Amrut Mahotsav To Showcase India’s Azaadi Over A Year

India’s year-long celebration from 15 August 2021 to commemorate 75 years of Independence with a range of programmes and projects will showcase “development, governance, technology, reform, progress and policy,” over the years. The exercise is being initiated by the Prime Minister’s office and is most likely to be flagged off on August 15, 2021 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Red Fort. To showcase India’s trajectory over the years, all Central ministries and departments have been asked to identify 10 projects that would be implemented and on the anvil are projects ranging from energy-efficient street lighting to Command and Control Centres in all 100 Smart Cities, Garbage-Free 2,022 Cities and the Skilling Programme for migrant workers. The projects lined up by the ministries would be completed by August 2022 and inaugurated by Modi during the celebratory year.

For the purpose, the Smart City Mission has identified 163 projects worth Rs 20,404 crore to be inaugurated in the 75th year while Swachh Bharat Mission has lined up declaration of 2,022 cities as ODF++ in the year 2022. 

The mega initiatives include installation of 75 solar trees in open areas, development of 10 selected parks as Platinum Jubilee Model Parks, Green Country Campaign planting 75,000 medicinal and fruit-bearing plants, Global Tech Festival to showcase all technologies being used in India, Lake Redevelopment Projects, Development of River Fronts, Smart Schools and Digital Libraries.

Why, refusing to buckle before even natural calamity and successfully turning a catastrophe into an opportunity, the Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Administration already launched a colossal tree plantation programme for Diu in which, through a scheme called Tree for Tree, each person gets two saplings against the loss of each tree to plant in his field and home. The tree plantation programme launched covered all roads, government premises, public areas, farms and houses, coastal forests and mangrove areas following Cyclone Tauktae affecting Daman and Dium after making a landfall east of Diu on 17 May 2021. 

While armed by accurate forecasts and warnings provided by the Indian Meteorological Department, people were evacuated in a timely manner preventing any loss of human life, the cyclone caused extensive damage to trees and uprooted centuries-old trees in the island. More than 16000 trees were destroyed due to the cyclone and around 13,843 trees like coconut, mango, chickoo, banana and other trees which were planted on private land and farmland were destroyed.

In the programme to rehabilitate the region, twice the number of saplings will be provided against the number of trees destroyed from the houses/farms. Under this program, there are plans to distribute 19,314 high quality saplings of coconut, mango and chickoo against the loss of 9657 trees (8696 coconut, 288 chickoo and 673 mango trees) in Diu. That apart, the program envisages planting of 22 different species of trees on all roads like National Highway 251, main roads and other roads of the district and rural roads. A total of 22 species of trees with a height of 8-10 feet will be planted on both sides of 42.71 km long roads. The entire road length is divided into 39 sections and each section will have a particular species of tree. A total of 14,142 trees will be planted along the roads. 1155 saplings of fruit trees will also be planted in government premises. 

In addition, it is proposed to plant 20,000 saplings in 88 hectares of forest land and 2,50,000 mangroves in 94 hectares of mangrove area for augmentation of forest areas in Phudam. Top priority is being given to the restoration of Hoka trees. Tree plantation program will be included in every aspect of life and Self Help Groups operating in Diu will be linked with the protection of the trees so planted.

The nationwide pandemic that wreaked havoc on India could have hit colossal figures if it were not for the Swachh Abhiyaan movement that led to Clean-Up Campaigns across India. In 2020, the government declared India’s top garbage-free cities and revealed names of six 5-star garbage-free cities in a list in which 141 cities were rated in total. Out of them, 65 got a 3-star rating, while 70 cities got 1-star rating.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, cities that got the 5-star rating are Mysuru, Ambikapur, Rajkot, Surat, Navi Mumbai, and Indore. New Delhi got a 3-star garbage-free rating, alongside Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Jamshedpur, Tirupati, Karnal, Bhilai Nagar, and Vijayawada. Reportedly, the cities got the rating after 25 parameters were taken into consideration.

Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the situation with the pandemic in India could have been a lot worse if the Swachh Bharat Mission was not implemented over the last few years. Cities rated 1-star in the survey included Delhi Cantonment; Haryana’s Rohtak; Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior, Maheshwar, Khandwa, Badnawar, and Hathod; and Gujarat’s Vadodara, Bhavnagar, and Vyara. The entire process took a lot of data collection, involving 1.19 crore citizens alongside about 10 lakh geo-tagged pictures. Moreover, the surveyors visited 5,175 solid-waste processing plants in order to access the situation on ground.

Bhopal-based construction site labourer Vaidehi Gupta is exhilerated at the prospects of obtaining training as a tailor, after years of working on construction sites as a labourer before being rendered workless following the lockdown. Despite having studied till Standard 9, Vaidehi had to leave her education in Uttar Pradesh, where she originated from, midway following the demise of her father to tuberculosis. A marriage later, she found herself breaking stones, for a living, at construction sites at Bhopal. After all, her husband's income didn't suffice for the upkeep of her family that comprised three children borne within five years of wedlock.

