The Ministry of Urban Development has disseminated plenty of information about a Smart City, including through the website SMART CITIES MISSION. Yet, there is often lack of clarity in public discourse
First, though a smartness template exists in terms of providing public services, smartness is what citizens determine it to be. In an existing built-up area, there can be retrofitting of more than 500 acres, in consultation with citizens. Again in consultation with citizens and in an existing built-up area, there can be redevelopment in an area more than 50 acres. For areas more than 250 acres, there can be greenfield development. Finally, there can be pan-city solutions. All these classify as smart interventions.
Second, Union government provides Rs 500 crores and States/ULBs provide a matching amount. But other than Finance Commission, rest of the money has to come through user charges, PPPs, municipal bonds, bilateral and multilateral borrowings, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and convergence with other government schemes. Barring some minor deductions, in the first year, each selected Smart City will get Rs 200 crores from Union government towards the corpus. This is followed by Rs 100 crores each year, for three years.
Third, implementation will be through a SPV created under the Companies Act. State/UT and ULBs will be promoters of this SPV, with 50/50 equity shareholding. As long as this ratio is maintained and as long as State/UT and ULB together have majority shareholding, private sector equity contribution is allowed.
Fourth, between 2015-16 and 2019-20, the intention was to cover 100 cities. Among States/UTs, this number of 100 was distributed with equal weightage to urban population and number of statutory towns. This distribution isn’t cast in stone and can be reviewed after 2 years.
Fifth, these 100 then participated in a Smart City Challenge, on the basis of proposals they submitted. This is the first cycle of competition. There will be a second cycle of competition in 2016-17 and a third one in 2017-18. The results of the first cycle of competition were announced in January 2016 and 20 cities were chosen, with a selection process based on criteria and weights attached to these. Bhubaneswar and Pune are first and second on that list, though only 97 out of the initial list of 100 participated in this competition stage. While scores are a function of weights and criteria, Bhubaneswar topped the list with an overall score of 78.83% and Bhopal was last in that list of 20, with an overall score of 55.47%. Given that number of 20, it is obvious that not every State/UT had a city in that list of 20, especially because some States had more than one city in that list. For instance, Maharashtra has 2 in the list, Gujarat has 2, Andhra Pradesh has 2 and Madhya Pradesh has 3. Under normal circumstances, the second cycle (2016-17) of competition would have started in April 2016. But because every State/UT doesn’t have a city in that initial list of 20, 23 cities from such States/UTs have been allowed to “fast track” the approval process. This list of 23 begins with Warangal in Telengana and ends with Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
Sixth, as mentioned earlier, the Smart City initiative isn’t about Union government pumping in extra resources for urban development. The critical element is about citizens planning and interpreting smartness. While everything stated above has been reported in one fashion or other, the proposals of the “winning” cities in the 1st cycle offer insights into how citizens, States and ULBs have interpreted this smartness differently. The proposals can be found at SMART CITIES MISSION. The way Bhubaneswar has looked at it is not quite the way Pune has looked at it. That is why this Mission is refreshingly different.
Disclaimer: NITI blogs do not represent the views of either the Government of India or NITI Aayog. They are intended to stimulate healthy debate and deliberation.