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‘Smart Cities’ Find No Place In Budget, But Renewable Energy Gets Boost

DESPITE the Modi government’s repeated commitments to building 100 smart cities in India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget announcement on Saturday made no reference to the ambitious project. However, the Prime Minister’s pet campaigns of Make In India, Digital India, Swachch Bharat, and Clean Ganga did feature prominently in the announcements, as did some initiatives to kick-start renewable energy projects.

Instead of smart cities, the Budget pushed the affordable housing agenda, with Rs. 22,407 crore allotted for the construction of 6 crore homes – 4 crore in rural areas 2 crore homes in urban areas. The lack of allocation for smart cities is not being viewed too negatively by the industry as the government has already signed three agreements with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) just last January, for developing smart cities in Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam, signaling what could be serious contributions to building such cities in the country.USTDA would contribute funds for feasibility studies and pilots, workshops, etc. and other projects to be mutually determined and while the three states would fund advisory services to support the development of smart cities.

The renewable energy sector got a boost with Jaitley doubling coal cess and increasing emphasis on achieving the 1,75,000-megawatt target set for clean energy installations by 2022. Over the next five years, he has promised to provide electricity to the remaining 20,000 villages that still don’t have access to electricity, mostly through off-grid solar power. According to the latest Economic Survey released on Friday, India’s clean energy sector is likely to generate business opportunities of $160 billion over the next five years.