India’s Story of Making It to Inclusive Smart and Sustainable Cities

Elaborating on the massive work that is being carried out by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs(MoHUA), under the flagship mission of Government of India, Smart Cities Mission, Durga Shankar Mishra asserts, “Funding for the Mission has been made available on an ongoing basis by Government of India and there has been no dearth of funds for this mission. “ In an exclusive interaction with Poulami Chakraborty, of BW SmartCities world, an optimistic Mishra shares several strategies and programs of building a Smart Nation. Excerpts below:


Smart Cities Mission is one of the most [important] flagships under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. How would you assess the progress under the Smart City Mission till date? Would you apprise us of some new initiatives that the Government is planning to introduce under the same flagship?

Since the launch of the mission in June 2015, the work has progressed at a brisk pace and all cities have shown significant progress. The 100 cities were selected between January 2016 and June 2018 through a two-stage challenge process that involved extensive citizen consultations.  

A total of 5,151 projects with a net outlay of Rs. 2,05,018 crores have been proposed by the 100 cities, to be completed in 5 years of their selection. 45% of this funding comes from the center and state governments, 21% each from convergence and PPP, 5% from debt and loans, 1% from cities’ own sources and rest 7% from other sources. 

At the end of April 2019 — 3,492 projects worth ₹1,32,068 crore have been tendered, 2,745 projects worth ₹87,131 crore have been grounded, and 860 projects worth ₹14,465 crore have been completed. This is a significant increase in pace of implementation—289% increase in tendered projects and 358% in implementation/completed in last about 15months!

Mission Cities have successfully expedited work on key projects which include: Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCC) in 71 cities with operational in 16 cities; Smart Road projects in 69 cities with complete in 23; Smart Solar projects in 47 cities with complete in 15; Smart Water projects in 67 cities with complete in 23; Smart Waste Water projects in 56 cities with complete in 23 and Public Private Partnership projects in 61 cities with complete in 26 cities. 

The Mission is proving to be a game-changer in this regard.   Not only it is directly improving citizens’ life, it is also contributing to transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy. 

The Mission has launched several new initiatives that will not only ensure integrated development across various aspects of urban development but also catapult the mission to the next stage of development. Some of these key initiatives include the following:

India Smart Cities Fellowship Program: The India Smart Cities Fellowship Program is designed to provide valuable experience to the youth interested in smart cities specifically, and urban renewal sector in general and will bring in new ideas, passion and energy to the challenging but exciting work of implementing cutting edge, high-impact solutions to key urban problems. This program will cultivate young leaders, strengthen their understanding of Indian urban sector and prepare them for greater leadership roles in future. MoHUA has engaged 35 young graduates/post graduates and PhDs in the fields of Urban Planning, Urban Design, Engineering, Information and Technology, Urban Mobility, Finance, Social Sector, and Environmental issues as Smart Cities Fellows.

Smart Cities Digital Payment Awards-2018:  The Smart Cities Digital Payments Awards (SCDPA) 2018 ‘100 days Challenge in 100 Smart Cities’ was launched on 9th July 2018 as part of the initiatives of MoHUA to promote ease of living for India’s urban residents. The objective of these awards was to guide, motivate, recognize and reward the Smart Cities for promoting digital payments and carrying out innovative payment initiatives in their respective cities. The SCDPA awards were given away during the 2nd Apex Conference of Smart City CEOs on 26 February 2019.

City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) Challenge: City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) was launched on 9th July, 2018 by the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in partnership with AFD, EU and NIUA. The program, the total size of which was 100 Million Euros, was open to all the 100 smart cities During the Challenge process for selection of projects under CITIIS, 36 Smart cities submitted a total of 67 proposals belonging to various themes. Of these, 27 were shortlisted in the first round by a distinguished jury comprising of nine experts from India and France. 

Ease of Living Index 2019 and Municipal Performance Index 2019:- The first framework on ‘Ease of Living’ Index for cities was launched in June 2017 with the objective of framing an index to enable a shift to data driven approach in urban planning and management and promote healthy competition among cities.

DataSmart Cities Strategy, Assessment Framework and Open Data, India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) Portals: The need for the City governments to take ‘digital leadership’ has become more pronounced than ever before. The mission has launched a suite of measures to make cities ‘Data Smart’ to realize the full potential of technology interventions and innovation ecosystems in cities. 

