Now, begins the real work to make India’s cities smarter
Seven months after the Smart Cities Challenge took off in earnest, minister for urban development Venkaiah Naidu released the names of the 20 cities—out of the originally short-listed 97—that will get funding starting this year. The top ranked cities—Bhubaneswar, Pune, Jaipur—incidentally registered scores of well over 70%. Though each state had identified cities, the 20 kickstarting the initiative are from only 11 states and the Union territory of Delhi. That leaves 18 states and six Union territories absent from the list. These states, though, can list their top city in a fast-track competition and submit upgraded proposals by April 15 for being included in the mission. Next year, another 40 cities will be identified followed by 38 the year after. Most of the cities that have made the grade are Tier II cities, with only NDMC (New Delhi), Chennai and Ahmedabad being the heavyweights on the list. Over the next five years, the 20 cities have proposed a total investment of R50,802 crore. At least 10 have proposed to mobilise Rs 8,521 crore under PPP.
The states submitted area development plans for their nominated cities that made it past the first round of selection, along with a comprehensive plan for the entire city. The focus, across cities, in their plans was on fixing problem areas such as transportation networks, power and water supply, etc. Now that the names are out, it is time for both the Centre and the selected states to quickly start releasing the funds. Next, there has to be effective, real-time monitoring to ensure that there are no discrepancies whatsoever. Smarty Cities’ success depends, to a large extent, on the creation of at least one really Smart City that can match the best in the world. That would ensure other cities to follow suit.