Tough for cities to smarten up
Cities to face tough competition, show good JnNURM track record, among other things, to access 100 crore smart city fund
Letter to all state governments to shortlist potential smart cities (By July 31, 2015)*
On the basis of response from states and union territories, the list of potential 100 smart cities will be announced (Around August 4, 2015)
Each potential smart city prepares a proposal assisted by consultants from a panel prepared by MoUD and a handholding external agency (States to be given three to four months to prepare proposals)
Proposal submitted. Evaluation begins by panel of experts
Selected cities declared (By January after post evaluation of proposals)
Selected cities set up special purpose vehicle
Other cities prepare to improve their proposal for next round of the challenge
Funding starts for selected smart cities (Around January 2016)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious 100 smart cities initiative is aimed at providing core infrastructure such as adequate water and assured electricity supply, sanitation, affordable housing, robust IT connectivity, sustainable environment and safety and security to citizens. Under this scheme, states will have to face stiff competition to get selected and submit a smart city proposal (SCP). A great proposal will not be enough to guarantee cities a place in the list to be eligible for the yearly ₹ 100 crore funding. They will be evaluated on the basis of their performance under the JnNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) scheme – the reforms achieved and projects completed, operational online grievance redressal systems, monthly e-newsletter and timely payment of salaries to employees of their urban local bodies.
Amit Bhatt, strategy head of urban transport EMBARQ India, thinks it might not be easy for the government to select the cities once states submit proposals and at the most only 20 are likely to be picked out in the first year. The remaining cities would have to go back to the drawing board and rework their proposals and submit it in the second year. Also, unlike JnNURM, where money was allocated to all states, in case of smart cities, states will have to compete for getting funds.
The JnNURM scheme was launched by for mer prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 for a period of seven years and was aimed at improving the quality of life and infrastructure across cities. It was extended for two years from April 2012 to March 2014.
States competing for the smart cities challenge will be assessed on a score of 100 where they will be given marks for the number of household sanitary latrines, an online grievance redressal system and responses to complainants, monthly e - newsletters, e l e c t r onic project-wise municipal budget
₹ expenditure information for the last two financial years, total collection of internally generated revenues in the form of taxes, fees and charges, salaries paid to employees of urban local bodies, percentage of city-level JnNURM reforms achieved and percentage of JnNURM projects completed.
Pratap Padode, founder and director of the Smart Cities Council of India, says that the “smart cities competition will bring in financial discipline. We can expect a lot of states to get filtered in the first round itself as most of them do not even have their books in place.”
What the gover nment is trying to do here is to cover all aspects of governance. With this mix of measures, the government is trying to gauge the capacity of states to achieve certain targets. While one state may be good at conceptualising projects, it may not have a grievance redressal system in place, which means that it may have executed projects irrespective of the needs of its citizens whereas another state may have an excellent revenue generation model but an average track record under the JnNURM scheme, says Padode.
The emphasis on t he JnNURM scheme, initiated by the previous UPA government, indicates the government’s intention to continue the scheme in its new avatar. “A huge amount of money has been spent on the JnNURM scheme and through this scorecard the government wants to send out the message to states that if they have not achieved much on this front or been negligent in the past, they cannot go scot free with unutilised funding this time round as the smart cities scheme comes with a set of safeguards. It would not be surprising to see that states with an abysmally low JnNURM score being asked to cite reasons why they did not perform. A low score on this count may put a question mark on the implementation and execution capabilities of a state,” Padode adds.
Ye t a n o t h e r g u i d e l i n e requires states to publish on their websites the municipal
budget expenditure details for the last two financial years. The guidelines provide for imposition of penalties for delays in service delivery and look for improvement in internal resource generation over the last three years. The fact that their books have been updated on time is indicative of abovethe-board financial discipline. Delays are indicative of questionable practices.
States will also be assessed on the basis of salaries paid by urban local bodies up to last month. As much as 60% of any state budget goes towards payment of salaries. If the state has not been prompt in paying its employees, it means that it cannot do much to execute its projects on time as its employees will be unhappy and a disgruntled lot, says Padode.
A quarterly newsletter will also be mandatory. This again is important because not maintaining one is indicative of the fact that the state has not been proactive in terms of communicating what it has achieved in the quarter or it has nothing new to say because it has not achieved anything, he adds.
Smart city proposals submitted by the states will include details of assured electricity supply with at least 10% of the smart city’s energy requirement coming from solar power, adequate water supply, including waste water recycling and storm water reuse, sanitation, including solid waste management, rainwater harvesting, smart metering, robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, pedestrian- friendly pathways, push for non-motorised transport (eg walking and cycling), intelligent traffic management, non-vehicle streets/zones, smart parking, energy-efficient street lighting, innovative use of open spaces, visible improvement in the area (eg replacing overhead electric wiring with underground wiring, encroachment-free public areas, and ensuring safety of citizens, especially children, women and elderly).
For redevelopment and greenfield models of smart cities, apart from the essential features mentioned above, at least 80% buildings should be energyefficient and green.
Also, of the total housing provided in greenfield development, at least 15% should be in the affordable housing category, according to the smart cities mission statement and guidelines.
“Transparency and accountability are key to the success of the smart city mission and are linked to another key aspect: sustainability. Prudent financial planning is essential and should be based on a robust project formulation and execution arrangements, which ensure that we achieve targets within time and as per quality standards, with a clear understanding of life-cycle costs and measures. Since the spirit of competition needs to infuse the mission in all aspects, it is not necessary that we intervene in 100 cities at one time. Keep in mind that the first ‘winners’ of the challenge are winning on the basis of smart city plans,” says Jagan Shah, director, National Institute of Urban Affairs.
The execution of projects will take about five years, during which there will be learning and improving of performance. The first cities will become models and will create the good practices that can be replicated in other cities. It is a steep learning curve that is expected to infuse smartness into the whole ecosystem. Aware, informed and vigilant -- read ‘smart’ -- citizens will be the most important ingredient in this recipe for change, Shah adds.