The Hindu Editorial Notes or Summary

QUESTION: Major issues and challenges in the implementation of smart cities project . Justify with solutions.



  • “Smart Cities Mission” and Covid-19 pandemic


  • The Covid-19 pandemic has largely been an urban crisis so far, with megacities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai accounting for most of the COVID-19 positive cases.


  • It is an innovative initiative under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.


  • Objective:
  • To promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of Smart Solutions.
  • Focus: On sustainable and inclusive development and to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities.



  • Pan-city initiative in which at least one Smart Solution is applied city-wide.
  • Develop areas step-by-step with the help of these three models:
  • Retrofitting.
  • Redevelopment.
  • Greenfield.
  • Coverage and Duration: The Mission covers 100 cities for the duration of five years starting from the financial year (FY) 2015-16 to 2019-20.
  • Financing: It is Centrally Sponsored Scheme.



  • Technology challenges with coverage and capacity.
  • Digital security.
  • Legislation and policies.
  • Lack of confidence or reluctance shown by citizens (lack of clarity around benefits).
  • Funding and business models.
  • Capacity Building Programme.
  • Existing infrastructure for energy, water and transportation systems.



  • The ‘Smart Cities Mission’, a flagship programme of the government, completed five years, in June 2020.
  • The Mission had sought to make 100 selected cities “smart”.
  • Cities are being developed under “Area-Based Development” model.
  • Under this model, a small portion of the city would be upgraded by retrofitting or redevelopment.
  • Many of the projects undertaken under the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ are behind schedule.
  • According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, of the 5,151 smart city projects, only 1,638 projects have been completed.
  • In terms of expenditure, of the total investment of ₹2,05,018 crore, only projects worth ₹26,700 crore have been completed.



  • ‘Smart Cities Mission’ has given little importance to basic services such as public health.
  • An analysis shows that only 69 of over 5,000 projects undertaken under the Mission were for health infrastructure.
  • These projects are for an estimated cost of ₹2,112 crore, amounting to just around one per cent of the total mission cost.
  • Hence, public health seems to be a major blind spot in India’s smart city dreams.




  • ‘Smart Cities Mission’ had the stated aim of improving the quality of life of urban residents.
  • Further, public health is an essential local government function in India’s constitutional scheme.


  • As per the 74th Amendment ( 12th Schedule), “public health” is one of the 18 functions that are to be devolved to the municipalities.
  • However, public health infrastructure of cities has often been neglected over the years.



  • The relative success of Kerala in containing the pandemic has shown how a decentralised politi- cal and administrative system with strong local governments and high investment in local public healthcare can be effective.
  • It is important to strengthen local government capacities.
  • Investment in urban public health systems is needed.
  • Promoting programmes that improve the livelihoods of urban vulnerable communities should be the priority
  • Programs such as the National Urban Livelihoods Mission and National Urban Health Mission, need to be strengthened.



  • It is time to consider the introduction of a national urban employment guarantee programme.
  • Kerala has been running such a scheme since 2010.
  • States such as Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand have also recently launched similar initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.


  • As Indian cities face an unprecedented challenge, it is important to get the priorities of urban development right and invest in programmes that improve the health and livelihoods of its residents.


  • An important first step would be to build safeguards to protect the democratic nature of governance structures. A robust governance structure, which allows for sharing of power and financial resources between urban local bodies and the private sector stakeholders, would go a long way towards reducing fears.
  • It is vital to create an enabling policy and regulatory environment. This will allow for a smart and yet sustainable roadmap for urban development.




QUESTION: What are the benefits of switching to solar as a source of energy and challenges in Solar Energy Sector in India ?





  • India’s Solar Strategy



  • Prime Minister’s stated resolve to tap the energy of the sun to substantially power the economy and everyday life is to be welcomed, because it could help chart a green deal for the future.


  • The Prime Minister’s emphasis since 2014 has given a new fillip to solar power installation in India.
  • India has made significant progress in creating capacity for solar energy generation in the last few years.
  • The unit costs of solar power have fallen, and solar energy has become increasingly competitive with alternative sources of energy.
  • India expanded its solar generation capacity 8 times from 2,650 MW in May, 2014 to over 20 GW in January, 2018, and 28.18 GW in March, 2019.
  • The government had an initial target of 20 GW of solar capacity by 2022, which was achieved 4 years ahead of schedule.
  • In 2015, the target was raised to 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.



  • Combined with low domestic cell manufacturing capacity at 3.1 GW last year, and heavy reliance on China, high ambition must now be supported by aggressive official policy.
  • The Chinese story is one of a steady rise from insignificant manufacturing capability in the 1990s, to virtual dominance through active government support in identifying and acquiring top technologies globally, importing critical raw materials such as polysilicon, acquiring solar manufacturers abroad, and investing in third countries with ready capability.
  • Importantly, the domestic market was treated with great importance while promoting exports.



  • The pandemic presents a critical opportunity for India to plan a green deal, on the lines of what the EU has committed itself to: that future growth andemployment should align itself to environmental and sustainability objectives, particularly in energy  production, away from dirty fuels such as coal.
  • There is no better time than now to make solar energy a strategic sector,giving it as much importance as defence.
  • As the architect of the International Solar Alliance, which attracted about 120 nations at its launch, India needs to show leadership to advance the manufacture and absorption of solar photovoltaic infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Industry must get help to set up facilities and avail low cost financing — both important elements in China’s rise — and be able to invest in intellectual property.



  • India has not been able to use the surplus solar energy to its full potential despite it being blessed with plenty of sunlight for most of the year. Despite the new policy focus on solar plant installation, it lags behind in manufacturing the solar panels and providing the input material required in the solar industry.
  • Indian industries suffer from a lower level of technical competency and human capabilities required in the production of silicon ingots and panels.
  • Very few Indian companies are involved in silicon production due to the higher capital requirements. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (2018), India has an annual solar cell manufacturing capacity of about 3 GW while the average annual demand is 20 GW. The shortfall is met by imports of solar panels.
  • Low-cost Chinese imports have undercut its ambitions to develop its own solar technology suppliers. Imports, mostly from China, accounted for 90% of 2017 sales, up from 86% in 2014.
  • The industry also suffers from the lack of human capabilities, technological capabilities and capital in the form of finance.




Environment-friendly :

  • Solar energy is environment-friendly. When in use, it does not release CO2 and other gases which pollute the air. Hence it is very suitable for India, India being one of the most polluted countries in the world.


Varied use :

  • Solar energy can be used for a variety of purposes like heating, drying, cooking or electricity, which is suitable for the rural areas in India. It can also be used in cars, planes, large power boats, satellites, calculators and much more such items, just apt for the urban population.


Abundant & Secure :

  • Solar power is inexhaustible. In energy deficient country like India, where power generation is costly, solar energy is the best alternative means of power generation.


Grid-independent :

  • You don’t need a power or gas grid to get solar energy. A solar energy system can be installed anywhere. Solar panels can be easily placed in houses. Hence, it is quite inexpensive compared to other sources of energy.



  • Programme should also look at emerging trends in deploying solar innovatively.
  • These include newer technologies such as aesthetic photovoltaic window and roof tiles for buildings, multi-role urban structures, and greater use of residential and commercial buildings to deploy more panels.
  • Considering the renewable energy potential in India, constructive steps should be taken at a rapid pace. The technology is evolving fast and therefore research needs a big push.
  • Efforts should be directed at building a solar base that enhances India’s standing as a global energy hub, and at the same time, consolidates its imprint in the renewable energy sector through increased indigenous manufacturing of solar components for the domestic market as well as for exports.

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