Even as municipal corporations have constituted special purpose vehicles to implement projects under the Union government’s ‘Smart Cities’ mission, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government will assume control of all major projects to be taken up under the scheme.
The state government wants municipal corporations to send all large smart city projects proposed to be implemented on a public private partnership model to a state high-power committee for approval — a move that Congress corporators from both Pune and Solapur corporations have questioned.
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Pune and Solapur are the only corporations from Maharashtra that the Union government has chosen in the top 20 for the first round of funding.
A senior official from the state urban development department said, “Ultimately, the state and the Union governments also have a significant financial contribution in the development of smart cities. So we have said major public private partnership projects, worth over Rs 50 crore, should come to the committee for approval.”
Another official said the government was earlier considering having a say in the tendering process of all works given out under the ‘Smart Cities’ scheme, but there was resistance from municipal corporations.
“We just wanted to ensure that there is no scope for corruption or lack of transparency in awarding tenders and executing projects at the level of local bodies. But at the same time, corporations do enjoy a certain amount of independence in administration, so we decided to have a say only on the bigger projects,” the official said.
The ‘Smart Cities’ mission, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s schemes, was earlier facing resistance in Mahrashtra with representatives from other political parties fearing that the scheme would lead to the government’s interference in the local bodies’ functioning. There was ample opposition to the requirement of a special purpose vehicle itself, with a full-time chief executive officer and representatives of the Union and state governments, with local bodies saying it will dilute the powers of corporations.
Municipal corporations of both Pune and Solapur have now formed these special purpose vehicles, despite opposition from Congress and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena corporators in the Pune civic body.
Members of Pune Municipal Corporation’s ruling party, Nationalist Congress Party
(NCP), have decided not to contest the state government’s condition of vetting major smart-city projects.
However, Congress members both in the Pune Municipal Corporation as well as the Solapur Municipal Corporation, which the party heads, feel that this will dilute their power and rights.
Congress’ Sushila Abute, Mayor of the Solapur Municipal Corporation, said, “When the government showed us the smart-city carrot, it had assured that there will be no interference in the functioning of local bodies. But we don’t feel like our rights are being respected now. We have fewer members in the special purpose vehicle than we wanted, and the state just unilaterally decided to approve all major projects without taking our consent.”
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Similarly, Pune’s Deputy Mayor Mukari Algude said, “Firstly, they have not even included the deputy mayor in the special purpose vehicle. Further, vesting the rights to approve major projects under the smart cities mission will definitely hurt our rights.”