New minister of state (independent charge) for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday said the challenges ahead for the ministry were ‘daunting and transformative’ and he would take the momentum forward set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, his predecessor.
“The priorities for the urban sector have already been outlined by the Prime Minister and I would like to work on them,” Puri told reporters after assuming office.
The ministry handles the government’s flagship schemes such as Housing for All, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Smart City projects along with Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, HRIDAY scheme for heritage city development, and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (urban).
Under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, solid waste management has shown poor progress. While the Smart City projects have taken off, it is yet to show tangible results. The biggest challenge remains the Housing for All scheme.
The government has so far been able to construct just 1.5 lakh houses against the total target of 1.5 crore till 2022. “The urban housing and development challenges are daunting and transformative and I intend to give my best to meet them under various new urban missions,” Puri said. “There are two sets of targets — some to be achieved by 2019 and some by 2022. If challenges are not met in two years, they can’t be met even in six years. Going by the progress on ground, they can be met,” he added.
Puri, a 1974-batch IFS officer, has served as India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. His four-decade career in diplomacy also included critical roles as India’s ambassador to Brazil and the UK.