The Essel Group is aiming to develop smart cities in Bengal in association with the Central as well as the State Government. The organization has already done this in Madhya Pradesh. The project is supposed to be carried out under the public-private partnership model. The Chairman of Essel Group, Subhash Chandra, has said that a proposal to this end has been submitted to the State Government of West Bengal and as per the plan the existing cities will be developed to become smart cities. As of now, New Town and Rajarhat are the two places where this development is being planned.
While Chandra has refused to come out with any details of the plan, he has stated that the organization will look to aid the municipal corporations in areas such as electricity and water and this will be done using advanced technology. These projects are being done through Essel Infrastructure Projects Limited, which has already opted to invest INR 7,500 crore in MP where five cities – Gwalior, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Dewas and Sagar – are in the development pipeline. With this project the Essel Group is looking to come up with smart communities across the various areas, where they are scheduled to work.
100 Smart Cities project expenditure
The ambitious project to build 100 smart cities across the country could cost Narendra Modi’s Government INR 7 lakh crore in a span of next two decades. This means every year the Government will need to spend INR 35,000 crore on an average so that the necessary infrastructure could be created for the project to be realized properly. The Union Urban Development Ministry has come up with these estimates. Incidentally, in the 2014-15 Union budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had provided INR 7,060 crore so that the necessary amount of attention could be accorded to the project.
As of now the Government is hoping that the private sector will be interested in the project and there would be many public-private partnerships where the costs could be shared. As of now a significant amount of investment is needed to make the project a reality and so attracting the private sector can very well be regarded as a top priority for the national Government. In some cases the Government is hopeful that the private sector will itself execute the project. However, the main problem in this case is the fact that in past the PPP projects have not yielded positive results.
Intel looking for partnership in Smart Cities project
One of the major names in the world of technology, the US-based Intel, has been looking for opportunities to be a part of the Smart Cities project. According to the vice-president, sales and marketing group, and Managing Director, Intel South Asia, Debjani Ghosh, the organization has also been getting in touch with other similar entities in order to collaborate. However, she has also stated that execution is always a problem with India and this is why one needs to be careful before expecting too much on this front.
She has, though, acknowledged the strong motivation that the present Government feels for the execution of the project. As of now the organization has professed a strong involvement in the development of the project’s basic concept. Ghosh says that right now instead of focusing on technological enhancements the focus should be on bettering the cities from the point of view of heritage and culture so that they experience greater footfall. It is expected that Intel will be assisting the project in areas such as management, analytics and security.
Pune should be included in Smart Cities project, says PMC
The Pune Municipal Corporation has said that Pune should be a part of the Smart Cities project as well. Pune Mayor Dattatraya Dhankawde has written a letter to the Government wherein he has made the request. In the same letter he has also pointed that the city should be a part of the prestigious project because of the different qualities it has like the presence of core areas of economy such as industry, education, defense, and IT and ITES, which can serve as the basis of the city’s growth in the future.
What does a Smart City mean?
Experts are of the opinion that the term Smart City just does not mean a city that has the necessary information technology facilities or homes that can be bought by anyone with a steady income. A Smart City is one where the overall conditions are far better from a perspective of living. They feel that in the smart cities more than 100 million people should be able to live properly but then in an environmentally compatible manner and the costs should be within the reach of anyone who wishes to live over there.
Western methodology may not be followed, says Naidu
The Urban Development Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, has stated that while developing the Smart Cities the Government may not compulsorily follow the policies that are adopted in the West when such projects are done. He feels that while building cities attention should be given to the fact that nature and culture are not compromised in order to attain prosperity. He also feels that now is the time to start realizing the dream of Narendra Modi to build 100 smart cities across the country.
Experts call for greater focus on rural areas
Experts are of the opinion that India can truly become smart when its rural areas are brought up to the same intellectual level as that of the urban and semi-urban areas and if they can be made self-sustaining with greater access to services and openings, perhaps in terms of education and employment. Experts feel that in all cities of India there should be improvements in institutional, social, physical and economic infrastructure. There should also be a focus on making them safe so that the inhabitants can enjoy a better standard of life. Only then can the country be called smart.
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