Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Smart City initiative got its first nomination from Puducherry, a former French colony, which was awarded 75 out of a potential 100 points by the High Powered Steering Committee (HPSC). In the Challenge Stage 1, states have to nominate cities which are evaluated on four criteria: existing service levels (25 points), institutional systems and capacities (15), self financing (30) and past track record (30).
What worked for Puducherry is the fact that it has put many things in place over the years. It has increased internal revenue generation by 14% over the period 2012-13 to 2014-15. The city has met 80% operation and maintenance cost of water supply through user charges and met 23% of capital expenditure from internal resources. On a smaller note, it has paid staff salaries till last month.
While Puducherry seems to have put systems in place, it has another advantage too. Under the Smart Cities Mission, Puducherry, a Union territory has only one city allocated to it. It is among 19 other states and union territories including Delhi, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala and Sikkkim to be allocated only one smart city. The union territory has filed in all forms and documents including details evaluating the five urban local bodies―Puducherry, Oulgaret, Kariakal, Mahe and Yanam. But, the development of Puducherry as a smart city will be across three states since Mahe is within Kerala, Yanam (Andhra Pradesh) and Kariakal (Tamil Nadu). Now that Puducherry has filed in its nomination, the action on smart cities should heat up. After all Uttar Pradesh has been allocated 13 cities, Tamil Nadu (12) and Maharashtra (10). It’s time the bigger states get going, but what remains to be seen is how much their cities have done to get the Smart City tag. After all, that’s what will help them earn their spur.