Just a small per­cent­age of pop­u­la­tion to ben­e­fit from Smart Cities Mis­sion

Only 4% of a city’s pop­u­la­tion to ben­e­fit as 71% of the funds will be used for area-based de­vel­op­ment and not cover the en­tire city

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

The re­cent ex­pan­sion of the Union Cabi­net fol­lowed a per­for­mance re­port on the min­is­ters. Prime min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi re­viewed the progress of his min­istries in im­ple­ment­ing the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sions and the an­nounce­ments made in Union bud­gets since the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance ( NDA) gov­ern­ment came to power in 2014. Though no changes were made in the ur­ban de­vel­op­ment min­istry (MoUD) in the reshuf­fle (apart from min­is­ter Venka­iah Naidu get­ting the in­for­ma­tion and broad­cast­ing min­istry), for HT Es­tates, how­ever, the time seemed to have come for an as­sess­ment re­port on one of the most am­bi­tious plans of the gov­ern­ment: The Smart Cities Mis­sion.

The big­gest draw­back of the scheme, ur­ban de­vel­op­ment ex­perts say, is the nar­row fo­cus of the scheme on the prism of area-based de­vel­op­ment as it ben­e­fits only a small por­tion of the so­ci­ety. “It needs to be made more par­tic­i­pa­tive and should fo­cus on real prob­lems faced by cities,” they say.

In Jan­uary this year, 20 cities from a pool of 100 cities were se­lected by the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment and al­lo­cated ₹ 100 crore each for a pe­riod of five years. A few weeks ago Modi launched an­other set of 13 smart city projects in Pune, and started 69 ini­tia­tives in other smart cities in the coun­try. The prime min­is­ter em­pha­sised that the coun­try’s peo­ple “who are the smartest” should take de­ci­sions on how ur­ban spa­ces are to be de­vel­oped.

Launched in June 2015, it is be­ing touted as the “first in the coun­try and even in the world ( where) in­vest­ments in the ur­ban sec­tor are be­ing made on the ba­sis of com­pe­ti­tion-based selec­tion of cities.” Every smart city will re­ceive ₹ 500 crore in the next five years, which is ex­pected to gen­er­ate pri­vate sec­tor in­ter­est in all 100 cities. Ex­perts say the gov­ern­ment could have been a tad over­am­bi­tious. This is be­cause even un­der the Jawa­har­lal Nehru N at i o n a l U r b a n Re n e w a l Mis­sion or JnNURM (re­placed by the Smart Cities Mis­sion) data re­veals that in spite of open­ing up in­vest­ment for pri­vate play­ers, the PPP model has failed to take off in a big way, es­pe­cially when it comes to im­ple­men­ta­tion of in­fra­struc­ture projects.

Nar­row prism of are­abased de­vel­op­ment

Cities made it to the smart list on the ba­sis of plans they sub­mit­ted to MoUD for their de­vel­op­ment (in­clud­ing select ar­eas in the city). “Pro­pos­als from a ma­jor­ity of cities have fi­nan­cially pri­ori­tised de­vel­op­ing a small area in­stead of the en­tire city. As much as 71% of the fund­ing from the mis­sion will be spent on area-based de­vel­op­ment, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of which are only about 4% of the city’s pop­u­la­tion on av­er­age,” says Bhanu Joshi, a pub­lic pol­icy re­searcher at the Cen­tre for Pol­icy Re­search, Delhi.

In Bhubaneswar, Odisha, for ex­am­ple, the fo­cus is on de­vel­op­ing an area around the rail­way sta­tion which will ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit only about 4% of the pop­u­la­tion. In the Cap­i­tal the New Delhi Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion (NDMC) area has been picked over Sangam Vi­har, which prob­a­bly has more press­ing in­fra­struc­ture is­sues.

“Un­der area-based de­vel­op­ment, cities have pro­posed re­de­vel­op­ment of old and cre­ation of new cen­tral busi­ness dis­tricts, retrofitting in­fra­struc­ture such as wa­ter sup­ply, sew­er­age, and cre­ation of pub­lic spa­ces, apart from rein­vent­ing land­scape. The pro­posal for the en­tire city, how­ever, has been lim­ited to IT- based ser­vices like CCTV-mon­i­tored cen­tral com­mand sys­tem, “smart” ed­u­ca­tion por­tals and “in­tel­li­gent” wa­ter and traf­fic man­age­ment sys­tems. This pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of area might en­hance the ‘lived’

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