Bathinda (Punjab): Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Saturday asked the Centre to place "adequate funds” at the disposal of states to ensure all-round urban development.

At the 105th National Executive Committee Meeting of the All India Council of Mayors (AICM) here, Badal accused the Centre of diluting the country's federal structure by encroaching upon the rights of the states, which have now been reduced to the level of "dignified municipalities."

This unfortunate trend followed by the Centre to usurp the powers of states by clandestinely shifting from federal to unitary pattern is totally against both democratic norms and constitutional ethics, he alleged.

States alone cannot execute development works in the urban sector due to paucity of funds, he said, adding that the Central government should release sufficient funds.

"Even after 65 years of Independence, our governments have not been able to provide the people with the basic civic amenities of safe drinking water, sewerage, roads and street lights," he said.

The Centre had allegedly granted funds to the states under various centrally sponsored schemes like Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with certain riders or pre-conditions.

This had forced the states to levy user charges or other taxes on the people, leading urban bodies to face numerous hardships in undertaking development projects, he claimed. While asking the Mayors to frame a comprehensive low-cost housing policy, he said, "This step will also go a long way in rehabilitating the poorest of poor who are living in utter
unhygienic conditions in slums and also help in tackling the problem of mushrooming of slums."

Punjab government was committed to provide facilities of safe drinking water, sewerage, roads, street lights and parks in all 142 cities and towns within the next three years at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore, he said.

To achieve the target of holistic development in these areas, Badal said the state government had set up the State Urban Development Mission (SUDM) and focused attention was being paid to solid waste management in cities.

"For this purpose, we were planning to set up Integrated  Municipal Solid Water Processing Plants for all urban areas across the state," he said.

He asked the Mayors participating in this two-day meeting to deliberate upon all aspects related to urban development, including the generation of funds for the upgradation of urban infrastructure so that urban local bodies can be made economically viable.

He assured that his government would be the first in the country to implement the recommendations likely to emerge in the forum due to a consensus.


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