From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Smart Cities Mission
Mains level : Paper 2- Lack of focus on public health in smart cities mission
“Smart Cities Mission” lacks the focus on public health. This article highlights the consequences of this. The article suggests strengthening the of local governments and provisions for the livelihood through an urban employment guarantee scheme.
“Smart Cities Mission”: Progress so far
- The ‘Smart Cities Mission’, a flagship programme of the government, completed five years, in June 2020.
- The Mission had sought to make 100 selected cities “smart”.
- Cities are being developed under “Area-Based Development” model.
- Under this model, a small portion of the city would be upgraded by retrofitting or redevelopment.
- Many of the projects undertaken under the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ are behind schedule.
- According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, of the 5,151 smart city projects, only 1,638 projects have been completed.
- In terms of expenditure, of the total investment of ₹2,05,018 crore, only projects worth ₹26,700 crore have been completed.
Lack of focus on Public health in Smart Cities Mission
- ‘Smart Cities Mission’ has given little importance to basic services such as public health.
- An analysis shows that only 69 of over 5,000 projects undertaken under the Mission were for health infrastructure.
- These projects are for an estimated cost of ₹2,112 crore, amounting to just around one per cent of the total mission cost.
- Hence, public health seems to be a major blind spot in India’s smart city dreams.
Public Health: Essential local government function
- ‘Smart Cities Mission’ had the stated aim of improving the quality of life of urban residents.
- Further, public health is an essential local government function in India’s constitutional scheme.
- As per the 74th Amendment ( 12th Schedule), “public health” is one of the 18 functions that are to be devolved to the municipalities.
- However, public health infrastructure of cities has often been neglected over the years.
Strengthening Local Governments
- Success of Kerala in containing the pandemic has shown how a decentralised political and administrative system can be effective.
- It is important to strengthen local government capacities.
- Investment in urban public health systems is needed.
- Promoting programmes that improve the livelihoods of urban vulnerable communities should be the priority.
- Programs such as the National Urban Livelihoods Mission and National Urban Health Mission, need to be strengthened.
Focus on Urban Employment
- It is time to consider the introduction of a national urban employment guarantee programme.
- Kerala has been running such a scheme since 2010.
- States such as Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have also recently launched similar initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Consider the question “Covid pandemic has highlighted the lack of focus on public health in our Smart Cities Mission. Suggest the measures to make our cities resilient and source of livelihood.
As Indian cities face an unprecedented challenge, it is important to get the priorities of urban development right and invest in programmes that improve the health and livelihoods of its residents.