Out of 100 big cities in India, 10 cities are in the State of Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchirappalli, Tirupur, Erode, Thirunalveli, Vellore and Thoothukkudi) in terms of population size with four lakhs and above. Tamil Nadu is the most urbanised state in the country. These cities are Tier I, Tier II and Tier III and have become rattled with many challenges and critical issues that were debated for decades. But few were piloted for plausibility in implementation and fixing the gaps to scale it up. In the last 25 years, hardly anything achieved in Tier I cities in Tamil Nadu substantially to showcase as “The Model” for Tier II &III cities and towns for implementing the so-called “Best Practices” on public civic deliverables. The age-old centralisation of power and control mechanisms are still a daunting factor to defeat the 18 delegated functions envisaged in the 74thConstitutional Amendments made in 1992 to strengthen urban local bodies.
However, in order to shackle the redundant decades-old challenges and critical issues of cities such as solid waste management, construction of toilets for individual houses/community, quality drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, sewerage management, protecting water streams from pollution, streamlining streets for all kind of people and not merely for mighty vehicles, Green Parks, streets lights, etc., there were few initiatives in the last five years mainly driven by the Government of India’s initiatives to identify ways and means to address by streamlining city governance structure with the aid of technology and institutional collaborations.
Tamil Nadu has 12 city corporations and 11 of them were included under the Smart City Mission of the Government of India in different stages between 2016 and 2018. How many cities in Tamil Nadu have taken effective measures to address the issues and challenges identified under the Smart City Mission or Swachh Bharat Mission? Hardly, except Chennai, all other cities are still at an early stage. Out of the total funds provided for the Smart Cities projects in Tamil Nadu (including the State Government share), the city corporations could only spend about 1 per cent in the last three years.
The officials openly recognised that most of the delays were mainly due to governance failure. And it was evident that there was no sign of urgency among top bureaucracy to get involved themselves to become a change-maker. Also, the capacity of city engineers and planners was unable to cope up with cutting edge solutions to align with the innovative ideas for planning and execution of projects.
B Chandrasekaran is Research Fellow at CPPR. He is an economist and public policy expert working in the areas of city development, urban governance, urban community development, civic awareness, education and skills development.
Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research