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Lutyens’ Delhi, 19 others make cut for smart cities

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NEW DELHI: Lutyens’ zone, already considered among the most pampered areas in India, has made it to the list of 20 cities to be turned into Smart Cities as part of the Modi government’s ambitious urban modernisation programme.

For the capital, initially, the scheme will be focused on “retrofitting” (redesigning existing infrastructure) 550 acres in and around Connaught Place in what will mark a big push to the historical shopping district which has just overcome decades of decay to re-emerge as a hot spot.

The list released on Thursday had Bhubaneswar at the top, with a Rs 4,500-crore plan to retrofit and redevelop 985 acres around the railway station with modern amenities.The race for inclusion in the Smart City league – a concept centered on provision of basic amenities such as 24X7 power and drinking water supply as well as contemporary attributes like e-governance and IT infrastructure – saw Madhya Pradesh bagging the maximum three spots, while populous states such as UP, Bengal and Bihar failed to make it in the first round.

The 20 cities which feature in the first list are expected to spend almost Rs 51,000 crore to upgrade the quality of life – a generous step-up of allocation of funds for upgrade of a significant urban swathe even if some of the projects would have possibly been taken up in normal course. The concept of Smart City marks a big departure from the traditional municipal body-led model of urban development to one marked by corporate features such as a CEO who can even be drafted from the private sector and will have job security, special purpose vehicle route for raising funds and execution of the development plan.

Unlike in the past, when the burden of development was on the states and the Centre, this time over 60% of the resources are proposed to be generated by the cities concerned. The selection of cities has been influenced by their capacity to deliver as determined on the basis of their past performance and financial strength.

Importantly, only one of the 20 selected cities, Kochi, will focus on taking up a green project. This might mean the revival of the localities which are groaning under burgeoning population and are hamstrung by woefully inadequate infrastructure for current and future requirements.

The selected cities will get central funding of Rs 500 crore each in the next five years and states will put up an equal amount to kickstart the project. Almost 60% of the investment will come in the form of private investment and innovative mechanisms that the cities will adopt.

To begin with, only selected areas in the cities proposed by municipal bodies will be developed or redeveloped within two to five years. “These will work as catalysts and will become lighthouse to expand similar projects or work to make cities better,” minister of urban development Venkaiah Naidu said.
None of the three entries from Mumbai – Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Kalayan-Dombivali – could make the cut for the smart city challenge. New Kolkata, Gandhinagar and Vadodara also missed out.

In all, 23 states failed to find a place, something which does not address the concern about urbanisation deficit and led urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu to give them a second shot by April. Each state will submit an improved proposal of their highest ranking cities for this round of selection. By 2017, the Centre intends to identify 100 cities to be taken up for the programme.

Congratulating the winners, PM Narendra Modi said, “I wish the cities the very best as they move forward with implementation and transform urban India.” Sources said since this is one of major flagship projects announced by the PM, cabinet secretary P K Sinha will interact with all chief secretaries and Smart City mission heads besides the 97 municipal commissioners on Friday for effective rollout of the mission.