Cabinet Secretary asks cities, states to focus on resource mobilization
Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha interacted with the Municipal Commissioners of 97 cities included in the Smart Cities Mission and Chief Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories on the implementation of Smart City Mission.
He emphasized the importance of urban sector which has emerged as a major contributor of economic activity in a video conference.
Sinha complimented the 20 winners for coming top in the first round of Smart City Challenge Competition which he said was fiercely contested based on comprehensive evaluation criteria. He said those who could not make to the first list need not be disappointed as they get two more opportunities to compete in the next few months.
Cabinet Secretary informed the 23 States and Union Territories who were not represented in the first list announced yesterday that they could participate in fast track competition by submitting upgraded smart city proposals of one top ranked city in each state and UT by April 15, 2016. The remaining 54 cities get to participate in round two of Smart City Challenge Competition, which is to begin on April 1, 2016.
Sinha said that in effect two more opportunities will be available in the next few months for more cities to be selected from other states and UTs.
Sinha spoke to Municipal Commissioners of 15 cities including 4 winners and those who are to compete in fast track and second round of competitions and respective Chief Secretaries and asked them to share their experiences regarding preparation of Smart City Proposals and possible reasons in their view for winning in the first round of competition and not making to the first list.
Most of the cities who could not make to the winners list informed Cabinet Secretary that preparation of smart city proposals and participation in the competition was a huge learning experience and they were determined to further improve upon the proposals by improving upon the deficiencies. Some of them admitted to possible inadequacies in respect of certain parameters like implementation frame work, credibility of financing plans, sustainable urban planning etc.
Municipal Commissioner of Bhuvaneshwar which topped the list of 20 winners informed Cabinet Secretary that sustainable urban planning, developing sound economic eco system and credible financial planning through city level infrastructure development fund were the strong points of their proposal.
Municipal Commissioner of Pune that came second said focus on quality of life in the city, creation of qualitative economic infrastructure as a part of a 15 year master plan and sustainability features were the core strengths of the citie’s smart city proposal.
Jaipur that stood third said that financial viability based on monetization of substantial land parcels available in the city and focusing on benefits to the wider sections of the people instead of capital intensive projects were the core strengths of their proposal.
On being asked by the Cabinet Secretary for the efforts made for selection of 3 cities from Madhya Pradesh, the State Chief Secretary informed Cabinet Secretary that the State Government has given renewed focus and thrust to urban governance and planning in the context of the importance of urban areas for economic development.
He said that the state government is going to set up Special Purpose Vehicles for even cities not included in the first list from the state.
Some cities and states that could not make to the first list of 20 observed that inherent and legacy issues like economic backwardness and urban governance proved to be the limitations and some special consideration may be given to such cities and states.
To this, Cabinet Secretary responded saying that Smart City Challenge Competition and selection of cities is based mostly on the proposals for future development of cities and such limitations do not really affect their chances.
Sinha said that given the limitations of Central and State Governments in terms of resources, Mission Cities should focus more on other means of resource mobilization like convergence of various schemes, rationalization of user charges etc.
He complimented all the 97 Mission Cities for working diligently for preparation of smart city plans almost on their own with a little bit of hand holding from state and central governments, which he said is a departure from the ‘top down approach’ to urban development in the country followed so far.
Officials of 15 cities namely viz. Bhubaneshwar, Pune, Jaipur, Guwahati (Assam), Warangal (TS), Passighat (Arunachal), Chandigarh, Lucknow (UP), Bhagalpur (Bihar), Agartala (Tripura), Port Blair (A&N Islands), Kohima (Nagaland), Amritsar (Punjab), Salem (TN), Rajkot (Gujarat), Hubli-Dharward (Katnataka), Tirupati (AP) and Durgapur (West Bengal) shared their experiences and views with the Cabinet Secretary.
Madhusudhan Prasad, Secretary (Urban Development), Dr. Samir Sharma, Addl. Secretary (UD) and Mission Director and senior officials of Cabinet Secretariat and Ministry of Urban Development participated in the video conferencing that lasted for an hour.