Smart Cities Mission

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Smart City Mission (SCM)

About the Mission

  • Smart Cities Mission was launched by the Hon’ Prime Minister on 25 June, 2015. 
  • The main objective of the Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and give a decent quality of life to their citizens through the application of ‘smart solutions’. 
  • The Mission aims to drive economic growth and improve quality of life through comprehensive work on social, economic, physical and institutional pillars of the city. 
  • The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development by creation of replicable models which act as lighthouses to other aspiring cities. 
  • 100 cities have been selected to be developed as Smart Cities through a two-stage competition.
  • Among its strategic components is ‘area-based development’, which includes city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development), plus a pan-city initiative in which ‘smart solutions’ are applied covering larger parts of the city.
  • Key focus areas of the scheme include construction of walkways, pedestrian crossings, cycling tracks, efficient waste-management systems, integrated traffic management and assessment.
  • The scheme also assesses various indices to track urban development such as the Ease of Living Index, Municipal Performance Index, City GDP framework, Climate Smart Cities assessment framework, etc.

What is a Smart City?

  • There is no standard definition or template of a smart city.  In the context of our country, the six fundamental principles on which the concept of Smart Cities is based are:
  • Community at the core- of planning and implementation
  • More from Less- Ability to generate greater outcomes with the use of lesser resources
  • Cooperative and Competitive Federalism- Cities selected through competition; flexibility to implement projects
  • Integration, innovation, Sustainability- Innovating methods; integrated and sustainable solution
  • Technology as means, not the goal- careful selection of technology, relevant to the context of cities
  • Convergence- Sectorial and Financial Convergence

Some main characteristics of smart cities are:

  • Artificial Intelligence
    • Introduction to ICTs
    • IT connectivity
    • Digitalization
  • e-Governance
    • e- Panchayat
    • e- Chaupal
  • Good Infrastructure
    • Good water supply
    • Electricity for all
    • Proper Sanitation
    • Solid waste management system
    • Urban Mobility
    • Adequate public transportation
    • Affordable living conditions like Housing
    • Sustainable environment

Objectives of Smart Cities Mission:

  • To improve quality of life
  • To provide people with better infrastructure
  • To introduce better healthcare facilities
  • To Improve safety and security
  • Introduce Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  • To improve the workings of government through direct participation


  • To implement their ‘smart city’ proposals, cities had to constitute a special purpose vehicle (SPV), headed by a full-time chief executive officer, and have nominees of the central, state and local governments on its board. 
  • The SPV can acquire the assistance of consulting firms, and appoint project management consultants (PMCs).


  • The Mission guidelines provide for the creation of a monitoring mechanism, and spell out the organisational responsibilities for monitoring:
  • At the national level, an apex committee (AC) approves proposals, reviews activities, recommends mid-course corrections, and releases funds. A national mission director is the overall in-charge.
  • In the states, a high-powered steering committee (HPSC), headed by a state mission director, handles the Mission. It provides guidance and a platform for exchange of ideas.
  • In the cities, in addition to the SPV, smart city advisory forums (SCAF) have been established to advise and enable collaboration among stakeholders. The forum is convened by the CEO of the SPV.


  • The central government and state/urban local governments share equal responsibility for mobilising funds. 
  • A total of INR 1,000 billion has been allocated for the 100 cities over the five-year period for which the Mission was initially planned. 
  • This works out to about INR 2 billion per city per year.
  • Thus government funds will meet less than one-half of the estimated project cost. 
  • The balance has to be mobilised from internal and external sources, including financial intermediaries, state/local government internal sources, other central government schemes, innovative mechanisms (such as municipal bonds, pooled finance), borrowings from bilateral and multilateral institutions, and the private sector.

Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC)

  • The Smart Cities Mission includes setting up ICCCs for each such city as a vital step.
  • These ICCCs are designed to enable authorities to monitor the status of various amenities in real time.
  • The ICCCs are now also linked to the CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems) network under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The ICCC acts of a smart city acts as a “nerve centre” for operations management.
  • It processes a complex and large pool of data sets at an aggregated level. For example, it is now the go-to source for integrated traffic management monitoring.
  • The ICCC is the nodal point of availability of all online data and information relating to smart services included in a smart city, such as like LED street lighting, CCTV surveillance cameras, air quality sensors, smart parking system, WiFi, electricity and water supply and billing, GIS, e-hospitals, property tax management, estate management, engineering systems, asset management systems, and other services.
  • They also served as war-rooms for Covid-19 management- It helped in gathering reasonable information across Smart Cities in fighting COVID-19. This information included fast and rapid communication, active management of containment zones, and requesting people to take useful steps to prevent spreading infections.

