Rejecting Congress's criticism that the 'Smart City' project was "elitist" in nature, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday said that the NDA government's ambitious plan was aimed at benefiting "the poor who are forced to live on the fringes of growing urbanisation." Putting his claim to the test at a session on Housing-for- All in urban areas here, Naidu asked the members of the audience to give a frank opinion on whether they thought that the Smart City project was "pro-rich".
"Do you feel that the proposed smart cities are elitist and pro-rich and will not benefit the poor? If anyone of you feels so, please raise your hand and kindly speak out your mind," Naidu told the ministers, mayors and municipal chairpersons attending the two-day consultations.
The move was in reaction to comments by Congress leader Ajay Maken on Thursday that the "creation of new smart cities will not solve the problem".
"We need to make all our existing cities smart. This concept is elitist and will benefit only few," Maken had said. But nobody raised their hands to the Urban Development Minister's question today. They responded instead saying, "We want more."
At the meet at Vigyan Bhawan here, Naidu then read out a newspaper report on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav demanding more smart cities for his state over and above the 13 assigned it by the UD Ministry -- the highest in the country based on the objective and uniform criteria of urban population and number of cities/towns.
"If the smart cities benefit only the rich, are there then so many rich people in UP; and why the CM is asking for more?" asked Naidu. The minister said that making cities smart is all about developing roads and efficient public transport, ensuring supply of quality water and power, improving urban governance to ensure citizen participation, transparency, accountability and more employment opportunities through enhanced economic activity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Thursday launched the operational guidelines for the development of 100 Smart Cities across the country. His government has earmarked Rs 48,000 crore for the project.
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