Smart Cities in India

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published as well as unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility of anything that has been found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Sarthak Singla – MBA – 2015-2017 – Vinod Gupta School of Management – IIT Kharagpur.

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The Smart Cities Mission is a bold new initiative by the Government of India in collaboration with the Union Ministry for Urban Development for the renewal of 100 urban cities in India, with an aim to:

  • Drive economic growth
  • Improve the quality of life
  • Enable local development
  • Harnessing technology
  • Create smart outcomes for citizens

Selection Process

Only the capable cities were chosen under the Smart Cities Mission. In the Stage- 1, each State and Union Territory scored their cities and nominated the top scorers as per the indicated number of potential smart cities for participation in the Stage-2 of competition.

Stage 1 Shortlist 

The various States and Union Territories across the country evaluated their various cities based on the following parameters:

  1. Existing Service Levels (25 points): This includes Increase in service levels over Census 2011, an operational Online Grievance Redressal System, Publication of at least first monthly newsletter and online publication of municipal budget expenditure details for the last two financial years on website.
  2. Institutional Systems and Capacities (15 points): This covers imposition of penalties for delays in service delivery and improvement in internal resource generation over the last three years;
  3. Self-financing (30 points): This would be reflected in payment of salaries by urban local bodies up to last month, Auditing of accounts up to FY 201213, Contribution of internal revenues to the Budget for 201415 and Percentage of establishment and maintenance cost of water supply met through user charges during 201415.
  4. Past track record (30 points): Percentage of JNNURM projects completed which were sanctioned till 2012, Percentage of City level reforms achieved under JNNURM and extent of capital expenditure met from internal resources.

After undergoing rigorous first stage of shortlisting, the top scorers as per the indicated number of potential smart cities went through the Stage-2 of shortlisting process.

Stage 2 Shortlist

Each city shortlisted after the stage 1 was required to submit a smart city proposal and were judged based on the same for the final top 20 cities to be receiving the funding from the center in 2015 – 16.

The proposal by each city was evaluated on the following parameters:

  1. Impact of proposal: To what extent the proposal is inclusive in terms of benefits to the poor and disadvantaged, Extent of employment generation, etc.
  2. Cost effectiveness of Smart City Plan: Application of smart solutions for doing more with less of resources, Alternatives considered to enhance cost effectiveness of the proposal, firming up of resources required from various sources, Provision for Operation & Maintenance Costs, IT interventions to improve public service delivery.
  3. Innovation and Scalability: Extent of adoption of best practices in consultation with citizens, Applicability of project to the entire city, Adoption of smart solutions and city-wide developments.
  4. Processes followed: Extent of citizen consultations, vulnerable sections like the differently abled, children, elderly etc., ward committees and important citizen groups, Extent of use of social media and mobile governance during citizen consultations and Accommodation of contrary voices in the strategy and planning.

After a huge and enthusiastic participation by almost 1.52 crore people and based on the above mentioned 2 stage selection procedure, 20 cities with a total population amounting to 3.54 crore were selected for a total funding of 50802 crore, of which financing by the Center in 2015 – 16 would amount to 48000 crore in various phases.

Notable Omissions

Nothing comes without a surprise and so has the list of top 20 cities to have made it through. Some well deserving and expected cities not to have been featured in the list include

  • Varanasi
  • Chandigarh
  • Puducherry
  • Nagpur

To add to the shockers, no city from UP, Bihar & West Bengal found a place in the list.

Public Reaction

Opinion of the public is largely divided based on the location of respondents. Those opposed to the choice call it to be another political gimmick as elections are due in 10 of the 20 shortlisted cities while the proponents welcome it whole-heartedly as it will lead to the upliftment of tier-1 & tier-2 cities along with employment generation opportunities in the upcoming smart cities.

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