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Housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Puri on Tuesday said while funding for urban schemes might have gone up by just 3% in a rural focussed budget, there is a sufficient scale up for some key flagship schemes, many of which have a timeline for completion much beyond the 2019 polls.

The Smart Cities Mission and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), in particular, have received a significant increase in allocations, he said at a press briefing.

“We were actually a little worried because more than 3.7 million houses have been approved under PMAY till January 2018, but a dedicated fund has now been set up and we are confident we can build these houses," Puri said.

The extra-budgetary support of Rs25,000 crore will be used to set up a dedicated affordable housing fund to be managed by the National Housing Bank.

Both Smart Cities and AMRUT have seen increases in allocation, but the absolute amount of committed investment for each of those flagship urban renewal schemes this year is only around Rs6,000 crore. The total investment envisaged in the 99 selected smart cities alone is Rs203,979 crore.

Ministry officials also said that the online building plan approval system in place in Mumbai and Delhi, which gave a boost to India in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings, would be extended to the 500 AMRUT cities in phases. According to estimates, the new system had reduced the number of days required for building approvals from 30 days to 8 days and gave a boost to India’s score.

The municipal corporations of Mumbai and Delhi will soon organise a stakeholder consultation and a third-party review of the online system will be undertaken to improve the approval process further, it was announced.

Since ease of living has become the new buzzword of the government, the commitment to release a livability ranking of 116 Indian cities, which includes all the smart cities, by June 2019 was reiterated by Puri.

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