Good, bad and ugly – YJA ‘green’ take on the Union Budget 2014-15

Manoj Misra, YAMUNA JIYE ABHIYAAN (yamunajiye@gmail.com)

Here is OUR TAKE ON VARIOUS PROVISIONS IN THE UNION BUDGET for 2014-15 presented by Union Finance Minister of Government of India in Parliament on July 10, 2014. This is focused on provisions related to Urban Sector. In what followed, I have given the relevant  para from the budget speech, followed by my comment in italics

Smart Cities

24.       As the fruits of development reach an increasingly large number of people, the pace of migration from the rural areas to the cities is increasing. A neo middle class is emerging which has the aspiration of better living standards. Unless, new cities are developed to accommodate the burgeoning number of people, the existing cities would soon become unlivable. The Prime Minister has a vision of developing ‘one hundred Smart Cities’, as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernizing the existing mid-sized cities. To provide the necessary focus to this critical activity, I have provided a sum of `7,060 crore in the current fiscal.

Building ‘Smart Cities’ is a welcome idea provided the definition of “smart” includes zero pollution discharge; incorporation of eco-sanitation (zero sewage) and ensuring the integrity of existing water bodies as central to planning of such new cities.

Skill India

28. A national multi-skill programme called Skill India is proposed to be launched. It would skill the youth with an emphasis on employability and entrepreneur skills. It will also provide training and support for traditional professions like welders, carpenters, cobblers, masons, blacksmiths, weavers etc. Convergence of various schemes to attain this objective is also proposed.

Skill generation activity must not be in isolation as merely targeted at employability and consequent outmigration to urban / overseas centres. It must be part of a larger aim of re-establishment of village republics where skilled youth have round the year opportunities of gainful work including returns on barter basis. 

PradhanMantriKrishiSinchayeeYojana

29.       Bulk of our farm lands are rain fed and dependent on monsoons. Therefore, there is a need to provide assured irrigation to mitigate risk. To improve access to irrigation we propose to initiate the scheme “PradhanMantriKrishiSinchayeeYojana”. I propose to set aside a sum of `1,000 crore for this purpose.

We hope that this scheme actually results in restoration of village ponds, village level micro-irrigation facilities and wells in each farm.

Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan

30. The need for sanitation is of utmost importance. Although the Central Government is providing resources within its means, the task of total sanitation cannot be achieved without the support of all. The Government intends to cover every household by total sanitation by the year 2019, the 150th year of the Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi through Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan.

This should focus on promotion of dry toilets and eco-sanitation.

Statue of Unity

33. Government of Gujarat has embarked upon the mission to build the largest statue of SardarVallabhBhai Patel. Sardar Patel stands as the symbol of the unity of the country. To support the Gujarat Government in this initiative to erect the Statue of Unity, I propose to set aside a sum of `200 crore.

We are sure that Sardar Patel would have never approved of such a wasteful expenditure. You do not need a statue to highlight either the greatness of an individual or to establish national unity. This must be reconsidered and dropped.  

Watershed Development

50. To give an added impetus to watershed development in the country, I propose to start a new programme called “Neeranchal” with an initial outlay of `2,142 crores in the current financial year.

Most welcome. We hope that this becomes a people’s movement.

Urban Renewal

66.   It is time that our cities and towns undergo urban renewal and become better places to live in. While developing housing and other infrastructure, both physical and economic, which can have local variations, four fundamental activities must underpin such development. These are provision of safe drinking water and sewerage management, use of recycled water for growing organic fruits and vegetable, solid waste management and digital connectivity. It is the vision of this Government that at least five hundred (500) such habitations must be provided support, while harnessing private capital and expertise through PPPs, to renew their infrastructure and services in the next ten years.

This is welcome with a caveat. It should not become an excuse for privatisation of water management in these habitations.

Climate change is a reality which all of us have to face together. Agriculture as an activity is most prone to the vagaries of climate change. To meet this challenge, I propose to establish a “National Adaptation Fund” for climate change. As an initial sum an amount of `100 crore will be transferred to the Fund.

