Gujarat’s Dumb Smart Cities

Port city of Kandla in Gujarat has been declared by both the Centre & Gujarat Govts to be developed as ‘Smart City’ at the cost of Rs 1200 crores just recently in a fresh bid to revive sagging fortunes of BJP. 10 years before this announcement, Dholera in Gujarat was declared as the first smart city in entire country. Nothing has happened there yet.  Govt had announced 100 smart cities across India. 12 are in Gujarat including Modi’s favourite  GIFT city near the state capital Gandhinagar. Not one has materialised yet.

Let’s check Dholera story here, which was supposed to be the first smart city. But 10 years later it is still a landmass of salt flats. Wherever vast parcels of land are found in Gujarat, nexus of politicians (Read BJP) and businessmen acquire it using black money. Then the Govt declares smart city there. Wherever smart cities are announced, land prices skyrocket there. This way, cheaply acquired land using black money touching sky high prices yield massive returns to investors. In the process the invested black money yields multifold white profits ready to be invested in white businesses. This modus operandi is in practice for nearly 17 years increasing at a much faster pace now.

Dholera too has yielded massive returns to a handful of investors by being declared as smart city without any progressive development.  Some investors from outside Gujarat had invested big in Dholera too believing Modi’s grandiose plans/dreams, but without any returns as no smart city infrastructure has been developed. Neither are there any projects afoot of developing it as an ordinary city.

Despite this, the Govt is going ahead with another smart port city at the cost of  billions in tax payers money. This is the same land that Gujarat Govt asked to be returned from central Govt. Kandla is being touted as the country’s first industrial port city. Dholera too was declared exactly the same 10 years ago. Eerily Kandla too sounds the same as Dholera project. 1425 acres Kandla land is earmarked to be developed as city where 845 acres of industrial units and 580 acres for residential dwellings to be developed at the cost of Rs 1200 crores. The plan includes removal of salt on salt flats at the cost of Rs 168 crores. An Ahmedabad based crony company is contracted to do this.

Gujarat may jump and down for smart cities but traditionally Gujarat’s track record is abysmal on this front. Announced years ago, HCC Waterfront City, Hotmail founder  Sabir Bhatia’s Nano City, GVK’s Maritime City, Japanese Eco Cityare just some of the projects that are yet to see light of day. Valsad’s Vittal Innovation City, Okhamadhi’s Maritime City are already abandoned projects.

Various Vibrant Gujarat events claim Rs 1 lakh crores of MOUs for smart cities. Another Rs 1.5 lakh crores were pledged to be invested in smart cities. When Vadodara smart city project was declared, Congress exposed BJP’s corruption scams worth thousands of crores. Same way, this handle exposed a Rs 500 crore scam by L&T in Dholera a few months ago. In reality the scams that have been exposed are about projects over ground. Land scams are yet to be calculated to get a true picture.

2-3 years ago 3 companies were offered land for Dholera projects and they were required to deposit money for the same. The said companies didn’t make payments so the plans remained on papers only. HCC too did not reveal any details. Vittal Innovation Project of Valsad has moved to Andhra Pradesh.

Likewise Mahindra Life Space Developers Ltd too is awaiting land allocation for their World City Project. GVK’s Maritime City Project in Okhamadhi near Dwarka too is abandoned after grand announcements in Vibrant Gujarat at the time. In the end smart cities are ending up in dumb plans on paper leaving common citizens dumber and lining pockets of smart cronies.


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