National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS) Blue Book NUIS aims to catalyse transformative collaboration in the urban ecosystem through establishing a shared digital public good. NUIS will strengthen the capacity of the urban ecosystem to solve complex programs quickly and scale by unlocking the power of urban data, build capacity among all actors of the quadruple helix, driving discoverability and collaboration between urban stakeholders, and enabling responsive and data driven governance.

Capacity Building Frameworks on the National Urban Learning Platform (NULP): The National Urban Learning Platform is an answer to that need. It’s a content neutral, scalable and multi-channel platform which can be used for producing and delivering capacity through a 360-degree approach.

At a stage when Smart City is trending across the country in full scale, how is AMRUT enhancing the scope of improving urban lives in TIER II Cities?

Under AMRUT, 57 lakh water tap and 36 lakh sewerage house hold connections have been provided so far. Many of the mega projects in sewerage and water supply sectors are underway with focus on recycling of treated water for industry and arboriculture etc, thereby reducing the dependence on fresh water. More than 61 lakh streetlights have been converted into LED across the country, thereby effecting huge energy saving and substantial reduction is carbon foot print. More than 1,000 divyang friendly parks and green spaces have already been developed.  Online Building Permission System has been implemented in 439 cities, as a result of which India’s rank in this component has jumped to 52 in World bank doing Business report, 2019 from 181 in 2018.

In a bid to address the cleanliness objective, Swachh Bharat Mission was rolled out by Modi Government. Your take on the success and progress of this project? Programs like Mahakumbh and others that bring together huge crowd had been a catalyst for menace towards environment and liveability. What strategy of handling such an adverse situation is being adopted to address these issues?

The Swachha Bharat Mission was launched on 2nd October 2014, with two primary components of implementation, which are first, achieving 100% open defecation free (ODF) status, and secondly, putting in place systems to achieve 100% solid waste management —   in all ULBs in the country. Till date, urban areas of 23 states / UTs have become ODF. In all, 4,155 cities have declared themselves ODF, of which 3,592 cities have been certified ODF through third-party verification. In the process, nearly 63.6 lakh Individual Household Toilets (against Mission target of 66 lakhs; i.e. 96% have been constructed and under construction against target), and 5.2 lakh seats of community / public toilets (against Mission target of 5.08 lakh seats; i.e. 103% have been constructed and under construction against target) under the Mission. 

MoHUA has launched the ODF+ and ODF++ protocols, with a focus on sustaining ODF outcomes and achieving holistic sanitation. While ODF+ protocol focuses on O&M of community / public toilets by ensuring functionality and proper maintenance of CT/PTs for their continued usage, ODF++ focuses on addressing safe management of fecal sludge from toilets, and ensuring that no untreated sludge is discharged into open drains, water bodies or in the open.  Till date,377 cities have been certified ODF+, and 167 cities have been certified ODF++.

As on date, 90% wards are practicing door to door collection, approx. 54% of the total waste generated is being processed, and 64% of wards are practicing source segregation.  At the time of launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, 95 lakh tonnes per annum of waste was treatment capacity across processes such as composting, bio-methanation, RDF and waste to energy plants. Presently, designed input capacity of functional waste to energy and waste to compost plants is approx. 238 Lakh TPA including decentralized capacity. 

Under the SBM urban, the Swachh Survekshan is an innovative survey conducted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) under the Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban, to rank cities on various sanitation and cleanliness parameters. The survey has been successful in enthusing cities with a spirit of healthy competition towards the concept of ‘swachhata’.

In its first round in 2016, the ‘Swachh Survekshan’ was conducted among 73 cities with population of 10 lakh and above, and state / UT capitals of India. In 2017, the survey was conducted among 434 cities. Swachh Survekshan 2018 covered 4,203 ULBs: Indore, Bhopal and Chandigarh were adjudged the top 3 cleanest cities in the country, and Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh emerged as the top 3 performing states respectively. This survey, the first ever Pan India Sanitation Survey impacting around 40 crore people, was probably the largest such survey in the World.

How has HRIDAY been a boost for the economy? What more initiatives are you planning to push under this banner?

