20 Smart Cities selected for the Project

Smart cities project which is an ambitious project of the NDA Government to transform the urban landscape in India has moved one step ahead with the selection of first 20 cities after an inter-city competition. The city's performance was measured on 3 broad divisions which included:

City level:  includes vision and goals, strategic plan, citizen engagement, self assessment and potential for investment with a combined weight of 30%.

Area Based Development: focusing on smartness of the proposal, citizen engagement, result orientation, process followed and implementation framework with a combined weight of 55%.

Pan city solution with same criteria to be followed as in area based development and with a combined weight of 15%.

Bottom-up approach with citizen participation has been taken up for the 1st time in the formulation of city vision and plan. The 20 cities selected are from 11 states and Union Territory of Delhi. Bhubaneswar topped the list which included 3 of cities from Madhya Pradesh. 2 each from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan and one each from the remaining 5 made it to the winning list. 23 States and UTs who could not make to the list of winners will be given an opportunity to participate in a 'fast track competition'. Each top ranking city form these left out states can upgrade their smart city proposals and submit them by April 15, this year for inclusion in the mission.20 winning cities and towns have proposed a total investment of Rs.50,802 cr over 5 years with all the cities proposing Public-Private-Partnership as a major vehicle of resource mobilization. 10 of the 20 cities have proposed to mobilize Rs. 8,521 cr. under PPP model while others have also indicated this option. A total area of 26,735 acres has been identified by these cities for making them smart through necessary interventions.

What are the concerns raised?

If the whole process is analyzed on the basis of the cities selected and methodology followed following points can be underlined.

• North-East India and eastern India with large states like UP, Bihar and West Bengal doesn't find any place except for Guwahati (Assam) and Bhubaneswar (Odisha). Though the selection was based on competition but it betrays the incapacities of ULBs of some of the poor states and past failures. The question remains how their capacities are going to be improved through systemic interventions remains a question.

• In the area based project already well off area, which can be made smart at their own without government support are chosen, for example in New Delhi the NDMC area including Cannaught Palace, Janpath area with booming business and posh localities has been chosen.

• Implementation has been the main reason of failure of Indian programmes and schemes, which still needs to be seen in Smart City project. A study by IIM Ahmadabad professors regarding  JNNURM found that nearly 36% of projects suffered from Time and cost overruns. 

• Accountability should be the inbuilt feature of a project of such scale. Who will be accountable for the implementation of the projects, SPV or Municipal Councils or Union government and how the accountability is going to be ensured? These are some questions which need to be answered.

• Apprehensions are raised that Smart cities may emerge as exclusive societies or cities catering to the needs of only well off. Like the retrofit proposal of New Delhi Municipal Corporation has no mention of street hawkers and vendors in the Cannaught Place area. How can a city be smart without being inclusive? 

• Level of involvement of Indian Educational institutions like IITs and IIMs is not clear. There is too much focus on getting handholding support from foreign or multilateral agency like (JICA) Japan International Cooperation adency), KfW. There is no focus on developing indigenous capabilities in the field of urban planning and design. 

• The wish list of the cities is too ambitious. Like NDMC proposes to be the 'global benchmark for a capital city" with certain measureable targets given as 0% of slum population and PM2.5 and PM10 level of 10µg and 20µg respectively by 2025. These targets appear too ambitious to be achieved by 2025 and at the same time there is no mention of how these are going to be achieved.

What after selection?

After selection of the cities in the Challenge, the process of implementation will start with the setting up of the SPV. It is proposed to give complete flexibility to the SPV to implement and manage the Smart City project. The SPV may appoint Project Management Consultants (PMC) for designing, developing, managing and implementing area-based projects. SPVs may take assistance from any of the empanelled consulting firms in the list prepared by MoUD and the handholding agencies. SPV will be headed by a full time CEO and have nominees of Central Government, State Government and ULB on its Board. The execution of projects may be done through joint ventures, subsidiaries, public-private partnership (PPP), turnkey contracts, etc. suitably dovetailed with revenue streams. The SPV will be a limited company incorporated under the Companies Act, 2013 at the city-level, in which the State/UT and the ULB will be the promoters having 50:50 equity shareholding. The private sector or  financial institutions could be considered for taking equity stake in the SPV, provided the shareholding pattern of 50:50 of the State/UT and the ULB is maintained and the State/UT and the ULB together have majority shareholding and control of the SPV.

Smart City Project

Smart City project focuses on making urban spaces more livable, aesthetical pleasing, socially more inclusive and administratively smart by using innovative solutions to the problems faced with application of latest technology. Some other aspects of this project are:

• It is based on comprehensive planning and people participation. SWOT analysis of the city is to be done and then projects to be decided based on the inherent potential.

• It is a competition based project in which cities compete with each other for getting selected for funding.

• Participation of all the stakeholders centres, state, Municipal Bodies is ensured.

• A SPV is to be created to ensure co-ordination and implementation of the project.

• Both PAN city project and area specific projects are to be taken.

• The area based project will be implemented through retrofitting, redevelopment and Greenfield strategies.

• Time bound implementation of the project.

• Financial viability of the project is to be ensured so that the projects don't suffer from policy changes in future and are self-sustaining.

• Focus on convergence of schemes like Digital India, Swachha Bharat, AMRUT Mission etc.

• PPP mode has been chosen to raise resources and implement the projects.