Melwin Joy
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Melwin Joy

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Smart City Mission – Journey So Far

Smart City Project – An Envision by the BJP Government: The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is one of the major urban development programme initiated by the BJP government in 2015. This innovative and new initiative by the Government of India aims to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for the citizens. It is a five-year program, where all the Indian states and Union territories are participating except West Bengal, by nominating at least one city for the Smart City challenge.

Smart Cities Mission envisions developing an area within 100 cities in the country as model areas based on an area development plan. Cities will be selected based on the Smart Cities challenge, in which cities will compete in a countrywide competition to get the benefits from this mission. Financial aid will be provided by the Central and State government. Each city will create a corporate company headed by a full-time CEO to implement the SCM. The execution of projects may be done through joint ventures, subsidiaries, Public-Private Partnership (PPP), turnkey contracts, with revenue streams.

What does smart city aim for?

When the ruling party came up with the notion of Smart City, the objective was crisp and clear. The intention was to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and quality life to its citizens, thereby ensuring a clean and sustainable environment with the application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is primarily on the sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities.

When this mission was launched, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, explained that, for the first time in India, a challenge was being floated, in which the citizens of urban India could contribute in the formulation of development visions of their cities. He said that these urban development schemes were not prepared by the Government alone, but involved perhaps the biggest consultation exercise ever taken by the Union Government, involving all the stakeholders and examining global best practices. The cities which were able to competitively meet the required parameters would be developed as smart cities and this competitive mechanism would end the top-down approach, and lead to people-centric urban development.

The smart city plan

The SCM Strategy includes Pan-city initiative in which at least one Smart Solution is applied city-wide; develop areas step-by-step – three models of area-based developments; Retrofitting and Redevelopment including slums, into better planned ones and developing new areas around the cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. The focus is to improve and provide core infrastructure elements such as adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing especially for the poor, robust IT connectivity and digitization, good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and health and education.

The current status of SCM

The Smart Cities Mission is progressing at a brisk pace. As of January 2018, 99 cities have been selected to be upgraded as part of the Smart Cities Mission after they defeated other cities in the challenge. Erode has become the 11th city of Tamil Nadu while Uttar Pradesh’s Bareily, Moradabad and Saharanpur have also found place in the list of 10 new cities that would be developed under the Centre’s ambitious Smart City Mission (SCM). Under the scheme, each city will get Rs 500 crore from the Centre for implementing various projects.

Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri has released the list of nine new cities chosen in the fourth round including Bareilly, Moradabad and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Erode in Tamil Nadu, Bihar Sharif in Bihar, Silvasa in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Diu in Daman and Diu, Kavarati in Lakshadweep and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh. Shillong will be the 100th city provided it submits its proposal to the Centre in next three months.

As per the Ministry, the Centre has allocated Rs. 12,824 crore to be invested in 409 projects to make these cities ‘Smart Cities’. “The nine cities selected have proposed an investment of Rs. 12,824 crore of which Rs. 10,639 crore would be in Area Based Development (ABD) and Rs. 2,185 crores in Pan City initiatives which would be impacting 35.3 lakh persons living in these areas. The main highlights of SCM is to provide smart roads, rejuvenation of water bodies, cycle tracks, walking paths, smart classrooms, skill development centres, upgrading health facilities and pan city projects which include integrated command control centre and information and communication technology (ICT) based municipal services.

Interestingly, SCM is setting a new benchmark in terms of project implementation. ‘Smart City Centres’, based on advanced technologies, have become operational in four cities – Pune, Surat, Vadodara and Kakinada and work is in progress in 18 more cities. As on January 2018, there are 2,948 projects worth Rs. 1,38,730 crore in various stages of implementation. 189 projects worth Rs. 2,237 crore have been completed, and implementation is underway for 495 projects with a cost of Rs. 18,616 crore; furthers tenders have been floated for 277 projects with a cost of Rs. 15,885 crore; while 1,987 projects worth Rs. 1,01,992 crore are at detailed projects report stage.

BJP ruled states Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra are ahead in the race. Among the non-BJP states, the AAP-ruled New Delhi is ahead. The New Delhi Municipal Council, which was chosen to be developed as a model smart city, has started implementation in six of 40 projects. It has completed four projects so far. The implementation of the mission is done by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is set up at city-level in the form of a limited company and is promoted by the State/UT and the Urban Local Body (ULB) jointly both having 50:50 equity shareholding.

A step towards Smarter India

A strong IT backed infrastructure and new age cutting edge technology is imperative for the success of ‘Digital India’ and the ambitious’ Smart Cities’ mission of the government. Mr. Charles Sevior, CTO, Emerging Technology Division, Dell EMC, while conversing with BWBusinessworld’s Chahat Jain, commented on the smart city mission stressing out that Smart Cities is a great initiative and India is making a good progress. It is stepping ahead of many other countries in the world to focus on citizen’s health, safety and security.

With the accomplishment of this mission, India plans to have 100 such cities by 2022. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supplies, efficient public transport, internet connectivity, and e-governance along with quality infrastructure. It will not only improve the quality of life but also make a difference with a smarter way of thinking and perceiving things.

Melwin Joy
AUTHOR

Melwin Joy

All stories by: Melwin Joy