Although the Central government is yet to provide a definitive signal on additional extension for the ambitious Smart City Mission (SCM) initiated in June 2015, cities throughout the States have completed 79 per cent of the projects. If the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), established to execute the projects, are disbanded upon the mission’s deadline on June 2024, local governing bodies may need to assume responsibility for SCM projects.

According to data provided by the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Housing to the Lok Sabha last month, as of November 27, 2023, work orders have been issued for 7,959 projects worth around ₹1,71,224 crore, of which, 6,271 projects worth ₹1,16,269 crore have been completed. An amount of ₹78,749.88 crore has been released, of which, ₹71,135.70 crore (90 per cent) has been utilised.

Among the States that have got more than 100 projects, Karnataka and Rajasthan have completed more than 90 per cent of the projects. States, including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala, have not even completed 70 per cent of the allocated projects. Across the States, 1,688 projects are still ongoing.  

Under the SCM, cities have initiated projects for adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, good governance, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, and health and education.

What next? 

Cities that have completed the projects now confront the task of generating revenue to ensure the sustainability of these initiatives. Following the conclusion of the mission by the Central government, local governing bodies will be required to take on the responsibilities of operating and maintaining these projects.

Pune, an early participant in the mission, is in transition. The SPV in Pune recently transferred 14 projects to the Municipal Corporation, which now grapples with the challenge of sustaining these projects within its constrained resources. Imposing user charges has invited the ire of political parties, further complicating the situation.

Urban needs

Nearly 31 per cent of India’s current population lives in urban areas and contributes 63 per cent of India’s GDP (Census 2011). With increasing urbanisation, urban areas are expected to house 40 per cent of India’s population and contribute 75 per cent of India’s GDP by 2030. However, cities continue to struggle to cater to the basic needs of citizens.

 According to government data, about ₹25,000 crore worth of PPP projects have been delivered so far, and more than 2,700 kms of smart roads have been constructed. About 7,000 smart classrooms have been built and more than 50 lakh LED/solar lights have been installed, including the construction of over 300 smart health centres. 1,884 emergency call boxes and 3,000 public address systems and traffic enforcement systems have also been installed to improve public safety,

A brief examination of the SCM projects reveals that the majority of cities have utilised the funds to address the fundamental infrastructural requirements of the city. As a result, the dream of a truly Smart City remains elusive for citizens.