Hardeep Singh Puri is the current Union Minister of State with Independent Charge in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. He is a 1974 batch Indian Foreign Service officer who was the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013.
Prior to this post, he served on important positions like the Chairperson of United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, VP of International Peace Institute and Secretary-General of Independent Commission on Multilateralism in New York.
A delegation led by Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs (COWE) visited Hardeep Singh Puri to discuss the missions, plans, progress, initiatives and opportunities.
Vertica Dvivedi, Editor-in-Chief, Surfaces Reporter, brings to you some of the finest points from the discussion which would be of interest to architecture, real estate and design community. Some excerpts from the conversation about the current status of various missions and on-going developments.
Creating New Narrative On Urbanisation
“We are trying to create a completely new narrative on Urbanisation. For several years, we were completely preoccupied with primarily Agriculture and Rural development. While these are important and we need to do much more but the fact of the matter is that we are largely an urban country.
We were 17% at the time of partition, today we are 30% plus, and by 2030, we will have 40% of India living in Urban Spaces. Today, urban cities produce more than 65% of your GDP, 90% of your tax returns, so we have to be conscious of that. Our work is focussed on creating urban areas safe and friendly for all ages, gender and especially the differently-abled citizens.”
MOU with NAREDCO For Skilling Construction Workers
The ministry has signed an MOU with NAREDCO (National Real Estate Development Council) to strengthen the skill training and employment opportunities in the construction sector for the urban poor. This partnership aims to achieve multifarious objectives which include alignment of skill training programs based on industry requirements; supply of skilled manpower to the construction industry by training the unskilled manpower at the construction sites ensuring employment through captive placement model. It also encompasses up-skilling of the construction workers to help make the sector aspirational by offering career progression opportunities. “I was told by someone from the construction industry, if they advertise for 1000 jobs of skilled labour, they receive only about 100 applicants, while if the advertisement is for unskilled labour, for 1000 jobs they get around 5000 applications.
We signed an MOU with NAREDCO where we would pick up people from any state and give them 15% of classroom training on basic skill levels, on masonary, carpentry etc and 85% on the job training but the norm is that after doing 15% classroom and 85% on the job, they will all be absorbed. We are going to start with 25000 people but will go on to millions. Unless you are able to meet the person, the skill, and the employment, the circle doesn’t complete. We otherwise have a system where everybody is running in silos. We have an enormous task at hand. We are on the one hand, trying to teach basic skills to people like electrical work, and plumbing, while on the other hand
we are trying to tell people what machine is. We have to access people, some people may not even be willing, and there is so much poverty in India. Some people may not even be prepared for basic skills, thus I foresee a challenging yet an interesting time ahead.”
In order to provide an employment impetus to the majority of migratory construction workers, the Ministry has worked out arrangements to skill the worker at their worksite so they do not have to travel back to their native state to get upskilled.
Integrated Command Centres For Smart Cities
In the Smart City Scheme, 100 Cities have been selected on the basis of an open competition. Each city had to come up with a design after stakeholder consultation. “The good news is that we already have special purpose vehicles in more than 90 cities. We have got integrated command and control centres operating in 11 cities, another 27 are under construction and by December 2019, we will have these centres functioning in 50 of these cities.”
Success Also Requires Behavioral Change
“We are working on a lot of missions for the better life of citizens. However, what we have seen is, it is extremely difficult to change the force of habbit. In the Prime Minister’s Scheme when we talk about the requirement of ‘behavioural change’ for making the initiative, Open Defecation Free, successful, some of you may underestimate the extent to which behavioural change is a major obstacle.
We built a beautiful skywalk in ITO which makes going from one side to another safe & smooth, however, people still want to run the risk of crossing the road and getting run over. It’s a force of habit so you have to change it slowly.
Swatch Bharat is doing extremely well. It is a concept which has entered into the consciousness of people. It used to be a project of the government, now it is a project of the people.”
Women Empowerment & Gender Equality Is Close To My Heart
“Probably because I am married to someone who has been leading in female empowerment & related work, I understand the issues related to women and in my capacity have always been trying to bring about positive changes. Besides, my involvement in facilitating the establishment of UN Women has also shaped my knowledge about the subject.
You will be glad to know, in the homes being sanctioned under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, the title has to be in the name of the women of the house or co-joint. In a patriarchal society that we live in, it is done to safeguard the interest of the woman in case of domestic discord. It is a Philip to gender empowerment. Through PMAY we have to build 11 million homes by 2022. The good news is, we have already sanctioned 6.3million.”
Perilous Interventions - The New Book by Hardeep Singh Puri
As mentioned by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the best selling author of The Black Swan and Antifragile, Perilous Interventions is an outstanding book on the side effects of interventionism, written in elegant prose and maximal clarity. It documents how people find arguments couched in moralistic terms to intervene in complex systems they do not understand. These interventions trigger endless chains of unintended consequences for the victims but none for the interventionists, allowing them to repeat the mistakes again and again. Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s envoy to the UN then, tells us of actual instances of the misuse of power and the syndrome of intervention. He also highlights India’s key role in warning against interventions and attempts at regime change. The book gives the readers an experience of sitting in the front row and watching what happened at the ever-secretive horse-shoe table of the UN Security Council. This book is an authoritative and informed insider’s account and it makes compelling reading.
74k-Crore Approved for Sanitation Projects
Under the initiative AMRUT, more than 2,400 projects worth Rs 74,000 crore, meant for ensuring improvement in water supply, sewers and drainage, have been approved under the State Annual Action Plans for 2015-2020. With these urban revival projects, a great urban transformation is envisaged. India is set to achieve the target of building 67 lakh toilets by October 2019.
“It gives me immense pleasure to share that under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), over 60 lakh household toilets & over 4 lakh community toilets have been built in urban areas and we are well on our way to achieving the target of 67 lakh toilets before October 2019.
MoHUA is driven by the goal to provide adequate urban infrastructure and services that can ensure the development of healthy Indian cities where all our population can lead productive lives. India is moving ahead in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector with a vision and strategy.
We neglected the urbanisation space since Independence, as we thought that India is a predominantly rural country. As much as 65 per cent of India’s GDP and 90 per cent of tax revenue is being generated in urban areas. The country has to acknowledge that the urbanization is here to stay.”
PUBLIC ART NOT ONLY BEAUTIFIES THE CITYSCAPE, IT ALSO CAPTURES ITS SOUL
Public space is an opportunity to display creative artwork. Not only does it beautify the cityscape, but it also captures its soul. It is a marker of history, capturing a city’s evolution through generations.
MoHUA along with Dellhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) has drafted framework towards finalization of guidelines for a public artwork in public spaces. This was done in discussion with India’s finest artists, designers, architects and urban experts.
- We need to jointly facilitate an environment where people respect and value the art in public spaces. The new guidelines aim to be a continuous and open-ended process where newly learnt things could be added on to it. It includes protection and maintenance of artwork, the appointment of advisors for selection of artwork.
- Public art reflects and reveals social, cultural, economic, political transformations that the city witnesses, also epitomises urban living by bringing together different disciplines and backgrounds, communities and sensibilities with art ranging from iconic projects to community-based local works.