QUESTION : What are liveable cities? Examine their relevance in urban development of India and enlist the challenges faced by them. (250 words)
Planning to make cities liveable and Sustainable
WHY IN NEWS ?
Prime Minister’s call for a reimagining of urban planning and development to make cities and towns healthy and liveable after COVID-19 reflects the reality of weak infrastructure aiding the virus’s spread.
LIVEABLE CITIES :
- It is a place that promotes healthy and happy people and community wellbeing – a place where people want to live. A more liveable city is a great place to live.
- According to the PM, liveable meant having better housing, better work environment and short and efficient travel facilities.
CRITICAL FACTORS FOR LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES :
- residents feeling safe, socially connected and included;
- environmental sustainability
- access to affordable and diverse housing options linked via public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure to employment, education, local shops, public open space and parks, health and community services, leisure and culture.
Need for change
- In the first hundred days of the pandemic, the top 10 cities affected worldwide accounted for 15% of the total cases.
- In the Indian context, cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai, became the epicenters of the disease.
- It was due to the density of the population infections erupted, and this eventually spread to smaller towns as well due to reverse migration from the cities.
- Therefore the PM is looking at developing a strategy beyond the current pandemic.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING :
- Mumbai is estimated to have added only 5% of rental housing in New Residential Construction (1961-2000), and that too led by private funding.
- The abject housing conditions of migrant labourers in major cities in India has come under scrutiny during the pandemic, with virus hotspots in slums.
- Creating well-designed good affordable housing to tackle inequality is one way governments can help economies recover from the crisis.
- The post-COVID-19 era, therefore, presents an opportunity to make schemes such as the Centre’s Affordable Rental Housing Complexes deliver at scale, focusing on new good houses built by the state — on the lines of the post-war reconstruction in Europe, Japan and South Korea.
QUALITY OF LIFE :
- Education: Household expenditure on education; literacy rate; pupil-teacher ratio; dropout rate; access to digital education; professionally trained teachers; national achievement survey score.
- Health: Household expenditure on health; availability of healthcare; professionals; accredited public health facilities; availability of hospital beds; prevalence of water borne diseases; prevalence of vector borne diseases;
- Mobility: Availability of public transport; transport related fatalities; road infrastructure (road density, footpath density).
- WASH and SWM: Water supply to household; households with piped water; supply Swachh Survekshan score; amount of waste water treated; connected to sewerage network.
- Housing and Shelter: Households with electrical; connections; average length of electrical; interruptions; beneficiaries under PMAY; slum population.
- Safety and security: Prevalence of violent crime; extent of crime recorded against women; extent of crime recorded against children; extent of crime recorded against elderly.
- Recreation: Availability of open space; availability of recreation facilities.
ECONOMIC ABILITY :
- Level of Economic Development: Traded clusters
- Economic Opportunities: Cluster strength; credit availability; number of incubation centres/skill development centres.
- Gini Coefficient: Inequality index based on consumption expenditure.
- Environment: Water quality; total tree cover; households using clean fuel for cooking; hazardous waste generation; air quality index (SO2, NO2, PM10).
- Green Spaces and buildings: Availability of green spaces; does the city incentivise green buildings?; green buildings in the city.
- City Resilience: Has the city implemented local disaster reduction strategies?; number of deaths and directly affected persons attributed to disasters.
- Energy Consumption: Energy requirement vs energy supplied; energy generated from renewable sources; number of energy parks.
WAY FORWARD :
- The Ministry of Housing, which until now has focused on smart cities, can work with State Governments to collect the data on housing requirements to meet the demand and supply in each city.
- Laws on air pollution, municipal solid waste management and water quality should be implemented in its true spirit.
- Past scourges such as cholera, the plague and the global flu pandemic a century ago led to change in waste handling, social housing and health care. It is now important that governments show the political will to reinvent the cities.
A new urban development paradigm should focus on cutting disease spread.
QUESTION : What do you understand by minimum government, maximum governance? Discuss whether this maxim has been practised or not.
THE NEED FOR ‘MAXIMUM GOVERNMENT’
WHY IN NEWS ?
The Government’s core belief in ‘minimum government’, which ties its hands when it comes to fiscal measures even in such harsh economic conditions.
REASONS FOR THE FAILURE OF STIMULUS PACKAGES ?
- Lack of Demand– The aggregate demand for goods and services again is dependent on the income and purchasing power of people, which has come down drastically, at the aggregative level, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
- Nothing to stimulate demand – many economists have opined that the government stimulus tries to resolve only supply-side issues. There is nothing to generate demand. This could only be done by putting money in the hands of people.
- Risk of taking housing loans – Though the consumer or housing loans are easily available at lower rates of interest, still people are not taking the household loans, as they are in doubt of their future incomes or dwindling current one.
- Bank burdened with bad loans- On the supply side, the big constraint on fresh lending is the burden of non-performing assets (NPAs).
- Credit easing will not work immediately– Credit easing by the RBI is not direct government expenditure and banks will be hesitant to lend the money available with them.
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS ?
- Relax FRBM target– Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) should be kept in a state of suspension for both Centre and the States.
- Cash transfer to Households– The government needs to announce a ₹10 lakh crore fiscal stimulus package providing universal food ration and cash transfers for households in order to revive the economy at this time.
- An urban employment guarantee law– This could help improves worker incomes and have multiplier effects on the economy.
- Improving health infrastructure– The government needs to build a robust public health infrastructure on the principle of public provisioning instead of walking down the insurance route.
- Investment in Green Deal- – A comprehensive green deal can be planned, which changes the energy mix of the economy and also makes the poor and the marginalized a part of a sustainable development process.
WHAT IS GOOD GOVERNANCE ?
‘Governance’ is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).
o Governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.
In the 1992 report entitled “Governance and Development”, the World Bank set out its definition of Good Governance. It defined Good Governance as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”.
o Good governance has 8 major characteristics .‘It is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.
o It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making.
o It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has given an opportunity to rethink of health, economic and climate policies. We can choose to act on these or walk down the beaten path. Whatever we choose, it will be good to remember that the future generations will never forgive us for losing an opportunity to fundamentally change course.