The smart cities project is a long-term plan and expecting results overnight will be immature, Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said here on Friday.
He indicated a larger, dominant role for the States in the project with the Centre playing only a supporting role.
Mr. Naidu said that contrary to popular perception, the project would be Brownfield investments (development of existing facilities) and not Greenfield (a fresh venture).
“It is an important initiative by the Prime Minister … We have formulated a draft which was placed before secretaries and now it will be discussed with the government,” Mr. Naidu said addressing a national conclave of States and Union Territories on smart cities. “Then we will prepare a draft and show it to the Prime Minister following which it will go to the Cabinet for approval. It is a new concept … very attractive but not that easy to implement … we have to get the States on board.”
He dispelled the notion that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had set aside Rs. 7,000 crore for the project in the Union Budget.
“That is another wrong reading … that 7,000-odd crore is for urban development, including the smart cities project [and not exclusively for it],” he said.
Mr. Naidu said he had been receiving numerous requests for specific cities to be developed as smart cities. “MPs ask me … sir, give me one smart city … it is not that simple,” he said.
He said there were several questions relating to the definition of a smart city, the implementing agency and the role of the Union and the State governments, the urban local bodies and the private sector.
“We recognise urban development is primarily a State subject and the Centre should play a supporting role,” Mr. Naidu said.
He said the smart cities were being planned to make urban life comfortable and improve living standards. They meant providing good governance, efficient health and educational facilities, 24/7 power and water supply, efficient transport and quality sanitation.
“It means employment to the masses, robust cyber connectivity and good entertainment. To me, smart cities mean smart governance, smart leadership and smart people,” Mr. Naidu said.
He stressed bringing in transparency and accountability in the “system.”