Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged city planners not to treat urbanization as a “calamity” but as an “opportunity” to enrich and improve the lives of the people in an all-inclusive manner.
Inaugurating 84 varied Smart City Projects for 20 selected Indian cities under the Smart Cities Mission, Modi said until now the trend was to treat urbanization as some kind of a bane instead of grabbing the opportunity to plan ahead for the future.
“Cities have the strength to ‘digest’ poverty and provide economic opportunities for the poorest coming from other less-developed areas. We must further strengthen the cities to increase this ‘digestive’ ability, make it faster and wider… economic prosperity will automatically follow,” he said.
Terming the Smart City Mission as not just a concept or allocation of funds, but a public-based movement, Modi said that the experiment has worked successfully.
“These cities were selected out of a contest with public participation to avoid problems and opposition. We received over 2.5 million workable ideas from the people which the government will have to take note of. This has resulted in a participatory approach in development and will lead to a huge transformation in future,” he said.
Citing an example, he said Pune missed the top slot, by a narrow margin, to Bhubaneshwar and asked the city mayor Prashant Jagtap: “What happened?”
He expressed hope that in the next round of competition, Pune would emerge at the top, but also urged other cities not to lag Pune in any manner.
Dismissing apprehensions about Smart Cities, the prime minister said that it entailed providing sufficient water, electricity, cleanliness, traffic management, decent housing for all, solid and liquid waste management, emergency services, couple with technology to make life easy and comfortable for all.
Lauding the people of the country for being the “smartest”, he said that once the masses are adequately empowered and their skills harnessed, there would be no need for governance and the country would progress smoothly.
The 20 selected Smart Cities were linked to the Pune venue through videoconferencing wherein their states’ Chief Ministers and other leaders gave details of their plans for the Smart Cities in their states and interacted with the PM.
Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje, Odisha’s Navin Patnaik and Andhra Pradesh’s Chandrababu Naidu joined for a live interaction at the venue and outlined the mission statements for the Smart Cities selected in their respective states.
Earlier Modi visited an expo on Smart Cities, inaugurated a contest on ‘Make Your City Smart’ and a Smart Net Portal on the occasion at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, on the outskirts of Pune.
Maharashtra Governor C. V. Rao presided over the function, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu gave an overview of the Smart Cities Mission, while Minister of State for Urban Development Babul Supriyo proposed a vote of thanks.
Also present on the occasion were Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar, Maharashtra Food & Civil Supplies Minister Girish Bapat, Pune Mayor Jagtap, Chief Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya and other dignitaries.
Shiv Sena, the alliance partner in Maharashtra, the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena gave a miss to the event, while some Congress activists staged a black flag protest near the venue of the function.