After missing the smart city bus, the northeastern city makes a case for its inclusion in the project
Ninong Ering and Abhishek Ranjan | December 3, 2016
Cities are considered the engines of growth. They not only provide wider employment opportunities but also absorb large migrant population, which has resulted into unplanned urbanisation.
The present regime conceived the idea of developing 100 smart cities, which will act as zones of prosperity in a particular region and will help in minimising ill-effects of rapid urbanisation. Amidst debates around the possible regional imbalances due to creation of smart cities as isolated islands of development and issues like finance, capacity, etc., the mission was started in 2015 with 98 cities competing for the smart city status.
Our city, Pasighat, which comes under the Arunachal East constituency, was selected among the top 97 cities (one city did not participate) eligible for the status. People were elated on the prospects of getting their city developed as a smart city, which would provide them employment opportunities and ensure development in an accelerated manner. But their happiness was short-lived, and till date the city has been left out of the smart city race.
In the beginning of this year, 20 cities were selected in round 1 for the financing during 2016-17 based on a competitive model designed by the ministry of urban development. Based on huge enthusiasm among people and hard work done by the proposal committee, the city of Pasighat was ranked 39 out of 97 cities. It was even at the sixth position out of 23 cities selected to be upgraded in fast-track mode with a score of 52.26 percent. But nothing was done. We, residents of Pasighat and people of Arunachal Pradesh, were hopeful of getting lucky in the next round.
But the second round declared only 13 cities and the latest one 27. None included Pasighat. This has brought down the excitement level of the public and often makes us feel about the discriminatory approach adopted towards the northeastern regions of India.
We have always stressed upon positive discrimination to provide equal level of opportunity. A small city like Pasighat can’t compete with a tourist city like Udaipur or the port city of Mangaluru. It was our opportunity to get developed via the smart city mission, but the continued delay in even providing a smart city tag keeps us backward and isolated. If the government feels that our proposals are lacking somewhere, then they must not see it in an absolute sense and rather have a rational view from the prism of the northeast. Training for strengthening proposals should be provided, if needed.
Selection of Pasighat for smart city would have been more impactful than selecting any other city. This step would have restructured the city and required infrastructure for tourism, education, business, etc., would have been created. It would have also created large-scale employment opportunities not only for the locals but for the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Pasighat, widely known as the gateway to Arunachal Pradesh, has tremendous potential to expand and provide sustainable and inclusive growth in the region. Located strategically on the banks of the river Siang, the city if developed in a right way can become a focal point for the government’s Act East policy via the northeast. The critical factors of infrastructure like roads, railways, waterways and airways are being developed and will soon become arteries of transportation and communication. Simply put, the sooner Pasighat is developed as a smart city, the better rays of development will be witnessed by the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Smart city would not only bring good life to the people but also provide them with affordable access to health, education, water, sanitation, electricity, etc. The fruits of development would also help mitigate extremism and negate migration, which are volatile issues along the state’s border regions. The city of Pasighat can be created as a tourism hub and an educational centre of the state. With developed transportation, the new smart city can create many industrial hotspots and absorb more people generating employment opportunities.
Recently, a door-to-door garbage collection scheme was started to keep Pasighat clean. Efforts are being made to stop any kind of encroachment in the city and to live in peaceful harmony with mother nature.
Also, in case of Arunachal Pradesh, which is a special category state, the state government would not have been able to match the central funding for the development of Pasighat as a smart city as mentioned in the smart city guidelines. Hence, the union government should make a provision for Pasighat smart city in which 90:10 funding mechanism should be established, as in special category status.
Pasighat smart city seems like a lost dream now. People have started believing that it won’t be possible for a small city to gain the status.
Our smart cities project is lost midway.
We urge the PM and the urban development minister to revive the idea of Pasighat smart city and help us in getting the status soon. The sooner we start, the better it will be not just for Pasighat, but for the country itself.
Ering is MP, Arunachal East. Ranjan is a research & policy analyst.
(The article appears in the December 1-15, 2016 issue)
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