The government announced on Thursday a list of 98 cities which cleared the first stage of being developed as a smart city but refused to commit to a timeline for the completion of the flagship scheme, expected to boost investment and create urban infrastructure.
The New Delhi Municipal Council that houses top ministers and bureaucrats but only 2% of the Capital’s population and 23 other state capitals -- including Lucknow, Greater Hyderabad and Greater Mumbai -- made it to the first list of cities with a combined population of 13 million, or 35% of India’s urban residents.
But it is unlikely that any of the smart cities under the project that has been billed as a fix for creaky urban infrastructure will be ready by the end of the NDA’s first term in 2019.
"It's a continuous process. It takes time to develop smart city. It can't happen in a year or even five years. It will take longer…ten years to develop a smart city," said urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu.
The R96,000 crore scheme is expected to transform existing cities by developing modern civic infrastructure and overhaul current municipal facilities, helping the country better house its urban population, which is likely to almost double by 2050.
While the Centre would give Rs 48,000 crore in the next five years for the mission, state, urban local bodies and the private sector would chip in with the remaining Rs 48,000 crore. Each of the 100 cities would be provided Rs 100 crore under the programme.
Uttar Pradesh got 13 cities, though only 12 nominations were announced, followed by Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra after cities were evaluated on 13 qualifying parameters, including existing service level, past track record, reforms and self financing capacity.
The ministry initially proposed 100 smart cities but announced only 98 as Jammu and Kashmir sought more time while there was a tie between two UP cities -- Congress president Sonia Gandhi's constituency Rae Bareilly and Meerut, both of whom scored the same points.
"We will soon decide which of the two UP cities would make it to stage one," Naidu said.
However, not all of the 100 cities would be developed as smart city. For the final selection, all cities would have to participate in a “city challenge” in September, out of which 20 would be chosen to be developed as smart city in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Haryana’s Faridabad and UP’s Ghaziabad were the other two National Capital Region towns on the list. Other cities from UP included Aligarh, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Bareilly, Jhansi, Allahabad, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi and Rampur.
Nine capital cities, including Kolkata, Bengaluru, Patna and Thiruvanantapuram, couldn’t make it to the first list, which boasted of 24 business centres and 18 cultural hubs.
The number of cities that each state could select was based on a formula worked out by the UD ministry that gave a 50:50 weightage to a state's population and the number of statutory towns. This automatically qualified all capital cities in the Northeast.
Karnataka, which could nominate a maximum of six cities, chose Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Shimoga, Tumkur, Davangere and Mangalore in stage one of the program, leaving out its capital Bengaluru.
In Bihar, three smaller cities -- Bihar Sharif, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur – beat capital Patna in round one. Similarly Kochi scored over Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram. Himachal Pradesh’s capital Shimla lost out to Dharamshala.
Of its quota of ten, Maharashtra nominated its capital Mumbai along with Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Pune-Pimpri Chinchwad, Amravati, Solapur, Kalyan-Dombivali, Aurangabad, Nashik and Thane. Six cities in Gujarat – Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodra, Rajkot and Dahod -- made the cut.
West Bengal’s capital Kolkata got left out while Bidhan Nagar, Durgapur, New Town and Haldia made the list. Odisha chose Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. Madhya Pradesh nominated seven cities including Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur.