In the six years since the Smart Cities Mission was launched to redevelop 100 cities across the country, just about 47% of projects have been completed, a new study by the thinktank Observer Research Foundation said.
“The progress of the Mission has been best in the states of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat,” the report said. “Chennai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Indore, Bhopal and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, and Surat and Rajkot in Gujarat figure repeatedly among the best performers on different criteria.”
Delhi and Nagaland have completed over 70% of their projects while seven other states have finished 50-60% — Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, MP, Goa, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.
Among cities, New Delhi has the highest percentage of completed projects, followed by Chennai, Indore, Surat and Coimbatore. Rajkot utilised its funds best, followed by Indore, Ujjain, Bhopal and New Town Kolkata. At the bottom of the list project completion, among cities, are Puducherry, Amaravati, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Shillong. Not one project has been completed in these. Among states, Meghalaya has not completed a single project.
Why the disparity? “No doubt the Covid-19 pandemic has impeded progress, but there are also various administrative and financial reasons for the underperformance,” the report said. “In some cities, the SPVs (special purpose vehicles) set up to implement the Mission are not functioning well due to inadequate managerial, technical, and financial capabilities. Deficiencies were observed in data handling and its analysis, levels of digitalisation, fund mobilisation, release, and utilisation.”
What works, the researcher for the study said, are involvement of private partners and effective implementation. “The slow pace of work in most cities is due to gaps in resource mobilisation. While the Centre and state governments are funding these projects, private investment plays a key role in developing such expensive projects. There is a great need to make sure private partners get on board,” said Rumi Aijaz, senior fellow at ORF who put the study together.