VISAKHAPATNAM: At a time when the central government has announced a city task force for taking forward its smart city plans, the people and its representatives seem to have been left out of the loop in Vizag.
As per the recent announcement of the Union ministry of urban development, a 10-member task force is to be constituted to draw up concrete action plans for developing Vizag into a smart city. Surprisingly, only one public representative - the mayor of the city - figures in the city task force for the smart city project.
Ironically, with the Port City without a mayor since March 2012, residents and people's representatives have been left wondering if their views will be taken into consideration at all while formulating plans for making Vizag smart.
Speaking to TOI, former secretary to the Union government, EAS Sarma said, "The government is working at cross purposes here as the basic idea is to involve the people of Vizag to understand the needs of the city. You can't have a smart city without the cooperation of the people."
Furthermore, he said, "Nearly 30% of the population in the city resides in slums and is living without basic facilities. How can you have a smart city without understanding and anticipating these problems? This clearly shows that politicians are disconnected from people."
Meanwhile, Congress city president Behera Bhaskar Rao said, "Public representatives can understand the problems of the people better because government officials won't know the ground situation. They don't go to the slums and work there, but local corporators are in touch with the people and can voice the immediate and long term needs of the city. At least now, the state government should conduct the civic body elections so that people can air their views on the present needs of the city."
Agreeing that civic body polls are needed to address the issues of the public and also as part of smart city, a TDP MLA said, "Corporators are closer to the public and are easily approachable. It is not possible for an MLA or a commissioner to know each and every problem of the city and its citizens. It is necessary for public representatives to be a part of the smart city project."
Mentioning that civic elections were discussed during a recent meeting with chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, another TDP MLA said, "A majority of the MLAs are against conducting civic polls now because they are worried that delays in implementing election promise to Dwcra groups may backfire. If the government makes some provision for them in the upcoming state budget, we can be rest assured that the civic polls will be held in the next 2-3 months."
Referring to the smart city project, he said that if the Centre puts a precondition that a mayor is needed to take the smart city status forward, then the state government will have no option but to go ahead with the civic polls.