Vol. XLIII No. 10 March 08, 2019

Let the New Urban Policy be Decided by New Govt

THE ministry of housing and urban affairs (MOHUA) has released first draft of the National Urban Policy Framework (NUPF). The draft summary explains the philosophical outline of the need for drafting such a document. It is considered that this document will become a guide for the future of urban planning in India. The NUPF draft is prepared in a hurried manner to brush aside the outcome of the failure of urban policies of the BJP government.  
The new urban policy relies its basis on the 10 basic foundations or ‘philosophical principles’. However the draft lacks any vision into the process of urbanisation. Firstly, it fails to describe the historical context of urbanisation. Secondly there is no reference to the Charles Correa urbanisation report, so essential to understand urbanisation in India! Thirdly there are no maps to substantiate the data exhibited.
In this regard, Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI(M) wrote a letter to Hardeep Singh Puri, minister of housing and urban affairs on March 5, 2019 asking him to not to go ahead with the exercise and let the new government take a call on it.
The draft NUPF acknowledges the failure of the government, which is evident from the statement as mentioned in the draft document. It states, “These static planning tools fail to address the complexity of India’s growing cities. They foster a built environment that is disconnected from the continuously changing socio-economic conditions of urban space.” Thus the recognition that the socio-economic conditions are continuously changing and the changing paradigm is disconnected with the built environment acknowledges the faulty planning at the behest of the BJP government.  It, thus, clearly marks the utter failure of the policies of urbanisation which have not fetched the desired results. 
The much-acclaimed flagship programmes of ‘smart cities’, etc., do not even find a comment in the draft and this, in itself shows failure of such programmes. However the massive data available on the outcome of such schemes amply exhibits the failure of the government to address the challenge of urbanisation. 
The BJP government with not much sincerity has floated the draft NUPF. The government has asked the people and urban specialists to comment on the draft, however, the space provided in the format to comment is for just 300 words. This will not even suffice for a single issue engagement. There are over 100 pages in the draft document. It looks as if the government brought out the draft to complete a formality lacking serious concern. The broad questions cannot be answered in the format provided for just 300 words, the policy recommendations are bound to be very broad in nature. 
Another problematic area happens to be the deadline of March 10, 2019 to submit the objections to the draft policy. It is highly exclusive planning format where a large number of people, groups, elected institutions etc., and working on urban affairs will not be able to participate. Besides, it will remain an exercise limited to consultants only. Probably, it is this, which the government wants, to avoid larger number of people to participate, than to have a wider discussion and debate on it. 
Interestingly, this is also a period when the general elections are about to be announced and soon the ‘model code of conduct’ shall be in place. In such a background, the government must shelve the draft and postpone the deadline. Rather, it should allow the new government that has the desired mandate to frame a new policy framework on urbanisation.