New Delhi: The existing programme to modernize urban infrastucture will be discontinued and a new plan will be introduced by the Narendra Modi government, said Venkaiah Naidu, who took charge of the ministries of urban development and urban poverty alleviation on Wednesday.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) was introduced by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2005 to improve civic infrastructure and services. The first phase of the programme ended in 2012 but was extended by two years to 31 March.

Though a cabinet note had been prepared for the second phase of the mission, Naidu said that a new mission will be launched in its place.

“It will focus on spatial planning, liquid and solid waste management and public transport, among others," Naidu said, adding that the new mission will be based on the learnings from JNNURM.

Naidu said that the creation of 100 smart cities and reducing interest rate on home loans to ensure housing for all will be the focus of the ministries he heads.

The biggest challenge for the country will be that half of its population are likely to live in urban areas by 2050, he said. “We need to ensure housing for all by 2020 and reduce interest rates on home loans."

Naidu said he will ensure that corporates take care of housing for their employees and will also get state governments, along with municipalities, Life Insurance Corp. of India, banks and railways, to provide houses for their employees. Naidu said in addition to housing, it is important to also develop other infrastructure for cities. “We need schools, clean water, cleanliness and sanitation, drainage system, waste management, recycling of water and wi-fi for public areas,"

Cleaning up of religious cities such as Varanasi, Ajmer and Amritsar to promote tourism and pilgrimage will be another priority area for the minister.

The urban development ministry had sanctioned 1,339 projects in 733 cities, costing 41,411 crore, between 2012 and 2014, out of which 679 projects have been completed till March.

The urban development ministry has already sanctioned 32,819 crore for these projects.

Debolina Kundu, associate professor at National Institute for Urban Affairs, said housing for all and lower interest rates are steps towards inclusiveness.

“Even though construction of 100 smart cities is good, what happens to the 2,532 census towns that are under rural governance and managed by gram panchayats?," Kundu asked.

Small towns lack urban infrastructure, including basic services, she said. “So we need to know what the new government will do about these. Would the new mission be project-based or would the whole city be taken into consideration? Will we focus only on some towns or be taking into account all towns? These questions need to be answered by the new minister."