by Akhilesh K. Prasad,
The Smart Cities Mission (SCM), also known as the Smart City Mission was one of the important programs listed in the BJP’s manifesto in the run-up to the 2014 General Elections. In June 2015, the Prime Minister launched the project with an approved budget of Rs. 98,000 crores for the development of 100 smart cities (Rs. 48,000 crores) and the rejuvenation of 500 others (Rs. 50,000 crores) under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation Urban Transformation (AMRUT). Almost 3 years later, there is little awareness with respect to progress of the project in public. Given that the present dispensation is known to advertise its achievements almost to the extent of blowing their own trumpet, it would be safe to infer that their relatively uncharacteristic silence on this particular project points to the fact that all is not well with the SCM.
The cities to be developed under the SCM were to be chosen through what was called ‘the Smart City Challenge.’ While the first list of 20 winners was announced on 28th January 2016, a total of 99 cities had been named only by January this year. Shillong was named as the 100th city about a month ago. Considering that the date for the completion of 100 SCMs was initially said to be 2020, it has taken way too long to merely identify the 100 cities.
According to a Parliamentary Standing Committee report, only Rs. 10,084.2 crores or 21% of the allocated Rs. 48,000 crores had been disbursed by the centre till March 2018, and a paltry Rs. 182.6 cores or 1.8% had been utilised. It is to be noted here that state governments of the chosen smart cities are supposed to make an equal contribution as the Centre.
In March this year, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs released a report with respect to the smart cities project. It said that 148 projects had been completed and work had started on another 407. 237 projects were said to be at the tendering stage. Further, 82 of the 99 selected cities then had functional Special Purpose Vehicles or SPVs. The state and the central governments had reportedly created an efficient system for the flow of funds so that the work of the SPVs would not be hindered due to financial problems. SPVs are local level executive bodies especially formed and entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the SCM projects.
The remedial measures have however, come too late for the Smart City Project to be completed by the planned deadline in 2020. Although the government put out a tweet on 19th May 2018 to reiterate that it remains committed to establishing 100 Smart Cities in India, it will take more than reassurance to get the SCM back on track.
An MBA by qualification, Akhilesh has dabbled into various businesses. He is a keen debater, data miner and analytically inclined. His blogs tend to present a fresh perspective on any given matter.