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PIB 18th February 2021


  1. ‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’: Smart Cities Mission
  2. ESIC empanelled Hospitals for ESIC beneficiaries



Under the Smart Cities Mission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) announced 25 cities that were shortlisted for the ‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’ cohort.


GS-II: Social Justice, Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Smart Cities?
  2. Smart Cities Mission
  3. Smart City Features
  4. ‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’ cohort

What are Smart Cities?

There is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. The conceptualisation of Smart City, therefore, varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents.

“Smart Cities” according to Smart Cities Mission

  • Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the Smart Cities Mission.
  • In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration.
  • To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.
  • This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness’.

Smart Cities Mission

  • National Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
  • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to develop smart cities across the country, making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
  • The Mission covers 100 cities for the duration of five years starting from the financial year (FY) 2015-16 to 2019-20.
  • Climate Smart Cities and Data Smart Cities are two important programs under Smart Cities Mission.
  • Smart Cities Mission is supporting interested cities in raising finance through Municipal Bonds.
  • Cities are being developed under “Area-Based Development” model.
  • Under this model, a small portion of the city would be upgraded by retrofitting or redevelopment.

Objectives and Focus of the Mission

  • The mission is implemented to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.
  • Its objective it to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of Smart Solutions.
  • The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities.

Strategy of the Smart Cities Mission

  1. Pan-city initiative in which at least one Smart Solution is applied city-wide.
  2. Develop areas step-by-step with the help of three models:
    1. Retrofitting,
    2. Redevelopment,
    3. Greenfield.

Smart City Features

Some typical features of comprehensive development in Smart Cities are described below:

  1. Promoting mixed land use in area-based developments–planning for ‘unplanned areas’ containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient.
  2. Housing and inclusiveness – expand housing opportunities for all;
  3. Creating walkable localities –reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security.
  4. Preserving and developing open spaces – parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in Areas and generally promote eco-balance;
  5. Promoting a variety of transport options – Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;
  6. Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective – increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices.
  7. Forming e-groups- e-Groups to easy governance and to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites;
  8. Giving an identity to the city – based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc.;
  9. Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better.

‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’ cohort

  • The ‘Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge’ is a 3-year initiative aimed at supporting early childhood-friendly neighbourhoods under the government’s Smart Cities Mission.
  • The cohort will receive technical assistance, capacity building and scale-up support to experiment, and implement trials and pilots over first half of 2021 to demonstrate early wins, solicit citizen participation, and build consensus around their proposals.

Cities proposed a diverse array of pilot projects, including:

  1. Creating toddler-friendly walking corridors in residential neighborhoods;
  2. Early childhood amenities in government office premises;
  3. Safer commutes to early childhood services for vulnerable young children and caregivers living in urban slums;
  4. Increasing opportunities for nature play and sensory stimulation;
  5. Adapting underused open spaces within government school grounds into public play areas after school hours;
  6. Developing Anganwadis with nutrigardens and age-appropriate play equipment;
  7. Transforming outdoor waiting areas for PHCs with shade, seating, and lactation cubicles.

-Source: PIB



To ease the hardship being faced by ESI Beneficiaries in availing medical services in case of non-availability of ESIC’s Health Care infrastructure like hospitals within a radius of 10 KM of their residences, such ESI beneficiaries can now avail medical care services from nearby ESIC empanelled hospitals (pan-India) without the need for any referral from an ESI dispensary or hospital.


GS-II: Social Justice, Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme
  2. Features and Benefits of the ESI scheme
  3. Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC)
  4. Challenges with Implementation of the ESI Scheme

Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme

  • The ESI scheme is a self-financed comprehensive social security scheme devised to protect the employees covered under the scheme against financial distress arising out of events of sickness, disablement or death due to employment injuries.
  • The ESI Scheme is financed by contributions from employers and employees.
  • The Employees’ State Insurance Scheme is an integrated measure of Social Insurance embodied in the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1948.
  • The ESI Scheme applies to factories and other establishment’s viz. Road Transport, Hotels, Restaurants, Cinemas, Newspaper, Shops, and Educational/Medical Institutions wherein 10 or more persons are employed. (However, in some States threshold limit for coverage of establishments is still 20.)
  • Employees of the aforesaid categories of factories and establishments, drawing wages upto Rs.15,000/- a month, are entitled to social security cover under the ESI Act.
  • ESI Corporation has also decided to enhance wage ceiling for coverage of employees under the ESI Act from Rs.15,000/- to Rs.21,000/-.

Contributions to the Scheme:

  • In June, 2020 the government had reduced the rate of contribution under the ESI Act from 6.5% to 4% (employers’ contribution reduced from 4.75% to 3.25% and employees’ contribution reduced from 1.75% to 0.75%).
  • Employees, earning less than Rs. 137/- a day as daily wages, are exempted from payment of their share of contribution.

Features and Benefits of the ESI scheme

Broadly, the benefits under this scheme are categorized under two categories:

  1. Cash benefits (which includes sickness, maternity, disablement (temporary and permanent), funeral expenses, rehabilitation allowance, vocational rehabilitation and medical bonus) and,
  2. Non-cash benefits through medical care.

Complete medical care and attention are provided by the scheme to the employee registered under the ESI Act, 1948 at the time of his incapacity, restoration of his health and working capacity.

  • During absenteeism from work due to illness, maternity or factories accidents which result in loss of wages complete financial assistance is provided to the employees to compensate for the wage loss.
  • The scheme provides medical care to family members also.

Benefits under ESI Act

  1. Medical benefit
  2. Sickness benefit
  3. Maternity benefit
  4. Disablement benefit
  5. Dependants benefit
  6. Funeral expenses
  7. Rehabilitation allowance

Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC)

  • Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) is a Statutory Body set up under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, 1948, which is responsible for the administration of ESI Scheme.
  • As it is a legal entity, the corporation can raise loans and take measures for discharging such loans with the prior sanction of the central government and it can acquire both movable and immovable property and all incomes from the property shall vest with the corporation.
  • The corporation can set up hospitals either independently or in collaboration with state government or other private entities, but most of the dispensaries and hospitals are run by concerned state governments.

Challenges with Implementation of the ESI Scheme

  • If ESI coverage has to be extended all over India, at least one ESI dispensary per district is required and several model ESIC hospitals in every state. In the entire Northeast India, there are only ten ESIC dispensaries and only one ESIC Model Hospital in Guwahati, Assam.
  • There is a need for ESIC to strengthen the tie-ups with private hospitals for super-speciality services by ensuring that the private hospital bills are settled promptly so that the ESI beneficiaries can continue to get hassle-free service.

ESIC has massive surplus in its reserve funds which can be used to:

  1. Establish new medical infrastructure
  2. Upgrade the current medical infrastructure
  3. Improve the services provided to the increasing number of beneficiaries.

-Source: PIB

April 2024