TODAY -

Imphal and Banaras not among 20 smart cities

Free Thinker *



Union Urban Development Minister has announced the name of 20 cities out of a pool of 97 cities for making them smarter in the next five years by pumping in Rupees 50,000 crore through public-private-partnership route. A panel of experts has done this selection.

We are told that the selection was done on the basis of a pre-defined yardstick of the Smart Cities Mission. Let us believe that the selection was done in an impartial way based on some reasonable criteria. Otherwise some kind of prejudicial feeling may crop up.

Still we are eager to ask few innocuous questions, what was Imphal’s position and Banaras’ score in the marking list of the expert panel? Banaras can afford not to be in the selection list because it will be taken care of by the most powerful man of this country (being his constituency). But what about poor Imphal? Most of the time it is at sixes and sevens.

It is the most volatile city in the Northeast. The present BJP led regime at the centre has given enough importance to this city. This is also the only State capital where almost all the Union ministers have visited in the last one year or so. In addition it is the most significant city of an election bound State.

Why such a city is left out? Criterion seems apolitical but our minds are still inquisitive!

20 CITIES WHICH HAVE MISSED THE BUS

Some prominent cities of the country which have missed the first list are, Kolkata, Mumbai, Lucknow, Patna, Bangaluru, Hyderabad, Chandigargh, Srinagar, Shimla, Shillong, Ranchi, Puducherry, Dehradun, Gangtok, Panaji, Itanagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Raipur and of course Imphal and Banaras.

There is no globally accepted definition of a smart city. The idea of smartness varies from expert to expert and authorities to authorities. Then obviously the criteria for selection can’t be too objective. Exclusion of Kolkata and Mumbai still surprises many City planners.

Any technicalities about Urban planning is Greek and Latin to me. But we are neither so novice in politricks nor so amateur in Machiavellian ways. Feelings, sentiments, emotions of the people are extremely important in politics.

Ultimately the opinion of the people will be the deciding factor for anything and everything in a democracy. If there is any possibility of smelling a rat by the people the mission may be mended or renovated.

CAN WE DO IT OURSELVES FOR IMPHAL?

The main components of a smart city are – assured water and power supply, waste management, efficient transportation, good education and healthcare, proper housing , safety and security for all the citizens, IT connectivity, good governance and E-governance, sustainable development and so on.

Each and every aspect may be taken care of by the concerned department. A Committee may be set up under the chairmanship of the Hon. CM involving the heads of every concerned agencies and departments. Let us prove the world that we can do it ourselves. There will be financial constraints.

So to begin with we may impose a smart-city cess on petrol. Second, a small toll tax may be levied from commercial vehicles for entering the city. Three, prohibitions may be lifted and excise duties may be collected for funding our own smart city project.

At the same time we may start looking for funds from the Private parties, Banks and International Agencies. For instance PPP model for roads based on toll lease is a success story everywhere.

CRITERIA MAY BE RIGHT BUT POLITICALLY STINGY

The criteria adopted must be on a certain logic and reasoning. But we are not questioning that. What bothers us is the failure of all the cities of the remaining 23 States and Union Territories to make the desired grade.

Whether cities are made smarter through Retrofitting or Redevelopment or Greenfield doesn’t matter. Whether there is money or not, doesn’t matter. What matters is, why not a single city from 23 States/UTs?

It will be politically prudent to expand the list and include at least a city of every State & UT. A small fry giving suggestion to a big man sounds ridiculous. But 20 is not smart enough!


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on February 02, 2016.


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