Taluka Towns

Taluka Towns


Taluka Towns - what are they? Our definition of a Taluka Town (TT) is a town or inhabitation that lies in a semi urban setting of the country. A TT encompasses what is known as a Tier 3 and below town, census towns, rural agglomerations etc. We can safely say that a TT has a population of anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000, away from a large urban local body and has a lack of basic amenities and municipal services.

This lack of services leads people to leave these TT  and come and join the urban poor in the cities in search of both economic opportunity as well as basic services.

If we look at TT as an opportunity for developing a mini economic engine, a whole new economic revolution can be kick started.

Our game changing plan is based on the premises that providing housing units along with the corresponding municipal services can lead to an economic resurgence. This way not only will we solve a major demeaning headache but also generate multiple employment opportunities for the populace.

Most TT have a population of less than 50,000 people, are semi urban, support a rural population and are connected to the transport grid (railways, highways or waterways). Further most of these TT lack basic amenities such as a good closed loop sewage system, efficient waste collection, open public spaces etc.

We propose looking at TT as a game changer. The following are the objectives needed to be achieved in the TT

1) A maximum of 1000 housing units of 100 sq m and 75 sq m each
2) A good quality school - government or trust run
3) A modern drainage system that services not only the town but also the cesspits in the rural area surrounding the town.
4) A solid waste and green waste collection system for the town and surrounding rural areas.
5) A governance centre
6) An open public ground
7) A water harvesting plan for the area
8) Transport connectivity
9) Metered Utilities

Lets look at the these in details

1) 1000 housing units of 100 sq m and 75 sq m each

Most TT have surplus land. Where land is not surplus, it can be acquired for housing by the Govt. The need is to make a standardised model of apartment blocks that are green in design and construction and incorporating local specifications. All permissions for building these apartment blocks should be pre-obtained by the Govt. executing agency. Construction costs vary between Rs 11000 to Rs 16500 per sq m throughout the country. The construction cost of these apartment blocks (along with specific details) should be finalised during the design stage. The aim is not low cost housing but good quality decent housing.

Once done, the construction of these apartment blocks can be offered out on tender. As design, permissions, specifications are fixed, it will be easy for the contractors (individuals or companies) to complete the project on time and budget. Apartment blocks can be constructed in one go or in a phased manner, that can be decided by the local executing agency. Sale price can be fixed as well. Considering that land is provided by the Govt, all permissions obtained by the Govt agency, these apartment blocks can be easily priced at Rs 15000 to Rs 20000 per sq m.

Once complete these apartments, can be sold in the open market. This will bring in reasonably priced supply to the semi  urban areas, kick starting an economic revolution at that level.

To keep costs fair and ensure a certain standard is maintained, the Govt can create a standards specification for construction and construction material as well. This will help develop a formal, quality conscious construction supply industry. Further, all firms that are in this chain can be automatically registered on the GEM.

On the demand side, the Govt can ensure the following. All those with assets under Rs 50 lakhs, to get an interest subsidy on their housing loans for these apartments.

This move will not only solve a major problem facing us today but will also develop a strong economic base for millions of Indians.

2) A good quality school - government or trust run

Many TT lack good schools. Reputed schools run by trusts and foundations in urban areas should be approached to run schools in TT towns. The local Govt school can be handed over to the trust/foundation to run with full operational independence. The other alternative is to grant a plot of land to the trust/foundation to build and run a school. In TT with a larger population, 2 to 3 schools can be started in such a manner. Private and religious schools should be avoided.

3) A modern sewage system that services not only the town but also the cesspits in the rural area surrounding the town

A modern sewage system can be built before or along with the housing. Modern does not mean expensive fancy solutions. What is needed are bio digesters that take in the sewage, convert it to biogas and sludge. Biogas can be used to generate electricity or directly fed into the piped gas system. The sludge can be further processed into fertiliser and non potable water. India has the technology, let us use it.

Cesspits from surrounding rural areas can be cleaned using mechanised equipment and the collected sludge treated in the local bio digester. This will ensure that groundwater is not contaminated.

4) A municipal solid waste and green waste collection system for the town and surrounding rural areas

Municipal solid waste is a source of revenue. Instead of letting it litter the countryside and the town, a proper collection system should be in place. This will ensure that the TT and surround areas remain clean. The waste collected can be processed further. Once a month, plastic and other hard waste can be collected. All industries and commercial establishments in the area should be covered by this system. A user pays fee can be implemented.

Plastics instead of being banned should be converted into poly-fuel (indigenous technology exists). Large waste (electricals, appliances, furniture, automobiles etc) can be collected and stripped down locally or in conjunction with larger recyclers. Green waste can be converted into compost or vermi compost.

5) A governance centre

A governance centre is a must for TT. It should be equipped with a conference room, meeting rooms and a citizen interface room. The centre must also have staff that deal with all three levels of Govt on behalf of the citizen. CSCs can be part of this centre.

The governance centre should ideally be part of or located in the local Govt building.

6) An open public ground

Most TT have no open public grounds. This is urgently needed. A space needs to be kept aside for the children and youngsters to play. At it's very basic,  it can be just a levelled open field. Improvements can be added as per needs in the future. This open ground can also be let out for public functions and gatherings.

7) A water harvesting plan for the area

We are blessed with an abundance in rainfall. ISRO can be roped in to plot the topography as well as the underground water resources of the area. Using this data, a rain water harvesting system can be designed for the whole local area (TT plus surrounding rural). This will ensure that underground aquifers are always recharged and flooding is prevented.

8) Transport connectivity

Good transport connectivity is essential. If a railway line exists close by to the TT, regular services from the TT to the nearest urban centre must be run. All roads within a radius of 50 km of the TT must be metalled and two or four laned. Roads to the nearest urban centres must be four or six laned and FasTag should be mandatory on these roads. Underpass, overpass and service roads must be available when the tolled four/six laned road goes past a village.

9) Metered Utilities

All three basic utilities - water, electricity and gas - should be available 24x7 and supplied to every individual household and establishment. All utilities should be metered and every unit must be charged at market price. For eligible individuals and households, subsidies must be given via DBT in a transparent manner.  No blanket subsidies to be given.

The above steps will not only kick start an economic revolution at the level it is most needed but also bring about "Ease of Living" to the semi urban and rural habitations of the country.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Direct Tax Code

After the Lockdown

Indirect Taxes