The Bold Voice of J&K

Mission Smart City should not be seen as means for extracting money from Centre;Service delivery status, quality of departments other than ULB need to be tested

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By Daya Sagar
For implementation of the Mission Smart City at the City level there has to be a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects (with nominees of Central Government, State Government and ULB on its Board ) so as to make it self-sustainable and could evolve its own credit worthiness for raising additional resources from the market using Government contribution for only to create infrastructure and execute projects through joint ventures, subsidiaries, public-private partnership (PPP), turnkey contracts, etc.Funds provided by the Government of India in the Smart Cities Mission to the SPV will be in the form of tied grant and kept in a separate Grant Fund.
Therefore, the core infrastructure elements in a Smart City like adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor, robust IT connectivity and digitalization, good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and health and education (particularly primary / school education ) can act smartly only when the human elements responsible for their management perform with commitment and not simply by pumping in money received from some donor or development agency.
Union had first allocated only one ‘model’ smart city for J&K out of 100 and State government could not even do the initial exercise for assessing a the potential claimant cities from J&K for referring to Ministry of Urban Development GOI as the state management was lost in regional controversies. Stage -II involved serious deliberations and insight worth assessing self needs and capacity so that a professionally sound demand proposal is submitted to GOI. And so far J&K has not logically moved a step in that direction and made some indoor steps towards ‘smartness’.
Some of the sectors under reference under Mission Smart Cities may be presently being handled by many other government departments than ULBs in states like J&K, therefore, the service delivery status & quality of other departments must be kept in view while processing the cases of applicant states / cities for selection and execution of the mission programme.
Other important aspect is that the potential ‘smart cities’ are required to prepare their Smart City Plans for consideration by MoUD GOI and for that concerned governments may have to engage even outside consultants / experts for which very strict vigil has to be exercised even while engaging consultants since experience has shown that in case of loan funded projects of even WB/ ADB there has been dearth of key experts and in cases even support staff has been found performing the jobs of key experts. So, the vigil that the consultants would exercise without coming under the pressure of the engaging agencies would be another factor that would also matter the ultimate success of the mission.
It is just a beginning , let the programme take off and with experience the guidelines / objectives could be recast where ever needed.
The J&K government and those who hit the media every next day on “Smart City” controversies must at their level do some assessment of their ‘smartness’ in delivering services to the community and in case sanction is received from GOI how would they perform miracles so as to activate the public institutions worth rendering the services in a ‘ smart ‘ manner to begin with in health, education ,efficient urban mobility and public transport, adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, affordable housing, especially for the poor, robust IT connectivity and digitalization, e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment,safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and the like. And of course there can be no smartness in a City unless there is good governance.
…..To be concluded
(Daya Sagar is a Sr Journalist and a social activist can be reached at [email protected])

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