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Venkaiah Naidu asks urban bodies to mobilize own resources
Monday January 5, 2015 10:24 PM, IANS

Stating that urban governance is in a "very bad" shape, union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu asked municipal bodies to mobilise resources by levying taxes wherever necessary to improve basic civic amenities.

Underlining the need for reforms for better urban governance to overcome the challenges of inadequate infrastructure and resources, he urged the urban bodies to improve physical and social infrastructure and ensure effective governance by involving people in planning process and inviting investments by the private sector.

Addressing municipal commissioners of cities with a population of more than a lakh, he advised them to mobilise resources locally by levying new taxes wherever necessary after convincing people that they will get better infrastructure and services.

Municipal commissioners from over 70 cities and officials of urban development departments from the five southern states - Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh - and the union territory of Puducherry attended the day-long consultative workshop.

This was the first workshop organised by the ministry before launching its new initiatives on urban development and housing.

Doing some plain talking, Naidu said hard decisions were needed for better future. He made it clear that the municipal bodies should not expect thousands of crores from the central and state governments.

"Government has no money but they will not say so and make all promises," he said.

Referring to former prime minister Manmohan Singh's famous remark "money doesn't grow on trees", Naidu said it was a harsh statement but a fact.

Stressing the need for transparency and accountability in their functioning, he suggested that every municipal body should tell people what is its revenue and expenditure and what are its plans.

"People feel that the taxes go for paying salaries to employees and for providing facilities to leaders. They will come forward to pay taxes if you convince them that it will be used for their betterment," he said.

"You have to be brutally clear in your approach saying without people's participation, without paying taxes things will not improve," he told the commissioners.

Stating that he will introduce credit rating system for all municipalities, he suggested them to raise loans from banks and national and international financial institutions by improving their credit worthiness.

The minister asked the municipal bodies to take up digitisation of properties, revenues, assets and other details, saying the central government will provide the necessary funds for the project.

Naidu said Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants all municipal bodies to start a website and a weekly electronic news digest, giving details of its activities and prepare a list of the poor.

Advocating the need for devolution of more powers to urban local bodies, the minister said they should frame their own laws, rules and regulations for better governance.

Stating that every state will get two to three smart cities, Naidu made it clear that the central government will provide no funds and that the urban bodies will have to raise private investment and go for public-private partnership model.

Pointing out that one-third of population in India is living in urban areas, he said there will be massive mobility towards urban areas in coming days and by 2040 it is expected that 40 percent people will live in cities.

It is estimated that 63 percent of GDP is coming from cities in India. This is expected to go up to 75 percent by 2030.

Voicing his concern over present state of affairs, Naidu said only 50 percent of the houses have water supply and toilet coverage is only 40 percent against a target of 100 percent.

He asked municipal commissioners to make a beginning with single window scheme for approval of layouts and building permissions to check corruption and harassment. Administrative Staff College of India (ACSI) has been asked to do a study on this.

"This will be the beginning. The goal should be online registration, application and approval," he added.


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