Unfazed by the High Court order which has ruled Dharamshala out of the list of 100 cities to be developed as smart cities, the Congress government on Friday hinted at proposing Shimla as the second city, besides Dharamshala, when a fresh exercise began under the smart city mission.
The High Court not only quashed the entire exercise carried out by the state government but also raised questions on the hush-hush manner in which Shimla was ignored despite scoring well according to the codal parameters framed by the Centre under the smart city project.
Denying any fudging of data, Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, who represents Dharamshala Assembly constituency, said, “The decision on eligibility of Dharamshala being smart city was based on self-assessment score of each city which competed for the project. Shimla scored 85 points on the basis of a fair assessment but Dharamshala had 87.5 points out of a total of 100 on performance graph of the services. So where is the scope to fudge the data?”
On the next course of action, the minister said, “All options are open for the government. We will first study the judgment and take a view of the legal department. The government, if needed, will approach the Supreme Court. We have no problem in sending Shimal’s case if the Centre agrees to include a second city of Himachal Pradesh.”
Shimla’s Mayor Sanjay Chauhan, who was a petitioner in the case, said, “The corporation has a draft plan ready and if we can fight it legally, our options are also open. Shimla as a smart city will be a global case study.”
Questions are being raised on the role of the top bureaucrat who headed the steering committee and did what political leadership desired and held a second meeting of the committee in July 2015 without Shimla mayor Chauhan, a member of the panel.
“We are still unable to understand how and why 10 have been given to Dharamshala city for completion of projects sanctioned under JNNURM without annexing necessary certificate of completion on or before 31.3.2014. Dharamshala was covered only under UIDSSMT.”
“The certificate is not on record. Thus, respondent No. 6 could not be allocated 10 points under percentage of completion of JNNURM projects,” the court remarked.
Shimla, which is being pushed for smart city status, has its own issues: heavy congestion, haphazard growth, illegal constructions, narrow roads, vehicular chaos and air pollution. The National Green Tribunal has already hinted at banning all new constructions to save Shimla. The NGT had recently asked the government to study the carrying capacity of the town. A committee, headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Environment) Deepak Sanan, has held its two meetings and may give its report by January next year.