The Union government in the Budget for 2022-23 pushed for better urban planning in India's megacities, with a focus on sustainable measures and public transport. Speaking in the Parliament, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, "By the time India reaches 100 years of Independence, nearly half of our population is likely to be living in urban areas. To prepare for this, orderly urban development is of critical importance. This will help realise the country's economic potential."
Presenting the Union Budget on Tuesday, February 1, she said that India is set to clock a growth rate of 9.2%. Stating that there was a "need to nurture megacities and their hinterlands to become current centres of economic growth," the Finance Minister said, "On the other hand, we need to facilitate tier-two and tier-three cities to take on the mantle in the future. This would require us to reimagine our cities into centres of sustainable living with opportunities for all."
The government announced that a high-level committee of urban planners, urban economists and institutions will be formed to make recommendations on urban sector policies, capacity building, planning, implementation and governance. "Urban planning cannot continue with a business as usual approach. We plan to steer a paradigm change," Sitharaman said.
"For urban capacity building, support will be provided to the states — modernisation of building bye-laws, town planning schemes, transit-oriented development will be implemented," she added.
The government has also said that five existing academic institutions in different regions will be designated as centres of excellence to develop India-specific knowledge in urban planning and design and to deliver certified training in these areas. These centres will be given an endowment fund of Rs 250 crore each, the Finance Minister said.
"In addition, the AICTE will take the lead to improve syllabi, quality and access of urban planning courses in other institutions," the minister said.
Stating that the government plans to promote a shift to the use of public transport in urban areas, Nirmala Sitharaman said, "This will be complemented by clean technology, governance solutions, special mobility ones with zero fossil fuel policies and electric vehicles."
The Finance Minister also said that a battery swapping policy to allow EV charging stations for automobiles will be framed. "Considering the constraint of space in urban areas for setting up charging stations at scale, a battery swapping policy will be brought out and interoperability standards will be formulated," she said.
"The private sector will be encouraged to develop sustainable and innovative business models for battery and energy as a service. This will improve efficiency in the EV ecosystem," she said.
During the Budget speech, financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh crore was also announced to states for 2022-23 to catalyse investments. These 50-year interest free loans are over and above normal borrowings of states. In 2022-23, states will be allowed a fiscal deficit of up to 4% of GSDP, the Finance Minister said.