Current Status of the Mission

  • National level: 
    • Tenders have been issued for 6,130 projects worth INR 1,814.91 billion. 
    • Of these, 47% projects worth INR 504.22 billion have been completed.
    • Of the total amount for which tenders have been issued, about 23% of funds have been released, the share of the centre and state/local governments being 13 and 10 percent, respectively. This is fairly low and needs to be increased. 
    • Of the total central government funds released, about 94% has been transferred to the SPVs. 
    • Of the total central and state/local government funds released, up to 71% has been utilised; the centre and state utilisation share being 48% and 23%, respectively.
  • State level
    • Large states have issued more tenders. 
    • Karnataka is at the top with a total of 821 project tenders issued, while Manipur, with just seven tenders, is at the bottom.
    • Generally, the smaller states, north eastern states, and the UTs have issued fewer than 100 project tenders. 
    • Of the total number of tenders issued, Delhi and Nagaland have completed over 70% of their projects, while another seven states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Tripura, and Andhra Pradesh – have finished 50-60 percent.
    • However, many other states/UTs are not performing well. 
    • As of 2021, Meghalaya did not complete even a single project.
  • On the recommendation of NITI Aayog, the timeline was extended last year until 2023 due to delays caused by the pandemic.
  • According to current Ministry data, the SCM has so far covered over 140 public-private partnerships), 340 ‘smart roads’, 78 ‘vibrant public places’, 118 ‘smart water’ projects and over 63 solar projects.

Performance of the Mission

  • States/UTs where significant improvements are required include Bihar, Punjab, Telangana, Puducherry, Meghalaya, Goa, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Assam, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu. 
  • Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Biharsharif in Bihar, Amritsar and Jalandhar in Punjab, and Karimnagar and Warangal in Telangana figure prominently among the bottom five cities on different criteria.

Examples of implementation of SCM

  • Surat is providing amenities such as better roads, footpaths, utility crossings, median parking, hawking zones, art galleries, children’s play areas under the Mission and increasing its green cover along a canal.
  • Prayagraj has installed a plastic-to-diesel conversion plant of capacity 2 MT. It can convert 100 kg of plastic/polythene into 40-60 litres of diesel, the operation producing natural gas as well.
  • Coimbatore is restoring eight lakes, developing the lakefront, providing open air recreation, food kiosks, open plazas, cycle tracks, fountains, and building an amphitheatre. It is also using robotic machines (called Bandicoot V 2.0) to clean and unclog manholes and septic tanks, thus doing away with manual scavenging.
  • Kavaratti has installed a rainwater harvesting system. Its solid waste management system has been reformed – bio-degradable waste is buried to produce manure, recyclable waste is processed, while the remaining waste is incinerated.

Challenges in the implementation

  • Management 
    • The SPVs are not functioning well. 
    • In Panaji, for example, which was among the cities selected during the fast track round in May 2016, the SPV functioned without a Board for over a year. Four Board positions still remain vacant.
    • Inadequate understanding of data, and how to analyse it to provide effective solutions has also created difficulties.
    • Maintenance problems have arisen due to lack of coordination among multiple government departments
  • Technology
    • Smart cities rely on sensors and network-connected devices and systems that generate large volumes of data, which are vulnerable to hacking by cyber criminals who can steal confidential data, shut down access to essential resources, and gain illegal access to security cameras.
    • The data needs to be adequately protected.
  • Design-related challenges 
    • The smart city concept is based on the belief that technology can solve any problem without fundamentally changing lifestyles which may be an oversimplification of reality. 
    • Seeing the diversity of a country like India, the heterogeneity of its cities cannot be accommodated in a linear vision that is backed by technology. 
  • Lack of Centre-State Coordination
    • The combined funding from the union and state governments, as well as the urban local bodies, for all cities is less than Rs 1 lakh crore which is disproportionately a small sum to develop 100+ Smart Cities. 
    • Smart city projects have sidelined state ministries and agencies by establishing direct contact and transfer of funds to urban bodies by the Centre.
    • Also, the municipal commissioners, who are trained to administer the city, are struggling to make the transition in their roles from city administrator to city planner.
  • Lack of Technical Knowledge
    • Another set of challenges include lack of technical knowledge among the policy planners, the communication gap between then city manager and technologist with each of pursuing their own mandate. 
    • Technologists also need to understand how cities are operated, financed, regulated, and planned. From the current angle, Implementations are going high on tech with a missing focus on value addition for the residents, which needs to change.
  • Overall Work Culture of City Municipalities 
    • Traditionally the municipalities have been burdened with fire fighting of immediate problems on a daily basis. Eg.- fixing road lights, garbage collection, drainage, etc.
    • The municipal commissioner doesn’t have the time or the expertise that is required to implement large Information technology infrastructure projects. 
    • Also, poor working conditions, continuous pressure from the political bosses, low levels of pay scales etc, over a long period of time has created a work culture amongst the municipal employees that has no incentives for implementing some state-of-the-art modern systems in the municipality domain.
    • As such these employees see these new age projects as an additional burden on their already burdened lifestyle.
  • Difficulties in The Procurement of large Smart City Projects 
    • Rs.1000 crore have been allocated to each of the designated smart city. 
    • However, spending this money is not an easy task. 
    • Detailed project reports, Developing voluminous Request for Proposal or Tender documents, lengthy and complicated tendering procedures, technical and financial negotiations, Putting in place a legally tenable contract for project implementation and finally implementing the project successfully is a long and complicated road to success.
    • From a career perspective, some of the Bureaucrats find it safe to not take decisions rather than take risky decisions to implement project.

