A signpost at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. (Photographer: Mayank Jain/BloombergQuint) 

Freebies Won’t Solve Problem Of Poverty, Says Venkaiah Naidu

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  • Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu has termed the government’s smart cities programme an “urban renaissance”. “Freebies aren’t going to solve the problem of poverty. We have now shifted from populism to people-ism,” Naidu said at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit on Wednesday.

    We will be adding another 40 cities to the existing 60 in the works to make 100 smart cities. We are moving in a phased manner to develop and show them as lighthouses for the rest
    Venkaiah Naidu, Urban Development Minister at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit

    Indian cities are being encouraged to find their own sources of funding and compete with the rest, before getting a share in the central government’s smart cities programme, he said at the inaugural session of a three-hour discussion at the summit.

    “Earlier there was only a Gujarat model. Now there are multiple models all over the country. BIMARU (underdeveloped) states are also registering high growth,” Naidu added.

    A credit rating for every city, he said, will help bring in transparency in financial management by state and civic authorities.

    While a majority of 60 cities selected so far under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation are densely populated, the aim is to create new urban spaces that will help slow down the influx of citizens to one or two cities in each state – mostly their capitals.

    Venkaiah Naidu at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. (Photographer: Mayank Jain/BloombergQuint) 
    Venkaiah Naidu at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. (Photographer: Mayank Jain/BloombergQuint) 

    Gujarat will have at least six smart cities under the central government’s scheme and Naidu welcomed private participation. “Opportunities are in plenty and Gujarat is the best example. Entire world economy is slowing down, the only bright spot in the globe today is India.”

    Gujarat’s Urban Housing and Development Minister Vallabh Bhai Vaghasia, who also spoke at the inaugural session, said increasing urbanisation is likely to put more pressure on policymakers to meet the needs of new and existing cities.

    Vaghasia said that his state is working on measures to attract investors for developing cities, “The state government doesn’t hesitate to spend on improving quality of life for all.”

    Citing examples of how the state was building better amenities in new and upcoming cities, Vaghasia said more research is required to find cheaper and environmentally sustainable modes of development.

    Learning From Global Peers

    India’s urban population grew 9 crore, or more than 30 percent, to 37.7 crore between 2001 and 2011, according to the 2011 census figures.

    SK Jason Chang, director of Advanced Public Transport Research Centre at the National Taiwan University, said some of the best livable cities across the world have a low population density of about three to four people per square kilometre. In comparison, India and China offer a key challenge in improving the quality of life, he added.

    “Cities need to be livable, not just smart,” Chang said. “It’s easy to talk but very difficult to implement. We must start from smart design, not just technology, and take high-quality decisions by making the decision maker smart first.”

    Amarjeet Sohi, minister of infrastructure and communities, Government of Canada, said the North American nation has both the capacity and vision to support India’s efforts in making its cities smarter.

    “Canadian companies are already active in India’s smart cities programme. They are working on various areas such as boosting road and rail connectivity, green construction technologies and waste management programmes.” Praising the New Delhi Metro project which sources coaches from Canada-based Bombardier Inc., Sohi said, “I believe we can share ideas and work together in this monumental task.”

    Access to affordable and reliant public transport system is an important aspect of having smart cities, he added.

    By 2050, more than six billion people worldwide will live in urban areas, which is a great opportunity as well as a challenge, said Lars Christian Lileholt, Minister of Energy, Utilities and Climate, Government of Denmark.

    “We have to ensure global implementation of the Paris agreement. Denmark can show the world that it is possible to reduce emissions and boost growth at the same time,” Lileholt said, adding that his government is committed to developing climate change solutions which are a great opportunity for all the cities in the world.