100 smart cities: A peep into the future

pratap

Pratap Vikram Singh | May 26, 2015




Soon after assuming power, PM Narendra Modi announced a plan to build 100 smart cities by 2022. Nearly a year after the announcement and shunting of a top-ranking official, the ministry of urban development is yet to take some concrete steps. After a slow take-off, the ministry is expected to finalise the guidelines for developing smart cities “anytime soon”. It is also expected to come out with a final list of cities. At present, what we know is that the selection would happen on the basis of a ‘city challenge competition’: cities will be rated on the basis of revenues, expenditure, availability of urban infrastructure, among others. The competition will be carried out by Bloomberg Philanthropes. The chosen cities will get a central fund of '100 crore each year for five years. Also, sources reveal that around 20 cities are likely to be selected in the first phase, followed by 40 each in the next two years. Cities like Ajmer, Allahabad, Visakhapatnam and Varanasi are expected to make it to the final list.

In the run-up to releasing the final contours of the scheme, the cabinet has already approved '48,000 crore for scheme execution. The cabinet has also approved '50,000 crore for the Atal mission for rejuvenation and urban transformation (AMRUT), aimed at urban renewal of 500 cities. These two are the revised versions of the Jawaharlal Nehru national urban renewal mission (JnNURM), which was partly successful in implementation.

A costly dream
Critics have pointed out that the centre’s share is highly inadequate, given the fact that redevelopment of cities would require several thousand crores of investment. Going by the government’s definition, a smart city is “one having the provision of basic infrastructure to give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of smart solutions, keeping citizens at the centre”. Consider this: Even if a city chooses to construct only an elevated road or a sewage/garbage treatment plant (these are part of basic urban infrastructure), construction of either of the two will itself cost between '100 crore and '500 crore. By design, most of the investment has to come from the private sector. Critics say that this will give way to ‘privatised governance’. In the case of greenfield (new) cities, the apprehensions are grimmer. Will these be only meant for the rich? What will happen to the economically weaker sections of the city population? Will these be affordable for even the middle income groups? 

Another most important thing which has been sidelined during discussions on smart cities is about urban governance. The debate on the need to strengthen the democratic and institutional structure of cities has been going on since 1993, when the 74th Amendment Act was passed. City-specific development, improvement in the credit rating of urban local bodies and devising innovative ways of raising funds will itself require greater devolution of powers to mayors and local institutions – this has been fiercely resisted by states as they fear change in the existing power equations between the two levels of governance. It is unfortunate that as countries in the west have moved towards participatory governance, especially in case of local governments, India is moving in the opposite direction.

How can cites be called smart unless citizens are kept at the centre of planning and execution? A citizen-friendly city would require an overhaul of public transport system, redesigning of public places, mandatory provisioning of pedestrian-friendly roads and streets, among others. As the government releases the guidelines and moves to roll out the scheme, one hopes that the PM’s election promise of creating 100 smart cities in the country doesn’t remain a rhetoric.


(The article appears in the May 16-31, 2015 issue)

Comments

 

Other News

Sowing wheat earlier can help increase yields in India: US researcher

Yield gaps in wheat production in India can be countered with an earlier sowing date, says a University of Michigan researcher.   Using a new way to measure wheat yields, Meha Jain, assistant professor at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, found that the wheat yie

Giving birth as a Baiga

Kharpariya village, about 50 km from the headquarters town of Madhya Pradesh’s Mandla district, is like many villages in the region, home to the Baiga, deemed a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) for whom permanent contraception methods are banned to prevent extinction. However, care for p

Being the prime minister’s brother

Somabhai Modi says he remembers only one occasion when he offered his younger brother prime minister Narendra Modi advice regarding work. This, he says, was when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. After one of his weekly grievance redressal sessions, the then chief minister had enquired after the well-b

Should ration cards not linked to Aadhaar be rendered ineligible?

Should ration cards not linked to Aadhaar be rendered ineligible?

INS Kiltan commissioned into Indian Navy

 INS Kiltan, the third anti-submarine warfare (ASW) stealth corvette built under project 28 (Kamorta class), was commissioned into the Indian Navy by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam.    The anti-submarine warfare stealth corvet

SAIL`s special grade steel used to build stealth corvette

Maharatna enterprise, Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) has supplied defence grade micro-alloyed grade of steel (DMR 249A) steel plates for the indigenously built anti-submarine warfare (ASW) stealth corvette INS-Kiltan commissioned into Indian Navy.    SAIL’s integ



Video

Grand Diwali celebrations in Ayodhaya on eve of diwali

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter