The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government is mulling to pull out Mumbai and Navi Mumbai from the race for selection under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet ‘Smart Cities’ mission if the two municipal corporations do not comply with the Centre’s conditions for the scheme.
The two cities on Tuesday once again failed to make the cut in the Union government’s third list of cities selected under the mission — mainly due to the conditional proposals submitted in the wake of opposition from the political parties controlling these civic bodies.
The Centre’s latest list of chosen cities includes five cities from Maharashtra — Nagpur, Kalyan-Dombivli, Thane, Aurangabad and Nashik. This is in an addition to Pune and Solapur that were shorlisted in the first round.
While the state government is yet to take a decision on whether to retain Mumbai ‘s proposal for a smart city, the state urban development department has already issued a letter to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), giving it a final opportunity to adhere to the Centre’s conditions.
“We have not taken any decision in case of Mumbai yet. In Navi Mumbai’s case, we have already issued a letter saying if the corporation is not comfortable adhering to the Centre’s conditions, we will replace Navi Mumbai with a proposal from another city for the next round of selection,” a senior official from the state urban development department said.
The official added that the state government will take a decision on Mumbai once chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is on an official three-day visit to the US, is back in the city. With the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) headed to polls in early 2017, the decision regarding Mumbai inclusion in the Smart Cities list is being seen as a politically sensitive one.
Besides Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, Amravati remains to be the only city yet to be selected by the Centre out of the ten city proposals the Maharashtra government submitted to the it .
Corporators of both the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-led NMMC had opposed the structure of the ‘Smart Cities’ mission, which calls for a special purpose vehicle. The entity is proposed to have a full-time CEO, representatives of the local body, the State and the Centre to plan, approve, release funds, implement, and monitor the smart city development projects. Politicos from the BMC and the NMMC said this will lead to dilution of the municipal corporations’ power.
While the NMMC’s general body outright rejected Navi Mumbai’s participation in the Centre’s scheme, a decision that the state government later suspended, the BMC general body cleared it, but only with a set of amendments. The amendments include making Mumbai’s mayor the chairperson of the special purpose vehicle, ensuring 50% of its members are from the BMC, reserving 85% of new jobs created for locals, among others, went as an attachment with the city’s proposal.
Sudhakar Sonawne, NMMC mayor, said, “We have no problem if the state government wants to pick some other city for the Centre’s scheme. The Centre’s terms and conditions are not acceptable to us. Besides, the elements that make a smart city as per the Union government’s norms, such as good drainage, sewerage, schools, public transport and so on, are already there in Navi Mumbai.”
The Smart Cities project
--Overall, the Union government has 98 proposals before it from cities to be developed under its ‘Smart Cities’ mission. Of the 98, the Maharashtra government had submitted ten proposals – Pune, Solapur, Nagpur, Kalan-Dombivli, Thane, Aurangabad, Nashik, Amravati, Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
--The Centre’s first list of 20 cities for priority funding under the scheme included two from Maharashtra (Pune and Solapur). The second list of 13 cities released in May this year did not contain any names from Maharashtra, while the third list of 27 more cities to get the Centre’s funding, released on Tuesday, included five from the state – Nagpur, Kalyan-Dombivli, Thane, Aurangabad, Nashik.
--Under the scheme, the Union government will grant Rs 500 crore over five years to selected cities for implementation of their smart city plans. The state governments and the urban local bodies are to pitch in Rs 250 crore each over five years.
--The ten proposals from Maharashtra included plans of about Rs 30,000 crore. Navi Mumbai’s plan was the most expensive, requiring an outlay of Rs 8,500 crore, while Mumbai’s plan was among the most unambitious, pegged at Rs 1,018 crore.