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New Delhi: Rajasthan has prepared master plans for all cities in the state, including Census towns, possibly becoming the first Indian state to achieve such a milestone.

“We are ready with master plans for 297 towns, out of which 113 are Census towns," said Gurdial Singh Sandhu, additional chief secretary (urban development), Rajasthan. The state might be the first to have designed master plans for all its cities, he added.

Census towns are those which display the characteristics of a town even though they are classified as villages according to the Census.

Rajasthan has also prepared simple master plans for 100 villages with population of about 10,000, providing directions on how development should happen, he said.

Master plans define which part of a city will develop and where commercial, industrial or residential settlements will come up, said Swati Ramanathan, co-founder, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a non-profit based in Bangalore. But that’s not enough and master plans should be designed in a way that they become blueprint visions for the future, she said.

“While master plans are regulatory documents, spatial plans talk about the vision for a city. Spatial plans talk about the economic plan, infrastructure, mobility, social infrastructure including hospitals and schools, affordable housing, heritage and environment development of a city," said Ramanathan, whose non-profit, India Urban Space Foundation had advised and supported the Jaipur Development Authority in preparation of its Jaipur master plan 2025

Rajasthan is now preparing master plans for more than 3,000 villages that have populations of about 5,000.

“Village plans should be more like neighbourhood plans. In fact, even for cities, we are suggesting a three-tier planning system," Ramanathan said. “First is a city plan, which broadly defines the zoning and land use. The second is a regional plan and the last is a neighbourhood-level plan which defines the detailing and nuancing, for example, factors like construction of bus stops, parks, walkability, safety, and security."

Rajasthan has also come up with funding mechanisms to help urban local bodies raise money for programmes sanctioned under the urban development ministry’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

The fund, called the Rajasthan development fund, is a corpus of 1,000 crore under which the Rajasthan government gives a grant or soft loan to urban local bodies, mostly for smaller cities whose urban local bodies don’t have much money. Thirty urban local bodies have benefited from it since 2010. The state government has collected 1,000 crore till now, of which it has disbursed 700 crore. “We ultimately want to collect 2,000 crore," said Sandhu, adding that the fund helps urban local bodies meet their share of the funding for projects sanctioned under JNNURM. The state government also has a Rajasthan transport infrastructure development fund to fill a viability gap of 30-40 crore for running 400 buses in Jaipur and 35 in Ajmer. “We started this fund when we found out that the bus companies were going into a loss," said Sandhu. He said this fund was started in 2011 by charging 0.5% extra on stamp duty while registering a property, increasing the registration fee charged on private vehicles by 25% and charging a green cess on commercial diesel vehicles like trucks, buses and mini vans. The state has managed to collect 200 crore till date because of this fund.

“The buses in Jaipur are now running properly and we plan to give some of this money for the Jaipur metro too," he said.

Jaipur city has also started charging a betterment levy along the metro line route for buildings with a higher floor area ratio. “We have been collecting 10 crore annually since 2011 and we expect this to go up," he said.

The urban development ministry had suggested all state governments to come up with innovative funding mechanisms to subsidize public transport, especially metros.

The Rajasthan government has also identified a 50-acre land in Jaipur city that will contribute to the metro dedicated fund. “We will not sell this land, but will develop the property there and use the rent from that for cross-subsidizing the metro," said Sandhu.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, said fiscal strategies are needed to meet the cost of public transportation or non-motorised transport systems. “We have to come up with well-designed innovative fiscal strategy to fund the public transport systems," Roychowdhury said.

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