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
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