New Delhi, Dec 13: A slew of mega projects worth over Rs 4 lakh crore for developing smart cities and towns and providing housing for all in the next seven years besides proposed amendments in real estate rules marked 2015 for the urban development sector.
The government approved various amendments to the contentious Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015, introducing provisions for depositing 70 per cent of the project cost by builders into an escrow account and punishment for violations of the proposed law.
The amendments are aimed at protecting the interest of the buyers and promoting investments in the sector while ensuring transparency.
Another major reform introduced was allocation of central assistance to states and Union Territories based on total urban population and number of statutory urban local bodies besides number of urban poor and slum dwellers in each state.
Allotment of the bungalow of late President A P J Abdul Kalam at 10 Rajaji Marg to Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, however, created a controversy with the Aam Aadmi Party severely criticising the move.
The party had demanded that the bungalow, where Kalam was staying after his term as President ended in 2007, be converted into a knowledge centre.
Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister M Venkaiah Naidu defended the move saying the allocation was made as per "rules and procedures" and the government had already decided to set up a memorial in memory of Kalam in his native place of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart City Mission and Prime Minister's Awas Yojana (PMAY) on June 25 with a call to promote 'bottom up' planning in the country, setting off a new beginning in urban areas, which are being looked at key drivers of high rate economic growth.
While 500 cities will be developed under AMRUT scheme, there will be 100 smart cities over five years and housing- for-all scheme under PMAY aims at construction of two crore houses in urban areas in the next seven years.
"The year 2015 is very significant in the sense that we have set urban planning in the country on a new course. Consequent to the provisions under AMRUT, Smart City Mission and Housing Mission, there is a new churning resulting in a new conscience on the part of urban local bodies, which are the Achilles tendon for effective planning and execution," Naidu told PTI while summing up the new initiatives.
Introduction of competition for selection of cities under Smart Cities Mission is a first of its kind in the country for allocation of resources.
Citizen consultation for planning and prioritisation of projects at city level has been made mandatory under the new urban initiatives launched this year.