Economy
Reforms & technology hold key to urban revamp
The government needs to surmount a number of tough challenges to successfully implement these schemes and realize their full potential
 
The three-pronged initiative of the NDA government through big ticket urban-focused investment schemes of Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart Cities Mission & Housing for All with central funding of Rs.4 lakh crore ($63 billion), holds the promise of providing the much- needed fillip to real estate, housing and infrastructure and raise the living standard of people by creating world class cities and spaces.
 
But the government needs to surmount a number of tough challenges to successfully implement these schemes and realize their full potential.
 
As per the plan, under the Smart Cities Scheme, 100 cities will be developed, with each getting an annual central funding of Rs.100 crore each over the next five years. Under AMRUT, 500 cities and towns would be rejuvenated over next 10 years. And under Housing for All, two crore affordable houses will be built through slum rehabilitation with the help of private developers, housing for poor with credit- linked subsidy, housing projects with public and private sector and subsidy for individual house construction.
 
The enormity and challenge of urban revamp can be gauged from the urban population explosion. Every decade, we add one Brazil (181 million people). By 2020, about 123 million of additional urban population will be added. An estimated 600 million Indians will be living in cities by 2030, up from 290 million, as reported in the 2001 census. By 2025, 78 percent of India's urban population will be concentrated in 69 metros, putting severe pressure on already crumbling physical and social infrastructure.
 
Inefficient and faulty urban planning is resulting in massive consumption and wastage of precious water and energy resources and causing major sanitation and health problems due to increasing slums and poor waste disposal.
 
In this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's initiatives assume significance, especially as the contribution of the built environment to the economy accounts for about 17.5 percent of GDP, as per 2010 statistics, and in view of industry and services growing faster than agriculture, people are moving from farms to urban areas.
 
That technology holds the key to government's initiatives aimed at urban rejuvenation, is amply demonstrated by a recent survey of 2,000 buildings in India done by Honeywell that emphasize on the need to invest more in smart building technologies as such smart building solutions can make facilities more connected and adaptive, reduce energy and operating costs and improve the safety and quality of life for occupants and users. 
 
Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) help make smart city's critical infra, components and utilities interactive and efficient. Through Intelligent Building Management Solutions, energy saving and lower maintenance costs can be achieved, at the same time prolonging the life of assets and reducing the carbon footprint. 
 
Last year, the government introduced draft Internet of Things(IOT) to create IOT- enabled smart cities eco system to ensure faster implementation to improve overall efficiency. CISCO has established IOT hub in Bangalore to help companies develop software application for deployment in upcoming 100 smart cities. IBM has prepared the Integrated Communication Technology (ICT) Master Plan for Dighi Port Industrial Area under DMIC.
 
Along with technology, crucial real estate reforms are necessary for the success of programmes aimed at urban revamp. Considering that in future, power will be increasingly generated from renewable resources, it is necessary that we move from a consumer- oriented generation model to one based on principles of smart power generation, smart power grids, smart storage and smart consumption. Keeping this in view, the government has converted the Solar Energy Corporation of India into a growth-oriented commercial company to generate and sell power and develop other sources of renewable energy. It has also revised the solar power generation target for 2022 from 20,000 mw to 100,000 ME.
 
In another progressive policy initiative, the government has approved 6.5 percent interest subsidy on housing loans with tenure up to 15 years for economically weaker sections and lower income groups. It is, however, questionable as to why real estate has been kept out of GST when fees and taxes account for as high as 35 percent of what the home buyer pays for a house. 
 
Similarly, with direct institutional support to the real estate sector from banks, HFCs, private equity and the like accounting for only 22 percent of total investment flow in the sector, reforms to increase capital flows are required.
 
There are other key challenges which need to be met before government's initiatives for urban revamp could be successfully implemented. There is funding challenge. Though the centre has earmarked liberal funding for the three initiatives , it will not be easy for the states and local urban bodies to arrange for additional large investment, considering their poor financial health.
 
It is also a big challenge to meet the huge gap in services under AMRUT scheme. Against the desired water supply of 135 litres per person per day, the urban population gets only about 69 litres. Besides, cities and towns are able to treat only five percent of total waste while sewerage treatment is merely threepercent. 
 
The situation on the power front is equally bad. Also, considering the scope and scale of urban development initiatives, there is a severe shortage of skilled professionals, with a demand-supply gap of 82-86 percent in the core professional group of civil engineers, architects and planners, not to talk of skilled labourers.
 
There is a huge challenge to make land available for massive urbanisation programme. On the technological front, the challenge will be to achieve economy of scale and their viability on mass scale.
 
And last but not the least, there is a challenge of smart governance at the local urban bodies level as there is a tremendous shortage of professionals. The challenge is to provide transparent and efficient governance at the municipalities' level.

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No conclusive proof that mobile radiation is harmful: BSNL

The BSNL official said that regular audit of electromagnetic field levels from the mobile towers through TERM (Telecom Enforcement Resource Monitoring) cells of the DoT is being done to ensure that prescribed standards are implemented

 

There is no decisive data or evidence so far to show that radiations from mobile phones or towers have adverse health or environmental effects in India, a top BSNL official here said.
 
"There is no conclusive study, data or evidences about the bad health or ecological effects of radiations from mobile phones or towers in India," Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) chief general manager (northeast circle one) D.P. Singh told reporters.
 
He said: "India's stringent measures against radiations from mobile phones or Base Tower Stations (BTS) are ten times more than the USA and European countries."
 
