Tucked in the Kangra valley, Dharamsala has outdone state capital Shimla in the "smart city" race. The scenic hill town, which is also the home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama, is the only town in Himachal Pradesh to figure on the first list of 100 cities that will be developed under the 'smart city' project. The towns that competed for inclusion in the project were evaluated on four broad criteria and 13 sub criteria.
Expressing delight over Dharamsala's selection for the project, urban development minister Sudhir Sharma said; "The town scored 87.5 marks out of 100 - the highest among hill towns in northern India." The town is also the home turf of the minister, who won the 2012 assembly elections from Dharamsala.
Sharma, however, refuted allegations of unfair selection, saying that the process was "open and transparent" and the government had asked reports from all 53 urban local bodies in the state.
"Based on the parameters laid down by the central urban development ministry each of these towns was rated. Shimla, Mandi and Dharamsala were nominated and then evaluated by the ministry," he added.
Sharma said Shimla would be developed under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). "We have already received the first instalment of Rs 2.5 crore for development of the city under AMRUT. The state has also urged the Centre to ease norms for the 'smart city' tag so that more Himachal towns could be included in the project in future, he added.
How one hill town outsmarted another
According to HP urban development minister Sudhir Sharma, Dharamsala scored over Shimla in drinking water facilities, road connectivity and solid waste management
"Dharamsala also utilised maximum grants received from the Union urban development ministry for various development projects in a time-bound manner, which other towns failed to do," said Sharma.