100 crore a year not enough?

Cities get a lot more money in their an­nual bud­get, but be­ing de­clared smart is all about im­prov­ing liv­ing stan­dards, say ex­perts

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

The list of 98 cities that made it to the smart cities com­pe­ti­tion was an­nounced last week. As many as four cities – Ghazi­abad, Kar­nal, Farid­abad and New Delhi Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (NDMC) that made the cut are part of Delhi NCR. While some real es­tate ex­perts have wel­comed it as a “pos­i­tive ini­tia­tive”, oth­ers say that the ₹ 100 crore al­lo­ca­tion from the Cen­tre each year, with another ₹ 100 crore matched by the state, might not be enough for a com­plete makeover. “It is not the money that is im­por­tant but the spirit of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion, win­ning it and the as­pi­ra­tion of a bet­ter qual­ity of life for cit­i­zens,” ex­perts say, adding that the amount al­lo­cated un­der this mis­sion comes to barely 5% to 10% of the an­nual bud­get al­lo­ca­tion for most of these cities.

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. A sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­ment and safety and se­cu­rity of the cit­i­zens is also promised. Cities were 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. At the first stage, states and union ter­ri­to­ries sent in their nom­i­na­tions of po­ten­tial smart cities. Now, each city has to com­pete for se­lec­tion by sub­mit­ting a smart city pro­posal (SCP). At the most, only 20 cities are likely to be picked out in the first year, with the re­main­ing cities go­ing back to the draw­ing board and re­work­ing their pro­pos­als to sub­mit these again in the sec­ond year. Also, un­like JnNURM, where money was al­lo­cated to all states, now states will have to com­pete for get­ting funds.

“The fund­ing from the Cen­tre is only about ₹ 100 crore. This is minis­cule, com­pared to the cor­po­ra­tion bud­get which is usu­ally over ₹ 1,000 crore a year. What this means is that it is not even 10% of the an­nual bud­get al­lo­cated for their mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions. It is not the money but the as­pi­ra­tion of hav­ing one’s city in the smart cities list that is driv­ing cities to par­tic­i­pate and com­pete,” says Amit Bhatt of Em­barq In­dia.

By par­tic­i­pat­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion, cities can achieve sev­eral de­vel­op­ment tar­gets usu­ally dif­fi­cult to reach in the nor­mal course of things. Go­ing for­ward, cities will have to sub­mit an area pro­ject and a pan city pro­ject. The first refers to de­vel­op­ment of an area that will act as a model for de­vel­op­ment and the sec­ond is for upgra­da­tion in trans­porta­tion, sewage, wa­ter sup­ply etc that will have

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