Lack of infrastructure, political will dims Pune's smart city chances
The state lobbying hard for Mumbai and Nagpur
Mar 18, 2015
Source : The Times of India


PUNE: Uncertainty prevails on city's inclusion in the Centre's smart cities programme with the state lobbying hard for Mumbai and Nagpur.

The central urban development department wants Pune to strengthen its basic infrastructure and then stake a claim for the smart city tag. The city, however, is sure to get funds from the New Urban Development Mission (NUDM) to complete projects started under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

The Union government's two major initiatives for urban sectors - the smart cities programme and funding for 500 cities - will take off next month. Basic urban services and amenities will be provided under the NUDM for 500 cities while projects of wider impact based on area development would be taken up under the smart cities scheme.

The BJP had widely talked about developing 100 smart cities in the country during its Lok Sabha campaign. In Pune, its local leadership had promised that the city will be a part of the plan. Recently, local MP Anil Shirole made a presentation to the Centre about how Pune would spruce up itself to be a part of PM Modi's ambitious programme.

Last month, the PMC officials participated in a special meeting held in New Delhi to finalise a framework for the smart cities plan. Commissioners from four cities in Maharashtra - Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur - were invited for this special programme along with representatives of other cities in the country. The cities provided inputs, plans and expectations.

Government sources, however, said the state was more inclined on including Mumbai and Nagpur in the programme. The Centre plans to have only 100 cities in the programme and inclusion of four cities from Maharashtra is a distant possibility, said the source. "One of the strong reasons why Pune's claim could be rejected is the lack of basic infrastructure and the city's weak financial resources. The state and the Centre would instead ask Pune to augment its basic infrastructure like roads, sewage treatment, traffic and transport etc with the help of government funds that will be provided under the NUDM," said a senior state official.

Besides, the state government has not taken any concrete steps to push forward Pune's claim. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was in the city last month, had assured Puneites that the government was keen on selecting Pune.

"The state government will appoint a special officer in the next 15 days to facilitate the city's claim to be a part of the smart cities scheme. The officer will coordinate with various stake holders. The state will ensure that along with Nagpur, Pune also becomes a part of the programme," Fadnavis had said. However, the CM's promise remains on paper.

Pune politicians admit that the city's chances are dim but none of them is willing to come on record fearing political backlash. MP Anil Shirole said, "We have presented our case to the state and Union governments. We are making all possible efforts to include Pune in the smart cities plan," he said. Shirole was confident that the state government will definitely consider Pune's proposal.

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