Modi’s Ambitious 100 SMART CITY Project: A Sham or a Practical Aspiration

September 30th, 2014


Centre for Public Policy, New Delhi

With a vision to replicate Singapore alike model in India and to keep up the grandiose promise, Narendra Modi government is grounding their most ambitious ‘100 SMART CITY’ Project with public-private partnership and an allocation of Rs. 7,060 crore which is little more than 70 crore/per city. This project is much like a taboo-breaker of how government bodies works in India; but it will be interesting to see how SMART CITY development program having estimated timeline of 15-20 years will outdo the history of scams associated with bigger development projects in the country.

Officials plans to pick between 45 cities with more than 4 million populations along with 17 capital cities from 29 provinces in India. 10 cities will be developed on the basis of tourism and religious importance. With so much to offer, this project is a dream which can turn urbanization module of the country.

While India needs more urban habitats, the question is what about those cities that are not in the list? Having number 2nd rank as most populated country, gap between the ratio of under-developed and developed cities are high in India. With only 100 cities in the list, will this project fulfill the rising need of urbanization in India?

PM aims for a self-reliant urban space in India. Main motive is to supplement existing metropolitan cities surrounding Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), by developing satellite towns, green corridors and urban townships. The project also concentrates on modernizing mid sized cities in India.

While the SMART CITY PROJECT progresses, it’s important to do reality check on the existing urban structure and ongoing social issues which has remained unsolved from decades. Talking about problems, Indian megacities are known as overly crowded tiny space. According to Census of India 2011, population density of city like Delhi has increased from 9294 in 2001 to 9340 in 2011. Migrations from rural areas to urban have resulted in the growth of slums and unauthorized basties (slums) in and around bigger cities. Census of India reports an estimated growth of 104 million by 2017 from 65 million slum population in 2013.

Providing 100% efficient basic facilities like health, electricity, water supply, sanitation, waste management has always been a chief yet incomplete agenda for our governments. While the government plans to develop a chain of smart cities; it’s still unanswered that are these paper plans real and if so then of what shape & size?

While the blueprints are ready and government plans to launch the project on the eve of former PM Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, i.e, 25th December 2014, let’s focus on the five fundamental elements of this revolutionary urbanization project:

• Government focuses for the development of rock solid infra with 24/7 availability of utility services like water and electricity.
• Development of Robust transportation system that emphasizes more on public transport.
• Development of a well designed social infrastructure that includes creating job opportunities and livelihood for those who live in.
• Development of entertainment, health, education facilities and improvement of safety & security in the city will be the primary concern.
• Minimal waste production by being more energy efficient, recycling and water conservation is among major objectives.

With so much at stake, questions flood our mind regarding the reality and practicality of the project. No doubt SMART CITIES are need of existing urban space in India but after a quick glance on the existing picture, this project looks more like a tactic to fool the audience.

PMO’s vision of developing an IT enabled, clean, secure, healthy, educated, employed, self-reliant urban hubs in India needs a reality check. With older transportation and waste management system, India ranks in WHO’s list as ‘top most polluted countries’ in the world. Mega cities like Mumbai, Delhi has 31.8% and 30.5% of victimized residents. Constant rise in crime against women has entitled our country as ‘fourth most dangerous country for women’ in the world.

While house leader plans a sustainable and overall growth of Indian economy, his ‘100 SMART CITY PROJECT’ seems impossible and unattainable goal. This top priority project is attracting private investors from countries like France, Singapore; but realizing how government works in India and misuse of resource happen, major concentration will be on the flow of funds being allocated. Can Mr. PM ensure 100% success rate of his dreamy urbanization project which is yet to be launched?

Centre of Public Policy firstly suggests inclusion of a monitoring system to track proceedings in “100 SMART CITY PROJECT”. Having a dedicated monitoring body will ensure proper flow of funds and machinery. Revolutions are brought through unconventional decisions but backing unrealistic moves with real facts are vital for higher success rate. We believe that the government should also focus on amending development & urbanization policies of the country to magnetize more private investors and funds.

Indian calls for practical moves and achievable goals!

CPP is a think tank, based in Delhi committed to dialogue and discussion on a wide array of issues like better governance, equity and inclusiveness, harmony in society, education et al…

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