Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday predicted a major pressure on infrastructure as at the present pace of urbanisation at least 60 crore Indians would be living in urban areas by 2033, while the population in slums would have increased to nearly 10.4 crores by 2017.
Dr. Singh was addressing a gathering after initiating the process of handing over possession to beneficiaries of the "Slum rehabilitation scheme of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM)" a housing project completed for 8000 families at a cost of about Rs. 2400 crore near Dhanas village on the outskirts of the city. He said that while Chandigarh was expected to become "slum-free" within the next few years, the Union government had planned to construct at least 15 lakh such houses and dwelling units, for which Rs. 41,000 crore had been earmarked.
That such projects were the cornerstones for India progress towards becoming into a developed Nation, Dr Singh said that the Union government had launched Rajiv Awas Yojana to resolve the problem of slums, while another scheme for the urban poor involved private sector investment which would help economically weaker and lower income group category people build their houses.
In his address, Governor of Punjab, Shivraj V. Patil in his capacity as Administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh detailed that 25,000 such dwellings had been planned for the city, in its endeavour to provide basic amenties to all its citizens.
He announced that in the next phase of such dwellings provision will be made for two rooms instead of the present one room. He thanked the Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Girija Vyas, who assured adequate financial support to construct the next phase of such housing projects.
Earlier, the Dr Singh handed over possession of the 267 sq ft dweeling units to 10 couples, while the Haryana Governor, Jagannath Pahadia, Punjab and Haryana Chief Ministers, Parkash Singh Badal and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, respectively looked on along with Mr Patil and Ms Vyas. The housing complex which shall accommodate slum dwellers from Colony No 5, also provides necessary social infrastructure, police post, dispensary, primary school, anganwari, play grounds and parks, along with proper water supply, electricity connections and sewerage. The beneficiaries would pay a monthly rent of Rs 800 for the next 20 years, after which ownership rights would be transferred if they established continued possession of the dwelling unit allotted to them.
There were quite a few red faces in the Chandigarh administration, as arrangements for the event fell short, which were evident from the fact that most part of the Prime Minister's speech was not even audible to the gathering, which had been braving sweltering weather conditions. While Dr Singh was addressing a considerable number of people, including some beneficiaries left the pandal.
Meanwhile the visit by the Prime Minister, whose cavalcade crisscrossed the length of the city from the airport to Dhanas village, caused major amount to inconvenience to the people. Despite being a non-working day in government offices on account of Saturday, traffic snarls were reported from various parts of the city. Access to the premier medical facility, the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) was restricted as hospitals in the vicinity had been advised not to refer patients till the Prime Minister was in city.
On the other hand the police rounded up large number of BJP and BSP workers led by former Union Minister Harmohan Dhawan and Anwar-Ul-Haq, respectively, to prevent them from protesting. Mr Dhawan had announced a programme to show black flags to the Prime Minister, as the Dhanas housing scheme was not only inadequate but a fraud being committed with the poor. The police had launched a midnight crackdown to round up BJP and BSP workers and supporters.
Meanwhile the administration is said to have sought legal opinion to initiate the process of withdrawal of nomination as a member of Municipal Corporation to top architect Surinder Bahga. Ostensibly, he has annoyed quite a few by shooting off a letter to the Prime Minister, in which he pointed out various illegalities, drawbacks and violations in the Dhanas complex. Mr Bahga had pointed out that the as per the conditions of the tender by the Chandigarh administration, water supply may not be possible for the next 3 months, sewerage lines had not been completed, the sewerage treatment plant was not working, while some residential units had illegally been converted into a school, dispensary, police post and various offices of the administration. He is quoted to have argued that citing such shortcomings, the administration had not been allowing projects in the past. One such facility that was shot down included a state-of-the-art media centre planned by the Chandigarh Press Club, where Dr Singh had visited during its silver jubilee celebrations.