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Battle for Assam's smart city hots up

The conclave in progress on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, July 4: Chairman of Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority, Dhiren Baruah, today questioned the move of including Tinsukia in the first phase of the Smart Cities mission instead of Guwahati.

Speaking at the first North East Smart City Conclave organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce at Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok here today, the 87-year-old chairman said, "Though we welcome Tinsukia for being included in the smart city project, why is the meeting being held in Guwahati? Assam can't be developed without developing Guwahati."

He apparently was under the impression that Tinsukia had been selected in the first stage.

However, founder-director of Smart Cities Council of India, Pratap Padode, cleared the air by stating that Guwahati has not been excluded from the list yet. "In fact, the final list will be released by Ministry of Urban Development in October. According to the guidelines, each state has been given four months, starting from July, to nominate a city or town as per list of cities per state released by MoUD," he said.

In the next session on Smart Planning for Urban and Suburban Northeast, deputy commissioner of Tinsukia Puru Gupta said, "As heartbreaking it was for Baruah, it's equally heartbreaking for me to know that Tinsukia hasn't been confirmed on the list yet." Before coming to Guwahati to participate in the conclave, Gupta had covered Tinsukia town on motorcycle in order to understand the ground realities as well as gauge the magnitude of problems that lie ahead.

According to a state government official, Tinsukia has a better chance of securing a position on the list because of the Centre's Act East Policy. In the last budget, the Centre had earmarked Rs 53,000 crore to transform the Northeast into a trade and commercial hub for Southeast Asia. "Owing to the Stilwell Road, tea and oil production, it will be difficult for the Centre to ignore Tinsukia," said the source.

According to the operational guidelines for the Smart Cities Mission that was released by Modi last month, states have to nominate an assigned number of cities and towns based on four broad criteria and a total of 13 sub-criteria.

The four broad criteria include existing service levels in cityown (25 points out of 100), institutional systems and capacities (15 points), self-financing (30 points) and past track record and reforms (30 points). Every state government has to evaluate all citiesowns based on these criteria and nominate the top performers. Assam is entitled to nominate one cityown to be included in the mission.

According to the weightage for each criterion in the mission guidelines, the present status of e-governance, revenue mobilisation and financial strength of urban local bodies dominate the first- stage evaluation. The city will be set up on four pillars - institutional, economic, physical and social infrastructure.

Assam chief secretary V.K. Pipersenia said, "An element I feel is missing in the evaluation process is culture. A smart city doesn't only mean infrastructure development. Leading a smart city life won't be possible if the culture isn't retained."

However, founder-director of Smart Cities Council of India, Pratap Padode, cleared the air by stating that Guwahati has not been excluded from the list yet. "In fact, the final list will be released by Ministry of Urban Development in October. According to the guidelines, each state has been given four months, starting from July, to nominate a city or town as per list of cities per state released by MoUD," he said.


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