Good and timely move.

Inland Navigation

112.     Development of inland waterways can improve vastly the capacity for the transportation of goods. A project on the river Ganga called ‘JalMargVikas’ (National Waterways-I) will be developed between Allahabad and Haldia to cover a distance of 1620 kms, which will enable commercial navigation of at least 1500 tonne vessels. The project will be completed over a period of six years at an estimated cost of `4,200 crore.

We fail to appreciate the urgency of this action since a national road map for a rejuvenated Ganga is still to be devised and any such move unless it finds a good fit (most unlikely) in that road map would result in further degradation, pollution, compromising the integrity of whatever Ganga today exists downstream of Allahabad. This must be deferred till a fully participatory, transparent and merit based Ganga rejuvenation plan has been put in place.    

Water Resources and cleaning of Ganga

Linking of Rivers

153.     Rivers form the lifeline of our country. They provide water not only for producing food for the multitudes but also drinking water. Unfortunately the country is not uniformly blessed with perennial rivers. Therefore, an effort to link the rivers can give rich dividends to the country. It is time that we made a serious effort to move in this direction. To expedite the preparation of the Detailed Project Reports, I propose to set aside a sum of `100 crore.

Yes, rivers are our life lines. But these are living ecological entities and product of millions of years of geo-morphological processes and NOT some pipelines carrying water which could be redirected and tampered with at will. India is blessed with diversity of land forms, biomes and biodiversity that has evolved over the millennia. And it cannot be anyone’s case that all parts of India should have perennial rivers? Such presumptions are bad in science and against nature where diversity and NOT uniformity is the law. We sincerely hope that such unscientific, unethical and unnatural obsessions are laid to rest once and for all times.

Sacred Rivers

154.     Substantial amount of money has been spent in the conservation and improvement of the Ganga, which has a very special sacred place in the collective consciousness of this country. However, the efforts have not yielded desired results because of the lack of concerted effort by all the stakeholders. I propose to set up Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called “NamamiGange” and set aside a sum of `2,037 crores for this purpose.

We wholeheartedly endorse the realisation of past failures and this move on IGCM and the name – Namami Gange! But hopefully the planners also understand that we cannot remain respectful (namami) to Ganga (Maa) and yet disregard its integrity as an ecological system by interfering at will with it, in the name of either river linking or building dams and barrages on it?????    

Development of Ghats and beautification of Riverfront

155.     Our Riverfronts and Ghats are not only places of rich historical heritage but many of these are also sacred. To start this process in the country, I propose to set aside a sum of `100 crore for Ghat development and beautification of river front at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi in the current financial year.

Ghat and river front at Kedarnath? Obviously the Hon’ble FM is still to visit Kedarnath……

NRI Ganga Fund

156.     NRIs have been a very important contributor to the development process in India, in areas such as education, health and preservation of culture. In this context, to harness their enthusiasm to contribute towards the conservation of the river Ganga, NRI Fund for Ganga will be set up which will finance special projects.

This is a welcome step. We only hope that special projects are ecological and not infrastructural or commercial in nature?

Conservation of Himalayas

171.     There is a great need to increase the capacity in the country for Himalayan Studies. I propose to set up a National Centre for Himalayan Studies in Uttarakhand with an initial outlay of `100 crore.

This is a welcome and much delayed move.

National Capital Territory of Delhi

178.    In addition, to solve the long term water supply issues to the capital region, construction of long pending Renuka Dam would be taken up on priority. I have provided an initial sum of `50 crore for this.

This is again a totally unnecessary investment in the name of a city that is perhaps globally the most water provided in its class. The money should be rather used to improve water management including demand management in the city of Delhi. 

10 July 2014

RELATED LINKS:

[1] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/rivers-and-water-in-union-budget-2014-15/

One Comment on “Good, bad and ugly – YJA ‘green’ take on the Union Budget 2014-15

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