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Daily News Analysis

Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

14th May, 2024 Economy

Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

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  • The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) has taken a back seat in this year’s list of poll promises and achievements, marking a shift from its prominence in previous political agendas.

Understanding Smart Cities:

  • Origin of the Concept: The term 'Smart City' gained prominence post the 2009 financial crash, envisioned as modern urban hubs integrating advanced information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • Initiatives: In response to global trends, the government aimed to adapt through initiatives like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
  • Launch of Smart Cities Mission: The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was announced in June 2015, selecting hundred cities for a five-year duration. However, the mission lacked a clear, universally accepted definition of a smart city. 

Definition Challenges:

  • Lack of Universal Definition: The SCM acknowledged the absence of a universally accepted definition of a smart city, recognizing variations based on factors like development level, willingness to reform, resources, and aspirations of residents.
  • Varied Connotations: The conceptualization of a smart city varies not only across countries but also within India itself, with different cities having distinct interpretations based on their unique contexts and needs.

SCM Implementation and Evolution:

  • Diverse Approaches: The absence of a singular definition allowed cities flexibility in defining their smart city visions, resulting in diverse approaches and initiatives tailored to local requirements.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: While the SCM presented opportunities for urban innovation and development, challenges such as funding constraints, infrastructure gaps, and technological integration complexities were encountered during implementation.

Political Discourse Shift:

  • Reduced Prominence: Despite its initial significance, the SCM has witnessed diminished attention in current political discourse and electoral agendas.
  • Shift in Priorities: The decreased focus on the SCM in political narratives reflects a shift in priorities or a reevaluation of the program's impact and relevance in current governance agendas.

Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

Mission Overview:

  • Main Aspects: The SCM encompassed two primary aspects:
    • Area-based Development: Consisted of three components: redevelopment for city renewal, retrofitting for city improvement, and greenfield projects for city extension.
    • Pan-city Solutions: Based on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), focusing on six categories including e-governance, waste management, water management, energy management, urban mobility, and skill development.
  • Financial Allocation: Approximately ₹2 lakh crore was allocated for the mission, with public-private partnerships (PPP) playing a significant role in its implementation.

Extension and Adaptation:

  • Timeline Extensions: Originally slated for completion in 2020, the SCM received two extensions, extending its deadline to June 2024.
  • Business Model Innovation: To enhance effectiveness, a novel business model of governance was adopted, diverging from traditional city governance models.
  • Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV): An SPV, led by a bureaucrat or a representative of a multinational corporation (MNC), along with other major stakeholders, was established and registered under the Companies Act.
  • Reduced Role of Elected Council: The elected council had limited involvement in the governance structure, with the SPV assuming a more central role in decision-making and implementation.

Need for Next Phase:

  • Completion and Transition: As the SCM nears its extended deadline, there's a growing impetus to launch the next phase of the Smart Cities initiative.
  • Building on Progress: The next phase would aim to build upon the accomplishments and lessons learned from the initial phase, addressing ongoing urban challenges and evolving technological advancements.
  • Enhanced Governance Models: There's a need to reevaluate governance models to ensure effective collaboration between stakeholders while maintaining transparency and accountability in city development initiatives.

Status of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM)


  • The Urban Ministry's dashboard as of April 26 indicates certain discrepancies and challenges in the implementation and outcomes of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM).

Project Outcomes:

  • Total Outlay Discrepancy: Out of 8,033 projects sanctioned under the SCM, the total outlay has fallen from the expected ₹2 lakh crore to ₹1,67,875 crore, marking a 16% decrease in capital flow.
  • Completed Projects: 5,533 projects worth ₹65,063 crore have been completed, while 921 projects worth ₹21,000 crore are still ongoing.
  • Deadline Challenges: About 400 projects across approximately 10 cities under the Mission are unlikely to meet the extended deadline of June 2024.
  • PPP Funding: Interestingly, the funding pattern reveals that not more than 5% has been sourced through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) route.

Identified Failures of the SCM:

  • Flawed City Selection Process: The competitive basis for selecting 100 cities was flawed, lacking consideration for the diverse urban realities of India.
  • Exclusionary Approach: The SCM became exclusionary, focusing on only a small percentage of a city's geographical area for development.
  • Inadequate Funding: With a total outlay less than $20 billion over nine years, the SCM's funding falls significantly short of the estimated $1.2 trillion required by 2030, as per reports by McKinsey.
  • Misalignment with Constitutional Amendment: The SPV model designed for smart cities was not aligned with the 74th Constitutional Amendment, leading to objections from many cities regarding the governance structure.
  • Displacement of Urban Poor: Smart city projects led to the displacement of people living in poorer localities, disrupting urban commons and livelihoods.
  • Increased Urban Flooding: Infrastructure development projects under the SCM disrupted water channels and contours, leading to enhanced urban flooding in certain towns.


  • The Smart Cities Mission has encountered various challenges and criticisms, highlighting the need for comprehensive reform and realignment with ground realities to effectively address the urbanization challenges facing India.


Q. Examine the implementation challenges of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) in India. Propose reforms to address these shortcomings and ensure inclusive urban development.