The first set of special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for 20 smart cities is likely to be ready by December 15, according to Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.

The Centre has set for itself the task of developing 100 smart cities so that they can serve as beacons for other towns and cities to follow.

“This is a big project requiring thousands of crores. The idea is to rejuvenate cities into liveable cities. While the Centre would provide ₹500 crore, each city may require anywhere between ₹10,000 crore and ₹20,000 crore to transform itself into a smart city. It will take time but the process has begun,” he said.

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At an interactive session with BusinessLine , moderated by Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, BusinessLine , Venkaiah Naidu fielded questions from a spectrum of industry leaders, social activists and senior bureaucrats.

FDI, GDP growing Setting the tone for the discussion, the Minister said the country has attracted over $31 billion in Foreign Direct Investments and GDP has been growing at about 7.5 per cent.

The World Bank and the IMF have lauded the Government; the country’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rating has gone up. “We expect this to get better. There is a huge hidden talent, and if properly harnessed, India can supply the human resource the world requires,” the Minister explained.

The Prime Minister, he said, was trying to create wealth but this would take time. People are restive and do not want to wait. The efforts initiated towards social security need to be lauded. While it took 58 years to create 3 crore bank accounts, the Modi Government had managed to open 18 crore accounts in 15 months, Naidu said.

Nasscom chief BVR Mohan Reddy, who is Chairman of Cyient, wanted the Government to remove some of the anomalies associated with the award of contracts for smart city projects and look into the issue of multinational corporations dominating smaller companies and start-ups.

Naidu said, “The Government is committed to World Trade Organisation obligations and it is difficult to protect local companies as we have to stick to established norms. Else, the Government would be accused of flouting norms,” he said.

Serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Srini Raju suggested standard guidelines for smart cities and their adherence.

There are misconceptions about smart city projects and most seem to think it is about creating a wi-fi and a broadband network.

Naidu said that one of the simplest definitions of a smart city was to describe it as “a most liveable city where priorities are set part”. Citing the example of Barcelona, Naidu said he was impressed by how they managed to preserve nature, culture and take care of future.

Actress and social activist Amala Akkineni wanted the Minister to ensure a place for non-governmental organisations to play a constructive role in smart city projects. She also questioned the Government’s move of banning some NGOs such as Greenpeace. Naidu said the matter was under investigation and all actions relating to NGOs would be placed in the public domain once the enquiry is completed.

Apollo Hospitals Joint Managing Director Sangeetha Reddy wanted special emphasis given to sanitation and health aspects at the planning stage itself.

S Sivakumar, Divisional Chief Executive, ITC Agri Business, suggested creation of satellite hubs for producing vegetables and fruits close to urban agglomerations, by creating separate spaces for greenhouse infrastructure.

Naidu welcomed the suggestion and said that one experiment is already underway at Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.

NVS Reddy, Managing Director of Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd, wanted the Centre to give special thrust to creating carriageways in the smart cities.

Responding to oncologist P Raghu Tam, on the need to take up the issue of preventive healthcare as apart of the development of smart cities, the Minister said that healthcare was one of the bedrocks of the smart city project.

While appreciating the improvement on the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ front globally, Chairperson of CII Telangana Vanitha Datla wanted the Government to create the same conditions for domestic companies as well.