Smart cities is just one of the three flagship urban missions launched by the Narendra Modi government in June this year, the other two being the infrastructure mission AMRUT and the Housing for All scheme.
However, it was the Smart Cities programme that has caught the fancy of everyone from state governments and municipal bodies to private investors, foreign governments and multi-lateral agencies. Besides the very aspirational nature of the buzzword, the reason for the heightened interest is also the fact that the five-year mission period will see the infusion of Rs 1 lakh crore worth of government funding.
This is in addition to the funds from international lending agencies and massive investment opportunities for the private sector in the provision of basic services such as water supply and sanitation, urban transport and housing. This is also the reason for the clamour among states for increasing the quota allotted to them under the mission.
Every state and union territory is allowed to develop a specific number of smart cities as decided by the Centre based on the state’s urban population and number of statutory towns in it. This is the reason why UP has the highest number of nominations with 13 cites chosen and why the tiny state of Goa is allowed just one smart city as is Kerala, a relatively larger state.
On Friday, the Union government released 98 names with the remaining two names expected to come from J&K and UP soon. The list excluded nine capital cities of Patna, Bengaluru, Trivandrum, Kolkata, Puducherry, Gangtok, Shimla, Daman, Itnanagar. All of these are in non-BJP states leading to suspicions about the selection criteria. However, the choice of smart cities has been done by the respective states’ governments itself and only they can best explain on why they decided to leave out what would have been their best bet.