Jubilation is in the air!

Jubilation is in the air. You pick any resident of Bhubaneswar and just raise the topic of smart cities and the faces would light up. They are sheer ecstatic about the fact that Bhubaneswar has not only secured a place in the list of top 20 winners but bagged the very first position in the Smart Cities Challenge, India’s first phase.

As we all know that the term ‘smart city’ refers to an urban region which attains sustainable development with respect to overall infrastructure, transport and communications, land use pattern, design and architecture etc. The  emphasis is on integration of multiple information technology based solutions to provide cities with major infrastructure and  essential services to city’s residents. The top twenty privileged cities which would swiftly march towards attaining the title of “Smart City” with the cooperation of centre in the very first phase are

1 Bhubaneswar, Odisha

2 Pune, Maharashtra

3 Jaipur, Rajasthan

4 Surat, Gujarat

5 Kochi, Kerala

6 Ahmedabad, Gujarat

7 Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

8 Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

9 Solapur, Maharashtra

10Davangere, Karnataka

11 Indore, Madhya Pradesh

12 New Delhi Municipal Corporation

13 Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

14 Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

15 Belagavi, Karnataka

16 Udaipur, Rajasthan

17 Guwahati, Assam

18 Chennai, Tamil Nadu

19 Ludhiana, Punjab

20 Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

A government investment of  Rs 50,802 crore in these 20 cities and towns spanning over five years is surely going to change the face of the chosen ones.The major amount would be spent towards area development claiming a figure of Rs 38,693 crore and the rest  Rs 12,109 crore would be diverted for 56 pan-city solutions.The funds are likely to be channelized through the creation of  Special purpose vehicles(SPV).

The noteworthy point with respect to the current selection is that cities from only 11 states and the Union Territory of Delhi are selected from among 97 competing cities.The winning cities account for a population of 3.54 crore, with only Ahmedabad being the exceptional city with the population above 50 lakh, rest having below that.

Usually, anything good attracts criticism and so also has the smart selection process.With some major cities, for example, Chandigarh, Varanasi and none from UP not been able to make the cut such reaction was but inevitable. However, considering the facts it may be claimed to be a success of federalism as the impartiality and transparency of the selection process is marked. The qualification process was based on  smart answers to a templated questionnaire with 43 questions by  local body administrations.The funding models that the cities attached to city’s proposals was vital to their selection.The most popular means proposed was  a union of town funds and local revenue generation tools and another prominent being the public-private partnership or PPP method.In addition, to this  people’s participation assumed 16 per cent weightage – The smart cities proposals were assessed by a six-member independent evaluation team comprising three foreigners and three Indians. While the foreign team was sourced  from the London School of Economics and the World Bank the Indian jury came from independent urban development agencies.

As the selection is over, it’s time for action and execution of the honorable Narendra Modi’s flagship initiative. As per the Ministry of Urban Development, the Smart City Mission possesses a ‘bottom up’ approach calling for and emphasizing active citizens’ participation at all level from the formulation of city vision and smart city. It also glorifies the role of the urban local bodies and state governments piloting the mission while keeping the Ministry of Urban Development at bay.

As the wonderful job of Bhubaneswar’s responsible parties, local bodies and residents, is apparent in it gaining the highest lead in spite of tough competition, Bhubaneswar can surely expect to reap the benefits of the scheme and central funding. Indeed, the glorious dream of witnessing a truly Smart City Bhubaneswar does not seem too distant.

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