Sunday, December 3, 2023

Shillong misses smart city bus yet again: Is politics the deciding factor?

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Shillong the capital of Meghalaya did not qualify to be in the smart city bandwagon of the NDA Government.  On Tuesday a list of other 13 cities for  the implementation of the ambitious smart city plan was brought out. Interestingly, Imphal and Agartala are among the selected state capitals, perhaps with an eye on the elections in the two states. Manipur goes to the polls next year.

Lucknow topped the list of winners of the fast-track competition conducted for 23 cities from as many states and Union Territories.

Naidu said the cities that participated in the competition had improved the quality of smart city plans by up to over 25 per cent to become eligible for selection. With the selection of these 13 cities, 25 states/Union Territories are now covered under the smart city mission.

According to an official communiqué, the 13 cities, which include Imphal and Agartala, were selected based on the marks scored by them in the fast-track competition and the benchmarks set by the top performers in the first round of the smart city challenge in which the first 20 cities were selected from among 98 mission cities.

Guwahati in Assam was among the top 20 cities that were selected in January this year. Other cities that participated in the fast-track competition, which included Shillong, Aizawl, Kohima and Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), can submit their revised smart city plans for evaluation in the second round of regular competition under way, by the end of June 2016.

The Meghalaya government had earlier submitted a proposal for a project costing Rs 1,459.6 crore, with Rs 1,396 crore for area-based development and Rs 63.6 crore for a Pan-city. Perhaps the Union Ministry for Urban Affairs is also looking at state’s own ability to generate revenue for the smart city project and Meghalaya was found wanting. The State is asking the Centre to share the burden of investment by adopting the 90:10 ratio (90 per cent by the Centre and 10 per cent by the state).

The present funding pattern for the smart city project is on a 50:50 basis between the Centre and the states.

While poll-bound Lucknow, which missed the list of first 20 smart cities, improved the quality of its smart city plan by 19 per cent to make it to the select list, cities in the east and Northeast improved significantly to claim their spots.

Cities like New Town, Calcutta, improved by 11 per cent, Bhagalpur, by 25 per cent, Imphal by 27 per cent, Ranchi by 27 per cent and Agartala by 25 per cent.

Only 12 states and Union Territories were represented in the first list of 20 mission cities announced in the first cycle of “India Smart Cities Challenge” on January 28. The fast-track competition was decided to be held after Nitish Kumar and other states express dismay at being left out.

Seven capital cities – Patna (Bihar), Shimla (Himachal Pradesh), Naya Raipur (Chhattisgarh), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Bangalore (Karnataka) and Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) – which were not included in the 100 cities shortlisted for the competition will be able to participate in the next round with other cities, Naidu said.

While 20 smart cities were selected during 2015-16, another 40 would be selected during 2016-17 and the remaining 40 during the next financial year.

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