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Smart Cities and Their Ground Reality – RealtyMyths


by Akhilesh K Prasad

The Smart City project announcement was a big step taken by the Modi government in the run up the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. A total of 100 cities were to be selected under the scheme, to be developed as ‘Smart Cities.’ As the second term of Modi government begins, hereinafter let’s review ‘Smart Cities’ development in the last 4 years.

The SCM projects were supposed to be funded by a convergence of resources, inclusive of the central and state governments, local bodies and external funds. 20% of the funding was proposed to be raised via a public-private partnership (PPP). The Central government proposed to extend financial support up to Rs. 500 crore each to these cities over a period of 5 years. State governments and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) were to contribute an equal amount. So far, projects worth Rs. 2,05,018crore has been proposed by the select 100 cities.

However, despite the fact that many of the cities had plans ready even before they were selected, till February 2017, a paltry 3% of the approved projects had been completed. By July 2018, the figure stood at 21.56% and in December 2018, only 33% of the total 5,151 SCM projects had been completed or were under implementation, utilising 25% of the planned investment. In fact, a Parliamentary Standing Committee report submitted in July 2018 suggested that till December 2018, 10 out of the first batch of selected 20 cities for SCM has not utilised even 50% of their funds.

According to the data presented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs before the LokSabha in July 2018, 2,342 projects (45%) worth Rs. 90,929 crore have been tendered, of which 1,675 projects (33%) worth Rs. 51,866 crore are under implementation or have been completed. This means, 3,476 projects (67%) are either tendered or have not even gone through the tendering process.

For perspective, the 20 cities selected in round one in 2016, were supposed to complete their projects by 2020-21. The deadline for round two cities was 2021-22. And for round three and four cities, it was 2021-22 and 2022-23 respectively.

Given the aforesaid, it is quite evident that the progress has been dismally poor. The Ministry for Housing and Urban Development has, however, assured the LokSabha that work is being speeded up lately. The ministry claims that there has been a 290% increase in the number of projects tendered and 479% increase in the number of projects completed since October 2017.

Non-adherence to the implementation schedule has not been the only problem plaguing the SCM. Several critics have been weary of its limited impact. In terms of area, it is said that only a paltry 0.5 to 2% of the total area of a city will be impacted by the SCM. That would basically cover a mere 0.75 to 2.5% of the city’s population.

Moreover, in several cities, slum dwellers faced the flipside of the SCM. For instance, in Patna, where a whopping 63% of the city’s population lives in slums, the administration has demolished slums without providing alternate housing to the poor in the name of development and beautification under the SCM.

In India, on an average one out of every six residents of a city live in slums. The SCM cannot be successful with such antipathy to their concerns.

FDIAn 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.

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