The ‘Smart Cities Mission’, a flagship programme of the government, completed five years, in June 2020.
Highlights of mission
- The Mission had sought to make 100 selected cities “smart”.
- 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.
- Many of the projects undertaken under the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ are behind schedule.
- According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, of the 5,151 smart city projects, only 1,638 projects have been completed.
- In terms of expenditure, of the total investment of ₹2,05,018 crore, only projects worth ₹26,700 crore have been completed.
Public health and Smart Cities Mission
- ‘Smart Cities Mission’ has given little importance to basic services such as public health. An analysis shows that only 69 of over 5,000 projects undertaken under the Mission were for health infrastructure.
- These projects are for an estimated cost of ₹2,112 crore, amounting to just around one per cent of the total mission cost.
- Hence, public health seems to be a major blind spot in India’s smart city dreams.
- ‘Smart Cities Mission’ had the stated aim of improving the quality of life of urban residents.
- Further, public health is an essential local government function in India’s constitutional scheme.
Strengthening Local Governments
- Success of Kerala in containing the COVID 19 has demonstrated, how a decentralised system can be more effective. It is important to strengthen local government capacities.
- Greater Investments in urban public health systems is essential. Government needs to promote the programmes that improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
- Programs such as the National Urban Livelihoods Mission and National Urban Health Mission, need to be strengthened.
Focus on Urban Employment
- It is time to consider the introduction of a national urban employment guarantee programme.
- Kerala has been running such a scheme since 2010.
- States such as Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have also recently launched similar initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.