One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream projects, the holistic development of heritage cities, which was supposed to be completed by March 2017, has failed to take off, primarily because of bureaucratic red tape.

HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana), with a total outlay of Rs 500 crore, was launched in January 2015 for which 12 cities were identified—Ajmer, Amaravati, Amritsar, Badami, Dwarka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Puri, Varanasi, Velankanni and Warangal. The scheme, launched under the Ministry of Urban Development, has been a non-starter, except in Ajmer, despite the government appointing “city anchors” (an agency responsible for the development of a particular city).

The scheme aims to “preserve” and “revitalise” the “soul” of a heritage city to reflect its unique character by encouraging an aesthetically appealing, accessible, informative and secure environment. The scheme supports the development of core heritage infrastructure projects, which includes the revitalisation of the urban infrastructure for areas around heritage assets. These initiatives include the development of water supply, sanitation, drainage, waste management, approach roads, footpaths, streetlights, tourist conveniences, electricity wiring, landscaping and other citizen services.

“Initially, work was going on very fast. After the announcement of the scheme in January 2015, the process of appointing the city anchors was completed by May 2015. But after that there has not been much progress. Except for Ajmer, there is hardly any visible progress on the ground, mainly due to red tape. The project has remained only on paper, despite it being close to the Prime Minister’s heart,” said a source familiar with the functioning of the scheme.

The source also pointed out that the scheme is supposed to be implemented by multiple agencies, which hinders the pace of work. There is a National Mission Directorate under the Ministry of Urban Development to look after the scheme, under which there is a technical wing called the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). City anchors, selected through a tender process, are required to submit a city heritage plan, which has to be cleared by the NIUA.

“The city anchors are required to work with the city mission directorate, consisting of local civic body representatives and other agencies. Then there are consultants for preparing the DPR (detailed project report) in collaboration with the city anchors. In many cases, there is a lack of understanding between the city anchors and the DPR consultants. Often local interests at the city mission directorate level become a stumbling block in the execution of the scheme,” the source added.

The source also said that since the ministry is engaged in several other schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Smart City Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission, AMRUT etc., besides its primary job of urban development, it has to work with the same set of people, who keep on shuttling from here and there. This also delays the execution of the project, he said.


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