Saturday, July 14, 2012

New plan for census towns: PURA 2.0

In the Census of India, the definition of urban area adopted was as follows:

• All statutory places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, etc. 
• A place satisfying the following three criteria simultaneously:

a) A minimum population of 5,000;
b) At least 75 per cent of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and 
c) A density of population of at least 400 per sq. km. (1,000 per sq. mile).
But the definition is unclear: the census calls them towns, but since they have gram panchayats rather than municipal corporations, the government seems to consider them rural.

Thus Planning Commission has agreed to provide Rs-1500 Crore in the 12th Five year plan for developing infrastructure in rapidly urbanizing areas known as census towns in the new version of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) to bring basic infrastructure to these areas.

GOI have schemes for rural infrastructure, and schemes for urban infrastructure, but neither of them applies for these areas — caught in the middle of these two.

During the 12th Five Year Plan period public-private partnership scheme will be used to bring water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management and street lighting to such unofficial urban clusters, mostly in the six States — Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala — which have seen the highest growth of census towns.

Each project is likely to cost about 150 crore rupees with Rural Development Ministry providing a grant of 40 to 50 crore rupees; 70 to 80 crore rupees will be mobilized by ongoing central schemes, while the private sector is expected to bring in about 20 crore rupees. The Private Company in consulation with the Gram Panchayat will get the lease of 10 years for the physical infrastructure to be developed in such towns to recover the investment.

Private sector entities having experience in development and management of community-oriented infrastructure projects shall be selected through an open competitive bidding process based on rigorous qualifications and evaluation criteria. The selected private partners would be required to provide amenities like water supply and sewerage, roads, drainage, solid waste management, street lighting and power distribution and undertake some economic and skill development activity as part of the PURA project. The private partners may also provide add-on revenue-earning facilities such as village linked tourism, integrated rural hub, rural market, agri-common services centre and warehousing etc. in addition to the above mentioned amenities. 

The scheme is a revamp of the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's brainchild, PURA, which was initially aimed at providing city amenities to villages. In its latest avatar, PURA 2.0 is focussing on the development of 50 to 60 potential growth centres such as census towns. Initial pilot projects have begun in Kerala, with eight other projects awaiting final approvals from State governments. 

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