The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Narendra Modi government’s flagship urban infrastructure initiative to build 100 smart cities and a new urban renewal mission (a revamped version of JNNURM) with a combined outlay of about R1 lakh crore over a period of five years.
In a separate decision, the Cabinet gave its nod to amendments in the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988, to “lay down more stringent measures to tackle corruption” while ensuring that genuine and honest decisions by the government functionaries are not frustrated by fear of harassment at the hands of investigative agencies in the latter years.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley had said earlier that a fresh look was required at the Section 13 of the PCA, dealing with “criminal misconduct” of a public servant, as it constrained decision-making at multiple levels.
The amendments to PCA prescribe extending the protection of prior sanction for prosecution to public servants who cease to hold office due to retirement, resignation, etc. Further, prior sanction for inquiry and investigation would be required from the Lokpal or Lokayukta for investigation of offences by public servants.
The amendments cleared by the Cabinet also propose stringent provisions such as an increasing imprisonment period to a maximum of seven years from five years at present. A Bill to amend the Act is currently pending in the Rajya Sabha.
“The Cabinet has approved the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation of 500 cities (AMRUT) with outlays of R48,000 crore and R50,000 crore respectively,” the government said in a statement.
Each selected city would get R100-crore central assistance per year for five years to promote smart solutions for core infrastructure services. Smart City aspirants will be selected through a ‘City Challenge Competition’ intended to link financing with the ability of the cities to perform to achieve the mission objectives.
AMRUT is the new avatar of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and has been named after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Central assistance to projects under AMRUT would be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns.
A minimum investment of over R2 lakh crore would flow into urban areas over the next five years since states and urban local bodies would mobilise matching resources ranging from 50% to 66%, according to the government statement.
To improve ease of doing business, the Cabinet also approved amendments in the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2014, to do away with the requirement for filing a declaration by a company before commencement of business and to rationalise the procedure for laying draft notifications granting exemptions to various classes of companies.