For a city to be selected for the Smart Cities Mission of the Central Government, it is required that the State shall submit a list of cities which would then compete to get selected. The Central Government allocates number of cities within a state or union territory for this purpose. Haryana has been allocated 2 cities under this project. With many cities vying for being in the coveted list which has the potential to transform the way people live in these cities, there was very tough competition. These 8 competing cities were Gurgaon, Palwal, Faridabad, Yamunanagar, Hissar, Sonepat, Panipat, Rohtak and Karnal. Assessment was based on about 13 different parameters with total score of 100.
All representative cities were required to give presentation to make a case for their inclusion. At the end of this exercise, Karnal and Faridabad made it to the top spot beating Gurgaon, the neighbouring city of Faridabad of the Millennium City fame.
So, how did Faridabad fare better than Gurgaon, in particular, and other cities of the State, in general? Well, some of the reasons are related to its achievements while some others are attributable to failures of others. Some experts also point to the political bias and other considerations, which can be kept aside for sometime for the sake of purely practical assessment. The presentation was given to a team headed by Haryana’s Chief Secretary Deepinder Singh Dhesi.
Faridabad was not only ranking better than other cities of Haryana but also of the other NCR cities. Some of the main reasons which went in its favour were:
- Ability to generate revenue by MCF, making it financially sound. It shall be remembered that a portion of the Smart City project finance is required to be funded by the local bodies of that city. To that end, this becomes a performance criteria which MCF was able to highlight quite effectively.
- Online Grievance Redressal System and e-bulletin are in place. This is another achievement considering the fact that a lot of emphasis will be laid on e-governance and IT penetration in the project.
- MCF’s payment of salaries to its employees by June 30 is another point which went in its favour.
- Completion of Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission’s three projects out or sanctioned four. These pertained to sewage system revamping, sewage treatment, drainage works in old town area and solid waste management project.
Gurgaon lost due to a number of reasons. Despite being a good source of revenue generation for the entire city, it lost on account of a number of factors. Some of these are:
- Weak municipality
- Multiplicity of authorities
- Non-qualification for JNNURM ever in the past
- Poor property tax collections
Some people have also pointed to the fact that Gurgaon never had a great political influence in Haryana, whereas Faridabad stood to gain for its ‘industrial town’ ethos.
All in all, it is never too late for any city but it does show shortcoming in local governance for those which could not make it and alerts them to what they stand to lose if they do not improve. For the winners also, it will be a challenge to keep up the good work and improve further to provide better urban life to its residents.