Update on September 10, 2019: India will have an online database of all cities by 2024 on infrastructure, education and health facilities among others as it aims to create a “culture of data” to address urban challenges of the country, an official said on Monday.
There will be an ‘Open Database’ that can be accessed by everybody free of cost and an ‘Exchange of Database’ under which agencies might charge for commercial use of data, as per a plan by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs (HUA) Ministry.
The database, which will include data on infrastructure, traffic, education, health, sanitation, safety and population, will be created on a single platform in a phased manner, the ministry said.
In the first phase, a database for 100 cities under the Centre’s flagship ‘Smart City Mission’ will be created by March 2020, while in the second phase, 500 cities will be brought under the project by 2022.
HUA Joint Secretary and Director of the Smart City Mission Kunal Kumar said 100 “data officers” are being trained and they will be responsible for better coordination between government agencies and providing information on the single platform.
“We will have a database of over 4,000 cities by 2024. We are building a database of these cities. Data storage will be available at one place,” he said.
For instance, a person looking for a property in a particular area can utilise the online data to see what civic amenities are available nearby.
People can use data on the ‘Open Database’ platform for their needs accordingly, Kumar said.
Streets which are in crime-prone areas can also be identified through the platform, as per officials.
Under the project, the government has planned to set up an online ‘Swachh Kashi’ platform for the people of Varanasi. On this platform, people can post photos of dirty and clean areas, which will be scored automatically by the software.
Similarly, an online platform has been created in Pune and people can get details about which streets are safe to use, another official said.
SEBI allows smart cities to issue municipal bonds
Unveiling a slew of reform measures, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), on August 21, 2019, decided to allow the issuance of municipal bonds by smart cities, eased buyback norms for companies with housing finance and NBFC divisions, tightened norms related to loan default disclosures by listed companies to rating agencies, and made the rules for mutual funds stricter. The proposals were approved by the board of SEBI at its meeting in Mumbai, on August 21, 2019.
Smart cities and other registered entities working in areas of city planning and urban development work would be permitted to raise funds by issuing municipal bonds. A larger number of entities, including special purpose vehicles set up under the central government’s ambitious ‘Smart Cities Mission’, would be able to tap this route. The regulator also announced easing of its norms for buyback of shares by listed companies, especially those having subsidiaries in housing finance and NBFC sectors. Among the main conditions that the companies need to follow, is that buyback offer cannot exceed 25% of the aggregate paid-up capital and free reserves of the company, but shareholders’ approval is required through a special resolution, in case the size exceeds 10%.
In another significant move, the watchdog decided to simplify Know Your Client (KYC) requirements for foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), as well as broad-based the criteria for them. FPIs would be classified into two categories instead of three, while the requirements for the issuance and subscription of offshore derivative instruments (ODIs), would be rationalised. Further, FPIs would be permitted for off-market transfer of securities which are unlisted, suspended or illiquid, to a domestic or foreign investor, SEBI said in a release.
“Relaxing the broad-based criteria will open up the FPI route to a whole new category of entities. The most interesting part of the press release lies in the references made to rationalisation of ODIs. This has historically been a matter of debate within the industry and it will be interesting to see what changes are finally implemented,” said Shruti Rajan, partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.
Against the backdrop of concerns over banks citing ‘client confidentiality’ to resist sharing of information on delayed loan repayments and possible defaults by their borrowers, SEBI cleared new norms to make it mandatory for companies to provide these details to credit rating agencies. The watchdog would amend its regulations for credit rating agencies, to ensure that any listed or unlisted entity, before getting rated, gives an explicit consent to the agencies for obtaining full details about borrowings from their lenders.
97 SPVs formed to execute projects under Smart Cities Mission: Housing Ministry
Projects worth more than Rs 38,000 crores are under implementation under the Smart Cities Mission, with 97 special purpose vehicles being constituted to execute these projects, the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has revealed
August 24, 2018: As many as 97 special purpose vehicles (SPVs) have so far been constituted, to execute projects in cities selected under the Smart Cities Mission, according to the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry. Tenders have been issued for another 1,686 projects worth more than Rs 63,000 crores in various smart cities, while 1,200 projects worth more than Rs 38,000 crores are under implementation, it said. The ministry has announced 100 cities for central assistance, under the BJP government’s flagship programme. It was launched by prime minister Narendra Modi in June 2015.
“Smart Cities Mission is the largest mission with citizen consultation ever undertaken & has a long incubation period. Every city took about 12-15 months to establish SPVs & identify PMCs (Project management consultants). But now with 97 SPVs & 82 PMCs in place, the mission is well & truly on its way (sic),” the ministry tweeted. Each smart city will have an SPV, which will be headed by a full-time CEO and have nominees of central government, state government and urban local bodies on its board.
In another tweet, the ministry said, “In order to provide safety & better services to the citizens, 11 state-of-the-art Command & Control Centres have been operationalized & another 17 centres are on their way. Tenders have been called for an additional 31 centres across the country.” Under the mission, the cities propose to take up various projects, including ‘smart’ roads, rejuvenation of water bodies, cycle tracks, walking paths, smart classrooms, skill development centres, upgradation of health facilities and pan-city projects like integrated command and control centres.