The Centre’s ambitious smart city project has hit a major roadblock in Maharashtra. The municipal corporations of Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, ruled by the Nationalistic Congress Party (NCP), Congress and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), have objected to the project saying it would impact the corporations’ autonomy and financial independence.
They also fear the corporations would be sidelined as the special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed by the state government and the respective civic body would have a major say in the implementation of development projects.
Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, controlled by the NCP-Congress combine, has passed a resolution opposing the project, while the civic bodies in Pune and Nashik have orally expressed their protest. Pune is ruled jointly by the NCP and Congress while MNS is supported by NCP in Nashik.
Navi Mumbai mayor Sudhakar Sonavane told Business Standard: “The Centre will provide Rs 100 crore annually for five years, while Rs 50 crore each will be contributed annually for five years by the state government and the respective civic body. This won’t be sufficient as additional funds will have to be mobilised through various instruments too. In such scenario, it will not be possible to bear that extra burden by the civic body.”
The civic bodies said they won’t support the project unless their autonomy was protected. They also took serious objection against the increase in various taxes to meet the investment requirements. NCP group leader Shankar Kemse in the Pune Municipal Corporation claimed the civic body would lose its powers to the proposed SPV, which was not acceptable.
“According to the administration’s proposal, Rs 3,700 crore is proposed for two wards. In all, there are 144 wards in Pune. Under the present formula, Rs 1,000 crore will be raised in five years while the decision to raise the remaining Rs 2,700 crore will be taken by the SPV on its terms and conditions. There could be a rise in taxes, allowing the private sector to use open spaces but the civic body would have to take care of repayment. All these doubts will have to be cleared before taking a final decision,” Kemse noted.
Ashok Murtadak, Nashik mayor, said corporators were totally against the proposed tax hike. “The government should not take away the freedom enjoyed by civic bodies under 74th Constitutional amendment. If the SPV will decide everything, then the civic body should be dissolved.”
A state government official, who did not want to be named, clarified the corporators’ fear of losing some powers to the SPV is unfounded as the SPV would work on the framework approved by the general body.
Ten cities from Maharashtra have been selected to be developed as smart cities — Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Amravati, Solapur, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
Interestingly, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nashik municipal corporations have received support from Maharashtra's former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and MNS president Raj Thackeray. Chavan accused the BJP-led government in Maharashtra of playing a partisan role in short listing the names for the smart city project. He also alleged that the Centre's guidelines were changed to accommodate BJP-ruled civic bodies and therefore it exposes the manipulations done to promote certain cities. On the other hand, Thackeray slammed the project by saying it would stop municipal corporations from carrying out their work.
Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nashik civic bodies allege they will lose freedom enjoyed under the 74th Constitutional amendment
They are against the SPV getting more say in project implementation
They also oppose the increase in various taxes to meet the investment requirements
- State government says SPV would work on the framework approved by the general body