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Smart city mission: Implementation begins only in 49 out of 731 projects

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Almost two years after the NDA government’s flagship mission to develop 100 smart cities was launched, progress in the 60 cities selected so far is yet to pick up pace. Of the 731 smart city projects worth Rs 46,366 crore approved so far, implementation has started in 49 (6.7%). And 24 projects (3.3%) have been completed as of January 2017. According to figures on the Union urban development ministry’s website, 49.5% projects are yet to be initiated. Of the 60 cities selected so far, projects have started on the ground in the first batch of 20 chosen by the ministry last January. Work is yet to take off in 40 cities that were selected last September.

India plans to have 100 such cities by 2022. While 60 have been chosen so far, the ministry plans to select the remaining 40 by June. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supplies, efficient public transport, internet connectivity, and e-governance along with quality infrastructure.BJP-ruled states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra – are ahead in the race. Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur have started implementing 20 of the 159 projects that were approved for these three cities and completed 12. Surat and Ahmedabad have started work on eight of the 49 projects and completed two while Udaipur and Jaipur have completed three of the 91 projects that were selected.

Among non-BJP states, the AAP-ruled New Delhi is ahead. The New Delhi Municipal Council, which was chosen to be developed as a model smart city, has started implementation in six of 40 projects. It has completed four projects so far. Asked the reason for the slow implementation, Sameer Sharma, additional secretary incharge of the smart cities programme in the ministry, told HT, “It’s the tendering (to award projects) that takes time. We are following a complex tendering process unlike normal tendering where the lowest bidder is awarded projects. A lowest bidder might not have the requisite expertise to carry out a smart city project.”

Sharma added that the implementation was on track and cities were confident they would be able to show results on the ground. The ministry, however, claimed that all the 20 cities selected in the first batch had firmed up their investment plans, achieving an overall Investment Conversion Rate (ICR) of 49%. The ICR indicates the extent of conversion of approved smart city plans into investment through ground-level implementation. Five cities, including Nagpur, Vadodara and Surat, have achieved an ICR of 90%. “Firming up investment, however, does not mean that work has started on the ground. It just paves the ground for expeditious award of projects,” said a ministry official who did not wish to be named. Under the smart city programme, each city will be given Rs 500 crore by the Centre over five years. The states will have to make a matching contribution.

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