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Only 41% projects under housing ministry’s now-lapsed satellite town scheme complete, CAG tells Centre

Work under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Satellite Towns was marred by poor monitoring, lack of impact assessment, delays, finds audit. CAG has shared report with Centre.

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New Delhi: The Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Satellite Towns (UIDSST) was launched in 2009 for the provision of basic infrastructure in satellite towns around mega cities, such as Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, among others. But, six years after the scheme lapsed in March 2018, only 41.17 percent of the 17 sanctioned projects have been completed.

This is one of the 14 observations by the principal director of audit (infrastructure), Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) after reviewing the Centre’s scheme, under which infrastructure projects were approved to ease pressure on mega cities. INDIANEXPOSE has reviewed the document.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), which was piloting the scheme, has now shared the audit observations with the states where projects were sanctioned, and has called a meeting with them to review the current status of projects on 9 July.

Under UIDSST, projects related to solid waste management and improvement of sewerage and drainage systems worth Rs 631.07 crore were sanctioned between 2009 and 2012 in seven satellite towns — Vikarabad (near Hyderabad), Sanand (near Ahmedabad), Hoskote (near Bengaluru), Vasai-Virar (near Mumbai), Pilkhuwa and Sonepat (Delhi), and Sriperumbudur (near Chennai).  

The audit observation report highlights slow progress in the implementation of the scheme, with several projects yet to be completed even a decade after being sanctioned. It identifies several key issues, including poor monitoring by the ministry, delays in submission of fund utilisation certificates amounting to Rs 63.3 crore by states and a lack of impact assessments, among others.

“…out of 17 projects, only seven projects costing (Total Approved Cost) Rs 269.53 crore were stated to be completed, which is 41.17 percent of the total approved projects taken up under the scheme. Progress in respect of remaining projects ranged between 40 percent and 99 percent,” the observation read.

While the ministry informed the auditor in March this year that 11 projects were completed, the observation report said that “the completion certificates in respect of all the 11 completed projects were not furnished to audit”.

It was found that states had not informed the ministry about the utilisation of sanctioned funds. The ministry had approved the scheme as a sub-component of the then United Progressive Alliance government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2009, with an outlay of Rs 500 crore.

States were expected to inform the Centre about the utilisation of funds released by it after every instalment. However, many cities, the auditor observed, did not submit utilisation certificates “amounting to Rs 63.32 crore” of the Rs 459.7 crore released by the Centre.  

In a letter dated 28 June, the ministry asked the state governments to present the current status of the project at the 9 July meeting in Delhi. The audit observations were shared with states in the last week of June.

“It is requested that state governments may make a presentation on the current status of projects, including physical/financial progress and reasons for delay in completion of projects, release of state/ULB share, competition certificates… inputs on the audit observation specific to a project during the meeting,” the letter read.

A senior official in Maharashtra's urban development department said, “Most of the projects undertaken by us have been completed. We have asked a senior Vasai-Virar municipal corporation official to attend the meeting to present our side before the ministry.” 

INDIANEXPOSE has reached the housing and urban affairs ministry and the CAG for comments via e-mail.

Also Read: Amid worries about non-viability, low footfall in smaller cities, Bihar seeks 4 more metro projects

Poor monitoring, slow pace of work

The scheme, according to the policy document available on the ministry’s website, was conceived to reduce the burden on cities, such as Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, among others, by decentralising activities and developing satellite towns.

“The development of satellite cities/townships has shown good results in countries like the USA, France and UK during the sixties and seventies. The development of satellite cities around 35 million plus cities will help in achieving greater efficiency in the overall hierarchy of human settlements both at national and regional level,” read the scheme guidelines.

But the initiative appears to have failed to achieve the objective as a large number of projects are still not complete or were delayed by over 1.5 years.

In Sonipat, for instance, a solid waste management project was sanctioned by the Centre in February 2011 for Rs 24.96 crore. Under this, the city administration was to take up segregation of waste at source, door-to-door collection, set up storage containers and community bins and deploy vehicles for transportation, among others.

The project could not start until 2014 as the municipal council in the city was unable to acquire the land required for the project. “The ministry in reply dated 06.03.2024 stated that as per the revised report submitted by the inspection team of Town and Country Planning Organisation (TCPO), the overall physical progress is about 40 percent and financial progress is 100 percent. However, the said report was not found in the record and project is yet to be completed,” read the observation report.

Sonipat Municipal Commissioner Vishram Kumar Meena told INDIANEXPOSE, “A majority of the work proposed under the UIDSST was completed, while the plan to set up a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant couldn’t be implemented. But we have a WTE plant set up under a Public Private Partnership project, so we don’t need another one.” 

He added, “There was some delay in sharing the fund utilisation certificates with the Centre, but we have completed all work. We will inform the ministry once again about the work done under the scheme in the meeting tomorrow.”

Another project, where the physical progress was found to be slow, is in Sanand in Gujarat, where a Rs 35.09-crore sewerage system was proposed. The physical progress of the project is “60 percent”, according to the audit observation.

One of the key observations about the scheme was “poor monitoring by the Centre”. “No periodical monitoring was carried out and no quarterly progress reports on the projects and reforms by the ULBs were found in the records made available to audit,” the report read.

According to the report, urban local bodies did not submit the utilisation certificates worth Rs 63.32 crore. But the ministry had informed the auditor on 6 March 2024, “…the amount of pending Utilisation Certificates (UCs) is now Rs 31.10 crore against Rs. 63.32 crore. Hence, the UCs for an amount of Rs. 31.10 crore are yet to be received in the ministry.”

(Edited by Mannat Chugh)

Also Read: Centre plans service sector push for rural self-help groups as part of ‘Lakhpati Didi’ initiative

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