Context: Government just released the list of 1st batch of 20 cities selected for the smart city project.
Q. What is a smart city?
1. Smart city is one that “enables a decent life to the citizens, and green and sustainable environment, besides enabling adoption of smart solutions”.
2. Smart cities would create virtually new business districts in several cities, marking a departure from the disaggregated urban development witnessed in the past.
Q. How was selection of these 20 cities done?
1. Selection was based on city challenge competition.
2. Selection process has been very transparent and competitive.
3. It was a very rigorous process with detailed criteria and marking on 41 questions on template.
Q. Now that cities have been chosen, what are the issues on which further clarity is needed?
Smart cities will be developed by by a special purpose vehicle (SPV). Clarity is needed on –
1. How will SPVs function?
2. How much of freedom of action will they get?
3. Where will they get funds from?
4. Interaction b/w civil services and elected municipal representatives?
5. Role of SPV and role of elected representatives need some clarity.
Q. What’s the concern with regard to role of SPV?
1. We seem to be handing over entire governance responsibility to SPV against the whole democratic framework.
2. Smart cities have to be led by mayors not bureaucrats and consultants. There is a democratic deficit.
3. There’s a provision that an officer from the central govt. will be appointed as executive in SPV who can only be removed from the permission of centre. In such circumstances what would elected representatives do.
Q. Then why is such model chosen and how does govt intend to hold SPVs accountable?
1. Municipalities don’t have the type of capacity to implement such projects.
2. Project selection itself will be in the domain of elected bodies. They will make the policies while SPVs which have the capacity will execute it.
3. SPVs are created precisely for the purpose that generation of resources is possible, there is accountability, results are delivered rather than process lingering on.
4. Will have to build a working system, SPV will have to be accountable to municipalities.
5. SPVs will be held accountable for generating resources, executing projects, deliver smart solutions.
Q. Where will funding come from?
1. For every city 500cr by centre, equal amount by state and roughly 1500cr by outside sources.
2. It is here that functioning of SPVs would be imp. Do they freedom to go out and generate resources?
3. But there are concerns that only way funding is gonna come from is real estate and prime land will be given to builders.
Q. There’s is also concern that already better off cities are selected which would result in even more regional disparity?
Yes. It’s true.
1. There’s too much focus on limited no. of cities, earlier programmes were open to all.
2. Northern belt and eastern belt is virtually empty.
3. Selection criteria itself favour better off cities.
State is supposed to help cities which are not up to the mark, have the potential are gonna grow but whole philosophy is reversed here.
Moreover they are planning to develop only a part of city in effect creating gated colonies. There will be only 1 pan city programme.
Counter argument is that whole city could not be turned smart overnight and one had to start from somewhere.
Q. What about consultation? Were citizens consulted in choosing area to be developed or amenities they would want in smart city?
Yes, consultation with citizens was imp. Citizens were involved in every process.
Counterargument- Consultation was a sham. Citizen were asked to give their opinions on FB, twitter and via email. In a country like India, this is no consultation.