On September 4, 2017, a small group meeting was organised at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai to critique and further understand the Smart Cities Mission in Maharashtra. This collaborative initiative was spearheaded by the Centre for Urban Policy and Governance (CUPG), TISS, and INHAF – Habitat Forum. Participants included organisations associated with various urban initiatives, such as Maharashtra Social Housing And Action League (Mashal), Symbiosis School of Economics, Committee for the Right to Housing (CRH), Center for Environmental Education (CEE), Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), Center for Promoting Democracy (CPD), Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore, and Habitat Lab, Vigyan Bharati, and independent academicians, researchers, and NGO representatives.
The Smart Cities Mission is one of the three most important urban initiatives by the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government — the other two are Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban and Transformation (AMRUT) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) Housing for All by 2022. This highly ambitious flagship program demands substantial organisational and financial resources. As many as 100 cities have been identified under the program and the central government has earmarked Rs 48,000 crore for the development of these cities. Each smart city is set to get an assistance of Rs 100 crore per year for five years from the Centre. Eight smart cities — Pune, Solapur, Nagpur, Thane, Pimpari-Chinchwad, Kalyan-Dombivali, Nasik and Aurangabad — have been sanctioned in Maharashtra, and two — Mumbai and Amaravati — are awaiting approval.
These heavily funded smart city projects, designed around definite project strategies and governance practices, need to be understood in the context of the demanding and complex urban challenge. The state of Maharashtra has the highest number of cities shortlisted under this mission after Tamil Nadu (12 cities) and Uttar Pradesh (13 cities). Projects sanctioned under this mission are at an early stage of planning and implementation. Thus studying smart cities projects implemented in one state i.e. Maharashtra in the context of emerging trend of urbanisation, processes and responses, presents a unique opportunity. This meeting was planned to discuss the rationale, objectives and the methodology for studying the status of smart cities in Maharashtra. It also intended to identify probable partners, resource mobilization and overall plan of action of this study. The participants emphasised the great need to understand this flagship program through perspective of citizens. The efforts of studying the mission must be through participative, consultative and collaborative mode of research. All participants expressed their willingness to contribute towards this study in their own capacity.
The co-ordination team for this study is led by Professor Amita Bhide, Centre for Urban Policy, TISS, Mumbai along with Avinash Madhale, CEE, Pune, Professor Jyoti Chandaramani, Director, Symbiosis School of Economics, Pune and Dr. Anjali Mohan, Independent Researcher and Consultant.