Engaging with Maharashtra's Smart Cities Programme: The Way Forward

Understanding the ground reality of the Smart city project in 8 cities of Maharashtra through the Smart cities coalition

Launched in 2015, the Smart City Mission is one of many flagship public policy and national programs of India, seen as a part answer to the country’s massive and complex urban challenge. Its focus is to harness information communication technology (ICT) to improve city efficiency, productivity, security, liveability, sustainability and governance. Cities compete for access to funding and the status of a smart city. 100 cities were selected under the mission out of hundreds of proposals. For these, one hundred crore per year for 5 years is set aside per city by the central government with matching contributions expected from municipal and state governments. Cities must raise additional funds through other means. Each city sets up a special purpose vehicle, structured as a private limited company, to implement the initiative.

The aim of the coalition therefore was to:
i) Understand the ground reality of the smart city project in the 8 cities of Maharashtra
ii) Assess project design, implementation arrangements and investment plans in the context of each city’s felt needs and articulated priorities
iii) Identify the program’s relevance in the context of the State’s urbanization trends and city development challenges and on-going responses in form of programs, projects and investment plans
iv) Use the learning from the study to:
a. Better understand the challenges in planning and implementing such development agendas.
b. Provide feedback and constructive suggestions to the program planners and implementing authorities at the city, state and national level with the view to strengthen the program.
c. Use the experience of the collective and cooperative working to shape and incrementally develop an organisational model to undertake issues public interests tasks in different sectors and regions specifically in those cities.

The complexity of the issues, the scale factor and a need to present workable and acceptable alternatives to the presented program or policy (prescription, not only diagnosis) makes the task difficult for a single individual or agency. Therefore, in order to understand Mission’s implementation and implications as holistically as possible, this coalition was seen not only for its strength in numbers but its diversity of expertise and experience. Its voluntary nature only reflects the open approach and public interest with which this effort was undertaken. Making the coalition model a success therefore also an objective by itself and although it is acknowledged that this presents a difficult organization model, this way of working is a way of strengthening civil society’s advocacy role in the areas traditionally occupied by paid professionals and consultants.

The purpose of this study is not to criticize the programme or find faults with it, but to use the considerable professional skills, expertise, and experience that is available within our coalition and, more broadly, civil society, to offer valuable insight through a pro-people, bottom-up view of the Smart cities mission in the context of the city’s problems and in the context of the mission’s place as a strategy in meeting the country’s complex urban challenge.


INHAF was able to bring together 30+ individuals and organisations as part of the Smart city coalition.


The coalition members contributed towards the early methodology and study templates.

Thematic papers by: Dr. Ravikant Joshi, Dr. Amita Bhide, Dr. Avinash Madhale