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Poll Vault: To add PCMC to Smart Cities’ list, govt dumps Navi Mumbai

Decision taken a few weeks before Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation goes for polls, BJP leaders cash in on announcement

Pune, PCMC, Navi Mumbai Coporation, Maharashtra news, Pune news, Latest news, India news, National news, India news, Latest news, India news, The state government had initially clubbed both Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad
as a single urban conglomeration

On December 30 last year, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had taken to Twitter to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu for the inclusion of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) in the Smart Cities Mission. With an eye on the civic polls, due to be held later this month, BJP leaders in Pimpri Chinchwad soon started cashing in on this announcement, via posters and posts on social media.

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Now, RTI documents procured by The Indian Express show that PCMC was included in the list at the cost of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation.

The state government’s move to include PCMC gathered steam only towards the end of December 2016, weeks before the model code of conduct for elections in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the PCMC was to come into force.

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Since the announcement about the Centre’s Smart City initiative, urban local bodies in Maharashtra have been competing with each other, vying to be included in the list. When the first list of Smart Cities was announced in early 2015, PMC was included while the PCMC was left out.

On November 27, 2015, The Indian Express had reported on how the state government had initially clubbed both Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad as a single urban conglomeration, with combined marks of 95.1.

Subsequently, the central government pointed out that individual urban local bodies have to be nominated, and this had led to Pune’s inclusion. The Nationalistic Congress Party (NCP) had claimed credit for this move.

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The first list had 10 cities including Navi Mumbai, Solapur, Thane and others, many of which had scored lesser marks than Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad.

Documents show that on September 30, 2015, Fadnavis had written to Naidu, asking for the inclusion of PCMC in the Smart Cities’ list. In his letter, Fadnavis wrote, “Pimpari-Chinchwad (sic) is a rapidly growing city with a huge potential for development…. I sincerely think that its inclusion in the list of the potential Smart Cities is absolutely necessary.” He went on to ask for the inclusion of PCMC in the list as an additional Smart City, or in the list with Pune as an urban agglomeration.

In his reply on October 28, 2015, Naidu had declined to entertain the request, pointing out how under the Smart Cities Mission Guidelines, a Smart City has to be an urban local body and an urban agglomeration cannot be designated a Smart City. No further correspondence about the subject took place from either side.

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After waiting for more than a year, on December 23, 2016, S S Kshatriya, chief secretary in the Maharashtra government, wrote to Rajiv Gauba, secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development, asking for the inclusion of PCMC in place of Navi Mumbai.

“Although Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation was recommended by the State Government, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation has not yet agreed to the terms and conditions essential for participating in the Smart Cities Mission. Hence Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra has requested the Government of India to consider inclusion of Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation instead of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation for participating in the Smart Cities Mission,” the letter read.

Back in 2015, the state government had maintained that the PCMC had scored lesser marks than Pune, and that’s why it had been left out, but Kshatriya, in his letter, wrote that Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad had scored 95.1 marks and ranked second for inclusion in the Mission. Following this, the state high power committee met on December 28, 2016 and recommended the inclusion of PCMC in the list, as well as dropping Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation from it.

Subsequently, the undersecretary of the Urban Development Ministry had directed the inclusion of PCMC in the Mission, and Rs 2 crore, released earlier to Navi Mumbai for preparation of the Smart City Proposal (SCP), was to be diverted to the PCMC.

Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, which has a mayor from the NCP, had rejected the proposal to be included in the Mission twice, once on December 8, 2015, and again on September 23, 2016.

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Earlier in 2015, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC’s) general body (GB) had also shelved the plan for inclusion in the Mission, which had led the state government to ask the municipal commissioner to re-table the proposal.

While the GB had passed the resolution finally, the corporators had cried foul at the alleged interference of the state government. Incidentally, it doesn’t seem like the state government acted in any manner when the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation refused to be included in the Mission, twice.

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NCP MP Vandana Chavan said the whole chain of events, on the eve of civic polls, “smacked of political opportunism by the ruling BJP”. “The state government is brazenly trying to put the government machinery to its use during the civic elections. The manner in which the PCMC was shoved into the list by dropping Navi Mumbai is another example of the unethical practices of the state government,” she said.

Chavan claimed that this move was another attempt by the BJP to gain political mileage in the upcoming election. She said Pune’s experience with the Smart City Mission so far has not been good, with basic civic functions such as collecting garbage “being neglected by the civic administration”.

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However, BJP MLA and party chief from Chinchwad Laxman Jagtap refuted charges of political considerations being at play behind the inclusion of Pimpri Chinchwad in the Smart Cities’ list.

“The NCP is not interested in development, so they are trying to trump up false charges.The Smart Cities Mission leaves no scope for corruption, so they do not want the cities to be included. Navi Mumbai dropping out is an example of the same,” he said.

Jagtap said the case of the PCMC was taken up only after Navi Mumbai had dropped out. “During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was announced that the PCMC would be considered as a special case… there is no politics in the selection process,” he said.

First published on: 09-02-2017 at 12:15:03 am
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