Smart Cities: Plan to cover 35% of urban India; will benefit 13 crore peoplehttps://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/plan-to-cover-35-of-urban-india-will-benefit-13-cr-people/

Smart Cities: Plan to cover 35% of urban India; will benefit 13 crore people

Centre to immediately release Rs 2 crore to each of the cities to prepare their urbanisation plans.

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The metros with a population of over 50 lakh each in Smart Cities list include Chennai, Greater Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Greater Mumbai.

The union government on Thursday released the list of 98 Smart City nominees which, with a total population of 13 crore, account for 35 per cent of India’s urban population.

Names of two cities — one from Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh each — are yet to be revealed. The metros with a population of over 50 lakh each in Smart Cities list include Chennai, Greater Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Greater Mumbai. Other important urban local bodies that have been included are the New Delhi Municipal Council, Vishakhapatnam, Chandigarh, Surat, Kochi, Bhopal, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Bhubaneswar, Amritsar, Jaipur, Allahabad and Lucknow. According to the Union government, as many as 65 names on the list are that of small- and medium- sized towns.

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Explaining the meaning of Smart Cities in an Indian context, Venkaiah Naidu, Minister for Urban Development, said that it would ensure robust IT connectivity and digitisation along with core infrastructure such as water supply, electricity supply, sanitation, public transport, solid waste management and affordable housing. “We are not just aiming at making our urban landscape fanciful and flashy but the prime objective is to enhance quality of urban life,” he said adding that central government will immediately release Rs 2 crore to each of the cities for preparation of their Smart City plans.

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The mission, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year, will provide Central funding of Rs 48,000 crore over a five year period. The money will be equally distributed among the selected cities for improving their infrastructure and service delivery through application of better technology and e-governance. The state and urban local bodies have to together provide a matching contribution to each city. This is in addition to thousands of crores worth of investments from the private sector which they will be allowed to recover through levy of user charges on say water supply or urban transport. “In a situation such as the recent financial crisis, when private firms are looking for safe investments, I assure them that Smart Cities are safe investments. The land is going to be readily available and the returns are assured,” he said.

According to the Union government, 24 cities on the list are industrial or business centres, 18 are cultural or tourism hubs, five are port cities and three are educational and heathcare hubs and capital cities account for a quarter of total Smart Cities. However, nine state capitals have been left out of mission. These include Patna, Bengaluru, Trivandrum, Kolkata, Puducherry, Gangtok, Shimla, Daman and Itanagar.

All states and Union territories were to send in their nominations according to the quota allotted to them by the Centre by July 31. The quota was assigned in keeping with the number of statutory cities and town in the state and its total population. Accordingly UP had the highest slot at 13 followed by Tamil Nadu at 12 and Maharashtra at 10. The smaller states, North eastern states and Union territories mostly have only one smart city slot each. The final list of cities have is the culmination of a state level competition of grading all urban local bodies based on parameters laid down by the Centre. These include its institutional capacities, ability for self-financing, existing service levels and past track record and reforms.

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The J & K government has asked for more time to decide on whether the winter capital of Jammu or the summer capital of Srinagar should be their smart city candidate. According to the ministry, both Jammu and Srinagar have similar scores in the grading system. The same is the case with Rae Bareli and Meerut both of which had a tie for the 13th position in Uttar Pradesh.