Every State in the country will get to develop at least one city as Smart City under the central government’s initiative of developing 100 smart cities, Minister of Urban Development, M.Venkaiah Naidu informed Rajya Sabha today.
“The Union Cabinet accorded approval for the Smart Cities Mission last week and guidelines for its implementation including the criteria for selection of cities are being finalised,” Naidu said. The Minister clarified that the process of selection of cities for developing them as smart cities will be initiated after the guidelines are issued to the States.
The Minister informed the House that Smart City aspirants will be selected based on a ‘City Challenge Competition.’ He said that the cities will be graded based on their revenues, expenditure, availability of infrastructure relating to transport, drinking water, solid waste management etc. Naidu emphasized the need for smart leadership and smart people to achieve the objectives of the Smart Cities Mission by undertaking the much needed urban reforms.
Elaborating on the benefits of India-US Cooperation in making Visakhapatnam, Allahabad and Ajmer as Smart Cities, Naidu said that that the US will extend technical support for preparing master plans for these three cities besides assisting in capacity building and undertaking feasibility studies etc. He clarified that there will be no financial support from the US. The United States Trade Development Agency (USTDA) has signed MoU with the States of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in this regard.
Lack of infrastructure and civic amenities are deterring tourists from visiting several significant historical monuments in Agra, the city immortalised by the Taj Mahal, say a group of local industry leaders.
Though the number of tourists at the historical monuments in Agra show an encouraging trend, hoteliers and travel agents complain of pathetic lack of civic amenities.
“Tourists generally avoid visiting other monuments in the city after a ‘darshan’ (seeing) of the Taj Mahal, because they are too scared of bumpy roads,” tourist guide Ved Gautam said.
An estimated 35,000 tourists visited the Taj on Saturday, said data on the ASI website.
While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed the district administration to complete patch work and road repairs within a fortnight, the Agra Municipal Corporation, is still dragging its feet.
“To an outsider, Agra appears, as if it’s ravaged by a war since most roads have developed potholes and cracks after the monsoon rains. The continuous digging by one government department or the other not only raises a lot of dust but makes mobility difficult,” a local resident said.
“The city administration is yet to wake up to repair and clean up the roads in the city which have not only become a safety hazard but also assault the aesthetics,” complains hotelier Surendra Sharma.
A new tourist season has begun, and the number of vehicles bringing in tourists via the Yamuna Expressway or the Agra-Lucknow Expressway, have gone up appreciably due to the long holiday interval.
The local tourism industry is alarmed at the lack of concern and general apathy towards streamlining vital civic amenities.
“When tourists, particularly those from the developed world, arrive in Agra, they are aghast at the dismal conditions. This results in short visits, same-day return by most visitors,” says President of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, Rakesh Chauhan.
The rains have exposed the claims of the city administration of having patched up or filled all potholes and completed repair work on most roads.
The municipal corporation commissioner Arun Prakash says filling of potholes is continuing. Mayor Navin Jain has assured citizens that prompt remedial measures would be taken to ensure safe mobility. Even during the festival season, nothing was being done. Many stretches still require patchwork treatment to avoid accidents,” said Pandit Jugal Kishor.
The city police has failed to demolish encroachments around monuments.
“All they do is to send notices. For want of police force, no action to evict illegal occupants is possible. You also need political will,” Goswami Nandan Shrotriya of Yamuna Kinara Road said.
The city appears in shambles, with heaps of garbage dumped along railway tracks, the dry Yamuna river bed and pollution, but the official agencies entrusted with the task of transforming Agra into a smart city dry continue to show no urgency. (IANS)