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Last Updated : Sep 07, 2017 07:18 PM IST | Source:

Centre wants to fast-track 261 Smart City projects but definition of 'smart city' still ambiguous

Around 261 impactful ventures worth Rs 31,112 crore and PPP projects worth around Rs 32,410 crore have been identified for the states to start taking action immediately.

Moneycontrol News 

As part of the BJP's grand plans for 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Centre has asked the states to emphasize on impactful ventures and public-private-partnership (PPP) based smart city projects which will yield effective results within a year.

According to the Economic Times, the Centre wants a review mechanism in place for the projects under the Smart Cities Mission, one of the key projects of the government. The report suggests that around 261 impactful ventures worth Rs 31,112 crore and PPP projects worth around Rs 32,410 crore have been identified for the states to start taking action immediately.

In a review meeting held for the Smart Cities Mission last week, PM Modi had sought for fast implementation of the project and directed all chief secretaries of states to look over the progress of the venture.

Secretary of Housing and urban affairs DS Mishra urged states to commence work by November 2017 in a written document sent to chief secretaries of all states.

The identified projects under the initiative include smart city projects of 60 cities announced between January and September 2016 along with 370 PPP projects.

The work in the pipeline includes building facilities like building outdoor fitness centers in New Delhi Municipal Council area at a cost of Rs 1.31 crore and major initiatives such as the redevelopment of 340-acre area in Bhopal at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore.

Some of the major cities identified are Bhubaneshwar, Raipur, Amritsar, and Coimbatore.

What is a smart city? 

Under the Smart Cities Mission of the Modi government, states which qualify for the initiative are allocated funds for projects to develop "inclusive and sustainable development" to provide 'smart' solutions for a better standard of living.

However, the beginning line of the official government website of the Smart City Mission does not provide a definition of what a smart city is.

The website says, "there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. It means different things to different people. The conceptualization of Smart City, therefore, varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents. A smart city would have a different connotation in India than, say, Europe. Even in India, there is no one way of defining a smart city."
Therefore, the smart city initiative in India has no bearing on the global standards of defining a 'smart city' which includes high dependence on technology, IT and big data to solve urban problems efficiently. The allocation for Information Technology is a mere 22 percent for the top 60 cities identified in India.

The smart city initiative was included in the BJP manifesto of 2014 which stated the objective of building 100 new cities. But the budget speech of 2014 stated the objective of creating "satellite cities" and "modernising the existing mid-sized cities". In 2015, the draft smart city notice said that the aim was to create 'compact areas' within already existing cities so that other cities could create a replicable model.

How does the Smart City Mission work?   

After the announcement of the Smart City Mission, cities had to bid for being selected under the Mission and municipal corporations prepared their bid.

The Bureau of Indian Standards, an independent body working on consumer affairs had set up a list of services and infrastructure for cities to qualify as a smart city in India. In 2016, it came up with 6 core and 47 supportive indicators to assess city services and quality of life across sectors.

90 cities were chosen after various rounds of scrutiny and municipal authorities had to prepare extensive projects to elaborate their plans of making their city 'smart'.

The central government pays the qualified cities Rs 100 crore every year and the state government contributes another Rs 100 crore. The rest of the cost is collected through government bonds or private-public-partnership.
First Published on Sep 7, 2017 07:18 pm
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