Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday met Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu and urged the Centre to provide a fresh opportunity to all state capitals, including Patna, to compete for selection and inclusion under the ambitious Smart City Mission.
With none of the three cities from the state — Bhagalpur, Biharsharif and Muzaffarpur — making it to the first list of 20 to be developed as smart cities, the meeting with Naidu comes after the Smart City challenge competition results were declared last month.
The competition was held among 97 cities selected for the purpose. Bihar’s state capital failed to find a place on the list of eligible participants.
Kumar insisted that while selecting cities under this mission, parameters like regional imbalance, variation in current level of development and existing gaps in institutional capabilities also needed to be factored in.
“All state capitals, which have not found a place in the first list, should be given an opportunity to compete for selection under Smart City Mission,” he said, adding that the common perception was that all the cities finding a place in the list of 97 cities would be included.
Discussing various issues related to urban development in the state, Kumar urged Naidu to consider increasing Central assistance of Rs 4,000 per toilet being provided under Swachh Bharat Mission in rural areas and said the state government was providing an additional Rs 8,000 per toilet. “The Centre should increase the assistance to Rs 12,000 for constructing toilets in urban areas,” he said.
Maintaining that the state government was providing an additional assistance of Rs 1,200 per household for collection and management of solid waste in urban areas, Kumar said it was time that the Centre too increased its share.
He also sought an increase in the Viability Gap Funding by the Centre from the present 20% of project cost.
The Union minister is learnt to have explained that the selection of first batch of 20 cities was based on a competition among 97 cities as per criteria evolved in consultation with states.
“Only 20 cities were to be selected in the first round. All nominees from all states will be covered under the next two rounds of competition,” he said.
Naidu said that a special fast-track competition was to be conducted for one top ranked city from each of the 23 states that could not make it to the first list of winners. Bhagalpur, ranked 65, could participate. Of the three cities from Bihar included in the Smart City Mission, Biharshariff was ranked 91 and Muzaffarpur 94.
Later, speaking at the India Investment Summit, Naidu sought to allay allegations of bias against Bihar, saying: “There has been no political discrimination in the selection of first 20 smart cities, which was totally objective and transparent.”
“None of the selected cities have been removed. But only thing is that the Budget had included 20 cities in first year, 40 in second year, and 40 for third year,” he said, apparently in response to Kumar and RJD president Lalu Prasad’s attack on the Centre for not selecting any city of Bihar and UP that had given 104 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP.