PM appreciated the great work being done by Mr. Michael Bloomberg and his team at Bloomberg Philanthropies. The support provided by his team in designing of India’s Smart Cities Mission has been very good.
PM said that we are at a very important point in our history. More than half of the world’s citizens already live in urban areas. Over the next two decades, India and some of the African nations are going to witness the biggest wave of urbanization. But the COVID -19 pandemic has posed enormous challenges before the world. It has shown us that cities, which were our growth engines are also our vulnerable zones. Many cities around the world declared themselves on the brink of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The very things which represented living in a city are facing a question mark. Things like community gatherings, sports activities, education and recreation are not the same as before. The biggest question before the entire world is how to restart? The restart will not be possible without a reset. A reset of mindset. A reset of processes. And a reset of practices.
“The historic reconstruction efforts after the two world wars can give us several lessons. Post world wars, the entire world worked on a new world order. New protocols were developed and world changed itself. COVID-19 has also given us a similar opportunity to develop new protocols in every field. This opportunity should be grabbed by the world if we want to develop resilient systems for the future. We should think on post COVID requirements of the world. A good starting point would be the rejuvenation of our urban centers”, PM added.
PM shared a positive side of Indian cities. Indian cities have presented an extra-ordinary example during these tough times. There were world-wide incidents of resistance against the lockdown measures. However they meticulously followed those preventive measures. This is because, for them, the biggest building block of their cities was not concrete, but the community. The pandemic has re-emphasised that their biggest resource, as societies and as businesses, are their people. The post-Covid world has to be built by nurturing this key and fundamental resource. Cities are vibrant engines of growth. They hold the power to drive this much-needed change.
People often migrate to cities because cities give them work. But, its time that cities also work for people. Covid-19 has given a chance to accelerate the process of making cities more liveable for people. This includes better housing facilities, better work environment, shorter and efficient travel. During the lockdown, many cities saw cleaner lakes & rivers as well as cleaner air. So many people saw the chirping of birds that they never noticed before. We can build sustainable cities where these features are the norm and not exception. It has been an endeavour in India to build urban centres, which have the amenities of a city but the spirit of a village.
During the pandemic, technology has also helped people maintain continuity in their work. “Thanks to a simple tool like video-conferencing, I can wrap up many more meetings. This has also helped me bridge the distance and talk to all of you. But this also poses an interesting question for a post-Covid world. Will we continue with the learnings of the Covid-times like Video-Conferencing? Or will we travel across continents to participate in a conference? Reducing stress on urban systems will depend on our choices”.
“These choices will also help us maintain a better work- life balance. In today’s age, empowering people to work from anywhere, to live anywhere, to plug into global supply chains from anywhere is an absolute necessity. That is why we have announced simplified guidelines for the technology and knowledge-enabled services sector. This will facilitate ‘Work from Home’ and ‘Work from Anywhere'”, PM said.
PM further added that our cities cannot prosper without availability of Affordable Housing. Realizing this, we launched the Housing for All program in 2015. I am happy to note that we are well on our way. We will deliver more than one crore or 10 million houses to aspiring families in urban areas before the targeted deadline of 2022. Looking at the conditions created by the pandemic, we also introduced an affordable rental housing initiative. We created the Real Estate Regulation Act. This has transformed the dynamics of the real estate sector. Also this has made it more customer-oriented and transparent.
Sustainable mobility is key to creating resilient cities. The work on Metro Rail is going on in 27 cities. We are on track to deliver close to 1000 kms of Metro Rail system in the country by 2022. Our Make in India push has led to development of tremendous indigenous capacity for production of transportation systems. It is going to help us push our sustainable transport goals in a big way.
Technology is an important enabler in the journey of a smart, prosperous and resilient city. Technology helps manage a city efficiently and build connected communities. People are looking at a future where a major chunk of education, healthcare, shopping, food experiences may happen online. Cities need to be ready for the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. Indian programs – Digital India and Start-Up India Missions are helping create capacities towards this.The selection of 100 Smart Cities through a two-stage process was a nationwide competition upholding the philosophy of cooperative and competitive federalism.
These cities have prepared projects worth almost two lakh crore rupees or 30 billion dollars. And projects worth almost one lakh forty thousand crore rupees or 20 billion dollars have been completed or nearing completion. To unleash the full potential of technology, Integrated Command and Control centers have been set-up in many cities. These centers are currently also serving as war-rooms to manage the Covid situation in various cities.
Lastly, PM reminded that if one is looking to invest in urbanisation, India has exciting opportunities for him. “If you are looking to invest in mobility, India has exciting opportunities for you. If you are looking to invest in innovation, India has exciting opportunities for you. If you are looking to invest in sustainable solutions, India has exciting opportunities for you. These opportunities come along-with A vibrant democracy. A business friendly climate. A huge market. And a government which shall leave no stone unturned to make India a preferred global investment destination”.
“India is well on its way towards urban transformation. I have no doubt that with the help of all stake-holders, the civil society, academic institutions, industry and most importantly the citizens and communities, we will achieve the dream of resilient and prosperous global cities”, PM contented.