RTI reply poses serious questions to PM’s ambitious “Smart City” Project


An RTI request has revealed that the government has not yet identified or allocated any funds for the smart cities almost a year after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley revealed the landmark project in his first budget in July last year.

The Narendra Modi led government had proposed an allocation of Rs 7,060 crore in the financial year of 2014-15 for developing 100 smart cities in the country.While announcing the last budget in July 2014, Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley had said,

“The Prime Minister has a vision of developing 100 smart cities as satellite towns of larger cities
and by modernizing the existing mid-sized cities. With development reaching an increasingly large
number of people, the pace of migration from the rural areas to the cities is increasing.”

The aim behind this ambitious project was to accommodate the increasing number of people by providing affordable housing facilities and new age amenities. But many were disappointed not to find any mention about the smart city initiative in Jaitley’s second budget this year.

“We have not launched the scheme yet. So there is no question of any expenditure on that account.
Smart city is a new concept to India… various stakeholders have to be taken on board and you have
to sustain them,” said Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, recently.

The Urban Development Ministry had released a 46-page concept note in Dember 2014 regarding the plan of action for smart cities which had a host of fancy terms to define smart cities.

Naidu had stated,

“The draft concept note has been prepared and
placed in public domain. The website has been launched. The selection criteria for smart cities are
at the final stage of approval. In coming days, before March, we will go to the expenditure finance
committee and then it will go to cabinet and (it) will be rolled somewhere around the end of March.”

But that’s not the end of the story. Two months after Naidu’s statement, The project is yet to see the light of the day.

When Gujarat Chief Minister, Anandiben Patel accompanied PM Modi to his China visit, she signed an MoU with China Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Limited (CSMEI) for development of a smart city in Gujarat for a whopping Rs.19,000 crores. An official release from the state government stated that the new smart city would comprise 20 square kilometers area in the state. The Gujarat CM even took to Twitter to announce the signing of the MoU.

But can a state government sign MoUs for new smart city projects when the Central government has not even finalized the feel and look of the entire “Smart City” initiative, let alone identify the specific cities for this project?

An RTI filed by Gujarat based entrepreneur, Roshan Shah (not once but twice) sought answers to certain burning questions. The first RTI was filed by Shah last year after the “Smart City” project
was announced.

Shah in his latest RTI has asked four questions through his RTI
“1) Names of 100 smart cities and their approved budget for smart city in each
2) What all facilities, technology comprises a smart city as per government that every city will
3) What is the phase wise roll out plan for each of the 100 cities to be a complete smart city .-
please provide date against each city
4) 7000 crores were allocated in 2013-14 project for smart cities. Please give summary overview account of where Rs. 7000 has been spent.”

Janta Ka Reporter spoke to Shah about his RTI.

He said, “Central government has not even finalized list of 100 smart cities and here we have Anandiben Patel doing Smart City MoU with China. Without official nod on smart city from Central government, is she empowered to do such an agreement?”

The RTI reply states the following

While speaking to us, Shah also said that he would not be filing an appeal as the reply clearly shows that there’s no information available about the current scenario and plan of action
regarding smart cities in India.

But the question is; what happened to Rs 7060 crore allocated towards building of smart cities for the 2014-15 financial year? And even bigger question would be that how the Gujarat CM could sign an MoU worth Rs 19000 crore towards the same project in just one state when the total budget allocated for the entire project was just Rs 7060 crore?