A DAY AFTER Rajkot failed to make the list of first 20 smart cities, Rajkot Municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra said that financial mismanagement, under recovery of user charges and lack of proper tax calculation methods proved the stumbling block for the city in the challenge round.
“Financial mismanagement, lack of proper recovery of user charges have proven to be tumbling block. It is also surprising to note that not a single city with greenfield area development approach has been selected in the top 20,” Nehra said Friday.
Rajkot had prepared its smart city proposal selecting the greenfield area development approach. However, the city could manage only 52.33 marks out of 100 and was thus placed 37th among 98 cities of the countries which competed in the second round of the smart city challenge. But what has given some heart to the civic officers and the office-bearers of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) is the fact that Rajkot is ahead of Gandhingar, Vadodara and Dahod, other three cities from Gujarat which are also in the race to be selected as smart city. The three cities have scored 46.27, 44.41 and 50.92 marks, respectively, in the rankings declared by Union Ministry of Urban Develop-ment. Surat and Ahmedabad made to the list of the top 20 cities with scores of 68.16 and 66.85, respectively.
The commissioner said that the financial condition of RMC was not very sound as revenue expenditure was going up, but revenue income was not increasing commensurately. “Revenue income is low due to lack of proper user charges recovery. There was no levy on the door-to-door garbage collection service. Plus, Rajkot is among the few big cities where property tax is not calculated on the basis of carpet area,” Nehra said.
Now, Rajkot and 53 other cities will compete in the Round-II of the Smart City. Cabinet secretary and secretary of MoUD held a video-conference on Friday afternoon simultaneously with chief secretaries of states and Union Territories and mayors and municipal commissioners of 98 cities which are participating in the Smart City initiative of the Central government. The Cabinet secretary asked those cities which have not made the cut in the first round to submit their revised proposals by June-end to participate in the Round-II scheduled to be held in August this year. “We shall wait for fresh guidelines from the Government of India for revising our Smart City proposal. However, we have already made a beginning in our budget for year 2016-17. We have proposed to increase water charges and introduce a levy on door-to-door garbage collection service,” Nehra said.
The commissioner further said that cleanliness rankings soon to be declared by the Central government would help Rajkot in the next round. “We were ranked above 100 last year. But we are hopeful to be there in the top 20 this time round. Also, we are leader in redeveloping slums on public-private-partnership model. Our budget estimate of capital income generation from PPP is Rs224 crore for the next financial year,” he added.
Rajkot mayor Jayman Upadhyay said that he was hopeful of Rajkot getting selected in the next round. “We have sought guidance from the Central government as to where we are lacking and how those areas can be improved. We shall submit our proposal again,” the mayor told The Indian Express.