Fate of twin Smart Cities

It is saddening to find that in almost each and every infrastructure development project, Jammu and Kashmir State is found oscillating and sort of dragging its feet when other States of the country are eager to be counted among the first ones as the performing States especially when massive funding was assuredly provided by the Central Government. Take, for instance, the issue of the development of Smart Cities. Nearly more than one and a half year back, two such cities were sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for the State but it appears as if there was nothing to be done in the matter as even the preliminary activities in the matter have not been started as yet resulting in the time frame fixed for such preparatory activities too having been missed. In fact, there should have been a mass awareness about the Smart City Mission and the pinch of pride in having our twin cities of Srinagar and Jammu been chosen for the innovative and the new concept of development to result in the overall improvement of the quality of life of the people.
It may be noted that because of taking such issues of utter importance related directly with the welfare of the people very casually, the impact of such flagship schemes do not have the required impact on the ground level and people are mistakenly led to believe that the Government was not serious about fulfilling the promises made in respect of the developmental activities. It may be noted that both the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar were selected by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in the third round of competition held in the month of June 2017 under the said scheme to be developed into Smart Cities.
Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) were required to be set up by the State Government as also engage Project Management Consultants, hire necessary human resources, call tenders and issue work orders within a period of 12 to 18 months as per the guidelines of the Smart Cities Mission. In this connection, these 18 months which have passed have proved to have been not utilized for reaching the stage of issuing work orders excepting the establishment of only Special Purpose Vehicles for both the cities under the title- Jammu Smart City Private Limited and Srinagar Smart City Private Limited. Even about these SPVs also, people are knowing absolutely very little or nothing as they have not started making any type of efforts towards the accomplishment of the Mission. Not only this, it is hard to believe that so far even the full- fledged Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) for Srinagar Smart City Limited and Jammu Smart City Limited have not been selected by the Housing and Urban Development Department. How could further steps needed in this direction be taken is the moot question.
Needless to add, projects of all those cities which were selected under Round 3 have got to be completed during the period between 2020-21 and 2021-22 as per the timeframe fixed by the Union Ministry which seems unlikely to be met by the State Government looking to the casual and non serious manner with which the prestigious project is handled currently. Not only this, excepting spending Rs.19.22 crores by the State Government from out of the amount of Rs.106 crore released by the Union Ministry under Smart City Mission, rest of the mount is lying unutilised. The functioning of the State Level High Powered Steering Committee comprising top bureaucrats has proved to be nothing beyond watching the dilly -dallying approach towards the project by the State Government without suggesting any remedial steps needed to be taken.