Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday said setting up the ambitious Smart Cities campaign would be difficult without a major behavioural change in the population towards keeping the surroundings clean.
“You can build all the toilets you like but unless people come to the conclusion that it is more hygienic to use them than going out in open space… because unless you have the swachhta (cleanliness) right, you won’t get the smart city right,” he said at a CII function here.
“When the Prime Minister said that we will be Swachh Bharat and we need India to be totally open defecation free (ODF), he was asking for a paradigm shift so that there is a behavioural change,” Puri said about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Clean India in 2014.
The minister also highlighted that the Smart Cities campaign needed strong cooperation among departments, and the Centre and states. There are 4,041 cities in the country and for the 99 Smart Cities, there are about 4,000 projects costing Rs 204,000 crore, he said.
“That’s a lot of money and this is just the beginning. If you get these projects done, you will need at least 10 times more investment to ‘smartify’ the rest of the cities because the Smart Cities actually is an area-based development — circumscribe a certain territory and make that smart.”
He said there was lot of cynicism coming as the scheme was announced in June 2015, the first tranche of 20 cities was announced in January 2016 and the last names of 20 cities came a few months ago in February 2018.
“The minister (Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s Minister for National Development) was very pointed. He said they have a smart mechanism to control it from the Prime Minister’s office,” Puri said. Before him, Wong had spoken about Singapore’s experience in upgrading their city.
“We decided long ago that if you wanted something to work you needed to insulate that mechanism from the pressures of competitive politics and from populism. We got Delhi Metro right because through an Act of Parliament we set up a special purpose vehicle, which runs the metro and that is a success story,” he said.
Delhi Metro currently covers 280 km which makes it the fourth largest metro in the world. By end of this year, it will be 380 km, Puri said.