On 18 September Under Reform held its National Stakeholder Workshop in Delhi. The aim was to deliberate key issues related to India’s Smart Cities Mission (SCM) generally and its impact on the transport sector in particular. This one-day event sought to explore: the progress of the SCM; major challenges in the project planning and implementation of smart cities in India; the sustainability of the SCM; the impact of smart cities governance reforms on the transport sector; the extent to which transport-oriented Smart City reforms affect policy trajectories and why; how SCM reforms have managed to deliver a new approach to transport planning and to the funding and organisation of transport delivery; neglected areas in the transport sector needing consideration and the evaluation mechanism of the SCM.
Sixty-one participants attended from organisations including MoHUA, IRSDC, ITPI, TCPO, The World Bank, NITI Aayog, CRRI, DTC and CSE, as well as Under Reform research partners from SPA Delhi, IISc Bangalore, WRI India and the Universities of Leeds and Birmingham.
The day started with an introduction to the project by UK Principal Investigator Professor Greg Marsden, focusing on why the SCM is an important case of governance reform. Guest of honour Mr D S Mishra (IAS), India’s Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary, emphasized the important goal of the smart city initiative to deliver a step-change in urban mobility.
Presentations on the case cities and the findings from local stakeholder workshops were presented by research partners from SPA Delhi and IISc Bangalore respectively, followed by a presentation on international experience and learnings by Professor Greg Marsden and Dr Louise Reardon. These suggested the necessity of viewing the SCM as part of a trajectory of reforms and understanding its performance within the context of that wider system of change.
An open discussion was chaired by Dr D Meshram, President of the Institute of Town Planners, India, who focused on the SCM governance reform, the roles of different organisations involved in this mission and the role of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).
Participants from various organisations raised questions about the SCM during the discussion. There was a fair amount of debate about whether and how smart city projects are different from non-smart city projects, and the degree of awareness citizens and administrations have of SCM goals. The lack of a globally-accepted, clear definition of smart cities was considered an issue by some. For the project, this reinforced the importance of understanding the SCM as a case study of governance reform to understand the processes of change. This should provide both theoretical and practical insight for future reforms.
The second half of the workshop saw a panel discussion chaired by Mr S K Lohia, MD and CEO of the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation. The discussion question was What exactly is the government thinking about the Smart Cities Mission? Panellists from various organisations contributed thoughts on issues such as how town planning schemes should address transport issues, mapping and analysis of the existing situation for improved implementation, the identification process for area-based development on SCM, and how funds are provided for formulation and implementation of plans. Emphasis was given to the self-sufficiency of cities through their own revenue generation.