India and the U.S. have made swift progress on their agreement to develop Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam as smart cities by setting up task forces for each city, chosen for its significance to tourism and trade.
The decision on task forces was taken at a meeting on Tuesday between Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and visiting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
On Sunday, India and the U.S. had signed three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) for developing the three cities.
Mr. Naidu said Ajmer and Allahabad were chosen because they were centres of religious significance and drew tourists in large numbers.
He said these mid-sized cities had the potential to develop into major hubs for religious tourism. “They need development on various fronts and can be models for the development of other cities.”
Visakhapatnam was picked because it, being a coastal city, had the potential to develop into a tourist destination.
The Minister said Andhra Pradesh (after the bifurcation) was trying to develop itself, and the government was keen to offer aid and logistical support to it.
“Through the MoU, we are trying to quicken the pace of development of Visakhapatnam with its large coast and naval significance,” Mr. Naidu said.
Each of the three task forces would formulate concrete action plans in the next three months.
Each team would have three representatives each from the Centre and respective State governments and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). These task forces would discuss city-specific features, requirements of the project and how to raise funds.
Ms. Pritzker described Tuesday’s meeting as a “pursuance of the directive of President Barack Obama to work on the economic dimension of strategic and commercial dialogue between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” She also referred to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as ‘go getters’ and said U.S. companies would be asked to seize the opportunities in India.
Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said it was time for both sides to walk the talk by acting quickly and concretising the agreements reached. “The joint statement and the MoUs have raised high hopes about smart cities becoming a reality. President Obama’s visit to India has even furthered these expectations.”
The call on the three cities was taken in September last following Mr. Modi’s visit to the U.S. A draft concept note, prepared by the Ministry of Urban Development, had laid down some markers for the identification of smart cities to be developed in India.