November 2019 News
Jammu, Srinagar Smart Cities Remain Stuck In Slow Lane23 November 2019
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: As not a single project has been completed during the past two and half years, converting Jammu and Srinagar into Smart Cities within the deadline fixed by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has remained a daunting task for the concerned authorities of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Smart Cities Mission was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 25, 2015 for the development of 100 Smart Cities across the country. Under the Mission, which is an innovative and new initiative aimed at driving economic growth and improving the quality of life of people, 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 J&K was required to set up Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), engage Project Management Consultants (PMCs), hire necessary human resources, call tenders and issue work orders within a period of 12 to 18 months. However, Housing and Urban Development Department failed to strictly adhere to the deadlines for all these preparatory activities, which created hurdles in the start of work on the projects in respect of both Jammu and Srinagar Smart Cities. As per the timeline fixed by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the cities which were selected in third round are required to complete all the projects between 2020-21 and 2021-22. However, meeting this deadline has remained a daunting task in view of the fact that no discernible progress has been made in respect of any project under Jammu and Srinagar Smart Cities despite lapse of two and half years. The revelation about dilly-dallying approach in start and completion of projects under both the Smart Cities was made by none else than the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri in the Lok Sabha two days back. He informed the Parliament that a total of 20 projects at a cost of Rs 637.31 crore are to be executed in respect of Jammu and Srinagar Smart Cities. The tenders in respect of seven projects worth Rs 378.34 crore have been issued by the concerned authorities of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir while as work orders in respect of 13 projects worth Rs 258.97 crore have been issued till date. However, not even one project has been completed till date, which clearly indicates that Jammu and Srinagar Smart Cities have remained stuck in slow lane. The data provided by the Union Ministry revealed that J&K is among five States-UTs in the country which have failed to make substantial progress under Smart Cities despite lapse of considerable period of time. 'The failure of the concerned authorities to ensure completion of even one project during the past two and half years raises several questions vis-Ã -vis completion of all the 20 projects within the time-frame specified by the Union Ministry', official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding 'going by the present pace of work it is not only difficult rather impossible to complete all the projects by 2021-22'. They further said, 'the dilly-dallying approach towards the Smart Cities projects is notwithstanding the fact that Union Ministry is regularly interacting with the concerned authorities through video-conference and organizing workshops at various levels to assess the performance of the cities and to hand-hold them for improvement', adding 'apart from the guidance of domain experts participating in the regional workshops, cities also benefit from peer-to-peer learning during these interactions'. 'The failure to make any significant 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', sources said and stressed that High Powered Committee should assess the progress on the projects after regular intervals otherwise J&K would not be in a position to obtain the benefit of the Prime Minister's ambitious Smart Cities Mission.