With India’s urban population rising by 11 million annually–the equivalent of adding a Bengaluru every year–and urban voters forming a major vote base for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), making money and management available for cities would appear to be a priority.
But promises of smart cities and managing growth to provide jobs and housing for the coming urban population jump from 377 million in 2011 to 600 million in 2031–with 20 percent of this growth expected to come from rural distress and migration–are, currently, displaying little progress.
Less than a quarter of central funds for four major national programmes for India’s urban renewal have been used, according to an IndiaSpendanalysis of government data. Since urban development is a state subject, state governments implement these national schemes with central assistance playing a key role. State and urban bodies are also expected to finance a portion of the program on their own by raising funds from other sources.
A further disaggregation of central funds data from the ministry of housing and urban affairs reveals:
- Upto February 2017–the last release of data–no more than 3 percent of smart-city projects were completed and 12 percent of central funds were released;
- With two years to deadline, the Centre–as of July 2017, the last release of data–was still to release 87 percent of funds for urban infrastructure in 500 cities and towns;
- Upto July 2017, 95.4 percent of central funds sanctioned for upgrading 12 heritage cities were unused, as the programme’s November 2018 deadline approaches;
- Work on 93 percent of sanctioned houses–meant to meet 16 percent of India’s urban housing shortage–was incomplete as of January 2018. The target of housing for all: 2022;
- Little is known of how state governments are raising funds and implementing these programmes.
This is the situation facing the BJP government, as it heads into its last full budget before general elections in 2019, at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised 100 smart cities and housing for all by 2022.
The urban sector will not just watch how much money is set aside in the 2018-19 budget but also how it is used, as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) tries to deliver on its promises of urban development and rejuvenation ahead of upcoming assembly elections in eight states and the 2019 general elections.