Hyderabad, Sep 7 (IANS) Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Monday made it clear that the central government will do “hand-holding” for implementation of the smart city project, provided the states come forward and the cities also rise to the occasion by collecting user charges from people.
He said the states and cities would not be forced to collect user charges but only those want to reform and perform will get the central government’s help.
“If you want to remain like this, remain. It’s your choice. Reform and perform and become a smart city, the centre is ready to do the hand holding,” he said while addressing a regional workshop on smart cities. Admitting that transforming cities into smart ones is difficult, he said the task is not impossible.
Mayors, municipal chairpersons and municipal commissioners from 40 cities selected for smart city development in 12 states and union territories and principal secretaries of urban development from these states and union territories attended the workshop.
This was the second of the three such workshops being organized before the smart city nominees and respective states begin preparation of city level smart city plans.
Stating that many urban bodies had not raised taxes for years, Naidu said people were ready to pay more if they were provided better services. He said the selection of 100 cities for the ambitious project was only a pre-qualification as only 20 of them will be selected for the next round. “If you don’t perform, you will not be there for next round,” he said.
Stressing on the need to involve people in smart city projects, he reiterated that a smart city is what citizens want their city to be. Urging mayors, municipal chairman and coporators to keep politics aside, he said the mindset of people should change. He asked them to motivate people and make them participate in the project.
The broad contours of a smart city cover core infrastructure, sanitation, health and education facilities, clean and sustainable environment, good public transport, good city governance and adoption of smart technologies to ensure decent living and catalyse economic growth.
Naidu said the success of India growth story was hugely dependent on the success that can be made on the urban front. “The future of the ‘aspirational India’ lies in the future of our cities. You have the great responsibility of building such cities of future,” he said.
Voicing concern over the present state of affairs in urban areas, he warned that if this is not properly addressed over the next five to 10 years, the situation may go out of hand, with serious consequences for the country, as it is urbanizing with a furious speed, perhaps the fastest in the world.
He claimed that the central government has substantially enhanced the resource base of states by transferring 42 percent of divisible revenues over the next five years as against 32 percent during the last five years.
“Further,a huge sum of Rs.87,143 crore would be made available to urban local bodies as against only Rs.23,111 crore during the last five years… just to elaborate on one aspect of financial support to states and urban local bodies,” he said.
“The central government has committed itself to support states and urban local bodies with central assistance of over Rs.3 lakh crores over the next five to six years. This comes out in sharp contrast to the central assistance of only about Rs.36,000 crore under JNNURM during 2005-14,” he said.