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Smart city progress tardy: Naidu

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Union minister for urban development and housing M. Venkaiah Naidu today expressed dissatisfaction at the tardy pace of work on the Guwahati Smart City project. “To be very honest, smart city work in Guwahati is not very satisfactory. I have gone through the progress reports of the various projects taken up under the Smart Cities programme. We have discussed how to fast-track the work and will soon prepare a road map,” Naidu said during the first review meeting of the ministry’s flagship programmes for northeastern states here this afternoon. The ministry’s four flagship programmes under way in the Northeast are Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Smart Cities Mission and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

Naidu’s remark is being seen as a wake-up call for the Assam government as Guwahati was the first city from the region to have been short-listed under the Smart Cities programme, under which 100 cities were selected.Guwahati was selected on January 28 last year and followed by the selection of Imphal and Agartala on May 23 and Kohima and Namchi (Sikkim) in September 2016. The proposals for converting Aizawl, Shillong and Itanagar into smart cities are being considered by the ministry. Guwahati, considered the gateway to the Northeast, has serious infrastructure issues. Its area and population have increased along with its drinking water, transport, waterlogging and internal connectivity issues.

According to the 2011 census, the population of the city, which has 60 wards, is 9,57,352. “However, its population will be over 12 lakh if we factor in the floating population,” an official said. Naidu did not reveal where the state was lacking but said “the central government is aware of the capacity constraints and special problems in the region. However, all the missions have in-built provisions for funding capacity building and engaging experts on contract. The ministry will be happy to provide any additional support required by the states”. During the meeting, Manipur minister for urban development Th. Shyamkumar said, “The present funding pattern – 50:50 between the Centre and states – is steep for Manipur and other northeastern states. Hence, we would request to change the funding pattern to 90:10 like in the case of other missions for special category and hilly states.”

Naidu, however, said the 50:50 funding pattern will stay. Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the state will take advantage of the housing scheme to reduce the gap between need and supply regarding housing for urban poor. After the meeting, Naidu said, “Our aim is to bring development and good governance. In an attempt to do so, we are taking stock of all the projects. So far a few are lagging and a few have been satisfactorily implemented. We have discussed overcoming the challenges and fast-tracking their implementation.”

Naidu, who also holds the information and broadcasting portfolio, said a Film and Television Institute of India will be set up in Arunachal Pradesh at a cost of Rs 200 crore. The Centre will also build a permanent campus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication at Aizawl in Mizoram at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crore, he said. He said a dedicated Doordarshan channel – ArunPrabha – will be launched from Arunachal Pradesh by August.

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