According to the officer, there are about 775,000 BTSs in the country and so far only about 90 cases have been found to be non-compliant by the department of telecommunication (DoT) and penalty has been imposed on the operators.
 
"A penalty of Rs.10 lakh has been imposed in each case on defaulting operators in case any BTS is found to be non-compliant," said Singh, who was earlier looking after the radiations related affairs in the DoT.
 
The BSNL official said that regular audit of electromagnetic field levels from the mobile towers through TERM (Telecom Enforcement Resource Monitoring) cells of the DoT is being done to ensure that prescribed standards are implemented.
 
Singh said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has done a large number of studies over the past two decades to assess whether mobile phones and BTS pose potential health risk.
 
"A section of so-called experts and environmentalists to achieve their personal gain and business benefit are occasionally spreading exaggerated facts about radiations from mobile phone or towers based on some myth and falsehood," the BSNL CGM said.
 
"These experts and environmentalists without any conclusive study and facts sometimes say that sparrows and other birds are vanishing, affecting breeding or reproduction, and foods due to radiation from mobile phone or BTS," he added.
 
"Had this (radiations) been harmful, Europe and the US would have done away with it long ago. Here, people make occasional hullabaloo about the harm being done by mobile towers, but actually nothing like that happens."
 
The CGM said that the DoT has recently sanctioned Rs.5,336 crore for the improvement of mobile and internet services in the eight northeastern states.
 
He said the BSNL would set up several hundred Wi-Fi hotspots in northeastern states soon, besides improving machinery and quality of service in the region.

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COMMENTS

Narendra Doshi

2 years ago

Let it be known how many & which countries have radiation limits much stringnent than US & which countries of Europe are being referred. I am aware that there are several counries with much stringent stipulations due to long term potential health hazards. Let there be a equal opportunity playing with both sides having open ears and minds and work for a practical healthy solution.

How Beatles, Ravi Shankar turned Brazilian into sitarist
Carraro, who started learning sitar from Ravi Shankar's disciple Alberto Marsicano, says India was the biggest inspiration in her life and Indian culture continues to fascinate her
 
It was her parents' love for sitar exponent Pandit Ravi Shankar that introduced Paola Carraro to Indian art and music far away in Brazil.
 
Carraro, who started learning sitar from Ravi Shankar's disciple Alberto Marsicano, says India was the biggest inspiration in her life and Indian culture continues to fascinate her.
 
"Indian music has always been a part of my life. My parents listened to Ravi Shankar and I always liked that sound. Growing up, I developed interest in the Beatles and Ravi Shankar. I was gradually discovering more about Indian culture that now fascinates me," the 32-year-old Carraro told IANS in an email interview from Sao Paulo.
 
Ravi Shankar's music had a major influence on the Beatles - the rock band of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Dubbed the "godfather of world music" by Harrison, Ravi Shankar helped millions of classical, jazz and rock lovers in the West to discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music through his sitar. He shared a close relationship with Harrison.
 
Carraro was in India in 2011, and studied sitar with Pandit Bhuwan Chandra in Rishikesh in Uttarakhand.
 
"It's a personal passion I have for India and its culture. That's what has driven me to know more and more about all its cultural manifestations, like music, art in general, dance and everything that involves culture," says Carraro, who also learnt kathak and tanpura in Rishikesh.
 
"I also found some Brazilian musicians who have dedicated themselves to the study of sitar. I bought my first sitar with the help of sitar player and multi-instrumentalist Marcus Santurys, who is now a close friend and with whom I usually play in recitals."
 
Carraro, who performs at major cultural events in Brazil, says people-to-people contact between India and Brazil was growing gradually.
 
She gives credit to popular 2009 soap opera "Caminhos da India" (India - A Love Story) in Portuguese for sparking interest about India among Brazilians and also the opening of the Indian Cultural Centre in Sao Paulo on May 25, 2011.
 
"The cultural centre has played an important role in bringing to Brazil the opportunity of studying Indian art and culture, especially dance, yoga and Hindi language," she told IANS.
 
"Interest about Bollywood is growing gradually among Brazilians, especially after the soap opera 'Caminhos da India' was telecast all over the country. The soap opera showed a bit of Indian dance, music, customs and religious values."
 
"Bollywood musicals and romances attract young Brazilians and they enjoy Indian movies. The joyful energy, the colours, the music and dance are too contagious," Carraro says.
 
According to official records, Indian film weeks organised by the Indian embassy and consulates have always received good response from Brazilians.
 
Encouraged by the response, film weeks were organised by the Indian mission in August-September 2013 to celebrate "100 years of Indian Cinema" in seven Brazilian cities. The Brazilian postal department reciprocated by issuing a commemorative stamp in May 2014 on "100 years of Indian Cinema".
 
Carraro also feels India and Brazil have never been as close as they are today and hopes there will be greater connection, including in art and culture.
 
She feels the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa - grouping will help in greater contact between the nations.
 
"With the creation of the BRICS, I believe there will be a greater connection between India and Brazil, including in cultural and educational areas. I feel there is greater possibility to broaden the knowledge that Brazilians have of Bollywood movies and Indian culture in general."
 
Carraro, who has been practising yoga for the past 13 years, hopes to return to India.
 
"I intend to return to India soon to dedicate myself to the study of music and learn traditional Indian painting techniques.
 
"I am very grateful to the Indian people, who are always cheerful and welcoming," she says.
 
The Indian community in the Latin American nation is small, numbering about 2,000, with the majority living in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Manuas. Brazil's total population is over 202 million.
 
The Indian embassy is located in Brasilia, while there are consulates in Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

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