Photo: Smart City

The urban development ministry announced a list of 98 cities and towns selected for development as smart cities. These cities and towns were nominated by respective states and union territories at the end of first stage of ‘City Challenge’ competition in which all the urban local bodies in each state and Union territory were evaluated based on their financial and institutional capacities and past track record.

Of the 98 cities, 24 are capital cities. It is interesting to note that not all capital cities made it to this round. Capital cities like Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Patna (Bihar), Shimla (Himachal Pradesh), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Daman (Daman & Diu UT), Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Puducherry (Puducherry UT), Gangtok (Sikkim) and Kolkata (West Bengal) failed to be selected. “This goes to prove that the smart city selection was not influenced by the stature or importance of the cities,” a government release said. Twenty-four cities were business and industrial centres, while 18 others were cultural and tourist locations. (See tables.)

In terms of population, eight were in the below-1-lakh range while four had population exceeding 50 lakh. The 98 cities selected under the Smart City Mission have a combined population of 13 crore, accounting for 35 per cent of India’s total urban population. The Smart City Mission, along with Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), will provide enhanced quality of living to 80 per cent of total urban population.

An interesting aspect was that as many as 65 cities selected were small and medium towns, and cities. This implies that making them smart would lay a good foundation for better urban management when they further expand, the government note observed.

Next step: All the selected cities will have to prepare city-level Smart City Plans and these will be evaluated in the second stage of competition based on a broad set of criteria to pick up the top scoring 20 cities for financing during this financial year. Funds may be released to these 20 cities by the end of this year. Others will be asked to improve upon the identified deficiencies before participating in the next two rounds of competition. Those cities to be selected in the second stage of competition would be provided with Central assistance of Rs.200 crore in the first year followed by Rs.100 crore each year during the next three years.

“A smart city would ensue core infrastructure needed for decent living in urban areas. We are not aiming at making our urban landscape look fanciful and flashy. The prime objective is to enhance the quality of urban life by addressing deficiencies in core infrastructure. Expectations in various quarters may be high but the Mission is very practical and realistic in its intentions and objectives,” according to Union minister of urban development M. Venkaiah Naidu, who announced the 98 cities at a press briefing on August 27.

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