NITI Aayog recently launched a report on measures to ramp up urban planning capacity in India.
India is home to 11% of the total global urban population. By 2027, India will surpass China as the most populous country in the world. Unplanned urbanization, however, exerts great strain on our cities. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the dire need for the planning and management of our cities.
Urban planning is the foundation for an integrated development of cities, citizens, and the environment. Unfortunately, it has received due attention so far. The existing urban planning and governance framework is complex, which often leads to ambiguity and lack of accountability.
The report makes several recommendations that can unblock bottlenecks in the value chain of urban planning capacity in India. Some of them are:
- Programmatic Intervention for Planning of Healthy Cities: Every city must aspire to become a ‘Healthy City for All’ by 2030. The report recommends a Central Sector Scheme ‘500 Healthy Cities Programme’, for a period of 5 years, wherein priority cities and towns would be selected jointly by the states and local bodies.
- Programmatic Intervention for Optimum Utilization of Urban Land: All the cities and towns under the proposed ‘Healthy Cities Programme’ should strengthen development control regulations based on scientific evidence to maximize the efficiency of urban land (or planning area). The report recommends a sub-scheme ‘Preparation/Revision of Development Control Regulations’ for this purpose.
- Ramping Up of Human Resources: To combat the shortage of urban planners in the public sector, the report recommends that the states/UTs may need to a) expedite the filling up of vacant positions of town planners, and b) additionally sanction 8268 town planners’ posts as lateral entry positions for a minimum period of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years to meet the gaps.
- Ensuring Qualified Professionals for Undertaking Urban Planning: State town and country planning departments face an acute shortage of town planners. This is compounded by the fact that in several states, ironically, a qualification in town planning is not even an essential criterion for such jobs. States may need to undertake requisite amendments in their recruitment rules to ensure the entry of qualified candidates into town-planning positions.
- Re-engineering of Urban Governance: There is a need to bring in more institutional clarity and also multi-disciplinary expertise to solve urban challenges. The report recommends the constitution of a high-powered committee to re-engineer the present urban-planning governance structure. The key aspects that would need to be addressed in this effort are: i) clear division of the roles and responsibilities of various authorities, appropriate revision of rules and regulations, etc., ii) creation of a more dynamic organizational structure, standardisation of the job descriptions of town planners and other experts, and iii) extensive adoption of technology for enabling public participation and inter-agency coordination.
- Revision of Town and Country Planning Acts: Most States have enacted the Town and Country Planning Acts, that enable them to prepare and notify master plans for implementation. However, many need to be reviewed and upgraded. Therefore, the formation of an apex committee at the state level is recommended to undertake a regular review of planning legislations (including town and country planning or urban and regional development acts or other relevant acts).
- Demystifying Planning and Involving Citizens: While it is important to maintain the master plans’ technical rigour, it is equally important to demystify them for enabling citizens’ participation at relevant stages. Therefore, the committee strongly recommends a ‘Citizen Outreach Campaign’ for demystifying urban planning.
- Steps for Enhancing the Role of Private Sector: The report recommends that concerted measures must be taken at multiple levels to strengthen the role of the private sector to improve the overall planning capacity in the country. These include the adoption of fair processes for procuring technical consultancy services, strengthening project structuring and management skills in the public sector, and empanelment of private sector consultancies.
- Steps for Strengthening Urban Planning Education System
- The Central universities and technical institutions in all the other States/UTs are encouraged to offer postgraduate degree programmes (MTech Planning) to cater to the requirement of planners in the country in a phased manner.
- The committee also recommends that all such institutions may synergize with Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and respective state rural development departments/directorates and develop demand-driven short-term programmes on rural area planning.
- ‘Planning’ as an umbrella term, including all its specializations such as environment, housing, transportation, infrastructure, logistics, rural area, regional, etc., or any other nomenclature approved by AICTE, should be included as a discipline under the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) of MoE to encourage a healthy competition among the institutions.
- The committee recommends that AICTE may retain the names of specializations based on industry requirements, while limiting them to an appropriate number, as 25 nomenclatures seem too high for market acknowledgement and absorption.
- Faculty shortage in educational institutions conducting degree and PhD programmes in planning need to be resolved in a time bound manner by 2022.
- Measures for Strengthening Human Resource and Match Demand–Supply: The report recommends the constitution of a ‘National Council of Town and Country Planners’ as a statutory body of the Government of India. Also, a ‘National Digital Platform of Town and Country Planners’ is suggested to be created within the National Urban Innovation Stack of MoHUA. This portal will enable self-registration of all planners and evolve as a marketplace for potential employers and urban planners.
Categories: POINT IAS