Rajya Sabha TV: The Big Picture-Agenda 2022-Ease of Living
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently asked top bureaucrats to prepare a five-year plan for each ministry with well-defined targets and milestones in sync with the people’s mandate in the election to change the status quo and improve quality of life. The Prime Minister said people were yearning for a better life and the government must focus on ensuring ease of living, and asked the officials to begin work on making India a $5 trillion economy. Speaking about the demographic dividend, the Prime Minister said it was essential that the demographics be utilized efficiently. He said every department of the union government, and every district of each state has a role to play in making India a $5 trillion economy.
What is Ease of Living Index?
“The ‘Ease of Living’ Index aims to assist cities in undertaking a 360-degree assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats”, he added. It was decided in June 2017 to rank 116 cities (all smart cities and million plus cities) based on the liveability parameters. The implementation of the assessment commenced formally on 19th January 2018.
- It comprises four pillars namely Institutional, Social, Economic and Physical.
- Ease of Living is fundamentally tied to physical amenities such as water supply, solid waste management, parks and green space, cultural offerings, career opportunities, economic dynamism or safety.
- It seeks to serve as a common minimum framework for cities to evaluate themselves and will evolve in future rounds to better represent the needs and aspirations of the people.
- Ease of Living Index is a transformative initiative of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to help the cities assess their liveability vis-à-vis national and global benchmarks.
- It encourages all cities to move towards an ‘outcome-based’ approach to urban planning.
Which were the problems faced by the Government in the last five years?
- Failure of the affordable housing scheme, AMRIT scheme, and SMART City Scheme in driving economic growth.
- Lack of financial support to cities.
- Failure of cities in the planning and implementation of schemes. City themselves are not project planners and they need resources, outside expertise etc.
- Cities are not governed as a democratic unit. They are still governed as a fiefdom of bureaucracy.
- There is a need to relook at the whole Index itself and change the structure of the schemes to make them work together.
- Cities are collapsing as the ability to provide power, housing, water and cost of living is going up.
What needs to be done?
- Centre and states need to work together with better coordination.
- Close monitoring of policies.
- Mid-course correction of policies.
- Field level expertise for people involved in these projects
- Timely delivery and implementation of projects
- Changes in policy formulation as and when required.
- Bureaucrats need to take initiatives themselves without looking at their political masters.
- Changing the role of government from regulator to facilitator. Rules should be facilitating in nature.
- Devolution of financial powers (at least for the cities identified under SMART Mission).
- Within the devolution of powers, the political structure i.e. Mayor’s office needs to be strengthened and democratically elected. Financial powers should be given to the Mayor and not the Municipal Commissioner.
- City management cadres need serious consideration.
How to ease the life of rural India?
- Rural India is dependent critically on agriculture. This sector has been lagging behind and pulling down India’s GDP. India has only 15% contribution in GDP from agriculture but people dependent on agriculture are more than 50%. Because of this, the living standards of rural India have still not been raised.
- Therefore, agriculture (including agro-based industries and services sector), skill development and infrastructure (irrigation, roads, electricity, marketing) need improvement.
- India’s manufacturing sector has been doing well but it has not been able to cope up with the pressure of job creation. Efficiency, productivity and quality are the key areas that need prime focus.
- Secondary education should be integrated with skill development.
- Growth does not always translate into jobs. There is a need to create industries which will be manpower intensive instead of industries which traditionally do not serve the purpose of job creation.
Growth at 10% GDP rate is necessary to achieve $5 trillion target. Indian model of growth is different from Chinese model. Indian model is enterprise driven while the Chinese model is government driven. Therefore, India needs to create conditions for more enterprises to flourish.
Ease of living may have different meaning for different sections of the society but ultimately, it is related to peoples’ happiness holistically.