The Modi government’s previous budgets, too, have focused on investing in smart cities across the country. The aim, as finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Parliament, was to “maximise the benefits of three separately developing economic activities—the upcoming economic corridors, revitalisation of manufacturing activities and technology demands.” In last year’s budget, she allocated Rs 6,450 crore for setting up five new smart cities, to be built up by partnering states in Public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The amount was the same as the previous year’s.
But, the hard figures tell something else altogether. Transforming 100 cities ‘smart’ was a Rs 2 lakh crore plus overall project that should have been on its winning lap come 2020. But instead, the reality is somewhat different. According to a 2019 report, of the total Rs 48,000 crore-approved budget between 2015-2019, only half the money was allocated. Of the allocated funds, only three-fourth was released and just 36 per cent of the funds released were utilised. While over Rs 17,000 crore has been released for different projects, only Rs 6,160 crore has been used, according to Divakar Vijayasarathy, founder and advisor of DVS Advisors. “Like many infrastructure projects, the smart city project is also facing funding issues among other things,” he says.