The new-found opportunity brings a ray of hope for migrant worker Vaidehi and thousands of her sort. 

In November last, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship begun skill training of three lakh migrant workers from the identified 116 districts across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand in an initiative that aimed to empower migrant workers and rural population in the post-COVID-19 era through demand-driven skilling and orientation under centrally sponsored and centrally managed (CSCM) component of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) 2016-2020..

The National Skill Development Corporation began executing the training programme through existing training providers and project implementing agencies operating under PMKVY 2016-20 or state schemes. While 1.5 lakh migrant workers were trained under short-term training programme, another 1.5 lakh migrant workers were slated to be certified under the recognition of prior learning scheme. Demand aggregation for local jobs in these districts as well as the mobilisation of returnee migrants for the purpose of training are being done by the district administrations.

Stressing upon the need to promote skilling and entrepreneurship for rural development, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Mahendra Nath Pandey said rural development through skill empowerment is a fundamental element of the Skill India Mission, as 70 per cent of the total workforce come from rural India. The vision of making rural workforce attuned to the changing needs of the industry requires seamless synergies between various partners in the skilling ecosystem, he said. 

"We need to realign ourselves and complement each other on the pressing need for creation of industry-relevant jobs at regional levels to offset the after-effects of workforce migration," said Mr Pandey, adding, "We are committed to focus on local demand-driven skill development programmes to create better and sustainable livelihood opportunities for the migrant skilled workers whose collective strength forms the backbone of our economy."

The skill training and orientation programme across the identified districts has begun after accreditation and affiliation of Training Providers on Skill India Portal and subsequent approval of system-based targets. Job roles in demand across the six states included assistant electrician, tailor, retail sales associate, customer care executive (call centre), sewing machine operator and general duty assistant, among others.

In 2022, when the new Parliament building is expected to be ready, will be held a culmination event to the year-long activities. The culture ministry will be the nodal ministry for coordinating programmes like events at India Gate, special marathons and cultural evenings at various cities which played a role in India’s freedom struggle. And, if things go as per plan, the winter session would certainly be held at the New Parliament building. But, after a special session.

To improve urban governance in India by 2022-23, the host of strategies that have been proposed include leveraging the city economy, decentralization and metropolitan governance, spatial planning and land titling, strengthening finances of Urban Land Bodies and civic agencies, capacity building by skilling for municipal jobs and strengthening institutions and citizen participation.

Among others important, leveraging the city economy is of pivotal importance in Urban India.

Each city must be recognised as a distinct unit of the economy. In larger cities, City Economic Councils can serve as a clearing house between business and governments to accelerate the progress of specific projects, improve the ease of doing business and catalyse investments into the city.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation may create frameworks for a dashboard subsuming scheme-specific performance MIS. A quarterly city dashboard capturing city-level investments, GDP and employment growth, financial position and financial performance, and status of infrastructure projects can provide a framework for data-driven decisions. This is expected to measure transformation and encourage competition among cities.

The need of the hour is decentralization and metropolitan governance. The multiplicity of agencies with jurisdictions that overlap with similar transgressions of roles and responsibilities is a common scourge. This, inadvertently, leads to delays in implementation of projects and inefficient service delivery. 

Now, to achieve the decentralization goals of 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, a framework for governance of cities that includes development authorities, other parastatals, special purpose vehicles (SPVs) and Census Towns must be created. 

The present-day loosely-knit network of social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram groups must be organised and monitored in a way to enhance citizen participation to boost greater trust between citizens and governments, improve sustainability, ensure better service delivery and accountability. Ward committees and Area Sabhas must be activated with a technology-enabled ‘Open Cities Framework’ and the use of digital tools for feedback and reporting.

Urban Local Bodies must encourage the participation of all community associations that aren’t restricted to ‘selective groups’ mostly privileged but must include settlements of the underprivileged and civil society organizations. Engagements through city watch groups, public hearings and city consultations will help create frameworks for formal partnerships. Rules and procedures need to be simplified for faster implementation of constructive recommendations too.

It was on 12 March 2021 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Azaadi ka Amrut Mahotsav to mark the 75th year of India's Independence. The PM also inaugurated a website of the Amrut Mahotsav and an Aatmanirbhar Incubator. The incubator aims to support 40,000-odd families of traditional craft. As part of the Mahotsav, the PM also flagged-off a 25-day-long padyatra in remembrance of Dandi March.

The Mahotsav was started 75 weeks before 15th August 2022 and will run till August 15, 2023. The event was launched from places that were major centres of India's fight for Independence. They ranged from Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat to Cellular Jail in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Jalianwala Baug in Punjab to Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.