A tough 100-mark test stands in the way of Amritsar's becoming one of the 20 Smart Cities out of 100 in the race. In a detailed project report (DPR) submitted with the Centre, its municipal corporation (MC) has laid out a Rs 2,000-crore plan, while in the past few years, it has failed to address many of the questions that it will find on the qualifying examination. Its poor record of running the city might hurt its chances of being selected under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All.
Tax collection, sanitation, redressing of public grievances, clean water supply, and income have been inadequate; and projects under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) have lingered. In the financial year 2014-15, the MC could barely meet its annual house-tax collection target and fell way short of its property tax collection target, in spite of the relaxation that the government offered to the assessees. Besides, it is yet to settle many house tax cases that await the approval of its assessment subcommittee.
It proposes to hire a Delhi firm for night sanitation, when cleanliness initiatives such as Solid-Waste Management Project have failed and attempts to revive these have also been unsuccessful. The project costs have since escalated. The night sanitation drive in the vicinity of the Golden Temple also is unsatisfactory.
A JNNURM-project-completion study by Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) shows that the MC failed to make full use of the scheme and didn't submit a mandatory utilisation certificate on the money received from the Centre, which created hurdles in the releasing of subsequent funds. The study suggests that the civic body submitted the proposal worth `3,150 crore about urban infrastructure, public transport, and basic services for the poor. The Centre was to contribute 50% of the cost but the state and local bodies were required to levy user charges for water supply and sewerage services and introduce e-governance and new municipal accounting system, besides some other reforms in urban governance.
Municipal commissioner Pradeep Sabharwal said tax collection had improved a lot from the previous year and the MC would make even other civic aspects better to ace the evaluation.
Questions where it might fail
Tax collection: In the financial year 2014-15, the MC could barely meet the annual house-tax collection target of Rs 22 crore. Against a target of Rs 50 crore for property tax, it collected only a little more than Rs 12 crore, in spite of the relaxation to assessees. More than 1,600 cases related house tax are yet to be settled.
Sanitation: Solid-Waste Management Project has been a big failure. The project cost has escalated. Night sanitation near the Golden Temple is unsatisfactory.
Urban renewal: The MC failed to take full advantage of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and didn't submit a mandatory utilisation certificate on the money received from the Centre, which blocked subsequent grants.