Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 27:
Spontaneous celebrations broke out in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, the two cities in Odisha which found place in the first list of 98 Smart Cities in the country announced by the Union Urban Development Ministry today, even as protests were organised at short notice in the three other cities in the state that missed out.
Youngsters broke into frenzied dance in Bhubaneswar, unmindful of the rain while the denizens of the Steel City congregated at Bisra Chowk and stuffed sweets into each other’s mouths in celebration.
“Bhubaneswar is already a Smart City. But after gettting the Smart City tag, I hope it would become a smarter city,” gushed Satyabrata Rout, a student of ITER College of Engineering and a resident of the city.
However, not everyone was as ecstatic as Satyabrata. “Smart City, my foot. Is it not this same Smart City where a nine-year old boy fell into an open drain and died only two days ago?” said an elderly man in Pokhariput area.
As the residents were engaged in animated discussion about what exactly the Smart City tag means for Bhubaneswar, the people’s represntatives, all of them from the ruling BJD, were busy doing what they know best: praising party supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
“I would thank Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the inclusion of Bhubaneswar in the Smart City list. The government has undertaken several developmental works in and around the city limits, not only for the slum dwellers, but for the higher income groups too. Besides, I would like to thank the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and other departments associated with this,” Bhubaneswar (North) BJD MLA Priyadarshi Mishra said.
“Bhubaneswar’s inclusion in the Smart City project would help meet the goals of proper sanitation facilities, road connectivity, sewerage treatment plants, transport, and others aspects of urbanisation,” Tourism and Culture Minister Ashok Chandra Panda, who represents the Ekamra-Bhubanewar Assembly constituency, said.
In Rourkela, residents were seen congratulating and shaking hands with each other minutes after the news of its selection in the first list was flashed on television screens.
“I am extremely happy to know that my city is one of the 100 Smart Cities in the country. I cannot wait to see Rourkela emerge as a true smart city,” said PC Mohanty, a resident of Chhend.
As the residents of the Steel City celebrated, political leaders were busy apportioning credit for the inclusion of Rourkela in the very first list.
“Rourkela has been selected for Smart city only because of the efforts of our MLA Dilip Ray and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram,” said Dhiren Senapati, Rourkela BJP President.
Ray himself was, however, was less than effusive. “The city is called a mini India, but it lacks several basic amenities. We don’t have library facilities, indoor stadium, Town Hall and even a proper stadium among other things. We depend on Civil Township to avail these facilities. Now, we would be able to develop these basic facilities with the funds that will be sanctioned under the Smart City project. I would like to request the government to hold civic body election to form an elected body in the city, which is not there for the last two years, at the earliest. As a result of this, we would be able to properly utilise the funds sanctioned by the Centre,” the former Union minister Rourkela BJP MLA said.
Not willing to allow the BJP to walk away with the credit for inclusion of Rourkela in the first list of 98 Smart Cities, former BJD MLA and minister and present Rourkela Development Authority (RDA) Chairman Sharada Prasad Nayak said; “It is only through the developmental activities taken up in the last five years that we could meet the guidelines of the Centre for qualifying for the project. We would give credit to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the governance and his support to the development of the city.”
The mood was predictably sombre in the three other cities – Cuttack, Brahmapur and Ssambalpur -that missed the bus, at least in the first lot of Smart Cities.
In a rare show of solidarity, the ruling BJD and Opposition Congress spoke in the same voice in Cuttack expressing shock, anger and resentment at the Millennium City missing out in the Smart City.
“We have no complaints about the fact that the capital city has been included in the list. But we are definitely unhappy that Cuttack has been left out. In the coming days, we would do everything we can to get it included in the Smart Cities list,” Cuttack-Barabati MLA and senior BJD leader Debasish Samantaray said.
While expressing his disappointment with Cuttack missing out, Congress leader Mohammed Muqim did not lose the opportunity to have a go at the ruling party. “I will blame the local people’s representatives, who failed to make a strong enough case for Cuttack,” he said while leading a hastily arranged protest.
Brahmapur MLA and veteran BJD leader Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik sought to make the best of a bad deal.
“The Chief Minister has given a proposal to the Centre to include Brahmapur in the second phase. I am hopeful that Brahmapur will be included in the list in the subsequent phase. As you know, there are no branches of IISER in Odisha. We thank the Chief Minister for setting up IISER in the Silk City,” he said.
Also caught on the wrong foot was Sambalpur BJD MLA Dr Raseswari Panigrahi. “It is not the end of th road. Sambalpur has all that it takes to become a Smart City. I am sure it will be included in the next list,” she said.