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Unsung urban heroes

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Source : The Business Line Date : 02.02.2009

Unsung urban heroes

Ordinary folks who have helped change cityscapes in extraordinary ways.

Ashoke Chakrabarty

Sharing space: City managers cannot afford to ignore the unmet needs of the urban poor.

Rajendra Joshi

In spite of the current hiccups in economic growth, India is urbanising at an unprecedented pace. The metros are growing at 12 per cent on average, the large towns at 10 per cent. This uncontrolled growth is the result of lopsided policies promoting economic prosperity around population clusters. People flock to these already populated centres to engage in economic activities like the services, construction and urban transport.

Sadly, our cities are just not able to cope with these levels of growth. The result is the chaos we increasingly experience every day: traffic, transport woes, rising crime rates, corruption, lack of basic sanitation, pollution, slum and pavement dwellers. This chaos is ironically acting as a leveller for the middle class, the poor and women, young and aged alike. Never before have so many felt so insecure and so excluded.

It is easy to apportion blame on city authorities and politicians without really understanding the underlying causes. There are structural flaws like the inequitable allocation of resources, lack of planning, and absence of able governance. Combine these with the inherent societal flaws of caste, community, religious intolerance and greed and the result is a cauldron of chaos.

So what are the solutions to this massive urban chaos?

Let’s start with underlying solutions: sharing and allocating resources, mainstreaming migrant populations and the urban poor, skilling city managers, and participation in urban governance.

Fifty per cent of the urban population is poor. These are the people who keep our cities going; the street-vendors, household help, rickshaw drivers, construction workers, garbage waste removers are amongst these unrecognised stakeholders. Yet they occupy less than 5 per cent of the land and are allocated less than 10 per cent of the city’s budget for housing, basic sanitation and transport. No small wonder these vital stakeholders are turning increasingly resentful and sometimes hostile.

If these basic needs are met, this critical mass of people will no longer be part of the problem, but the solution. Understanding the aspirations of these migrant populations then is at the core of resolving the crisis of a burgeoning urban India.

I have often heard the former collector of Ahmedabad city K. Srinivas, who is now the Managing Director of Gujarat Urban Development Company, make a case for creating dedicated cadre for urban management on the lines of the administrative services. I cannot agree more. Our city managers are inadequately trained for the job. Most learn through experience, which often becomes obsolete in the face of the complex growth of our urban centres.

Urban management today goes beyond basic engineering tasks and involves clear strategies and multiple skills across sectors like public health, transport, security and housing. The work may be unglamorous but those who have succeeded have really been our unsung heroes.

Take, for instance, Devuben Parmar, a feisty woman living in the Guptanagar slums of Ahmedabad. The 2002 riots saw her galvanise people to rehabilitate and reintegrate women and children in relief camps. She turned that into a scalable model of 190 Anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme with an annual budget of Rs 1 crore. Devuben now runs an Urban Resource Centre, which links slum residents to government, NGOs and the private sector.

Yaqoob Pathan from the ghettoised Juhapura area of Ahmedabad built on his experience in the relief camps to promote a local NGO called Sankalp Mitra Mandal. The NGO convinced the Ahmedabad Electricity Company to lower connection charges for local slum residents and facilitated transparent connection and payment procedures. The public utility scale has now applied slum electrification programmes across the city.

Many of us leave managing our cities to authorities. Yet, there are these people willing to get their hands dirty. Often they go unnoticed but create the groundswell for a nationwide movement for change.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 05:32

Property tax: Mangalore City Corpn implements self-assessment scheme project

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Source : The Business Line Date 28.01.2009

Property tax: Mangalore City Corpn implements self-assessment scheme

Our Bureau

Mangalore, Jan. 27

Payment of property tax through Self Assessment Scheme (SAS) is in force in Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) limits, according to Mr Sameer Shukla, Commissioner of MCC.

Addressing presspersons here on Tuesday, he said SAS of property tax was implemented in MCC limits on April 1, 2008, replacing the earlier ARV (annual ratable value) method of collection of property tax.

Under the old system, it was possible to pay property tax in half-yearly instalments. But under the new scheme, the entire tax for the year has to be paid in lump-sum.

Though SAS of property tax came into force in all other municipal corporations of the State, it could not be brought into force till March 31, 2008, as the council of MCC did not give its consent to SAS of property tax.

However, the Administrator of MCC, who was convinced of the need to bring into force the new taxation scheme, enforced SAS within the MCC limits from April 1, 2008. Property tax was last revised in MCC limits in 1995-96.

Mr Shukla said MCC depends basically on the property tax collection to provide different types of service and amenities to its citizens.

To help the tax payers, the MCC has made arrangements at the nearest ward offices, and at sub-offices of MCC at Surathkal and Bikarnakatte, and at the main office of the corporation in the city.

In those areas, the tax payers can obtain property tax details, fill them up, pay the tax directly to the bank and obtain receipt and submit it to the Corporation office against acknowledgements.

He called upon the property owners to pay their property taxes for 2008-09 by March 31. In case of default, steps will be taken by the Corporation to collect the taxes with penal interest from the defaulting property owners.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 June 2009 05:00

President hopes NIRD will help build support in rural development

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Source : The Business Line Date : 01.01.2009

President hopes NIRD will help build support in rural development

Our Bureau

Hyderabad, Dec. 31 The President, Ms Pratibha Devisingh Patil, expressed hope that the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) will augment its training infrastructure for extending capacity building support in various aspects of integrated rural development.

Delivering the Golden Jubilee Lecture at the Institute here on Tuesday, she said models for sustainable growth could be developed and shared with the representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions, especially women.

“All help should be given to the Self Help Groups in the country and NIRD could assist them in channelising their efforts in the direction of productive enterprises and support them in capacity building,” she said.

The President also hoped that the one-year Post Graduate Diploma Programme in Rural Development Management will create a large pool of programme delivery managers whose induction is vital to the success of rural development.

The programme, started by the institute from this year, aims to develop committed and competent cadre of rural development management professionals in the country.

She said there should be optimum utilisation of land and efforts must be made to improve its quality and restore soil health.

“Farmers can be made aware and encouraged to adopt improved agricultural practices to enhance productivity. Implements and methodologies should be such so as to reduce the drudgery and hard labour of farming operations so that we can achieve agricultural growth,” Ms Patil said.

Ms Patil urged various institutions to provide creative answers to the challenges faced by rural communities and convert them into opportunities for the development of rural India.

“An important assignment will be to make technologies available for developing rural communities. Knowledge kiosks should be set up at the panchayat level for wider dissemination of information about useful technologies.

Benefits of information communication technology must reach the villages, including remote and far-flung areas and be available to the rural population,” the President said.

She added that technological interventions that are gender sensitive and link the weaker sections of society to the national mainstream are the need of the hour.

Last Updated on Monday, 08 June 2009 11:11

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