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Fact Checking Government claims on Smart Cities

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The BJP government published an infographic on the government’s 48-months portal that makes claims about the smart city mission. This article is a fact check of the claims.

The BJP government published an infographic on the government’s  48-months portal that makes claims about the smart city mission. This article is a fact check of the claims.Government claims on Smart Cities_infographic

How many urban centers have been chosen as smart cities?
The first claim is that around 100 urban centers are chosen as smart cities to ensure improved quality of living, sustainable urban planning and development.

According to an answer in the Lok Sabha , 100 cities have been selected for development as Smart Cities under the Mission in five (5)  rounds including a fast track round. The selection process of the smart cities mission can be understood from the following flow chart as uploaded on the smart cities mission website.Government claims on Smart Cities_flowchartHowever, as per government’s own admission in the Lok Sabha, ‘There is no universally accepted definition of a Smart City. Each selected city has formulated its own vision, mission and proposal for Smart City development that is appropriate to its local context, resources and levels of ambition. This development is through twin strategy of Area Based Development (ABD) and Pan-city Development. ABD looks at development of compact areas in a city to create a replicable model for other areas within the city. Pan-city development envisages application of selected Smart solutions to the existing city-wide infrastructure. Overall objective is to improve quality of life of the citizens.

Another answer in Lok Sabha states that, ‘The objective of Smart Cities Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens by application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The core infrastructure elements in a Smart City would include; adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation (including solid waste management), affordable housing, especially for the poor, etc. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities.’

Yet another answer points out that, ‘Smart Cities are those that are able to attract investments and experts & professionals. Good quality infrastructure, simple and transparent online business and public services processes that make it easy to establish an enterprise and run at efficiently without any bureaucratic hassles are essential features of an investor-friendly smart city. Institutional Infrastructure, Physical infrastructure, Social Infrastructure & Economic Infrastructure refer to the activities that relate to governance planning and management of a city, urban mobility system, energy system, water supply system, sanitation facilities, education, healthcare and creation of employment opportunities.’

Claim: Around 100 urban centers are chosen as smart cities to ensure improved quality of living, sustainable urban planning and development.

Fact: 100 urban centers have been chosen as smart cities through a competitive process. Various descriptions of the mission point out that quality of living; sustainable urban planning and development are the goals of the mission. While it is TRUE that 100 urban centers are chosen as smart cities, whether they have ensured improved quality of living, sustainable urban planning and development remains UNVERIFIED.

How much will the development projects in smart cities cost? How many people will they benefit?
The second claim is that various development projects in these cities will cost Rs. 2,01,979 crores and positively impact almost 10 crore Indians. As stated in an answer in Lok Sabha, ‘100 cities have been selected for development as Smart Cities under the Mission in various rounds as follows.

  • 20 Smart Cities in Round 1 in January 2016 
  • 13 Smart Cities in Fast Track (FT) Round in May 2016 
  • 27 Smart Cities in Round 2 in September 2016 
  • 30 Smart Cities in Round 3 in June 2017
  • 10 Smart Cities in Round 4 in January 2018 & June 2018

As per the mission documents,  the Central Government shall give financial support to the extent of Rs. 48,000 crores over 5 years, on an average of Rs. 500 crores per city. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will have to be contributed by the State/Urban Local Body (ULB). The mission documents also mention additional funds have to be mobilized through PPPs, user charges, municipal bonds etc.

As per a Lok Sabha answer in December 2018, Rs. 13,846.20 crores have been released to State Governments/UTs since the beginning of the Mission in June 2015. Further, a total of 5,151 projects worth Rs. 2,05,018 crores have been included by the selected 100 cities in their Smart City Proposals. As of November 2018,  a total of 2,342 projects worth Rs. 90,929 crores have been tendered, of which 1,675 projects worth Rs. 51,866 crores are under implementation. It is also true that the population of these 100 cities is close to 10 crores or 100 million.

Claim: Various development projects in these cities will cost Rs. 2,01,979 crores and positively impact almost 10 crore Indians.

Fact: A total of 5,151 projects worth Rs. 2,05,018/- crore have been included by the selected 100 cities in their Smart City Proposals. The Central Government shall give financial support to the Mission to the extent of Rs. 48,000 crores over five years, on an average of Rs. 500 crores per city. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will have to be contributed by the State/ULB. For the remaining amount, other avenues of funding such as user charges, municipal bonds, PPPs have to be explored by these cities. It is also true that the population of these 100 cities is close to 10 crores or 100 million.  However, since the claim is about a future goal of the mission, it remains UNVERIFIED.

This story is part of a larger series on the 4-years of the Modi government. This series has been made possible with the flash grant of the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). Read the rest of the stories in this series here

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