Full text of the Speech of Kumari Selja at Conclave on Urban Poverty Alleviation and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY)
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is contemplating a “National Urban Livelihoods Mission”. This was announced by the Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture Kumari Selja while inaugurating conclave on Urban Poverty Alleviation and Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) in Mumbai today.
Here is the full text of the Minister’s speech:
“Let me at the outset convey my warm greetings to the distinguished participants gathered here today at the Urban Conclave on Urban Poverty Alleviation and Rajiv Awas Yojana. This Conclave is being jointly organised by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Government of Maharashtra. Our vision for these Urban Conclaves is to develop an open forum for discussion on the initiatives to alleviate urban poverty. In particular, we look forward to the discussions on our flagship scheme of Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), a bold new vision for tackling slums and slum-like conditions, holistically in our cities.
I also take this opportunity to thank Dr. Joan Clos for accepting our invitation to be part of this urban conclave. Dr. Clos has a distinguished career in public service and diplomacy and carries with him a lot of experience of working in the urban sector. We extend a warm welcome to Dr. Clos to this urban conclave in Mumbai.
We are living in rapidly urbanising world as the economic growth leads to urbanisation. Maharashtra with an overall urban population of 45.23% is at the forefront of this demographic transformation in India. The cities contribute to more than 60% of GDP of India currently. This is expected to increase to more than 70% by 2030.
We need to assess and plan for a pattern of inclusive, equitable and sustainable urban growth. Today, one of the biggest challenges we face is that of urban poverty. Majority of these urban poor live in slums or slum-like condition. Maharashtra, housing almost 20% of India’s slum population, leads on the forefront here too. The slums are a demonstration of the grave affordable housing shortage.
The severe affordable housing shortages coupled with urban poverty are serious constraints to our economic growth and thus they need our immediate attention.
My Ministry is focussing on both these issues and working on to realise the vision of slum-free India, through provision of affordable shelter and basic civic and social amenities. We are also seeking to improve the incomes of the urban poor by providing them assistance for skill up-gradation and setting up of self employment ventures. It is our firm belief that integrated action on both these fronts is required if we are to make our cities inclusive and equitable. This cannot be done by the government alone and what is needed is a partnership between all the stake-holders.
This urban conclave has been organised with the objective of bringing all the stakeholders, the government, urban local bodies, financial sector, NGOs, academia and private real estate sector, on a platform where we can deliberate together on how best to move forward towards creating inclusive cities. .
I would also take this opportunity to share with you some of the major initiatives Government of India has taken in this regard.
Keeping in mind the objective of “inclusive urban growth” and universalisation of basic services and improved living conditions, including shelter, a major initiative- the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission was launched in 2005. This is the single largest national initiative ever launched to address the problems of infrastructure and basic services to the poor in a holistic manner.
The BSUP and IHSDP components, which are being implemented by my Ministry, provide assistance for providing shelter and access to basic services to the urban poor. We are at present supporting the construction of houses across 933 cities in the country. In Maharashtra, we are covering 87 cities/towns to support construction of houses
The Interest Subsidy for Housing the Urban Poor (ISHUP) and the Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP) schemes of my Ministry encourage creation of affordable housing stock in the private sector.
The experiences of JNNURM have demonstrated that beneficiary-led initiatives yield better results and are more successful. The process of community engagement leads to greater ownership resulting in long term sustainability.
The experience of JNNURM has helped us to design Rajiv Awas Yojana, a scheme which envisions a ‘Slum Free India’, through the legal empowerment of slum dwellers by granting them legal right to dwelling space at an affordable cost.
RAY aims at a holistic approach by firstly, bringing the existing slum within the formal system and secondly, correcting the deficiencies in our planning processes and procedures, which keep affordable housing out of the reach of the urban poor.
RAY is envisaged as a reform-driven scheme, consolidating and building on the reforms initiated under JNNURM. The first set of reforms are related to legal empowerment of the poor. The bedrock of RAY is the commitment and willingness of the State to assign property rights to slum dwellers through a state legislation. Other reforms in this category include pro-poor reforms of JNNURM, such as earmarking of 25% of the municipal budget into a non-lapsable fund for the urban poor and reservation of 20-25% of developed land or FAR for EWS and LIG housing. The details about operationalisation of these reforms would be discussed in today’s conclave and I would request all of you to share your comments and suggestions about them.
The Ministry seeks to promote private sector participation for achieving the vision of slum-free India. We are aware of the constraints which the private sector face in terms of limited supply of developed land, access to credit, and a transparent and simple techno-legal framework. I would like to share with all of you that we have taken up all these issues and the second set of reforms under RAY are precisely for that purpose. My Ministry has already constituted a task force with Central and State officials and representatives of the private sector to formulate a separate set of guidelines for reducing the complications and time consumed in getting the project approvals.
To further encourage private sector participation the two schemes, Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP) and Interest Subsidy for Housing the Urban Poor (ISHUP) have been dovetailed with RAY. We are also aware, that both these schemes have not taken off to the extent expected and I am sure the deliberations in this conclave would help us in modifying these schemes.
Private sector participation could not succeed unless the flow of credit is ensured for the urban poor. The banks and financial institutions consider lending to poor a risky business. That is why we are formulating a new innovative instrument to trigger credit markets for the urban poor -the Credit Guarantee Fund. This fund will cover the risks of the bank’s lending to the urban poor.
Currently, the real estate and housing sector is largely unregulated with consumers often unable to procure complete information, or enforce accountability against builders and developers in the absence of effective regulation. To correct this, my Ministry is also working on a Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill. This legislation proposes to establish a regulatory oversight mechanism to enforce disclosure, fair practice and accountability norms in the real estate sector, and to provide adjudication machinery for speedy dispute resolution.
The other equally important aspect of urban poverty is that of insecure livelihoods with low levels of skills, and high dependence on public bodies for services. My Ministry realises the importance of Skills and knowledge, and understands that they are the driving forces of economic growth and social development of any country.
In order to address the issues of urban livelihoods, my Ministry is implementing “Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY)”, which was comprehensively revamped in 2009. SJSRY focuses on skill up-gradation and creation of self-sustained ventures.
The funds and reach of SJSRY are limited. I get many requests for bringing a counter part of MNREGA for urban areas. We feel that the unskilled wage employment model of MNREGA would not be suitable for urban areas and we must emphasis on universal coverage of skill development and credit availability for urban poor to get mainstreamed in the economic growth.
To achieve this, my ministry is contemplating a “National Urban Livelihoods Mission”. I hope the deliberations of this conclave will help us in framing the contours of this new initiative.
I extend a special thanks to the Government of Maharashtra and Maharashtra Housing & Area Development Authority (MHADA) for their warm hospitality and efforts towards organization of this Mumbai Urban Conclave, 2011. I hope that today’s deliberations would generate debate and contribute towards more effective policies, strategies and programmes for the alleviation of urban poverty and the creation of slum-free, inclusive and humane cities.”