Government Initiatives to Support the SCM 

MoHUA has initiated a number of programmes to enhance the SCM’s impact. The following include some of them:

  • Digital infrastructure and tools to ensure data availability and skill building are being created under a National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) launched on 23 February 2021.
    • Examples include India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX), which is an open-source platform that will provide data on numerous urban indicators.
    • Smart Cities Open Data Portal is another example, being created to develop products and build solutions.
    • A third example is SmartCode, which will serve the software development demand of cities, providing data and solutions for various urban problems.
  • Capacity-building is being promoted through the National Urban Learning Platform (NULP).
    • It conducts virtual training programmes to build leadership qualities and facilitate partnerships. It enrols knowledge creators, consolidates skills, and makes these available to stakeholders.
  • An Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2020 has been computed for 111 cities to keep city governments informed of the well-being of citizens.
    • It shows the gaps in urban policies, planning and implementation initiatives, and offers an opportunity to plug them. Bengaluru and Shimla have been ranked at the top in their respective population categories (i.e. above and below one million) in this regard, whereas Srinagar and Muzaffarpur are at the bottom.
  • A Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2020 has also been calculated for the 111 cities.
    • This describes the quality of urban governance (the performance of municipalities). Indore’s and New Delhi’s municipal councils have been ranked best in their respective population categories (i.e. above and below one million), while Guwahati and Shillong received the lowest rankings.
  • An India Smart Cities Awards Contest (ISAC) has been organised every year since 2018 to recognise the best performing cities.
    • A special award was also instituted at the third edition of the contest in 2020 to recognise the most innovative responses to the COVID-19 crisis. The winners of this prize, announced at the fourth edition on 25 June 2021 were Chennai (Round 1), Kalyan-Dombivali and Varanasi (Round 2), Bengaluru (Round 3) and Saharanpur (Round 4).
  • Over 10,000 internships have been offered under The Urban Learning Internship Programme (TULIP), launched on 4 June 2020, which offers experiential learning opportunities to fresh graduates.

What needs to be done?

  • The SCM should be a long-term programme, not restricted to five or six years as currently envisioned. 
  • More projects should be identified to meet city requirements. 
  • Training programmes should be organised to build managerial and financial capacities of the staff employed by the SPVs and urban local bodies. Training needs must be properly identified.
  • SPVs should be supported with adequate funds, trained personnel, and proper equipment.
  • Empirical studies should be undertaken of the SPVs in cities that lag behind in implementation to find out why. 
  • The Centre, and more so state governments and urban local bodies, should make a greater effort to mobilise funds. More revenue needs to be generated through efficient taxation, and alternate sources of financing found. 
  • The process of fund transfer from the Centre to state governments/urban bodies to SPVs should be made easier.
  • Greater efforts should be made to maintain infrastructure assets created under the Mission.
  • The role of the Integrated Command and Control Centres in cities should be expanded.
  • Smart cities should be made cyber secure by ensuring data security and encryption.


  • There has indeed been progress on a wide variety of smart projects in the 100 cities and towns chosen under the Smart Cities Mission. The completed projects are providing social and economic benefits, especially to the marginalised sections of the populations of these cities. 
  • With the Centre preparing a 60-point action plan following Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with secretaries of all departments and ministries in September, 2021, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has begun work to finalise its recommendation for providing ICCCs as a service to states and smaller cities to achieve the vision of the SCM.

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