[Urbanstudy] Smart Cities: The Sad State Of Affairs

Vinay Baindur yanivbin at gmail.com
Wed Jul 12 23:48:26 CDT 2017


Smart Cities: The Sad State Of Affairs

*As it turns out, 100 smart cities in five years may not happen. So far, of
the first 20 cities, only seven to eight have reported decent progress.*

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami,
12July, 2017 <http://businessworld.in/date/12-July-2017>
by Anuradha Shukla
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When the Modi government launched the Smart Cities Mission— aimed at
developing 100 smart cities over five years — in 2015, it was touted as the
biggest urban reform in India. Two years later, the project has not moved
much. Not even the selection of cities is complete. The lack of preparation
and enthusiasm on part of cities has delayed the process. So far, the
government has announced only 90 cities out of 100. But with the New Town
Kolkata recently pulling out of the competition, the effective total is 89.

Stakeholders fear that at this rate the mission will lose track. But
brushing aside all criticism, former secretary of the ministry of urban
development Rajiv Gauba says, “The criticism is very unfair. The work that
has been done in the last two years needs to be acknowledged. Significant
progress has taken place.”

About the delay, he says, “Urbanisation is a complex process and will take
its time. In the last three months, we have visited 22 states to take stock
of the mission. We are doing things differently this time”.

Despite what the government says, there is no denying that little work has
happened on the ground. In the case of the first 20 cities, the progress is
uneven and concentrated to seven to eight cities, the rest are just
dragging their feet.

*Ground Report*
The smart cities of Surat, Pune,  Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Jabalpur, Udaipur
have been the frontrunners. As on 20 June, Surat Smart City had almost
completed projects worth Rs 352 crore and had further initiated projects
worth Rs 2,139 crore. Ahmedabad had completed projects worth Rs 296 crore,
and allocated new work on projects worth Rs 425 crore. Pune had completed
projects worth Rs 269 crore, with work under progress for projects worth Rs
242 crore, while Jabalpur had completed projects worth Rs 252 crore. New
Delhi Municipal Council, which is home to the most powerful politicians and
bureaucrats in the country, had completed projects worth Rs 43 crore, with
work in progress on projects worth Rs 550 crore. Bhubaneswar, which bagged
the top slot in the competition, had completed projects worth Rs 19.75
crore, and had allocated projects worth Rs 1,100 crore to various agencies.
In Udaipur, work worth Rs 122 crore was completed. These cities are leading
by examples for taking projects in a systematic manner and their speed of

Among the group of cities that have shown uneven progress is Bhopal. It had
spent a maximum of Rs 720 crore so far, with Rs 690 crore spent on the
smart pole project alone. While the city has exceeded its budget by Rs 200
crore, it is yet to start any area-based development projects.

Kakinada has so far completed project worth Rs 24.47 crore and has
allocated project worth Rs 352 crore.  Indore has completed projects worth
Rs 25.72 crore, out of which Rs 20 crore has been spent on improving roads,
which comes under the regular municipal work. Vizag has completed projects
worth Rs 16 crore.

Jaipur has completed only projects worth Rs 6.40 crore, while Solapur and
Davangere have complete projects worth less than Rs 3 crore. No project has
been initiated by Kochi, Belagavi, Coimbatore, Chennai, Guwahati and

According to experts, one of the reasons for slow progress is that the
states have not let go of their control over municipal bodies. Even though
special purpose vehicles (SPV) were created to take charge of smart cities
and lead their development, the municipal bodies are largely dominated by
the bureaucrats.

“Decentralisation is the way forward for cities. It will bring
professionalism and help SPVs to function better,” says Jagan Shah,
director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs.

Due to the continued tight grip of the state, private participation is low
and is concentrated to just top five to six cities. In cities where foreign
investors have shown interest in projects, the follow ups and negotiations
are caught up in bureaucratic hassles.

“Even when state-level officials are receptive, it is difficult to deal
with city-level officials. That is the reason progress is slower on city
level,” says Stefan Palskog, President, Scania India.

One example of the laid-back attitude of municipal bodies is that states
are not even timely claiming their grants.

“It may be noted that most of the states are yet to submit their claims and
UCs (utilisation certificates) for release of basic grants 2017-18. The due
date for the first instalment is almost over and the second instalment is
to be released in October,” said a letter written to the Urban Development
Department of all state governments, dated 16 June.
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