J&K fails to make any headway on development of twin Smart Cities

Over Rs 80 crore Central assistance lying unutilized
Misses time-frame fixed by Union Govt for preparatory activities

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Dec 11: In a major blot on its performance, the State Government has failed to make any headway on development of twin Smart Cities sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs over one and half years back. Even the time-frame fixed for the preparatory activities has been missed by the Housing and Urban Development Department.
Under Smart Cities Mission, which is an innovative and new initiative of the Union Government to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology, both the capital cities of Jammu and Kashmir were selected by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in the third round of competition held in the month of June 2017.
As per the guidelines of the Smart Cities Mission, the Housing and Urban Development Department of the State Government was required to set up Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), engage Project Management Consultants, hire necessary human resources, call tenders and issue work orders within a period of 12 to 18 months.
Though 18 months have lapsed since the selection of Jammu and Srinagar cities under Smart Cities Mission, yet only Special Purpose Vehicles have been established for both the cities under the title—Jammu Smart City Private Limited and Srinagar Smart City Private Limited, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“None of the other preparatory activities like engagement of Project Management Consultants, hiring necessary manpower, calling tenders and issuing work orders have been completed till date as such the time-frame fixed under the Smart Cities Mission guidelines has been missed”, they informed.
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 till date although majority of further steps are required to be initiated by them (CEOs).
“It is only the Project Management Consultant, which has to get the Detailed Project Reports prepared, which is the foremost step towards start of work on Smart City components”, sources further informed, adding “work on only those projects which have been identified under convergence mode has been started by the State Government”.
Disclosing that projects of all those cities which were selected under Round-3 have to be completed during the period between 2020-21 and 2021-22 as per the time-line fixed by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, sources said, “if the State Government continues to handle the projects in such a casual and non-serious manner it would not be possible for it to meet these deadlines”.
According to the data of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR, an amount of Rs 52 crore for Srinagar Smart City and Rs 54 crore for Jammu Smart City was released by the Union Ministry under Smart Cities Mission.
However, the State has made expenditure of only Rs 4.22 crore in respect of Srinagar Smart City and Rs 15 crore in respect of Jammu Smart City as on November 30, 2018 due to failure on the part of concerned authorities to make the Special Purpose Vehicles fully equipped and functional.
“The dilly-dallying approach towards the Smart Cities projects is notwithstanding the fact that Union Ministry is regularly interacting with the concerned authorities of the State through video-conference and hand-holding them for improvement”, sources said.
They further said, “the failure to make any headway on development of twin Smart Cities has also put a question mark on the functioning of the State Level High Powered Steering Committee, which is comprised of top bureaucrats”.
It is pertinent to mention here that projects under Smart Cities Mission are executed through convergence of resources from Central/State Governments/Local Body as well as externally funded schemes and projects. It also envisages around 20% of funding through Public Private Partnerships.