Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jul 5:
With Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, almost certain to find a place in the Union Government’s smart city project, political slug-fest has begun in right earnest for the second one.
With the Union Urban Development Ministry’s July 31 deadline to State Governments for nominating their aspiring smart cities nearing, local BJD leaders have started intense lobbying like they did for the IIM to get their cities covered under the smart city project.
“Yesterday, we had a meeting with the Commissioner cum Secretary to make Brahmapur a smart city. We have been lobbying for it consistently and are hopeful that the government will consider our request,” said Brahmapur MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik.
“Smart city will facilitate economic progress along with other development. I have personally spoken to Union Government representatives and we have been requesting the State Government on these lines too. We will continue to lobby in the coming days to get Balasore a berth in the smart city project,” said Balasore MP Rabindra Jena.
“My whole point is Odisha should progress equally. Whatever fund or scheme is planned for the state should be distributed equally. I of course don’t want only Bhubaneswar to receive all the funds and prosper,” said Samblapur MLA Raseswari Panigrahy.
The state Housing and Urban Development Department is giving a lot of priority to this project and held a meeting with representatives of five municipal corporations at the State Urban Development Authority (SUDA) premises on Thursday to advise them on presenting their towns in a more competitive manner.
“We have asked all municipal corporations to present their data before July 15 so that their entry can be considered before final decisions are taken on August 3, when the Union Government would announces its decision. I am sure Bhubaneswar will be included in the first phase of smart cities,” said Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo.
Political slugfest apart, most towns in Odisha don’t meet the Union Government criteria for a smart city tag and the race has come down to who is the best among the worst. As per the operational guidelines for the Smart Cities mission that was released by the Prime Minister last month, states have to nominate the assigned number of cities and towns based on four broad criteria and a total of 13 sub-criteria.
The four broad criteria include existing service levels in city – 25 out of 100 points, institutional systems and capacities – 15 points, self-financing – 25 points and past track record and reforms carries 30 points.
The other criteria for evaluation of smart city aspirants in phase-1 of the selection include the percentage of increase over Census 2011 in providing household toilets – 10 points, imposing penalties for delay in service delivery – 5 points, audit of accounts up to 2012-13 carry 5 points, progress in respect of six urban local body level reforms – 10 points and percentage of JNNURM projects implemented carry 10 points.
In phase-1, the state governments will also have to evaluate their cities in their state based on these criteria and nominate the top performers as per the number of cities assigned to their state.
As per a recent notification from the Union Government, only the top 20 contenders will be prioritized this year for funding for the first two years and given Rs 100 crores each. The remaining cities will be funded over the next few years.
If any of the cities from a state fails to meet the parameters, the state’s quota might be given away to another deserving state.
The Union Government plans to spend Rs 48,000 crores over the next five years as central assistance to the Smart City project.