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Smart City Mission, the Modi government’s ambitious flagship programme to develop 100 smart cities in India, has got a sudden boost with utilisation doubling in post lockdown months.

The mission, which has always drawn public and parliamentary criticism for poor utilisation and projects not taking off the ground, has bucked the overall slowdown trend. Even as the government ministries are struggling to bring flagship missions and other programmes to pre-Covid levels, the Smart City Mission is witnessing a sudden upturn.

The expenditure in post lockdown months of July, August and September is double the expenditure in pre-Covid months. In November 2019, the monthly utilisation was Rs 502 crore, December 2019 Rs 411 crore, January 2020 373 crore and February 2020 Rs 589 crore. However, in the last three months, this has risen to Rs 800-900 crore on an average. In July 2020, the utilisation was Rs 1,057 crore, August Rs 855 crore and September 808 crore.

A big factor in this doubling of expenditure has been a major thrust on construction activities by the government. At the time same time, the Mission cities were able to start a number of projects which have been in the pipeline. Smart City Mission director Kunal Kumar said, “Our Smart City Mission has a different structure from all other missions. Smart Cities were chosen through a competitive process in different phases and started work at different time… It is now that the work is showing on the ground as projects are getting completed.”

In March 2018, the percentage utilisation under the Mission was 9.87%. This increased to 34.77% in March 2019. It has now more than doubled at 73.66% in September 2020. The utilisation will grow further as there are 2,383 projects worth Rs 1.04 lakh crore under implementation. Even as Covid hit the major cities, there were several smaller smart cities where the work never stopped. “There are several cities like Namchi where the work continued at a smaller scale,” said a Mission official.

The outbreak of Covid-19 also has created a new demand for command and control centres in various smart cities. Bengaluru’s command and control centre had become its war room in coordinating all Covid-19 related operations from contact tracing to ambulance movement, distributing groceries to people and organise food packets through NGOs. While 51 command and control centres have been completed, the mission aims to complete all 100 by August 2022 – in time for India’s 75 years of Independence.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Nidhi Sharma

Quelle/Source: The Economic Times, 29.10.2020

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