India received the highest ever FDI of $83.57 billion in 2021-22 and our urban development efforts can claim some credit for creating the grounds for such inflows. But then why have Indian smart cities not attracted FDI? Given that the Gulf countries are making a beeline to invest in India’s infrastructure our cities could receive long-term funding from these countries sitting on oil surpluses.
These funds could dramatically accelerate the improvement of India’s urban cityscape. As several states are burdened under unsustainable debt pressure a central scheme that provides states with long-term funds for city development on milestones could serve us well.
Clearly, India’s Smart Cities Mission just completed seven years and is an inspiring idea that has set the stage for a renaissance. But now we need a PM Gati Shakti model to bring together the multitude of ideas under one platform for liveability workability and sustainability
Smart Cities Mission did highlight the severity of neglect urban planning was facing. Not only were we not building architectural masterpieces to receive global glory we were also intent upon razing old relics we were blinking at unauthorized construction and then struggling to legitimize them – and we were using floor space index (FSI) as currency. In the process, homeowners were getting short-changed our cultural heritage was being torn apart and we were overburdening infrastructure without providing any metrics of capacity planning.
Several other flagship schemes have set the ground for the simmering renaissance but all these need to integrate for delivering compounding value. Yet there are stumbling blocks to converting this effort into a sustainable operation. Only when the value derived from the services provided is considered worthy of payment will financial sustainability emerge. Citizens value consistency and quality and will eventually pay for services that deliver.
So, what did the Smart Mission achieve?
(The article is authored by Pratap Padode, who is the founder and executive director of Smart Cities Council India affiliated with Washington DC-based Smart Cities Council)