Companies not keen to take up Rs 3,800-cr Smart Srinagar Plan
Srinagar, Jan 29: Srinagar Smart City Plan is facing a disappointing start, with almost no firm eager to work on the multi-crore project in Jammu and Kashmir. After around three months and, at least, four extensions to the Request for Proposal (tender) for hiring Project Management Consultant (PMC), only one company, claim the officials, has come forward. The bleak response has left no chance of positive competition for grabbing the vital Rs 3,800-crore project. The CEO Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA), Farooq Lone, who also holds additional charge of CEO Srinagar Smart City Limited (SSCL), told The Kashmir Monitor that response to their RFP had come in October last year. The selected PMC, as per the RFP document made public, is supposed to “design, develop, manage and implement” the Smart City Project. “In event of a single bidder, it is the higher authorities that take the call,” Lone said, refusing to name the company or even clarify whether it was a consortium or a single business entity. Asked about reasons for the weak response, he said, “There were, at least, 100 cities in the Smart City race, all in the process of execution. The issue is that the potential bidders have apprehensions about working in J&K.” Exhibiting the extent of the project, the required PMC, as per the RFP document, should have a minimum average annual turnover of Rs 100 crore in the last three financial years, and an experience of undertaking five similar assignments. Asked if the single responder fulfilled all the conditions, Lone said, “How else could we consider it then?” The SSCL are supposed to work in tandem with the PMC to execute the projects. Interestingly, the SSCL office, at present, is but an empty hall alongside the ERA office here at Rambagh. The empty, dusty workplace has a cooking gas cylinder, stove and a few kitchen whatnots in the name of a setup. Except Lone, who is on additional charge, the SSCL is without any staff. In November, the Company had advertised its CEO’s position, offering a three-year contract at an attractive salary of Rs 2.5 lakh a month. What happened to it remains a mystery, as both SSCL and the Housing and Urban Development Department refuse to comment on it. The company, on Thursday, called for applications for hiring Statistical Planning Officer–yet again a three-year contractual position–and are expected to hire for other higher and lower-rung positions as well. Lone is confident that “all will be in place” by March. “We are hopeful that by March, we will have both a PMC and staff for SSCL in place, so that we can begin executing the project,” he said. “We will hire a different, larger space to work from.” Most of the Srinagar Smart City Projects, Lone added, are supposed to be completed by March 2021. The project headers, under which various sub-projects fall, show that the making Srinagar a Smart City is a mini-master plan of its own. The projects include: Jhelum waterfront beautification, Baba Demb lake rejuvenation, heritage and tourism, upgrading historic markets, hospitality/commercial development, city beautification and urban renewal, urban mobility, smart utilities management, sewage and sanitation, e-governance, disaster management and environment protection. Given the bumpy start, SSCL will have a lot to do for making J&K’s summer capital even a bit smarter by 2021.