Rich-poor divide in cities would have social fallout: Selja

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New Delhi, Apr 16 (UNI) With a pledge to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich in cities, Minister for Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja today opened the Commonwealth conference on 'Inclusive City'.

''Today every large city stands divided between the rich and the poor. The city of the poor is characterised by deplorable conditions pertaining to sanitation, electricity, water, drainage and quality of shelter. We need to find ways to make our cities more inclusive,'' Ms Selja said.

Urbanisation is inevitable and inclusive cities were a must to develop urban centres as viable unit of productivity, social cohesion, and cultural integration, she said.

The seminar has been organised by her Ministry in collaboration with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF).

Ms Selja said India has 286 million people living in more than 5000 cities and towns out of which 61.7 million(nearly 22 per cent of the urban population) were living in slums and squatter settlements.

Demolition of slums was a constant threat to the poor which cuases insecurity and fear among them, a state which was not conducive for social cohesion and harmony, said the Minister.

The Government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission(JNNURM) in 2005 to address the problems of slums and civic amenities to the poor in an integrated manner and had allocated Rs 50,000 crore for the mission period from 2005 to 2012.

The aim of the mission was to bring in mandatory reforms both at town and city level to improve city governance, she added.

The Minister also said the first ever National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy of the country brought in last year laid special focus on inclusiveness with particular reference to equitable and affordable supply of land and housing.

On this occasion, Ms Sailja also launched the Commonwealth Local Government Handbook which provides a complete reference to local governments in member-countries.

The inaugural session of the conference was also addressed by Secretray General of CLGF Carl Wright, Bhopal Mayor Sunil Sood and CLGF Chairperson Borris Mossrison, who, however, could not be present in person being indisposed. His address was read out by James David Burty, Minister of Local Government of Mauritius.

The seminar has been organised to look how cities can make sure that they cater to the needs of all sections of the society and to ensure their access to basic services and wider economic opportunities.

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