Going by the progress of projects under the Smart Cities Mission a year after its high-voltage launch, the city’s future looks anything but smart.
A majority of "smart" projects have failed to take off. Worse, official's various decisions courted controversy. In a nutshell, citizens have gained nothing out of it so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Centre's ambitious Smart Cities Mission in the city on June 25 last year. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the state government claimed that public participation was the key to the mission.
But citizens have hardly supported any move of the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL) — the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed without a full-time head for implementing the smart city projects. The smart walkway project started in Aundh was scrapped after citizens opposed it.
In January 2016, the Centre had announced the first list of 20 cities to be developed as smart cities. Bhubaneswar topped the list and Pune was second. On June 25 last year, it was announced in the presence of the Prime Minister that Pune would implement various projects under the mission with emphasis on transport, water, road and solar systems. Slum rehabilitation and steps to improve public transport were also on the cards.
PSCDCL officials said the concept test of half of the projects had been done but their actual take off was awaited.
In the past one year, the Centre released its initial share of Rs194 crore to Pune. Of it, Rs30 crore had been used. The PMC and the state government are now expected to raise funds for further implementation of the projects.
Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar said the Smart Cities Mission was on track and the PMC's efforts to involve private players to generate revenue were getting response. In sharp contrast, opposition leaders claimed the mission was a complete failure. "Even when the mission was launched, we had said it was nothing but a humbug and today our stand is vindicated. No money is coming from the Centre and citizens will be burdened with taxes for getting basic civic services," said NCP Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan.
Congress leader Aba Bagul too expressed the same sentiments. Activists termed the initiative a hollow promise, "Hardly any work has taken place at the ground-level. The big claims of the authorities and politicians have remained on paper," said Vivek Velankar, the founder of Sajag Nagrik Manch.
Yet, the BJP leaders are busy in claiming the success of the Smart Cities Mission. "The 24X7 water supply is a part of the mission. It has achieved a big success in attracting private players," said BJP corporator and standing committee chairman Muralidhar Mohol.