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Centre’s smart city project half-hearted, flawed, says Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia

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Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Friday criticized the Central government’s flagship programme to develop 100 smart cities and said the project was “not inclusive” and “half-hearted.” Sisodia questioned the Centre’s rationale behind choosing New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) area, where just 2% of the Capital’s population lived, to be developed as a smart under the programme. The Delhi deputy CM was speaking at a Bangalore-based advocacy group Janaagraha’s Annual Conclave on Shaping India’s Urban Agenda: New Cities and Smart Cities.“NDMC is home to the city’s VIPs and ministers, it is already developed… You selected NDMC over the rest of Delhi where 95% population live. The government’s intention must be good but if the scheme does not include people living in majority of the area, you can’t make the city smart. This is not inclusive… it’s a half hearted approach,” Sisodia said.

NDMC areas fares far better in basic civic amenities and physical infrastructure as compared to rest of the Capital. It made the cut on the basis of its proposal to harness IT to improve livability of the area as also for undertaking the redevelopment of Connaught Place area. The deputy CM said the Centre needs to change the concept of a smart city. “Merely investing in capital expenditure is not enough if it is does not include all people,” he said.A senior Union urban development ministry official, present at the meet, countered Sisodia and said that as part of smart city mission guidelines, state governments recommended an area of for smart development. He added that it was the Delhi government itself that had chosen NDMC.

Sisodia, however, said the Centre’s concept was flawed. “When you thought of developing Delhi as a smart city, you could have thought of Karawal Nagar too. If you develop areas like Karawal Nagar, Seemapuri and Shahdara, it will be the real success of the programme. The template can prove useful for thousands of cities from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. New Delhi is not limited to NDMC. Developing NDMC will only benefit only a handful,” Sisodia said. Earlier, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant called for a directly elected mayoral system to empower the city’s leadership and make them accountable. Kant said that people should have the power to vote out elected representatives who do not deliver.

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