One of the most ambitious government programmes for urban renewal and transformation, the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was envisaged to be implemented through a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down approach followed for most government programmes. The objective of the mission is to provide core infrastructure in Indian cities and ensure a decent quality of life to citizens with the deployment of smart solutions.
The mission envisages the development of 100 smart cities. This entails the implementation of 5,151 projects at an investment of Rs 2,050.18 billion. Of the total investment requirement, the central and state governments will provide
Rs 922.58 billion in the form of budgetary support or grants, while Rs 430.54 billion is expected from convergence with other schemes, Rs 430.54 billion from public-private partnerships, Rs 102.51 billion from debts and loans, Rs 20.5 billion from own funds and Rs 143.51 billion from other sources. The 100 cities were selected in four rounds of aggressive bidding.
A slow starter initially, the SCM has picked up pace in recent years. So far, 4,178 projects have been tendered and work on 1,296 projects has been completed. Further, of the 4,178 tendered projects, work orders for 81 per cent of the projects have been issued. While the pace of project implementation has been satisfactory for some cities, progress has been sluggish in a few cities. The bottom 20 cities have been able to tender only 20 per cent of the identified projects.
In order to bridge the gap between the top performing and low performing cities, the government has come up with a 100-day challenge and has devised a 20:20 model, under which the top 20 cities would support the bottom 20 cities. The 100-day challenge is expected to be a game changer for the least performing cities. What remains to be seen is whether the cities will be able to hand-hold each other successfully.
The government’s 20:20 model involves pairing the top 20 best performing cities with the bottom 20 cities as “sister cities”. The top 20 cities, those that have shown better development by leveraging the latest technologies, will share their expertise, financial management support, detailed project reports, feasibility studies and impact assessment with the bottom 20 cities. Under the model, each city will sign an MoU for a period of one year with its sister city. The cities will troubleshoot together and work towards improving the ranking of the laggard city.
The 100-day challenge has been introduced by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoUD) to fast-track the performance of the bottom 20 cities. The challenge will conclude on June 25, 2020, marking the fifth anniversary of the mission.
The top-ranked city, Ahmedabad will be paired with Chandigarh, which is at the 81st spot. Nagpur, the second rank holder, will assist the 96th ranked Port Blair. The other high-ranked cities that have participated in the 20:20 model are Tripura, Ranchi, Bhopal and Surat, which will help in accelerating the development of Silvassa, Shimla, Aizawl and Saharanpur respectively.
To map the progress of the SCM over the past five years, the MoUD will publish a report card for the 100 cities in June 2020. These cities will be ranked on three parameters – ease of living, municipal performance index, and climate. The report card is expected to help the cities understand what they have achieved in the past five years and what needs to be done going forward.
The way forward
Going forward, the 20:20 model is expected to help the cities to improve their overall rank considerably. If the cities hand-hold each other, their ranking will change and the government will be able to focus on helping another set of 20 cities that fall at the bottom of the list. Meanwhile, as its next step, the government has planned to develop five new smart cities under the SCM.
The mission has achieved a level of maturity that allows the government to focus on expanding its implementation plans. Despite the increase in the pace of development, the SCM still has a long way to go in developing world-class urban infrastructure.