Is The Belagavi Smart City Project Going Down The Drain?
June 29, 2020
Manjunath K. S.
A Debate on ‘Belagavi Smart City: It’s Success & Failures’ was held at Hotel Adarsha Palace, Belagavi, Karnataka on June 27 organised by Rajeev Topannavar of the KNN group. The discussion was attended by people from various walks of life and they included Anand Havannavar of the Professional Forum; social activist Sujith Mulgund; former mayor Vijay More; MES leader Malojirao Ashtekar; Nikhil Patil of Belagavi Infra; Prof. Rupali Kavalekar, Dept of Architecture, GIT; Dr. Prabhuraj Bali and Shashikant Patil, BJP Mahangar President. The MD of Belagavi Smart City Shashidhar Kurer was not present at the discussion in spite of an invitation being sent and neither were any representatives from Belagavi Smart City present.
The discussion was language independent and the panel members spoke in the language they were comfortable with. The discussion was moderated by KNN staff and Rajeev Topannavar began by thanking PM Narendra Modi for his excellent intentions and Belagavi making it to the Smart Cities list in the first round of 20 selected cities.
Belagavi Municipal Corporation (BMC) which oversees the basic infrastructure and address the daily needs of bijli, sadak, pani (electricity, roads and water facilities). These are the basic needs and requirements of the poor and rich alike and neither can live without them. The invitees to the discussion spoke on a host of issues and how the city could be made a better place and how it would stand out from the rest of the other cities and be a shining example of development.
Anand Havannavar shared his ideas that there were no plans to decongest the city; no provisions for multi-utility services, and the Rs. 1000 crores for Belagavi Smart City (BSC) is not grant but price money which has to be put to excellent use but this was not happening. The lives of the urban poor has not been taken into account and providing them with the much needed skill development (kala kaushalya) is nowhere to be heard of. He also spoke on the need of maintaining and creating awareness about personal hygiene which has become very important during Covid-19.
Sujith Mulgund spoke about the heritage park in south Belagavi and the total tender amount for 17 crores and 5 lakhs; and there’s no time frame when the project will complete and none to answer how the allotted funds are being spent? Check dams built inside the park and every work is given on a percentage basis and anyone questioning the concerned officials has to face cases of atrocities filed against him/her and personal vicious remarks made against them on social media. It’s aa risky affair to ask questions to the officials of Smart City Project and doing so one is seen as anti-development and false cases filed against them.
Vijay More congratulated Team KNN for organising the program and spoke on the need for transparency and increased citizen participation by being a part of it and one must ask the officials for the details of the project. There’s not one good road in town and all of them have been dug up and he also asked whether the civil hospital also qualifies in the Smart City project?
Shashikant Patil, BJP Belagavi Mahanagar President, admitted that the work was happening at a slow pace and added that he was not aware of the technical details like the command and control centre.
Nikhil Patil of Belagavi Infra, said that there is no scope for skill development and no coordination amongst the different departments, and Belagavi in spite of being a major educational hub the general public is kept in the dark about the happenings within.
Dr. Bali spoke about how can health as a system be plugged in the Smart City Project and the health component missing in command & control centre.
Prof. Rupali Kavalekar, spoke about how the heritage part of the city was forgotten and only the fort and vaccine depot are given heritage status, whereas there are lots of other places too. A basic vision and plan not in place and they must first think of smaller things rather than think of the Smart City.
Project Management Consultant (PMC): The current work on the Belagavi Smart City has been taken over by Tractebel India and they do not have a full-fledged team are understaffed with no domain expertise. The consultants appointed have no knowledge of the city and are doing their work without putting their heart and mind in the project and their lack of coordination is all too self evident.
There is not even a functional website for a project of such huge magnitude clearly shows their misplaced priorities in the project. The time spent by them on completing the project is long and they have a flawed vision, poor planning and execution has been best left to chance. They do not have a platform which displays when the meetings are to be held? A practicising architect during the interaction said ‘’that she got to know about one of the meeting to be held by a comment on FB page’’. Astronomical sums of Rs. 25 lakh fees per month paid to the PMC and fresher’s have been appointed as road experts.
Technology Not Working: The ‘Smart City’ app developed by BEL has failed on many occasions and in the menu of ‘Discover City’ none of the features function properly; no information about government services like city info, tourist places, police stations and the most needed addresses and contact details are unavailable and the APP is for Naam ke Vaaste (exists only in name and for the record books as a mere formality).
The user interface is not developed for mobile access and it is designed for those having a desktop computer. Those citizens who aren’t tech savvy will find it extremely difficult to use it. Birth & Death certificates can be accessed by government officials and not by the ordinary citizens. Information about solid waste management, intelligent transport system and other emergency services, the standard message the APP displays is “unable to fetch data”. The weather bulletin again shows the ‘Not Working’ message. The information sought like live bus timings, smart water “Coming Soon” and BEL has not integrated the work. ‘Near Me’ No results found for education and ‘My Grievances’ and for create grievance, is not in editable format. With the necessary information lacking in all aspects ‘Belagavi Keeps Stopping’ in its quest from becoming a truly Smart City.
Smart City Officials: The Smart City office is always locked and the funds released till date have not been utilised in the desired manner. In 2015, upwards of Rs.1000+ crores released and the majority of funds utilised for roads, gutter and underground drainage (UGD). The general public is unaware of who is officially in charge of Belagavi Smart City Project? BelagaviSmartCity project (BSC) funds gone down the drain because of lack of transparency and accountability by the various players involved. There is a landline phone which rings and the calls made go answered.
Who is answerable for the Smart City project?
Are the officials getting scared or are they under tremendous political pressure by local elected representatives or by those wielding power in the state and the centre or any individual/group of individuals or a powerful group with money and muscle power?
Are the funds getting misused and siphoned off and is a huge corruption happening in the Smart City project?
No quality maintained in executing the work and why are the officials being treated with kid gloves and why are they not being taken to task for sub-standard and shoddy work and their refusal to take experts advice?
Why is the BJP not taking action against the Consultants and the Contractors?
It’s being spoken that a huge scam is taking place and has the local BJP leadership failed in utilization of funds and also answer as to how much of the funds have also been misappropriated till date?
*Davangere ranks among the top cities with regards to the pace of work and cities like Davangere and Tumkur selected in the second and third phases of Smart City list are better placed and nearing completion.