Six state capitals and two cities from the Northeast have made it to the list of 98 cities that the Central government will develop as ‘smart cities’ in the next five years. Guwahati, Shillong, Imphal, Kohima, Aizawl and Agartala have been chosen, along with Pasighat of Aruchal Pradesh and mchi of Sikkim. However, Aruchal capital Itagar and Tinsukia of Assam have not been included in the first round, though there is hope of inclusion of more NE cities in subsequent rounds. The smart city project forms the centrepiece of the NDA government’s larger vision of urban renewal across the country. In this context, Prime Minister rendra Modi has said that urban planning ‘should begin at the bottom’, with his government drawing up plans to spend over Rs 3 lakh crore in the next 5-6 years to recast urban areas. The mission to improve urban living is expected to drive economic growth as well, attracting as well as creating local businesses to generate local solutions and harness technology. The Prime Minister has however set a high benchmark — he envisions the quality of life in any smart city in India to be comparable to any developed European city.
The basic idea of developing a smart city is to provide core infrastructure, citizen-friendly and cost-effective governce, clean and sustaible environment, apply ‘smart’ solutions and build up identity of each city. In turn, the core infrastructure will include adequate water supply, assured power supply, sanitation & sewage treatment, efficient public transport, affordable housing for all, public health and education, top quality IT connectivity, e-governce and digitalization, and better security for citizens. Surely, this is a tall order to fulfil — which will require strengthening of urban local bodies on a huge scale and massive fund injection. The Central government proposes fincial support to the ‘smart city mission’ to the tune of Rs 48,000 crore over 5 years, with each selected city to receive Rs 500 crore during this period. But will this be sufficient to provide quality urban services like 24X7 water & power supply, effective city policing, draige and waste magement? How will the formula for levying acceptable user charges for such services be worked out? Still, a beginning has been made. The hope is that smart city models will be replicated in other cities, so that no urban area is left out of this countrywide mission.