Under the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana(HRIDAY), the MoHUA has allocated Rs. 500 crore for development of civic infrastructure in and around heritage sites in 12 identified cities. The projects under the scheme have been designed and executed with the objective of reviving the heritage character of these cities and enhancing the experience of tourists. For each of the cities, the City HRIDAY Plan was prepared, which is an area based planning document which identifies infrastructural gaps and other issues along with the shelf of projects to be implemented through the scheme.

During the project execution stage, local artisans were given priority for developing aesthetically appealing components such as murals, wall artwork, statues etc. Similarly, IEC events with focus on promotion of tangible and intangible heritage of respective cities were organized where local craftsmen, painters, folk singers, musicians etc. were given the platform to showcase their skills and popularize the art form. After completion of projects, these 12 cities now boast of improved tourist spots and greater awareness about their tangible and intangible heritage. This is resulting in increased footfall of tourist and creating new avenues of livelihood for local residents with heritage and tourism playing the role of enablers. 

Though HRIDAY has been implemented on a pilot basis with the limited earmarked budget, positive feedback from citizens and visible change in overall atmosphere around the area of interventions has resulted in encouraging more investment in such type of schemes. The government has taken the decision to provide future funding on similar initiatives through the PRASAD scheme of Ministry of Tourism.

How do you see the PMAY shaping in the current scenario? What strategies are being opted for ensuring Housing for All in its stipulated timeline?

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) - Housing for All Mission was launched on 25th June 2015. The objective of the Mission is to provide Central assistance to implementing agencies through States/Union Territories (UTs) for providing houses to all eligible families/beneficiaries by 2022.The scheme focuses to cover the entire urban area consisting of all statutory towns and areas including Notified Planning/ Development Area/ Industrial Development Authority/ Special Area Development Authority/ Urban Development Authority or any such Authority under the State legislation which is entrusted with the functions of urban planning and regulations.  So far 4,445 cities/towns have been included under PMAY (U).   

Against the validated demand of 1 Cr houses, 81 lakh houses have been sanctioned of which more than 38 lakh houses were just sanctioned in the previous year only. So far, 46 lakh houses have been grounded; 25.5 lakh have been completed of which 23.64 lakh have been delivered. An investment of Rs. 4.8 lakh crore has been approved with commitment of Central assistance of Rs. 1.26 lakh Cr. A total of Rs. 50,662 crore of Central assistance has been released. 

6.16 lakh including 4,30,849 under EWS/LIG and 1,84,809 under MIG beneficiaries funded with Subsidy of Rs. 13,796 cr. till March, 2019. It is pertinent to note that this is the first time in the history of India that a housing scheme is supporting the Middle Income Group (MIG) where families earning between 6 lakh and 18 lakh per annum are provided with interest subsidy on availing housing loans under Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS for MIG). The benefit for EWS/LIG beneficiaries under CLSS works out to as high as Rs. 6 lakh over a loan period of 20 years.

Funding for the Mission has been made available on an ongoing basis by Govt. of India and there has been no dearth of funds for this mission. A National Urban Housing Fund (NUHF) for Rs. 60,000 crores has been set up for raising Extra Budgetary Resources (EBR) in phases for the rapid implementation of PMAY. As on 31.03.2019 Rs. 28,000 Cr. has been raised and released under this mechanism. This is in addition to the budgetary outlays.  

MoHUA, launched “Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC- India)” in January 2019.  As part of GHTC – India, the first Construction Technology India (CTI-2019), Expo-cum-Conference was held in New Delhi during March 2019.  The Expo was inaugurated by Shri Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.   About 3500 visitors including 2500 delegates from 32 countries participated in CTI 2019. 54 Proven Technology Providers with 32 new technologies from 25 countries including technologies from USA, Finland, Australia, Spain, France, South Korea and Italy were evaluated by the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC).

What major benefits are reaped under the National Under Livelihood Mission? How do you gauge the progress of Integrated Slum Development Program (ISDP)? How far are we from reaching the optimum?

Ministry is implementing Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) in all statutory towns of the country with the aim of improving the livelihoods opportunities for the urban poor on sustainable basis.  Up to 15th May, 2019, around 40 lakh women from urban poor households have been mobilised as members of 3.8 lakh Self Help Groups (SHGs), which are engaged in various activities for promoting economic and social upliftment. Mission has skill trained and certified about 10 lakh beneficiaries for enhancing their employability. Around 5 lakh beneficiaries have been provided loans from Banks for setting up gainful self-employment ventures, suited to their skills, training, aptitude and local conditions. Interest subvention is available on timely payment of these loans for interest rate over and above 7%.  Additional subvention of 3% is available to women SHGs. With the help of IT based online system, named PAiSA, benefit of interest subvention is now being provided to such beneficiaries on monthly basis. 

