“People of the cities have to decide about the development of their urban spaces and such decisions cannot be taken in Delhi,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, speaking in Pune on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Centre’s ‘Smart City mission’ project.
“The spirit of participative governance is vital. Let us consider urbanisation as an opportunity. Gone are the days when it was seen as a challenge or obstacle,” said Mr. Modi, addressing a cheering enthused audience of businessmen, civil servants, politicians and lay people in the 5,000-capacity Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi.
Remarking that cities were not merely growth centres, Mr. Modi asserted that India’s urban spaces had the strength and the capacity to mitigate poverty, noting that there was a positive atmosphere of competing on development works under the mission.
Remarking on the robustness of the ‘Smart City’ project, he said the project in itself was “a mass movement” and that the “experiment had been successful.”
The Prime Minister flagged off 14 projects in the city, while laying emphasis on the need to focus on solid waste management. The point is particularly germane to burgeoning Pune where the twin villages of Uruli Devachi and Phursungi, once verdant swathes, have been transformed into dumping grounds.
“Smart cities are about modern facilities and becoming centres of development,” Mr. Modi said, adding, “The people of India are the smartest. Once their skills are harnessed then see the wonders that will occur.”
Commenting on the smart city list and its criteria for selection, the Prime Minister said: “Officials who met me wondered how we will select the cities. We didn't select anything; the credit goes to citizens of cities selected.”
The BJP’s ally in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, and the Opposition parties, including the Congress and the NCP and the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, boycotted the Prime Minister’s event, accusing the BJP of high-handedness as Pune Mayor Prashant Jagtap’s name did not figure on the initial list of invitees.
The Sena, along with the Opposition parties, complained the event was a squandering of the public resources and alleged that there was no change in Pune’s infrastructure.
Mr. Jagtap, however, attended the event to ‘maintain protocol’ after he complained to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Mr. Fadnavis had earlier assured Mr. Jagtap that the omission of his name from the list was not deliberate.
Apart from 14 projects in Pune, 69 other works were launched in other ‘smart cities’, entailing a total investment of Rs. 1,770 crore.
The Prime Minister also inaugurated the ‘Make Your City SMART’ contest, aimed at involving citizens in designing smart cities with prizes ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. one lakh for the best entrees.
Later, the Prime Minister visited the College of Engineering Pune and lauded the achievement of the students who had created the nano satellite ‘Swayam’, which was recently launched by ISRO from Sriharikota.