In response to a report filed in the Rajya Sabha about Tamil Nadu’s poor performance in the Smart Cities Mission, Minister for Municipal Administration SP Velumani blamed the Centre’s stringent norms.
Even though the project was launched in 2016, the state held its first-ever meeting to take stock of the mission only on Monday.
In a report submitted to the Rajya Sabha, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs noted that Tamil Nadu spent less than 1% of the Rs 196 crore sanctioned and the state’s own allocation of Rs 200 crore has not been touched at all.
The Minister said the State Government has written to the Centre to relax the norms, especially for water- and sanitation-related projects. According to one report, he said that the projects would be sped up regardless of the Centre’s response.
Velumani also set a March 31 deadline to float tenders and begin these projects. This mission received a funding of Rs 196 crore for 12 cities in Tamil Nadu as part of the Union government’s mission to develop 100 citizen-friendly and sustainable cities all over the country.
In a report last week, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs submitted to the Rajya Sabha that Tamil Nadu was faring poorly in spending the funds for this project. The Minister’s meeting on Monday appears to have been in response to that.
Of the cities selected for the project over various rounds, Coimbatore had spent the most: Rs 7.27 crore.
The meeting also discussed the status of AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) projects, which sanctions funds for park maintenance, sewerage and drinking water projects. According to one report, of the 428 projects overall, 83 park-related projects have been completed. While in other states the special purpose vehicles – agencies for the implementation of the Smart City Projects – have decision-making authority, in Tamil Nadu, the agency must seek approval from a “high-power committee”, according to one official speaking to the Times of India.