainability of the local bodies since the lack of financial sustainability severely hinders their activity. Towards this end Mr Nath supported the view of the representatives that the State Governments should be encouraged to transfer the public land in the smaller towns to the ULBs. This would enable the ULBs to generate a steady source of revenue for implementing and maintaining the projects.
Mr Nath stated that the Government is considering allocation of 0.25 % of GDP, i.e Rs 175,000 crore for the next phase of JnNURM. He urged the urban local bodies to adopt reforms such as charging for services, without which minimum levels of service provision will not be possible. While doing so he acknowledged that the special needs of the urban poor need to be kept in mind.
The discussions covered issues such as devolution of funds, functions and functionaries to the urban local bodies. The elected representatives raised many issues including the need to take up road projects, need for direct transfer of funds from the Government of India to the ULBs, need for building an escalation clause to bridge the resource gap due to delays in project approval, one time untied funds etc.
The meeting was called by the Ministry of Urban Development to have a comprehensive consultation with the elected representatives in order to ascertain their views on various urban challenges being faced by the country and to factor in ground realities while framing the JnNURM Phase – II.
The representatives were given a comprehensive overview of various initiatives to the GOI such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, National Urban Transport Policy, National Urban Sanitation Policy, Service Level Benchmarking etc.