The UT administration and municipal corporations populist approach of not imposing taxes to generate funds cost the city dear as it failed to make it to the first list of 20 smart cities.
One of the major hurdles was to have a solid plan on generating revenue, and Chandigarh completely lagged behind in it.
Even as the MC imposed house tax, it failed to include it in its presentation before the Union urban development ministry for its inclusion in the smart city mission. Though the house tax was imposed last year, it didn’t reflect in the proposal as its format didn’t allow mentioning of the initiatives undertaken in the financial year 2015-2016.
The MC also failed to increase water tariff and parking rates, which could have boosted its income and made its case stronger for inclusion in first list of 20 smart cities. UT home secretary Anurag Agarwal, when contacted, admitted the administration did not fare well in the columns where it had to highlight its resources to generate the money.
The officials had to give themselves marks for water tariff, house tax and fund generation, but it was not ranked high in these columns.
One of the criteria was to make governance citizen friendly but hardly any initiatives were taken before 2015 to bridge the gap between the administration and the city residents, which was reflected in the proposal.
Another impediment was the lack of proper packaging and marketing of the proposal at the Central-level. The results reflect some of the first 20 smart cities had hired best consultants and had spent more than ` 2 crore on marketing, but the administration lagged behind on this front too.
Agarwal further agreed, “We did not have a proper consultant to market our proposal. In fact, midway we had to change our consultant as the former was not up to the mark. Our core proposal was very good, and there was no deficiency. There was a proposal to provide round-the-clock water and power supply, besides construction of Wi-Fi zones.”
Agarwal added, “One of the major thrust areas, the citizen engagement initiatives, also had several details — meetings with residents and over 6.5 lakh responses through forums, live interaction and the social media — of the initiatives launched.”