LUDHIANA’S SMART CITY STATUS: Centre’s share came one year ago is lying unutilised, the like share of Punjab is pending

Ludhiana, The Hush Post: At the time of launch Prime Minister Narendra Modi said these words, “Cities in the past were built on riverbanks. They are now built along highways. But in the future, they will be built based on the availability of optical fibre networks and next-generation infrastructure.” Launched in 2015, Smart City project took off. Ludhiana was in the list too. To everybody’s surprise, out of the list of 100, it reached the list of top 20. But then, they forgot what the prime minister had said. “Instead of building a city on optic fibre network, they started focusing on roads, flyovers, bridges and at best the al fresco paintings.

This is the image of Fountain chowk from the top after the Smart City project started, pretty different to the status elsewhere in the city.

Two years down, the man who was in the forefront of the Smart City Project in Ludhiana, Rahul Verma says, “The officials down the line do not know the concept of Smart City. They cannot differentiate between a smart city, which should be based on the use of ICT Information and Communication Technologies, and traditional mode of development, which is concerned with building of roads and bridges, beautification of the city, etc.”

Kimti Rawal, a convenor of a group of 100 NGOs, seconds the view point. For the smart city project, two things are of utmost importance — digitisation and innovation. By innovation we mean to overcome the present obstacles such as crowded roads by use of technology. For example, if you cannot go to the office of Municipal Corporation for a transfer of water meter, then you should be able to do it through internet.”On similar lines, the police has introduced online challan facility, but it serves no purpose, since to collect the confiscated licence you will have to physically collect it. These are partial efforts and haven’t resulted in anything smart,” says Verma.

Sanjay Goel, a leading city-based architect, however, says, even the project they have taken up is progressing at a slow pace. In the last one-and-a-half years not much has happened. Earlier, there was a different government, then there was code of conduct and now a new government has come, which is taking time to settle. Couple this with serious financial crunch the state is faced with. As a result of this the centre’s share in the project which had reached one year back is lying unutilised because the like share of the state government is pending. Not just this, even the consultants which were part of the

smart city project kept changing. Now re-tendering is being done, we hope thing start improving in future.”

Baljit Kaur, who runs an NGO says that there is a gap in coordination. “Our visions do not match, which results in the way the pace of the project is. We have to on one page, otherwise we go nowhere.’’ Union minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh, says that manifestation of what is actually happening on the ground will be visible by June 2018. However, in Ludhiana all that one can see is installation of solar panels, signage boards and LEDs being installed, while majority of the work is still on papers and not in the direction Prime Minister Modi had enunciated in his speech.