In order to provide shelter and all other essential services to the urban homeless, around 1,400 permanent all-weather 24 x 7 shelters are in operation that can accommodate 70,000 homeless persons. The urban street vendors have been mainstreamed through enactment of the Street Vendors Act and rules/schemes that not only provide them identity card but also better opportunities of livelihoods through pro-vending urban planning and creation of vending zones. So far, more than 18 lakh street vendors have been identified through surveys and over 9 lakh have been provided with identity cards.

 From February 1st to 15th, 2019, Mission celebrated ‘Shehri Samridhi Utsav’ (SSU) across the country with large scale participation of beneficiaries. It aimed to extend the outreach of the Mission to the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable, showcasing the initiatives and strengthening the safety net for members of SHGs. 

During SSU, an exhibition of articles made by SHGs, street food festivals and job fairs were also organized across the country. In the National Exhibition held at Rajpath in New Delhi alone, articles worth Rs. 80 lakh (appro.) were sold by the participating SHGs and street vendors from different parts of the country over a period of 10 days.

Where do you see the Urban Transport rejuvenation in India in the coming years? Given that electric cars are to take over India roads soon, what volume of overhaul at the backend including charging stations and other do you see necessary and in what timeline?

Transport contributes to quality of life and personal well-being by enabling individuals to access health care, education, and employment, entertainment etc., which ultimately leads to greater productivity and economic growth. Considering the eminent needs of improving mobility in cities, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs issued National Urban Transport Policy in 2006. The main objective of the policy is to encourage integrated land use and transport planning in all cities and provide safe, affordable, quick, comfortable, reliable and sustainable mobility to the citizens.

Evolution of metro rail in India is a breath-taking story. Though, Metro rail system was started in 1984 in Kolkata by Indian Railways, it was success of Delhi Metro which inspired other big  cities to adopt metro rail as a prime mode of urban transport. In 2002, the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the first metro rail service in 8.5 km metro line in Delhi. Today metro is operational in 18 cities of India covering about 657 km of route length. In addition, approx. 870 km of metro rails are under various stages of consideration/ implementation in another 27 cities of the country.

Regional Rapid Transit System or RRTS, first of its kind in India, will be exclusive rail based fast track corridor with stations spaced at an average distance of 5-10 kms. The total length of the three prioritized corridors is 381 km with 48 stations.  The first rapid rail corridor of 90 km will run between Delhi and Meerut.   The second corridor between Delhi and Panipat is around 111 km and the third corridor of 180 km is between Delhi and Alwar.  Delhi-Meerut corridor has been approved and Hon’ble Prime Minister laid its foundation in March, 2019. It will take just 49 minutes to travel between Delhi and Meerut, stopping at 16 stations enroute.  This will reduce congestion and pollution in Delhi.  

In order to provide enabling ecosystem for metro rail development across the country and enhancing the feasibility of metro rail projects from economic, social and environmental perspective, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has issued “Metro Rail Policy 2017". The policy focuses on systematic planning and implementation of metro rail systems and act as a guide to State governments for preparing comprehensive proposals for metro rail projects. This policy enables greater private participation and innovative financing through Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and Value Capture Finance (VCF).

To sum up in the last five years, through various flagship urban missions and schemes, attempt has been made to improve quality of life of citizens.  Smart Cities are shaping up as lighthouses for various initiatives, which will provide Ease of Living to the citizens, like better sanitation, 24/7 availability of water, electricity and other utilities, better utilization of resources and urban planning conducive for inclusive growth and overall providing congenial environment to the citizens to realise their potential.   Experience world over shows that cities are the engines of economic growth; if we fully rejuvenate the cities, they will provide better liveability and boost economic activities.  Already urban area contribute nearly 65% of GDP; this number is going to grow faster in times to come.   Planned urban growth and improving infrastructure will be one of the major contributors towards realising the dream of Hon’ble Prime Minister to take 3 trillion dollar Indian economy to 5 trillion dollar by 2022 and to 10 trillion dollar by 2030.