On June 25, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s ambitious Smart Cities Mission (SCM). It aimed to make 100 cities ‘smart’ by providing better infrastructure, housing for everyone and ample developed open spaces.
More than seven years have passed and we are just nine months away from June 2023, the mission’s deadline. To find out how well the projects are executed in these cities, businessline looked at the data.
As of September 23, 2022, more than 56 per cent of the projects cumulatively in these cities (4,436 out of 7,902 projects) are completed. This is according to the data available with the SCM. However, these projects are not uniformly distributed across cities.
For instance, in Varanasi, almost all the projects are completed, as of July 8, 2022 (98 out of 104). This was revealed by Kaushal Kishore, Minister of State of Housing and Urban Affairs in the Lok Sabha.
However, on the other end of the spectrum is Atal Nagar in Chhattisgarh, where only 3.8 per cent of the projects are completed (two out of 53). Both Varanasi and Atal Nagar were selected for SCM at the same time in September 2016. In 15 cities, more than 75 per cent of the work has been completed. But in 21 of them, the proportion of projects completed is less than 25 per cent.
We also looked at 20 cities that were picked in the first round of the project. The best performers are Indore, Ahmedabad, Surat and Udaipur, where more than 80 per cent of the projects are completed. But the list also has Guwahati and Kochi, where the project completion rates are just 26 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.
Project completion Vs Fund utilisation
However, according to the findings of the 17th Lok Sabha Standing Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs, between June 2018 and January 2021, there was a 576 per cent increase in the completion of projects.
At the same time, a recent report on Smart Cities by the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), a think-tank, noted that most cities have utilised only a small fraction of the funds available.
“There have been astute attempts to manufacture a high project completion rate by completing small/less-valued projects, which take lesser time. In the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Urban Development (2020-21) on Demands for Grants (2021-22) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, this has been explicitly mentioned,” said the CFA report.
The report also mentioned that the utilisation of the Centre funds is much higher than the State funds.
“Varanasi, Surat, Agra, Chennai and Tumakuru are in the top 10 cities in terms of both projects completion and funds utilisation,” said the report, adding, “Though Indore, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Coimbatore and Udaipur have a high percentage of projects completed, they are not in the top 10 in terms of funds utilisation.”