Finally the Urban Ministry announced the first list of 20 cities that would be initially be developed, which would certainly ignite the interest of others seeking transformation of their urban landscape.
There will be an upsurge in interest among other contenders to get into the next list as they would also work hard to create world class cities in the country.
The Modi government announced the ambitious plan to develop 100 cities and towns under its Smart City Mission. The venture was to have taken off in Financial Year 2016, but the budgetary allocation was limited to Rs 1.43 billion against the budgeted amount of Rs 70.16 billion in 2014-15 which was revised to Rs 9.24 billion.
This means that the money would probably start being allocated from next year onwards and the Union Budget for Financial Year 2017 would make such provisions, analysts have said.
The novel feature of choosing these 20 cities is that it has been meritocratic, as states had to apply for their cities which were then in turn selected on the basis of replies to a questionnaire containing 43 issues.
Those cities which scored well have qualified in round one. This is a prudent resource allocation process though the fact is that three big states i.e. UP, Bengal and Bihar do not feature in this list.
This may be politically less pleasing but given that an objective criterion has been used, there can be really be no dispute on the selection process.
Three cities are picked from MP (Jabalpur, Indore and Bhopal) and 2 each from Maharashtra (Pune and Sholapur), Gujarat (Ahmedabad and Surat), Rajasthan (Jaipur and Udaipur), Andhra Pradesh (Kakinada and Vizag), Karnataka (Davangere and Balgavi) and Tamil Nadu (Coimbatore and Chennai). The others are Ludhiana (Punjab), Guwahati (Assam), Kochi (Kerala), Delhi and Bhubaneswar (Odisha).
There is a large share of the qualifying cities in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, but given the transparent selection process, this should not be treated as more than a coincidence considering that these states are also the ones which are performing well on various economic parameters.
The ministry has indicated that the rest of the 80 cities will have to compete and improve their functioning to ensure that they feature in the subsequent rounds with the second one poised to cover 40 of them.
Going ahead with the Smart City mission would require huge fund mobilisation that could be brought about by public-private partnerships.
“Developing the project in the shortlisted cities would ensure quality infrastructure, technology-enabled services, sustainable public trans,” said Sanjay Dutt, Managing Director, India, Cushman & Wakefield.
“The really Smart Cities will build on the efforts already put into developing the Smart City plans and take some of the implementation forward, especially those which do not require significant financial outlays like increasing walkability by improving pavements or are largely supported by private investment,” commented Arindam Guha, Senior Director, Deloitte in India.
Schneider Electric Infrastructure VP and MD Prakash Chandraker said herculean effort has gone into the elaborate evaluation process for selecting these 20 cities out of the shortlist of 98 that was drawn up last year.
“The sheer size and scale of the initiative is unprecedented and unparalleled anywhere in the world,” he said.
Jaijit Bhattacharya, Partner, Infrastructure and Government Services, KPMG in India said today’s announcement would further accelerate the transformation of cities into Smart Cities and will witness very significant investments coming in”
Analysts also said affordable housing, which is already a priority for the government, would receive a further boost through the project.
If robust IT frameworks, connectivity and digitisation are enabled in Smart Cities, there would be a marked improvement in the quality of infrastructure.
Incentivizing infrastructure development would lead to higher private participation in the formation of Smart Cities, and the shortlisted cities would require fine-tuning and detailing their proposals to establish their efficacy and begin implementation.