Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu today asserted that smart city development is based on the shared vision of citizens and respective city governments and not imposed by the central government. Rebutting the criticism in certain quarters that Smart City Mission is elitist, he spoke at length on the objectives and design of Smart City Mission at a National Workshop on Urban Transformation, here today. Shri Naidu clarified that the mission guidelines do not impose any restrictions on the extent of area in mission cities to be selected for Area Based Development as it is left to the city governments and citizens. He said that on account of limitations of financial resources and inadequacies of planning and execution abilities, mission cities are choosing relatively small areas to start with for addressing infrastructure deficit. Further elaborating on this Shri Naidu said in case of Vellore in Tamil Nadu, the area chosen for development accounts for 55% of total city area, 24% in case of Dharmashala in Himachal Pradesh and 20% in case of Kalyan-Dombivili and in several cities it comes to more than 10% of total city area. In terms of population, people residing in area chosen for development account for 85% of total city population in Dharmashala, 38% in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and 33% in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Shri Naidu further said “It is a huge distortion to say that “To argue that Area Based Development under Smart City Mission benefits the people of that area only is a huge distortion. It will certainly benefit other citizens as well in several ways.” Explaining how smart city development benefits the common man, Shri Naidu stated that of the 30 smart cities announced today, 26 of them have proposed affordable housing projects benefiting the urban poor, 26 cities will be taking up school and housing projects while 29 intend to take up smart road projects for widening besides enabling cycling and walking that help the common man. All the 30 cities will develop Integrated Command and Control Centres that enable better coordination among various city agencies for better service delivery and effective management of scarce resources like water and Power. He said “ Hence, smart city projects are not mere real estate projects and meant for just cosmetic changes”.
The Minister said that for the first time in the country, Command and Control Centres of Pune and Nagpur will become operational on the 25th of this month on the occasion of second anniversary of launch of Smart City Mission. The Minister also rebutted the criticism that smart city mission is only a playground for global technology players. He said that consciously, mission guidelines have prescribed that only less than 25% of the cost of smart city plan shall be spent on technology based Pan-city solutions precisely to prevent the mission becoming primarily technology driven.Explaining the major break from the past in respect of timely project formulation, approval and execution, Shri Naidu said while only 39% of 3,138 basic urban infrastructure projects approved during 2005-14 under JNNURM were completed in time, 47% of the 11,705 projects approved during the last two years are already under implementation and would be completed by the stipulated timeline of 2019-20. He complimented city governments for rising to the occasion to enable the much desired urban transformation by working with new enthusiasm.