Of late, the JD (S)-Congress government in Karnataka has emerged as the hallmark of inefficiency. As per the latest report, the official data reveals that the Karnataka government has fared poorly with negligible usage of the total funds with regard to Smart City project. In fact, the data shows that the state has used less than one percent of the total allocation for the Modi government’s flagship scheme, the Smart Cities Mission. Bengaluru and Mangaluru are yet to complete a single project under the Smart Cities Mission, which shows that the state government never really started working on the scheme.
Seven cities- Bengaluru, Belagavi, Davangere, Hubballi-Dharwad, Shivamogga, Mangaluru and Tumakuru- were selected to be developed as Smart Cities under this scheme. These cities were to receive Rs. 500 crores from the Centre and the State under this Scheme. Rs. 6,462 crore has been allocated until now. However, according to the Urban Development Department, the state government has completed projects worth merely Rs 30.97 crore. Out of the remaining projects, some are ongoing, while some have only been tendered and some are still in the nascent stage of conceptualisation.
As per a senior official, the projects which have been completed till now are miniscule works. Elaborating upon how the lack of conceptual clarity is inhibiting, he said, “In Shivamogga, for example, a park has come up under the Smart Cities mission. Now, why does a park need branding as a Smart Cities project? Mostly, work under the Smart Cities mission is turning out to be like those carried out by the public works department.”
The Smart Cities Mission was launched in the year 2015. Six cities in Karnataka were chosen in 2016 while Bengaluru was added later in 2017. However, even after the passage of a substantial time period, the previous Siddaramaiah government followed by the current H.D. Kumaraswamy dispensation doesn’t seem to have done much in order to successfully implement the crucial Scheme. The Urban Development Secretary (municipalities and urban development authorities) Anjum Parwez said, “We’re scaling up projects to non-mission cities, which includes Control and Command Centres, LED lighting and commercial complexes.” He added, “The first two years were spent putting things in place.” According to him, “This involved setting up special purpose vehicles and finding the right project management consultants.”
The signs are not very encouraging if the Karnataka government spent two years in the conceptualisation stage itself and even after such elaborate planning, a senior official feels that the Smart Cities Mission is being implemented like the works carried out by the public works department. This shows that the snail’s pace at which the Karnataka government is moving is not the only problem. It is only the tip of the iceberg. The fact remains that the JD (S)-Congress government in Karnataka is not at all serious in implementation of the Smart Cities Mission, primarily because the scheme is seen as one of the most important programs undertaken by the Modi government. The current dispensation in Karnataka seems to be acting in a vindictive manner and is trying to sabotage the Central Government scheme solely for electoral purposes. The immediate casualty is the public interest. One must not forget that it is the taxpayers’ money which is going unutilized due to the politicization of a scheme aimed at building better urban infrastructure and providing world-class amenities to the general public.