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Mumbai: Six months on, Smart Cities plan in cold storage

BMC, Sena reluctant, say aspects of mission already being worked on.

Written by Arita Sarkar | Mumbai |
December 17, 2016 1:32:30 am

Even though the BJP-led state government took the decision to implement the Smart Cities Mission in Mumbai and seven other cities in the state six months ago, the proposal has gone into cold storage. While the approval from the general body is still pending, Shiv Sena as well as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have expressed reluctance to take it forward. Terming the project unnecessary, senior civic officials said the BMC doesn’t need to implement the Smart Cities Mission since it was working towards providing the same services to the public.

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“They have asked us to use our own funds to improve road connectivity, availability of internet, ensure 100 per cent collection and segregation of garbage among other services, as well as increase the hours of water supply. We are already working on all the aspects. Why should we then be answerable to the state,” said a civic official.

In December last year, the Shiv Sena had given a conditional approval to the smart cities proposal and had sent its recommendations to the central government. They had demanded that the mayor should head the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the project and have a right to veto on decisions taken by the SPV.

The Sena had also demanded that 85 per cent (60 lakh) of employment generated from the project be reserved for the ‘sons of the soil’ — Maharashtrians.

The government, however, had not considered any of the suggestions in its resolution released in June.

According to the circular the state released in June, Mumbai and Navi Mumbai municipal corporations were asked to implement the smart city project using their funds as they were financially strong.

These eight cities had been excluded by the Centre when it announced its first list at the beginning of this year.

The civic official pointed out that in order to execute the state government’s directions, the civic administration needs the Sena’s approval for the sanction of funds. “The BJP-led state government has not agreed to any of the Sena’s demands and Sena corporators are very clear about not being answerable to BJP. Until this impasse is resolved, the administration cannot do anything,” said the official.

Leader of the House Trushna Vishwasrao stated that the Sena will not extend its support to the smart cities proposal unless the BJP agrees to their demands.

“The Centre is not giving us funds to implement the project. Mumbai is already on its way to becoming a smart city and the BMC is working to improve the services. Why should we then give up the control of the BMC budget to the BJP?,” she said.

Civic sources stated that the BMC is obligated to follow the directions of the state government and will table the proposal in front of the standing committee the next week.

“Depending on the standing committee’s decision, we will send their response to the state government, which will then decide the future course of action,” said another official.

Supporting the government’s stand, group leader and BJP corporator Manoj Kotak said, “BJP wants to make Mumbai a smart city to benefit people. All parties should put their political differences aside and extend their support to doing so.”

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