Shimla’s smart path is all uphill
Shimla Smart City Corporation is still struggling to hire consultants for designing and implementing the project; nearly two years have passed since the city was included in the Centre’s list, but work hasn’t started on a single project yet.Updated: Jul 04, 2019, 13:12 IST
British Colonial rulers gave Shimla the ‘Queen of Hills’ moniker. The hill town that remained the summer capital of British India from 1864 to 1939, is now struggling to become a smart city.
The town was built on top of seven hills — Inverarm hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill. Once, a small village, Shimla was named after local deity Shyamla mata. Till 1881, there were only 100 houses, says the government records and it had a total human population of 13,258, which grew to 43,382, including 4,803 Europeans in 1921. The town which has 93 British era buildings lost much of its pristine glory due to haphazard construction.
Shimla was amongst 30 cities selected for smart city mission in the fourth round in 2017. It was to become a smart city by 2022 but progress made so far paints a grim picture of tardiness. It was only last year that the government set up Shimla Smart City Corporation (Ltd) (SSCC) was constituted. So far, the project is grappling to take off, as the corporation is struggling to engage project management consultants for implementation and design of the project.
In the last two years, the corporation held at least 40 meetings to complete the spade work on the projects. To hire consultants, the corporation floated tenders nine times but no bidder came forward. This time, the corporation had nine bidders and only four of them were technically qualified for consultancy services. The model code of conduct enforced for Lok Sabha elections had further delayed the process of hiring consultants for designing and implementation of the project. “The process for hiring consultants is in final stages,” said municipal corporation commissioner Rankaj Rai, who is also the CEO of SSCC.
The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 2,906 crore. The main aim of Shimla smart city project is to increase the commercial viability of the town. The project lays major emphasis on developing and adding more facilities for the tourism industry which is the mainstay of the people of the town. Besides the smart city project, it accentuates raising the living standards of common citizens and improved tourist experience.
Till date, Shimla Smart City Corporation (SSCC) has received Rs 100 crore, of which the corporation has already paid Rs 1.91 crore as salary to the staff. Smart city mission involves 23 departments. So far, the SSCC has only been able to appoint consultants in 12 departments. There are 53 projects under the smart city mission that will transform the town into a modern hill station.
Smart city project aims to improve the mobility in town. The proposal includes Rs 1,284 crore for retrofitting of existing infrastructure of the town. It targets to improve citywide pedestrian and vehicular mobility on the main circular roads. The SSCC proposes to widen 28 bottlenecks on the main circular road.