Minimising the housing divide-The Hindu-OP-ED- 03-01-2020

Provision of Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA)

PURA was aimed at the provisioning of urban amenities and livelihood opportunities in rural areas to bridge the rural-urban divide thereby reducing the migration from rural to urban areas.

PURA was for holistic and accelerated development of compact areas around a potential growth centre in a Panchayat (or group of Panchayats) through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) by providing livelihood opportunities and urban amenities to improve the quality of life in rural areas.

It included

Simultaneous delivery of different schemes.

Deployment of funds for operations and maintenance of assets along with capital investment for the creation of assets.

Synergy in operations of schemes – leading to optimal use of resources.

Standards for service delivery in rural areas at par with those set for urban areas.

The realisation of PURA’s transformative potential depends on public policies that recognise that its design goes beyond the mere creation of economic infrastructure and employment opportunities in rural areas. It also aims to develop social infrastructure.

To further this paradigm, access to good housing, including housing amenities, should become a priority.

Issues with the housing sector

Unfortunately, housing in rural areas is one sector that has consistently suffered from the lack of meaningful market interventions, including the supply of developed land and financing for housing.

India has taken steps in the past but it has not worked in minimising urban-rural divides. The incompatibilities in supply and demand also mean millions of Indians dwell in unsecured housing.

Officially, the incidence of this form of housing-related poverty is in the order of 25.85 million (82% in rural areas and 18% in urban).

Menial occupation workers and low-income earners have been facing these forms of poverty the most.

Thus, development interventions must focus on rural and urban areas with due consideration for new construction and redevelopment.

The way forward

If India is to have a real chance to minimise the housing development divide, it requires an integrated housing development strategy for the rural context, to be implemented in “mission mode”. Such a mission should have:

First, a definite time frame.

Second, it requires political will as expressed in party election manifestos. There must also be accountability in terms of implementing such a mission agenda on a continuous basis, with social audits at multiple levels of governance.

Third, realistic resource allocation is required given the cost of redevelopment and new housing units besides other development costs of drinking water supply, household latrines, energy, and drainage connectivity.

Fourth, penetration of the market, including the cooperative sector for the supply of critical inputs such as land and finances, is the need of the hour.

Public-private-partnership projects should be encouraged on public or government-owned lands, with fiscal and other incentives. Landowners should be encouraged to develop incentive-based affordable housing projects.

Last, the people facing housing poverty must be made partners. Microfinance and self-help groups could be roped into this end.

Kindly note:

PURA is a predecessor to Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM).

Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM)

The Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) is a scheme launched by the Government of India in 2016 to deliver integrated project-based infrastructure in the rural areas, which will also include the development of economic activities and skill development. The preferred mode of delivery is through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) while using various scheme funds for financing.

The Mission aims at the development of rural growth clusters which have latent potential for growth, in all States and Union Territories (UTs), which would trigger overall development in the region. These clusters would be developed by provisioning of economic activities, developing skills & local entrepreneurship and providing infrastructure amenities. The Rurban Mission will thus develop a cluster of Smart Villages.

For the purposes of SPMRM, Rurban areas refer to a cluster of 15-20 villages having about 30 to 40 lakh population.

The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas.

The funding will be through various schemes of the government converged into the cluster.

Components of the scheme:

The scheme will function with 14 mandatory components to ensure an optimum level of development of a cluster, which includes skill development training linked to economic activities, digital literacy, fully equipped mobile health unit and inter-village road connectivity, developing skills & local entrepreneurship and providing infrastructure amenities.

The other components of the scheme in clusters will be providing citizen service centres – for electronic delivery of citizen-centric services and e-gram connectivity, public transport, LPG gas connections, agro-processing, agri services including storage and warehousing, sanitation, provision of piped water supply, solid and liquid waste management and upgrading education facilities.

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