Mangaluru, Feb 13, 2016: Expectations were high, but what was in store was utter disappointment for Mangaluru when Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu, announced the names of the first 20 cities chosen for the ambitious Smart City Mission of the Narendra Modi led Union Government. In fact Belagavi and Davangere cities had raced ahead of Mangaluru to be chosen for the project among the six cities which were shortlisted in August last year.
The disappointment was evident in the reactions from various leaders of the region. In fact when in August last year, Mangaluru was among the six cities from the state shortlisted for the Smart City Mission and was on top of the list by scoring 96.88 per cent marks in the evaluation process, the local leaders as well as elected representatives were virtually on Cloud Nine. Enthusiasm levels had soared and each one was confident that the City of Smart and Enterprising People would be chosen in the first list.
But things have changed now. If Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel felt that Mangaluru was missed out due to the population factor, MLA of Mangaluru South JR Lobo said the administration had tried its level best. He also had a ray of hope that the city may get selected in the future.
Even Mangaluru Mayor Jacintha Vijay Alfred voices a similar opinion and hides her disappointment when she hopes that the city may get selected in the second list to be released next year.
The vision of a Smart City Mission was to make the cities more inclusive, sustainable and effective engines of growth, fulfilling the aspiration of Young India. The cities in the first list have made it to the top of the competition based on implementation framework, including feasibility and cost-effectiveness, which had a weightage of 30 per cent, followed by result orientation, citizen participation, smartness of proposal, strategic plan vision and goals, evidence- based city profiling and key performance indicators and processes followed.
It was believed that Mangaluru being a Tier-2 city, it required several initiatives to drive economic activities to elevate it to a smart city. Experts even felt that Mangaluru, with its intellectual capital and high potential for developing Economic Growth Centres (EGC), is an ideal city to be established as a global city, yet retain its social and cultural identity.
However, social activist Hanumanth Kamath points out how Mangaluru city has lagged behind in property tax, water bill collection, not to mention the hoarding irregularities and the garbage problems that still persist even after introduction of the Advanced Garbage Disposal Scheme. Mangaluru had lost the race for the Smart City well before and it was a difficult proposition even in the near future, he feels.
Now that Mangaluru has not been chosen to be a Smart City, should we sit with our hands tied down? Definitely no, says a senior citizen who is very well aware of the issues confronting the city since decades. The disappointment should not persist, instead the Mangaluru City Corporation should now move ahead with renewed vigour to do its best to improve the infrastructural facilities, basic amenities as well as find a solution to the several long standing civic woes of Mangaluru.
Yes, even the ordinary Mangalurean wants this. Let the MCC make concerted efforts to have a full-fledged city bus stand for Mangaluru and ensure that the long awaited bus terminus project at Pumpwell is executed soon, by removing all road blocks. Let the MCC also see to it that all roads have proper footpaths and side drains, keeping in mind that the monsoons are just a few months away.
A few months ago when the administration had convened several meetings to invite suggestions from Mangaluru regarding the Smart City proposal, many had spoken only about existing civic woes and sought solutions to the same, rather than coming up with big ideas. That’s it - Mangalureans want their city neat and tidy, clean and green with all basic amenities, good parking facilities, traffic regulation system, effective policing, good roads, footpaths, side drains, market places and other conveniences.
The MCC must work on the above aspects. Let us Forget about the Smart City Mission. Let us concentrate on the development of the city with the available resources and be a True Smart City on our own.