State fails to spend smart city funds; Centre takes serious note

The Maharashtra government is facing criticism from the Centre for failing to use funds meant to create smart cities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The Union Urban Development Department (UDD) has rapped the State government for failing to spend a single rupee three months after the first instalment of Rs. 436 crore was released for the projects at Pune and Solapur.

A recent UDD letter has demanded that the State government immediately open authorised accounts in scheduled banks (recognised by the Reserve Bank of India) and transfer all the funds to the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) through these accounts and monitor if funds are being diverted on time.

“It has been noticed that funds released for the smart city mission have not been fully transferred to the SPVs along with the share of grants. The SPVs are established under the Companies Act, therefore it is essential that funds are transferred through scheduled banks at the earliest,” a recent UDD letter to the Maharashtra government reads. The UDD has demanded immediate corrective measures and an action taken report (ATR) in the next seven days.

Senior officials in the state said it has been three months since the government received the money as part of its share but ‘mismanagement’ in drawing up of the project proposals for Pune and Solapur have hampered the progress, resulting in funds lying unused.

The UDD had shortlisted 20 cities from Maharashtra for the Smart Cities Mission in January. Following this, Pune and Solapur, were the first to prepare a project plan after receiving Rs. 150 crore and Rs. 286 crore each respectively. However, officials on condition of anonymity said, both proposals have several flaws, and their implementation would lead to ‘wasteful expenditure’.

“There are inherent flaws in the project proposal for these two cities. For example, Pune’s plan has proposed an extensive vehicle monitoring system in 1,080 buses, but the city is already choking due to an overload of private buses and poor public transport. The plan does not talk of improving the existing system at all,” said an official.

The Pune plan also aims to monitor movement of buses with the help of vehicle tracking system, making transport safer by installing panic buttons and CCTV surveillance in buses, and Wi-Fi in 510 buses. The Solapur draft plan talks mostly of improving infrastructure by installing electronic water meters, recycling of waste, identifying water leakages, and use of renewable resources of energy.

The Centre has proposed to construct smart cities on certain parameters, including water supply, sanitation, and digital connectivity, among others. “Despite all the planning, we are still unclear of the basic concept of Smart Cities,” the official added.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 2:07:47 PM |

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