The historical cities of Gwalior and Ujjain in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh are among 27 centres picked on Tuesday to be developed as smart cities under the NDA government’s ambitious plan for an urban overhaul.
These two will be the fourth and fifth from the state on the smart city list after Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur were selected in January.
India plans to have 100 such cities by 2022. Sixty have been chosen, including 20 in January and 13 in May, the remaining will be picked by 2018. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supply, internet connectivity, e-governance along with quality infrastructure.
The third list, announced by Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday, includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, along with Kanpur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, where the ruling Samajwadi Party is facing stiff competition from the BJP in the run-up to next year’s crucial state polls.
Two cities from Punjab --- Amritsar and Ludhiana – also made it to the list. The Shiromani Akali Dal, an NDA ally is in power in Punjab, which will elect a new assembly next year.
Satna and Sagar, which too were proposed by the state for project, were not selected.
Gwalior was kind of desperate to make it to the third list after it was declared the world’s second most-polluted city in a World Health Organisation survey this June.
“There was a lot of pressure on the authorities to send the best proposal because the WHO survey put a blot on the city. Officials and politicians faced a lot of criticism,” a city official said.
Gwalior and Ujjain pledged Rs 2,400 crore and Rs 2,300 crore for redevelopment on the lines of the smart city programme.
In Gwalior’s proposal, the highlights are retrofitting Maharaj Bada, which is the city’s southern parts, and strengthening the public transport system and solid waste management system.
For its part, Ujjain, also known as the City of Gods for its ancient temples, proposed area-based development, and initiatives to improve basic infrastructure such as sanitation, sewerage, waste management, street lights, water supply, surveillance system, and transport. The area-based development proposals aim at retrofitting places of culture and religious significance of the ancient city.
“We want to turn Ujjain into the most beautiful religious city of the country,” said Ashish Singh, the commissioner of Ujjain Municipal Corporation.
While no city from West Bengal and Bihar found mention on the third list, BJP-ruled states are the biggest beneficiaries. On the latest list, 10 cities are from states where the BJP is in power. This includes Maharashtra (Thane, Nashik, Nagpur, Kalyan Dombivali and Aurangabad), Rajasthan (Kota and Ajmer) and Gujarat (Vadodara).
Some of the opposition-ruled states have complained that the Centre’s urban modernisation plan promoted “regional inequality”. Only four cities – Hubbali-Dharwad, Managaluru, Shivamogga and Tumkaru – are from Congress-ruled Karnataka. Rourkela was the lone city from Odisha, where the BJD is in power, to make the cut. AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu got four cities – Madurai, Salem, Thanjavur and Vellore. Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh where the Telugu Desam Party, a BJP ally, is in power also made it to the third list, as did two other states ruled by NDA partners — Sikkim (Namchi) and Nagaland (Kohima). The total investment in 27 cities that will be developed as “smart” is envisaged at about `66,883 crore.
(with inputs from Sandeep Vatsa in Ujjain)