Saturday, March 05, 2016

Real estate interests in Ahmedabad behind smart city project? Govt of India says Gujarat can choose its "model"

Rampir Tekra near Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad
By Our Representative
Much to the chagrin of smart city enthusiasts in the Gujarat government, the Government of India has officially admitted, with specific reference to Ahmedabad, that it does not have any fixed definition of smart cities, which it wants to set up at 100 different urban locations across India.
In reply to a political activist based in Ahmedabad, who wished to know from the Government of India why only a particular area located next to the Gandhi Ashram has been included in the smart city project of Ahmedabad, and whether there were any real estate interests behind it, the Union Ministry of Urban Development’s Smart Cities division said, it is not prescribing “any particular model to be adopted by the smart cities.”
Roshan Shah, in his query to the Ministry of Urban Development, citing a news item in a prominent English daily, said, “Not entire Ahmedabad is taken into consideration for smart city. The Rampir Tekra slum area is low level area which is very difficult to modernize or developed as a smart city project. It is failure from the beginning.”
Referring to the area surrounded by Gandhi Ashram, which is to be developed as smart city, Shah said, “I have come to know that only the area around Vadaj will be developed under smart city. There is absolutely no logic behind picking this area except to forcefully vacate poor from the place and grab their land.”
Referring to a public interest litigation (PIL) pending in the Gujarat High Court, Shah said, “Even Gandhi Ashram land which was encroached and ordered to be vacated in 14920/2003 PIL in Gujarat High Court is not vacated.” He wished to know whether “due diligence” has been done before picking up the Vadaj area only?”
Referring to the allegations flying high in the state about Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel’s family having real estate interests in the Vadaj area, he wondered, “Is the Ministry of Urban Development convinced that this is the right area and there is no mala fide intent of Gujarat CM family here or displaced dwellers will be taken care of very well?”
Refusing to refer to the Gujarat chief minister’s family’s alleged landed interests in the Vadaj area, the Ministry’s reply said, “The approach for smart cities is not one-size-fits-all; each city has to formulate its own concept, vision, mission and plan (proposal) for a smart city that is appropriate to its local context, resources and levels of ambition.”
“Accordingly”, the Ministry underlined, “They have to choose their model of smart city and answer the question: What kind of smart city do they want? For this, cities will prepare their Smart City Proposal  containing the vision, plan for mobilisation of resources and intended outcomes in terms of infrastructure up-gradation and smart applications.”
The Ministry said, “The implementation of the mission at the city level will be done by a special purpose vehicle (SPV) created for the purpose. The SPV will plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the smart city development projects.”
It added, “Each smart city will have a SPV which will be headed by a full time CEO and have nominees of Central government, state government and urban local body (ULB) on its board. After selection of the cities in stage II of the challenge, the process of implementation will start with the setting up of the SPV.”
The ministry reiterated, “As already stated, it is proposed to give complete flexibility to the SPV to implement and manage the smart city project and the State and ULB will undertake measures as detailed in the guidelines.”

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