Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sustainable development for Tier 2 towns

Leave about 10-12 cities, the condition of the rest of towns and cities in India hasn't changed much. Crumbling roads, unsafe & unstructured local transportation, non-existent drains and ever increasing insecurity is a story you see everywhere. My issue with socialism starts here and no wonder states with more socialist attitudes are worse off. While we are on this topic I am also against the Detroit like capitalism, at the end any system with no control will create havoc!

Couple of years back I was invited by Fairfax county of Virginia to speak on an event they had organized at Bangalore to attract investments in their county. I was astonished at the corporatization of administration of cities and counties in the US. It is like running a company. Counties manage their profit & loss, raise money and debt as required and invest in building infrastructure to further attract investments. I know our socialist structures won't allow such a change and perhaps we are not ready yet. But we can begin to adopt some best practices.

A. Raising Investments - District machinery that comprises of the office of commissioner must be given a mandate and target to raise investments from businesses by creating fast-track approval windows and incentives for real estate. Come to think of it, their job is to provide efficient administration and one indicator of this must be their ability to attract investments. What do the businesses need the most in India? Fast track approvals and supportive government machinery.

B. Focus on Mass Employment Sectors - Units that create mass employment and drive secondary growth must be our focus areas. One of the easiest ways to create sustained growth is to create opportunities for Tourism. IT industry continues to look for low cost destinations and one of the models that can be employed by Tier-3 towns is to create an eco-system for IT and ITES companies to setup centers. Education and Organized retail also have the capability to provide mass employment and create an ecosystem for an overall growth of the city. Organized real estate both for investment and for self-use is another area that can help our tier 3-4 towns to get a face lift.

C. Organize unorganized retail - Every town and small city have farmers market on the road side, often leading to chaos not to mention the filth it creates. There is abundant government land lying vacant and it can be easily converted to makeshift commercial markets allowing small businesses and shopkeepers to find willing consumers for their products and services creating a WIN-WIN for all.

D. Low cost housing - Clusters of low cost housing must be developed and be made available to people at monthly EMIs. Banks can employ semi urban CSP (customer support point as used in Financial Inclusion) model to provide services and do recovery.

E. Tap Educational Institutions for growth - Higher education and professional education is widely available in most towns & cities and we must tap that infrastructure to make it work to improve quality of living in our towns. Again this requires initiative and will-power and not funding or even policy. 

Government has an important role to play here and instead of treating such initiatives as cash drain, it must rather play an active role in creating sustainability of such programs by formulating a strong policy framework. Government must therefore create an opportunity without providing a facility.

Each local administration must have a priority plan to address the following core issues:

  1. Drainage and Garbage disposal
  2. Security
  3. Roads & Infrastructure
  4. Stray animals
  5. Crisis management

Perhaps right time for us to experiment by bringing in strong industry leaders to run our district administration? Why is this the purview of only the IAS officers ? Do we lack district administrators who have the drive and initiative ? Perhaps we do or do we just hide behind bureaucracy? Or find the system too tainted to be fixed ?

We still have very basic issues to resolve while we continue to march forward. Let's shake-up the system a little bit to build a country that we can all be more proud of. 

1 comment: curious...!! said...

Acknowledge your vision, Anuraj. Decentralization of decision making power will instigate creativity and ownership among town administrators.

I would presume the legislation of panchayati raj is a step towards power decentralisation at village level. Hope to have similar intent for tier2 and 3 towns.