New Delhi: The government on Monday announced a new Cities Investment To Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) challenge to identify top projects in 15 of the 100 selected smart cities, which will then receive an additional funding of approximately ₹ 80 crore each.
The new funding will be financed by a €100 million loan from the French government’s international development agency L’Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The cities would be encouraged to pitch projects in four particular sectors: sustainable mobility, public open spaces, urban governance & ICT, and social innovation in low-income settlements.
“Before the smart cities mission, cities used to get central government money as an entitlement," housing and urban affairs secretary Durga Shankar Mishra said at a press conference.
However, that will no longer be the case, he said. “This will be a new kind of funding and cities will have to participate in a challenge to be eligible. It will also create a competitive atmosphere among smart cities," Mishra said.
There has been some criticism of the slow pace of implementation of the Smart Cities Mission, but urban affairs minister Hardeep S. Puri defended the scheme and said cities have taken time to set up special purpose vehicles and hire project management consultants.
“Roughly ₹ 30,000 crore worth of projects are in the tendering stage," he said. “We have also inaugurated state-of-the-art command centres in 10 cities," Puri said. The total spending envisaged under the mission across the 100 selected cities is more than ₹ 2 lakh crore.
Puri also announced a smart cities fellowship and internship programme to facilitate the hiring of young professionals who have the requisite background in urban planning, engineering, information technology, urban mobility, environmental sustainability or finance. The period of engagement is between one and three years. Applications will remain open till 31 August, Puri said.
The Smart Cities Mission, which was launched in June 2015, covers 100 Indian cities, with Shillong being added as the final city to the list recently. After the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, smart cities is one of the biggest central government financed urban development schemes.