M Venkaiah Naidu, Union Urban Development Minister
Hyderabad: In what may seem like a hint at a not-very-free flow of funds from the Centre, Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday made it clear that only revision of taxes and reforms in civic administration would help build smart cities, they would not come free.
Addressing a conference on smart cities organized by the AP Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vijayawada, Venkaiah Naidu said non-revision of taxes in the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) for the past 12 years had pushed the commercial city into a debt trap. "I felt very bad when officials told me that the VMC was paying salaries to its staff every 3-4 months due to financial troubles. This has to be changed to make the capital of AP a smart city," he said.
He also said violations of law should be curbed and honest tax payers rewarded as people are always ready to pay taxes provided that they are given good services. "A smart city is nothing but making urban living comfortable. However, we can make life comfortable only by creating awareness among the people to abide by the rules and regulations and pay taxes on time," he said.
Good governance, smart leadership and efficient ruling would help build smart cities and not mere doling out of funds for various schemes, he said, adding that a smart leadership can win over the opposition to make reasonable revision of taxes in order to make the civic body self-reliant.
Naidu also warned the officials that the urban population is set to go up to 50 per cent from the present 32 per cent by 2050 and that civic bodies must be prepared for it. He suggested that they should take advantage of the internet and provide services online, asking why should an applicant who wants to construct a house must go after the building inspector or town planning officer with bribes for permissions. He also asked officials to ensure that while they demolish illegal buildings, they must also provide alternative dwellings to those migrating to the cities.